This one's tricky to review in all kinds of ways. It's tricky because it's the first part of a two-parter, tricky because it's a season opener, and tricky because it left me all off balance.
This is not to say I didn't like it. I was glad, glad, glad to see the Doctor back and was kept wondering "What's next?" the whole time, and the aliens, while not quite as creepy as everyone kept telling me they were (Sorry, but that honor still goes to the original Weeping Angels), were plenty unnerving.
In fact, so long as Day of the Moon delivers (and I expect it will), the whole "off balance" thing will be good. It's just hard to say yet...
Why off-balance? Plenty of unexpected events, for one thing, but this episode also is a complete change of tone from last season's end or from the Christmas special. The Impossible Astronaut is a far more somber story, weightier somehow, even (or perhaps especially?) without the universe at stake and with the minimum of running through corridors. Amy, Rory, and River are also much more serious than previously. Also, the pacing was different, though I have a feeling that relates to it being a genuine single story told in two parts.
A random list of elements I found notable:
The pairing that really shines this time is the unexpected one of Rory and River, especially as Rory demonstrates that he knows very well what it means for someone to imprint on the Doctor. He's been dealing with the results for most of his life, after all.
This aliens were a mixed bag. Moffat can do creepy when he wants to (which is often), but he's done it so often and so well now that I was expecting something, well, creepier. Their modus operandi is scary enough and their unknown goals might be even more so, but... but there is a close up, and in close-up, they just don't work.
The picnic. I loved the picnic. It was so relaxed and friendly and in such beautiful scenery and so wonderfully shot that it's only looking back on it now that I realize that it was also filmed as though it were on an alien planet. Kudos to the team; it was perfect.
The control room from The Lodger. Moffat remembers the unanswered questions from The Lodger
Theories? I don't have any theories. I'm too confused.
Well, ok, I do wonder about possible links between this and Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead, but that has a lot more to do with name and image similarities than any real, concrete clues or clue-finding.
I think I'm going to watch the episode again while I wait for Day of the Moon.
*wanders off humming happily
*pops back in for a moment to say:
There. A review that is almost entirely spoiler free. That was hard. I don't know if I can do it again.