Saturday, 30 April 2011

'DOCTOR WHO' 6.2 – "Day Of The Moon"

Saturday, 30 April 2011

It's tough reviewing episodes like "Day Of The Moon", which are so thick with incident and swathed in different layers that you end the episode gasping for air, feeling like your brain's been shaken for 45-minutes. As I said last week, there's a certain distancing effect when plots are as knotted as writer Steven Moffat enjoys making them, but I was glad the concluding part of this premiere had a greater sense of cohesion -- by virtue of resolving most of the storyline.

Moffat seems to enjoy reuniting-the-team sequences, as the episode opened with another one set three months after last week's 1969-set cliffhanger, with Amy (Karen Gillan), River (Alex Kingston) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) on the run across Utah from the FBI's Canton Everett Delaware (Mark Sheppard), while a bearded The Doctor (Matt Smith) languishes in a variant of last year's Pandorica prison inside Area 51. I'm still trying to fathom why that was the case, seeing as The Doctor earned the permission of President Nixon (Stuart Milligan) to solve the mystery of the "spaceman" and the crank calls to the Oval Office, but these are the kind of "plot holes" you suspect a repeated viewing or a question on Gallifrey One will patch over.

Regardless, it was another knockout sequence that quickly recaptured the frenetic pace of "The Impossible Astronaut", as the details and implications of The Silent villains took over. These sartorial alien memory-erasers proved to be the real stars of the episode, as Team Who devised a way to investigate creatures you forget about if you break eye contact with them. The Doctor later providing high-tech Dictaphones, buried in everyone's palm, which they activate and describe encounters with The Silent for a future replay. Or you can ink your skin with black marks to signify an encounter, Memento-style, although I didn't quite understand why you'd do that once The Doctor had implanted one of his pill-sized bugs...

One again, Moffat proves himself the master of ruthlessly gripping scenes built around fundamentally simple ideas that he stretches to logical extremes. Canton realizing he's made a recording of seeing a Silent over his shoulder, seconds after being given his bug; Amy, dressed conspicuously like The X Files' Scully, investigating a spooky orphanage with Canton; the aforementioned opening sequence, ending with River free-falling off a skyscraper and into the TARDIS, landing in its unseen swimming pool. Really, you could rattle off most scenes and find something memorable in the visuals or twinkling dialogue. Perhaps best of all, the method eventually used to rid humanity of The Silence (which we learn have been pervasive in society for millennia, nudging mankind along like parasites) was both simple, effective and actually made some sense -- with The Doctor inserting a recording of a captured Silent into the famous Moon Landing footage, edited to give humans a psychic nudge to kill any lurking Silents on the spot.

There were some strong character moments, too -- especially Rory feeling jealous about Amy's attachment to "best friend" The Doctor, made worse when he kept her extracted voice-recorder and learned about her false alarm pregnancy second-hand. More than at any time in the show's history, it really feels like this group are a close-knit family that also have to tackle their emotions and relationships in-between battling aliens. Plus, the first kiss between The Doctor and River Song when she was returned to prison -- although, from River's perspective, this kiss was tragically their last. To be honest, my brain turns to mulch whenever I try to parse the chronology of their relationship. All I know is it's heading towards an event we've already seen (David Tennant's Doctor putting her consciousness inside a supercomputer for eternity), so in some ways the love story loses its grip on me when I remember that fact. I just hope the actual identity of River Song (his wife, Amy's daughter?) is a surprise worth waiting for.

Of course, this story isn't really over. The Silence are too good to dispose with so easily, so they'll be back. Amy's pregnancy (why is the TARDIS scan so indeterminate?) will obviously be a central storyline going forward. And we still need to complete the season's arc by explaining who the little girl is, why she kills The Doctor, and how The Doctor is going to escape what appears to be an inescapable fate only his companions know about! Plus, there's the small matter of why that child is able to regenerate from injuries, exactly like a Time Lord, in this episode's jaw-dropping denouement.

Overall, "Day Of The Moon" was an unremittingly entertaining and surprisingly scary episode that I'd feel bad about nitpicking too much. It wasn't as baffling as part 1, and despite the fact a good 30% of everything that happened still needs to be fully explained, those are the plot threads Moffat's chosen to weave throughout this series, so categorical complaints will have to wait for the end of year finale. Above all, the pace, scares, humour, dialogue and a sense of scale was all present and correct. You can furrow your brow about many things, and I'm sure there will be people who felt bamboozled by the whole episode, but with the caveat that you allow several things to wash over you, "Day Of The Moon" was an extremely enjoyable and ambitious piece of sci-fi entertainment.


  • So -- any theories on who the little girl is? It must surely by Amy's daughter, if the photos on her bedroom table are to be believed. But the child's ability to regenerate surely means that (a) Rory isn't the father, but a Time Lord is? Or (b) Amy spending so much time in the TARDIS has given her as-yet-unborn child the ability to regenerate like a Time Lord? Trouble is, both seem like humongous stretches to be plausible. Amy is unlikely to have slept around, certainly not with a Time Lord! Or was her joke about having a baby born with a "Timehead" right on the money? But how would that work? Have no companions ever had children after leaving the TARDIS? Or maybe the child is River's -- who at some point sleeps with The Doctor and gives birth to his daughter, but Amy becomes her baby's adopted mother? It's not Georgia Moffett's character Jenny from "The Doctor's Daughter", is it?
  • Maybe we should be asking not who the little girl is, but who she'll be regenerating into? I'm guessing River Song. There, said it. No, actually -- she's a clone of The Doctor, who we later see dying in "The Impossible Planet"? So the "little girl spaceman" murdered her future self? Oh, my head hurts.
  • Time Lords CAN grow facial hair! Did he use the sonic screwdriver to shave?
  • Who was the strange lady with the eye patch in the little girl's room? A creepy nanny? The eye patch must be significant. Who is going to be losing an eye at some point? The character is known as Eye Patch Lady (Frances Barber) and is confirmed as returning to the show later this series...
  • Rory can remember his 2,000 years spent as a Roman soldier, despite the fact that technically happened to a different Rory before the "Second Big Bang" that restarted the universe. It would be much easier to just say Rory can't remember that stuff, so I suspect the fact he can is a clue of sorts -- right?
  • The character of Renfrew at the orphanage was an obvious nod to Dracula's Renfield. I also felt some similarities to the Silence and the sack-cloth headed boy in the Mexican horror The Orphanage, how about you?
  • It's confirmed that The Silence have a proto-TARDIS like the one seen in last year's "The Lodger", but it's probably not the same one.
written by Steven Moffat / directed by Toby Haynes / 30 April 2011 / BBC One

Next time....