Does ‘Day of the Moon’ have the best pre-title sequence in Doctor Who? We’re three months after the incident at the warehouse and Amy is running for her life. To our horror we see that Canton is leading the hunting party and apparently kill her.
Rory and River Song soon meet a similar fate, each of them having tally marks across their bodies. Our hero, the Doctor, is bound in chains, bearded and powerless as he is told of his companions death before being sealed into the perfect prison with their dead bodies.
It’s grim, more so because we’re disoriented. How did this all come about? Many series would flashback, show us how these events transpired but Doctor Who is always about moving forward, not looking back.
With one bound the Doctor is free, his companions are alive, Canton isn’t the enemy after all and the invisible TARDIS is the perfect vehicle to save a plummeting River Song some time in the recent past. Cue opening titles!
This two part story started with the death of major character, which we are told isn’t a trick. It is therefore daring to start this episode with the apparent demise of three of the other characters and reveal that actually was a trick. Foreshadowing for how events in Utah will be resolved?
The scene in the TARDIS was an info-dump, catching us up with what they’ve been doing but necessary to provide us with more information about the Silence. They were so mysterious last episode it is nice that we’re told straight away some vital information about how many there are and how their powers work. It isn’t just the physical presence of the Silence that people forget, but information relating to them. We also get a sense of the scale of the problem. The Silence are everywhere.
The Doctor’s solution is both genius and perfectly sets up the episodes scariest moments. It is also notable that in what could have just been a simple briefing of the information we get another scary moment.
Just after being fitted with a recording device in his palm that they can leave messages to themselves on Canton finds his has immediately turned red. We hear his terrified voice say that one of the Silence is in the TARDIS. The tension as he turns back is almost palpable.
Of course it turns out to be a harmless hologram but it gives us a nice taste of how things are going to be this adventure and foreshadows that subliminal commands can be imparted when viewing one of the Silence.
The recorded message brings back memories of Amy’s message to herself in ‘The Beast Below’. It is truly a frightening concept, to find that there are things you don’t remember, things that scared you so much and that are still there.
Canton didn’t get much to do last episode, other than deliver some cool lines. It was nice to see him more at the forefront this time. By necessity he is the ‘point of view’, being brought up to speed on what the other characters have already learned during their three month tour of the US.
His pairing with Amy to investigate the orphanage shows why different combinations of companions can keep the show fresh. His background in investigation gives his role in the story much more drive than, for example, if Rory had accompanied his wife.
If last episode was dream like, this is more like a nightmare. Rather than the roller-coaster ride of RTD’s era this is a ghost train, taking us into dark places, knowing that we’re inexorably heading towards something scary.
Poor Dr Renfrew, washing the words of warning from the walls that he no longer remembers he wrote. He is a pitiful figure, his memory so badly damaged he no longer knows what year it is. Could his name be a reference to Renfield, the insane lackey of Count Dracula?
This is where we see the tally marks and recorded messages in action. Amy finds a message from herself telling her she is surrounded by the Silence and her skin is quickly covered by more and more tally marks. Like Canton she has turn and face the horror she knows is there but this time the danger is all to real.
Just as we think she’s managed to get to safety things become even weirder, a lady with an eye patch commenting that ‘No, I think she’s just dreaming,’ through a slot in a door. This is so unexpected and disconnected from the rest of the story we’re left wondering what to expect. By the end this is no clearer but clearly foreshadows something later in the season.
Amy’s investigation of the child’s room continues to increase the whirlwind of confusion. Among the photos of the child she finds a photo of herself with a baby. Is this something she doesn’t remember, a common complaint in this adventure, or something that is going to happen?
Many people guessed that the child in the space suit might be Amy’s own baby after she happened to announce she was pregnant. I think on the fans of ‘Lost’ have spent this much time debating which main character gives birth to one of the other main characters. This just raises more questions about what is predestined to occur.
When the child in the space suit reappears there is still a great sense of unreality. I think this stems from the fact that the girl doesn’t interact with Amy in a meaningful way. She doesn’t answer Amy’s questions and instead repeats her plea for help. If Amy is her mother it is interesting the child never calls her such. Still, if you were raised by the Silence and a space suit you’d be socially awkward.
Downstairs Canton is confronted by a Silence, which reveals that they have been ruling the planet since the wheel and fire. This will put a new slant on every historical adventure that has ever or will ever be. Now when we watch ‘The Romans’, ‘The Gunfighters’ or ‘The Visitation’ we’ll have to imagine the Doctor and his companions kept running into and forgetting the Silence. Am I the only one hoping for a spin off novel detailing the Silence’s perspective on every Dr Who story in the style of ‘Who Killed Kennedy?’
Canton ably shows why he could be the best new character introduced this season. He turns the Silence’s pride against it, shooting it several times after it confirms it has no need of weapons. From time to time there is a place for a character with a gun.
To offset the sheer creepiness of the orphanage we have the Doctor messing about in the Apollo 11 capsule and credit must be given to the effective pull out shot that takes us from the Doctor to a wide view of the rocket in all its glory. These scenes prevent the episode from being too dark, bringing a sense of comedy to proceedings and also reminding us of the era in which is set.
It was amusing to see not only the return of Nixon to the story, playing a much larger part than I’d anticipated, but also seeing River Song and Rory dressed as his aides. Even in the small character moments Steven Moffat makes them shine, River Song rolling her eyes at the situation the Doctor has gotten himself into and Rory accidently breaking the NASA model.
With the main characters converging on the orphanage only to discover Amy missing, her pleas for help echoing from her discarded recording device, I thought we were in for a rerun of ‘Silence in the Library’, and expected the Doctor to announce her consciousness had been placed in the device after the Silence had disintegrated body.
Thankfully she had just been kidnapped, her telepathic link with the device allowing her to transmit live. This scene showed that Arthur Darvill isn’t just excellent at playing the comedy foil, he can also do pathos.
Rory’s certainty that Amy would always know he was coming for her was tragically undercut when he hears her asking for the Doctor to save her. This plays into his long running fear that he isn’t good enough for her, feelings compounded by Amy’s apparent confessions of love for the Doctor.
There is a nice bonding moment between the Doctor and Rory over their shared experience of living for eons. We are also introduced to the idea that Rory has multiple sets of memories, blocked off by a door in his head. This will become important at the end of the episode.
River’s examination of the abandoned spacesuit helps answer some questions from last week. It was an exo-skeleton, protecting and feeding the child. The reason she could call the President where ever he was because the suit had a communication system that defaulted to the highest figure in authority, explaining why in prequel she said that the spaceman had given her the number.
It would appear that the Silence’s interest in the space program was just to get the spacesuit. I like this alien way of thinking, driving humanity to reach the stars just so they could get a piece of equipment as a by product. The equivalent of engineering world war 2 just to get microwave ovens. They didn’t think of the consequences beyond what they could get out of it.
We also get an explanation for her comments about the spaceman eating her. The suit could move and designed to ‘swallow’ her, so she was both the wearer of the suit and its prisoner. One wonders if they found such a scary visual image to difficult to film or whether they’re keeping that for later in the series.
We’re at act three and the odds seem to be stacked against the heroes. The Silence are everywhere and have been ruling the planet for longer than even the Doctor has been alive. As always with Steven Moffat scripts the solution has all been foreshadowed.
The climatic scene in the fake TARDIS has everything you’d want in Doctor Who. The rescue/revelation has humorous dialogue (partially the flirting between the Doctor and River), action and some very, very clever bits.
It is a reoccurring theme that the villains often orchestrate their own downfall. Initially the Silence are scary because they are so confident that no one can defeat them, but that arrogance is their undoing when the Doctor inserts their words into the moon landing broadcast. ‘You should kill us all on sight’ changes from a boast to a death order.
There is something exhilarating about watching ordinary people, whether they be those in the bar or the security in the White House, seeing their oppressor for the first time and bringing them down. That is the same triumph of the human spirit that had taken them to the moon.
In the farewell scene at the White House I was impressed by the humanity they had brought to Nixon. I’m sure any fan of ‘Futurama’ had come to view the historical character as this one dimensional villain. Even the Doctor has a low opinion of him when they first meet.
Not only does ‘Day of the Moon’ have Nixon regularly helping the Doctor but his negative traits are explained by the events of this adventure. His paranoia is completely justified thanks to the Doctors warning and the Time Lord even influenced him to record all his conversations.
It was sad to see Canton left behind but we may see him again. After all, we still need to see how his older incarnation knew so much about the Doctor’s demise. Many already suspected why his decision to get married had got him kicked out of the FBI but it was still amusing to see Nixon’s reaction.
Harking back to her talk with Rory we have a sad farewell for River Song, realising that Doctor’s first kiss is her last. Strangely, the next time we see River Song this will still be in her future, from out perspective we’ll see much more romance between the two. For the time being hat lingering shot of River Song as the TARDIS faded away was packed with emotion.
For those who are trying to work out who River Song is now would be the time to take ‘Mother’ or ‘Daughter’ off the list of suspects. We’d been teased about what their relationship was and we knew that she loved him but unless Moffat is taking this in a very unexpected direction we now know it is romantic love.
In the TARDIS Rory and Amy’s relationship is reconfirmed as it turns out her confessions of love were directed at her husband. We also have the issue of her pregnancy, the Doctor’s scanner showing that her status keeps fluctuating.
The implication being we have a possible time line which is fading in and out, like Marty McFly in ‘Back to the Future’. This then seems to be the main issue for this season. We’ve been told that the Doctor’s death is predestined yet here is something which isn’t set in stone.
If Amy’s baby is the child in the spacesuit and it is that same child that kills the Doctor then he can be saved if the child isn’t born. Could Amy give up Rory’s baby (and at least we have confirmation that it is his child) to save her best friend? Amy’s Choice, indeed.
With so many unanswered questions and a child that the Silence thought so important still on the loose it is interesting that the Doctor decides to take them off for a different adventure. Is the Doctor running away from what he knows is coming. Is he delaying the inevitable. Is this what the 200 years older version of the Doctor talking about?
Speaking of the child we get an intriguing scene where she apparently regenerates. Will we see her in a different form in the future? One wonders if she has the same limit on her regenerations and is unknowingly burning through them as she starves to death over and over again.
I think the Doctor Who books played with the notion that the Doctor was worried that he was introducing Time Lord DNA into the genetic code of his companions and that their children might show some alien qualities. A concept which is more intriguing than if Amy is just carrying the Doctor’s child.
The success of this two part story is largely down to its scope. Taking it to the US obvious gave it that sense of a wide vista but we also have the fact the story spanned a large period of time, both in the sense that it took us from the modern day to the 60s but also that the events took place over several months.
Add to that this story is not finished yet. More than ever this feels like one huge adventure, stretching back to the previous adventure and towards the climax of this season (we hope).
Moffat is clearly building something great here. Rather than being left unsatisfied by the dangling threads I’m excited to see where they go.