Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

“We are not fighting an alien invasion. We’re leading a revolution.”

I’ve just looked at my notes and we’re looking at three and a half pages. This is going to be epic.

Steven Moffat does what RTD did in Last of the Time Lords, having a considerable amount of time (three months in this case) pass. It’s now July 1969, the month of the moon landing, and all three of our regulars are hunted fugitives whose time is running out. A bearded Doctor, meanwhile, languishes in Area 51 as a gloating Canton supervises the constriction of a dome of Dwarf Star Alloy (nice bit of continuity porn there), the perfect prison.

Things look pretty grim, although they also look pretty amazing. Certainly the Valley of the Gods in Utah, where Amy meets the end of the road, looks utterly sublime. Not that you’d notice as you waited to be shot, eyeing the empty body bag on the floor. Rory gets a very similar scene, this time among the spectacular scenery of the Glen Canyon Dam. River’s exit gives us a sliver of hop, though. Just before Canton is about to shoot her, she jumps from the top of a very tall building. We all know what happened when River leaps backwards from the tops of very tall buildings.

All three of them have covered their arms with tallies of the Silence they’ve sighted, a cleverly self-explanatory indication of what they’ve been up to. But the Doctor and Canton have been even cleverer. As soon as the Dwarf Star Alloy igloo is complete and the door closes, the tables turn and they spring into action. Canton was in on the plan all along, and the invisible TARDIS is right behind the Doctor. As soon as Amy and Rory get out of their body bags, and River is rescued in the usual way, we start to get some answers.

There’s some significant stuff here, too. So significant, we even get flashbacks from the mentions of the Silence last series. But we have it confirmed that you forget the Silence as soon as you hear them, they have the power of auto-hypnotic suggestion, and that, after you’ve seen them, you “sometimes feel a bit sick” but “not always”. This isn’t explained in this episode, so it’ll probably be important later. Oh, and it now seems that Amy is not pregnant.

The Doctor’s explanation of the nano-recorder, using an image of the Silent from Amy’s camera phone to trick Canton and underline his point, is very creepy indeed. Possibly even creepier is the orphanage where the little girl seems to have lives. The surroundings are creepy for a start, and then there’s all the writing on the walls. The only person present, Dr. Renfrew, is in a state of constant confusion from the constant memory wipes, still thinking 1967 is in the future and only being half-aware that he’s been in charge of just one child for years.

There’s a bit of light relief as we cut to the Doctor, having just made adjustments to Apollo 11, although there is of course a bit left over. But the creepiness intensifies in the orphanage as Amy and Canton split up. The scenes with Amy, alone, gradually realising through the increasing tally marks and her own voice message that the ceiling is crawling with Silence, is the scariest thing ever. Renfrew explains to Canton that “the child” must be cared for, because that’s what “they” said. Amy, meanwhile, sees a hatch in reality popping open. A woman with an eyepatch then pokes her head through and announces “No, I think she’s just dreaming.” How very weird. This happens shortly after Amy splits from Canton: there’s been scope for stuff to happen between then and now, let us note. We’re soon back to the usual weirdness, though. Amy enters a child’s room- presumably the little girl’s room, as it looks as though it’s in current use. There are photos of the little girl- and of Amy, holding a baby. This immediately hints at who this little girl may be.

Speaking of whom, here she is. She’s still in her spacesuit; Amy missed. Parallel to this, Canton finds a Silent. Being the capable type, he records it, and is told that “This world is ours. We have ruled it since the wheel and the fire.” Judging by the fact he immediately shoots it, we can probably assume he’s displeased to hear this. The Silence seem to be perfectly susceptible to bullets.

Taping (broadly one of Moffat’s personal tropes anyway) is central to this episode- the Doctor even urges Nixon to tape everything that happens in the Oval Office. That’ll turn out well.

The Doctor and Rory arrive to find Amy gone, but still able to communicate with them, Miss Evangelista-like, via a chip. Why has this chip been left behind to be found? Again, something which could be significant.

The Doctor’s chat with the Silent shot by Canton gives us another “Silence will fall”. What does this mean? Is it predicting the defeat of the Silence at the end of the episode, or something deeper? It’s something deeper, innit?

The little girl has disappeared, but River is able to find out a lot about the spacesuit. It can sustain its occupant through sunlight alone- no need for food, or presumably oxygen. It can hack, and communicate, and defaults to the highest authority, hence the calls to the President. The little girl seems to be human, but incredibly strong. As for where it came from, the Silence don’t make anything themselves. They’re parasites. And the Doctor insists that the only reason the Moon landing is happening now is because the Silence needed a spacesuit. What’s so important about this little girl and what do the Silence propose to do with her?

I like what’s not being said here: the Silence are getting humanity to do things by hypnotic suggestion, but all the ingenuity and brilliance is 100% human. This isn’t one of those annoying Death to the Daleks / Erich von Daniken theories which propose humans couldn’t possible be responsible for our own achievements.

That humans are in fact a bit clever is demonstrated by Canton, happily recording the Silent with Amy’s camera phone as it gloats that “We have ruled your lives since your lives began. You should kill us all on sight.” That’ll come in handy later. River, meanwhile, has worked out that the suit could possibly move on its own, and recalls that the little girl said that the “spaceman” was “coming to eat” her.

There’s an interesting scene where Rory listens to Amy’s voice from far away- is it him or the Doctor she loves? This is unresolved as he and the Doctor have one of those chats which avoid the issue but somehow don’t. Rory remembers his two thousand years of waiting, but “not all the time”- there’s a door in his head that he can open to reach the memories. This is probably necessary to give him a realistic psychology. It’s also very fairytale.

Amy awakens, as it’s implies she has done many times over several days, in a room, surrounded by Silence. She’s told, interestingly, that “We do you honour. You will bring the Silence. But your part will soon be over.” How will she “bring the Silence?” Is this connected to her pregnancy? Is she pregnant with the little girl? Is the Silence plan something much deeper than we expect?

The Doctor arrives, and notices the continuity to The Lodger.” Very Aickman Road. Seen one of these before. Abandoned. Wonder how that happened.” I bet this is significant, too. I notice, too, that he tells River and Rory to “keep one Silent in shot at all times”, confirming that the singular form is indeed “Silent”, plural “Silence”. Sorry. I’m a bit of a grammar freak. I have to know these things.

The Doctor seems ok with River shooting people, although he again insists on not doing it himself. He’s unlike his previous incarnation, too. This Doctor ostentatiously doesn’t offer his foe a chance to surrender before carrying out his plan. He also flirts outrageously with River. His plan is very clever, though: apparently the footage of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon, which we’ve all seen and which countless generations will also see, carries a post-hypnotic suggestion to “kill us all on sight.” Very clever, and very ruthless. River is pretty badass, too, shooting Silence left, right and centre just like, well, the Doctor in Frontier in Space.

It’s a satisfying ending, and there are some nice codas, too. There’s a heartwarming reunion between Mr and Mrs Pond, with any though of a love triangle involving the Doctor now firmly banished. The Doctor feeds Nixon’s paranoia. Canton wants to get married. And River, returning to prison (“I escape often enough, thank you. Besides, I have a promise to live up to. You’ll understand, soon enough.” Bet that’s significant.) kisses the Doctor. For him, it’s their first. And then she realises that for her, it’s their last.

The penultimate scene has the Doctor speculating on the identity of the little girl but then changing tack: “Or we could just go off and have adventures.” This seems deliberate. Has the Doctor realised or guessed something which he wants to delay facing up to? It wouldn’t be the first time. Oh, Amy should perhaps name her baby “Schrödinger”.

Six months later… that’s quite a scene. And that was quite a story. Doctor Who doesn’t get much better than this.

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