Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Mark Sheppard, Mark Sheppard, Mamix van den Broeke, Stuart Milligan, Kerry Shale, Sydney Wade, Peter Banks, Frances Barber
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Toby Haynes
Network: BBC America, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: April 30, 2011
It’s the “Day of the Moon” as DOCTOR WHO concludes its two-part Series 6 premiere. The TARDIS team are running from an enemy they can hardly remember, planning a revolution as the true rulers of Earth – the creepy Silence – hunt them down. The Doctor (Matt Smith) is imprisoned by the US government while FBI agent Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) is sent to kill Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston). But are our heroes one step ahead of the Silence after all? Who is the girl in the spacesuit? Is Amy pregnant or not? Who does she really love? Why is Neil Armstrong’s foot so important? And will we have more questions than answers when this episode reaches its explosive, golden-glowing finale?
The answer to that last one is definitely “yes.” This episode delivers on the sense of grandeur promised by the first part with a more sweeping American canvas and some stunning location shooting. Show runner Steven Moffat has often said that he prefers to begin the second part of two-parters by shifting to a different time zone or geographic location to shake up the expected “next second” resumption of the story, and this episode utilizes that strategy very well. We are catapulted to three months after last week’s episode with an exciting gambit as the team slowly reassembles to fight back against the enigmatic Silence.
Speaking of which, the Silence are definitely creepier this time around too. Shrouded in shadow, hanging bat-like from ceilings and manipulating humanity for thousands of years – hmm, have they ever run into the Daemons or Scaroth or the Fendahl in all that time? – they are a scary and formidable opponent. They even go back to the classic DOCTOR WHO mold of whispering everything, although their dialogue is a bit difficult to discern without captions. They seem easily defeated but their significance stretches back to Series 5. We’ll surely be seeing their hydrocephalic selves again soon.
Some people say Moffat tends to reuse a finite series of gimmicks in his writing, and there’s some truth to that. Writing on the wall from “Blink,” check. Amy’s recorder like the neural relay in “Silence in the Library,” check. A little girl plugged into technology like “Silence in the Library” (again), check. Messages from a kid on a telephone like “The Empty Child,” check. The Doctor imprisoned in a huge box like “The Pandorica Opens,” check. There are also some logical inconsistencies. For example, it’s not exactly made clear how the Doctor and Co. manage to remember enough to even begin the investigation of the Silence in the first place and maintain it over months, but I’d probably just be told to let it all go and enjoy the show, and this time I agree. But why?
Well, for one thing, this time all of Moffat’s motifs knit together nicely into a rousing runaround that while setting up future episodes spends enough time entertaining us now as well. Mark Sheppard is excellent again, as is Kerry Shale as the almost comical but truly tragic, addled Dr. Renfrew. However, I have to give the real credit this time around to Arthur Darvill and…Karen Gillan. Yes, you read that right. After indications last week that her character and performance was more grounded, this episode goes a long way to make up for the extremely unlikable persona she sported in Series 5. In two scenes at the end, Amy makes it convincingly clear who her true love is, and in an earlier sequence Gillan conveys sheer terror and confusion in a far more nuanced way than that of the clichéd screaming companion. It’s a joy to feel that it’s OK to like one of the most important lead characters. Let’s hope it sticks.
As for the story’s more overt American elements, we get another crack (no, not that kind) about our tendency to go in guns blazing, but when Canton welcomes the Silence to his country with some well-placed bullets, it feels as much like a moment to cheer as it is a joke at our expense. And as for Nixon, DOCTOR WHO is quite forgiving, even going so far as to provide a reason for the President’s mounting paranoia and his decision to tape everything in the Oval Office. Thanks, Doctor.
It’s a little odd at first to suggest that the Silence are responsible for the space program, which seems to rob humanity – and specifically America – of its right to be proud of itself, except that when the Doctor uses Armstrong’s first step on the moon to defeat the Silence, he makes it clear that it doesn’t matter whether the Silence suggested humanity take that route – they still had to do it, and Mankind’s accomplishment is still its own. Some folks also question the Doctor’s shaky morality, encouraging River’s gunplay and programming humanity to murder the Silence. He makes it clear the intent is to make the Silence run, though, and as my wife pointed out rather brilliantly, he may even be angrier than usual since the Silence have been meddling with his favorite planet for so long without him ever noticing. Don’t play games with the Doctor; don’t ever, ever think you’re capable of that.
River reaches another bittersweet milestone in her relationship with the Doctor, and as the episode ends, we’re left with even more questions than before (see, I told you). Who is River anyway? What’s with Amy’s pregnancy? Who is that woman with the eye-patch? What about the future Doctor’s death? Who is the little girl, why did the Silence want her in that spacesuit, and my God, how can the girl…well, do what she did at the end of episode?
Oh well, let’s do the same strange thing the Doctor does at the end of this episode. Let’s forget the girl in trouble and all the mysteries and go off to have some fun. Next time, Amy dons pirate gear as the TARDIS heads to a mermaid-plagued ship sailing the deep blue sea. Yo ho! But why is the rum gone?
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CLICK HERE for a review of DOCTOR WHO – Series 6 premiere – “The Impossible Astronaut”
CLICK HERE for AX’s List on “THE FIVE QUESTIONS WE HOPE DOCTOR WHO – SERIES 6 ANSWERS”
CLICK HERE for Neil Gaiman talking about scripting his Season 6 DOCTOR WHO episode
CLICK HERE for brand new photos from DOCTOR WHO – Season 6 – including new poster
CLICK HERE to view the new EXTENDED SEASON 6 DOCTOR WHO trailer
CLICK HERE for Actor Mark Sheppard talking about his role in a Season 6 episode of DOCTOR WHO