THIS EPISODE TAKES PLACE 3 MONTHS AFTER THE TV EPISODE "THE IMPOSSIBLE ASTRONAUT"
AND PRIOR TO THE NOVEL
"THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS."
'THE COMPLETE SIXTH SERIES' BLU-RAY DVD
LIKELY TO BE RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2011.
The Doctor is locked in the perfect prison. Amy, Rory and River Song are being hunted across America by the FBI. Terrifyingly powerful aliens have invaded Earth. And it's about to get much, much worse.
30TH APRIL 2011
(45-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
Day of the Moon is a little more businesslike than its predecessor, but no less enjoyable for it. Whereas The Impossible Astronaut was a creeping tale structured around a handful of impossibly-staggering set pieces, Day of the Moon is consistently fast, loud and plausibly dramatic. This is perhaps best exemplified by the episodes’ respective pre-title sequences: while director Toby Haynes’ gentle cinematography showed off the slow beauty of America in Part 1, it speaks volumes about the level of energy and excitement he vested in Part 2’s opening moments that much of the pre-season promotion comprised of clips, stills and soundbites drawn from the same. I don’t think that anyone couldn’t resist being drawn into speculation about the Doctor’s unlikely beard and “perfect prison” in Area 51, an illustrated Amy being hunted across the Valley of the Gods, or even River’s rooftop dive.
“You’re building me the perfect prison… and it still won’t be enough.”
However, such sensational elements are secondary to the plot, serving as an enticement for the tale of quiet danger and subliminal insurgency that is to follow. With the audience now au fait with the “rules” about how the Silence operate, in this episode Moffat is able to explore these unique rules, and in doing so up the horror ante. Some of this episode’s most effective scenes put the viewer in the shoes of the Doctor and his companions as, in the middle of a console room conversation or the bedroom of a haunted house, they suddenly realise that they’ve just encountered a Silent and forgotten all about it – and it’s still there behind them. The series may not be able to depict female companions wailing in terror as often as it did once upon a time, but Day of the Moon houses a moment so overwhelmingly terrible that poor Pond can’t do anything but shriek until her vocal chords are raw. If Series 5 was Doctor Who as a fairytale, then Series 6 looks like it’s going to be Doctor Who as a nightmare.
“You killed the Doctor...”
Day of the Moon also does a brilliant job of getting across the larger horror of the Silence. The premise that these aliens have quietly controlled the human race for a long time, perhaps even for thousands of years, was implicit in last week’s episode, but here Moffat gifts the Doctor with a beautifully poetic speech that not only makes the idea explicit, but also attributes every empty room whisper and corner of the eye spectre to these Munchesque monsters. Yet the greatest stroke of all is the Doctor’s solution to Earth’s Silent menace. In true Who style, Moffat’s script takes a real-world event – in this case, the television broadcast of the first Moon Landing – and piggy-backs his plot’s pinnacle onto it. The result is stunning, clever, and exquisite – recurrent synonyms for Moffat these days.
But even with the Silence threat muffled, at least for now, Day of the Moon is careful not to tie up any of the threads on which the season’s arcs will hang. The “future” Doctor’s death in Part 1 has not been retconned yet, nor has the identity of his space-suit-clad assassin been revealed. Amy is pregnant, but at the same time not, and a dust-filled room in a late-60s orphanage contains a photograph of her holding a baby. River and the Doctor have shared a kiss that is but one of many, yet also their first and their last. And, most tantalisingly of all, a special little girl delights as she turns her death into new life, illuminating a back street alley with the explosive fires of a long-dead race.
“It’s alright. I’m dying, but I can fix that. It’s easy, really...”
It’s difficult to fathom how so much intrigue borne of so many disparate characters could be condensed into just forty-five minutes, but thanks to some astonishing performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston, Day of the Moon manages it. Darvill in particular warrants special mention, as here he really sells the “jealous husband” angle, but in a way that makes the viewer sympathise with his character. Rory’s agonising eavesdropping and rampant theorising are brought into sharp focus by the impassioned speech that he gives to the Doctor when the Silence take Amy, and the shocking reveal that he remembers every second of his two-millennia Pandorica vigil really makes his musings all the more meaningful.
I was also pleased to see that Stuart Milligan’s President Nixon was given a little more to do this week. A veteran of the Doctor Who productions The Reaping and Dreamland, as well as a brace of Sarah Jane Adventures, Milligan is a fantastic character actor, and here he is able to vest even the most tarnished of historical figures with something approaching charm. His “Tricky Dickie” is self-satisfied, patronising and prejudiced - yet in his dealings with the Doctor, he is almost affable. Almost.
“A healthy American will do just fine...”
For me though, the real star of this one is Mark Sheppard, who once again matches the performances of the regulars with a turn that is as sharp and as polished as you’re likely to see anywhere on television. Buoyed by Moffat’s delectable deadpans and swift one-liners – a few of which wouldn’t be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie – the former FBI agent steals the show. If Doctor Who is in the market for another semi-regular character, then Canton should be it.
Overall, my only complaint about Day of the Moon is the lack of an in memory caption for Nicholas Courtney, the fine actor who breathed life into the Doctor’s military ally Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart from 1968 to 2008, and regularly so for five of those years. Whilst I can understand Lis Sladen’s tragic death taking precedence last week, given her standing and comparatively young age, passing over the Brig altogether is downright shameful.
“They say looks aren’t everything.”
Nevertheless, Day of the Moon serves as a satisfying follow-up to last week’s outstanding opener and a tantalising teaser for the rest of the run. It also holds the distinction of being the latter half of my favourite eleventh Doctor story to date - thanks to its dazzling location shoot, I don’t think that Doctor Who has ever looked any better than it has done in these last two episodes, and the story told by these stunning pictures, whilst by no means as bright and colourful, is almost as untouchable.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Why were the Doctor and his friends on the run?
Tuning into Day of the Moon, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d missed Episode 2 and gone straight into Episode 3. Three months have elapsed for our heroes - the Doctor is trapped within the perfect prison, and his companions are on the run from Canton and the American government. It’s an exhilarating opening sequence, showcasing some beautiful cinematography, but it’s aggravating that we never go back to see how they ended up in this situation. The inference is that the Silence, seeing them as a threat, have implanted the order to capture our heroes in the minds of the FBI. Why bother, when they can just blast them out of existence? And why is Canton still at liberty? In fact, why were they on the run at all, if the Doctor can just get President Nixon on the phone to bail him out of trouble? And just where did they get dwarf star alloy from anyway? They didn’t have anything like that last time we were at Area 51. It’s also pretty impressive that they can lift a block by hand. That’s some well-built staff they’ve got there.
The Silence - who are they, and what do they want?
The Silence have been controlling human society since the dawn of history, safely out of sight and out of mind. Both in conception and design, they are among the most effective monster races Doctor Who has ever given us, yet their modus operandi remains obscure. Huge mysteries remain. How and why were they involved in the destruction of the universe seen in The Pandorica Opens? What purpose would that serve? Why did they need NASA to build them a spacesuit, unless it was for the sole purpose of providing life support for the little girl - and if that is the case, why are they looking after her? Why do they have what looks like a TARDIS console room? Since we now know that they are parasites and don’t build for themselves, it’s possible the ship we saw in The Lodger was nothing to do with them, and that they’d cribbed their version off the original creators. On the other hand, it could well be the same ship, abandoned after the Silence were defeated.
How do you defeat an enemy that you can’t remember?
It’s in the fight back against the Silence that this episode excels. Leaving messages for oneself is clever and logical, but the tally marks are visually a far more effective method, driving home the horror of being unable to trust your one’s own memories. The deliciously bananas Renfrew provided a stark warning against living in a Silent base, his mind having been rather scrambled, and unaware of the passage of several years since his memories were being continually deleted. The Doctor’s final gambit was a stroke of genius - turning the apparently throwaway element of the Silence’s subliminal messaging into their ultimate defeat, while still retaining their status as the invisible invaders.
Who is River Song?
Well, it’s pretty clear now that she’s the Doctor’s lover, if not explicitly his wife. Of course, there is still much more to learn about her. Who she killed / will kill is still a mystery, as is her penchant for dropping to her apparently certain death out of buildings and spacecraft. One day, the Doctor won’t be there to catch her.
Who killed the Doctor?
We still don’t know why the Doctor died, who killed him, or why her walked calmly to his death. Could it be River Song after all? Or even the Doctor himself? We know the little girl escaped from it, who knows who’s wearing it now. It could even be operating on autopilot.
When will Rory get his happy ending?
Poor Rory. We thought everything was going to be OK between him and Amy, but it seems that time travel puts a strain on even the most romantic of marriages. Not only does his wife get herself in mortal danger every couple of weeks, but she’s in love with the Doctor. Don’t give me any of that “stupid face,” “it’s a figure of speech,” rubbish - she’s a good liar, but not good enough. It can’t be long before Rory’s had enough. It’s about time he pulled rank on the Doctor - he’s a thousand years his senior now.
Who was behind the door?
In a bizarre, throwaway moment with ‘stay tuned’ written all over it, an eye patch-wearing Frances Barber opened a magical, disappearing hatchway in a door and spied on Amy. What was all that about? Another mystery for another episode to explain.
Who’s the father of Schrödinger’s Baby?
So, is Amy pregnant or not, and if she is, then who’s the father? It seems to be a clear case of an undecided reality here - the TARDIS isn’t sure whether Amy is pregnant or not, then presumably the timeline isn’t either. This is perhaps not unexpected - her timeline has been rewritten after all, due to the effects of the cracks in time, and their reversal. More intriguing still is the identity of the father. Naturally, the most likely candidate is Rory, but who knows? Perhaps in one possible timeline the Doctor failed to keep his braces on. And what of the picture in the little girl’s room? Surely she couldn’t be Amy’s daughter?
Who is the little girl?
Here we have the most tantalising question of all, perhaps. A young girl with superhuman strength, trapped inside a spacesuit by the Silence, and then on the run. She may be Amy’s child, she may not. And in the most unexpected scene of all, she saves her own life by regenerating - or at least beginning to, we don’t know what the outcome will be. Is she a Gallifreyan child? If so, how can she exist? Has the TARDIS itself affected Amy’s unborn child? This is probably a mystery that won’t be solved any time soon.
Is this any way to open a series?
There’s something to be said for the slow burn. Setting up mysteries and drip-feeding answers, rug-pulling and plot-twisting to keep people on their toes could provide a strong hook for viewers and maintain interest in the series over the course of the year. On the other hand, failing to provide any answers to questions that have been brewing for weeks or months and just adding extra questions to the pile is bound to aggravate and alienate as many viewers as it enthralls. The entire episode was beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, but the rapid pace of the story seemed an attempt to cover up the mass of dangling plot threads. How is a casual viewer, on which the series must still rely, going to react to this? Will the surface appeal be enough, or will people just give up on an ever-more complicated show?
On its own merits, Day of the Moon was one of the most entertaining, yet utterly frustrating episodes of Doctor Who yet. The ultimate appeal of this two-part story will hinge on its eventual pay-off later in the year (if it does come this year, and not even later). We can only hope that it’s more of a satisfying Ashes to Ashes-style plot tie-up than a Lost-style mess. The key will be not carrying it on too long. We’ve enough mysteries now; it’s time we had a few answers.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2011
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
For River Song, the events of this story take place prior to The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, which for the Doctor, Amy and Rory have already happened. As The Impossible Astronaut begins, River is again shown as being an inmate of the Stormcage Correction Facility, from which she was temporarily released in previous adventures, having apparently been sent there for the murder of a “good man” and “hero to many” - an event that appears to have taken place in the Doctor’s subjective future.
Interestingly, this two-parter suggests that the the Doctor and River are not just encountering each other out of sequence - their time streams appear to be running in reverse. Accordingly when they share a kiss at the end of this episode, from River’s perspective it is their last kiss, whilst from the Doctor’s it is their first.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.