Doctor Who reviews: Day of the Moon
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Doctor Who's lunar episode is stellar...
Wow. One would hardly have thought it possible, but with ‘Day of the Moon’, Steven Moffat has matched last week’s fantastic ‘The Impossible Astronaut’—at least.
(If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it on BBC iPlayer here, and then read the rest of the review. Because “Spoilers!”…)
It opens at a breakneck pace, with a ten minutes of sheer condensed awesome. After the recap, the show hurtles into a montage of chase sequences, with Mark Sheppard’s Canton Everett Delaware III, seemingly The Doctor’s ally last week, hunting down Amy, Rory, and River Song, who’ve each been counting Silences by marking the tally on their body, for when they forget. They try to reason with Canton, but he’s deaf to the sound of (the) Silence. Catching up with each of them, they each seemingly meet their deaths. He then brings Amy and Rory in body bags to The Doctor, with River Song having jumped off a building to avoid capture.
When The Doctor is told that River Song “ran out of a fifty storey building”, The Doctor instead seems more concerned with what the box being built around him is made out of. It’s typically Doctor-ish behaviour: he knows she’ll be fine, and so just follows his natural (intellectual) curiosity. He quickly realises that (like the Pandorica) it’s something that nothing can get through, not even him. But that won’t stop him…
Canton locks himself in the black box with The Doctor, and now that no sound can get out, he reveals that he’s actually still a good guy. Of course, because he’s Mark Sheppard; he’s too awesome to be evil. Except in roles where he’s supposed to be evil. But anyway, he opens the body bags to reveal Amy and Rory still alive, with Rory objecting to the lack of air holes, to which Canton retorts, “No-one’s complained before.”
And then the Tardis appears. It can get in and out with ease, rendering the big black box hilariously useless.
As she no doubt anticipated, The Doctor catches River Song by materialising the Tardis in mid-air below her and opening the doors to the swimming pool.
Inside the Tardis, the others fill The Doctor in on what they’ve learned about the Silence. The Doctor runs through things for Canton, and tells everyone, “We’re not fighting an alien invasion; we’re leading a revolution.”
It’s an incredible opening ten minutes, establishing a dystopia that feels a bit like the ‘Epitaph One’ / ‘Epitaph Two’ future from Dollhouse, and in a similar way, various elements of the main characters’ lives in this terrible new world are cleverly made clear but not over-explained.
There’s no way that a blow-by-blow recap could do justice to a story of this complexity, so I’ll just quickly comment on few of the most striking or notable elements. Some of this will just be random thoughts and/or speculation.
After the relentless first ten minutes, the episode settles into creepy horror mode for a bit: not really my thing, but rather effective for what it is.
The scene where The Doctor and co face off against The Silence is possibly the greatest scene ever. The Doctor gives his typical awesome speech of “I’ve effectively defeated you, so just give up now, hah-hah…” Except, you know, more impressive than that. And then he finishes up with “And the only thing left for you to say is ‘Ooops. Run.’ ...I mean us…” And then the action kicks off, with Star Wars prequel-style visual effects, which is incredible on a TV budget. Say what you like about the Star Wars prequels (actually, don’t: they’re awesome), but you have to admit that the effects are impressive.
As these characters that we really care about, surrounded by the chilling, memory-erasing Silence, try to fight their way back to the Tardis in a thrilling and beautifully orchestrated scene, it made me (momentarily) consider the possibility that there might be a greater show than Firefly (i.e. Doctor Who, not just some random show). Overall, Firefly’s still top of my list, but there’s still the possibility of Doctor Who overtaking it one day.
(The Doctor clicks his fingers to open the Tardis door, and they all rush inside and get away from the Silence.)
The scene where Rory says: “She can always hear me. Wherever she is, she knows I’m coming for her,” and then Amy says “…he thinks it’s him, but it’s you. I’ve been meaning to tell you and I need to…you and your stupid face…when you dropped out of the sky,” is heart-breaking, and made even more so by the fact that Amy’s in danger, heightening the tension and making the interpersonal relationships that much more intense. (But then later on we find out that she was actually referring to Rory after all (because she mentions his “stupid face”, as did the recording; so Rory is, ironically, rather happy at being called that). Cue sigh of heart-warming relief.)
The Doctor asks Rory if he can remember the two thousand years he waited for Amy. Rory (after initially denying it) says that he can, but not all the time: “It’s like opening a door.” Does this have some greater significance? Is there one reality in which that happened, and one in which it didn’t?
River Song kisses The Doctor, who does a hilarious Wesley Wyndam-Pryce kissing dance. :) He explains, “That’s the first time I’ve done that.” River is taken aback, and he replies, “There’s a first time for everything,” as he awkwardly takes his leave. River then reflects sadly, “And a last time…”
We know that “time can be rewritten”. Are there two different timelines, which cross over or interact somehow? Or is one overwriting the other?
The episode has moments which could be references to Battlestar Galactica, Memento, Inception, and Dollhouse. Thematically, these are concerned with ideas of thoughts, memory, and dreaming, among others.
Hints of alternate timelines and dreams are reminiscent of the S5 episode, ‘Amy’s Choice’, where the Dream Lord (Toby Jones), the dark side of The Doctor’s subconscious, made them choose between two alternate realities (one of which where Amy’s pregnant, one of which where she’s not). And both ‘realities’ were in a dream. Does this parallel, or relate to in some other way, what is happening now (especially in light of the line, “Maybe she’s still dreaming…”)? Are the Silence trying to test the saying that you can’t be half pregnant? Intriguing…
Also, the Silence call Amy Amelia, and they say she’s been there for many days—is this an alternate universe version of her?
And are there two Amys, one of whom loves The Doctor and one of whom loves Rory? This would seem to be a neat solution to the love triangle which Rory is understandably upset by.
Do the Silence have a hive mind, like the Borg?
Is “back at the warehouse” a reference to Warehouse 13, which Mark Sheppard also guest-starred in?
The main characters are actually fairly smart. The Doctor, obviously, but generally the others too. (Well, except for Amy and Canton going into a practically abandoned children’s home, with “GET OUT, LEAVE NOW” painted in red on the walls, run by a guy who’s convinced it’s still / not even 1967 (though it’s actually 1969), doesn’t seem to really know what’s going on, and keeps repeating himself. (As The Doctor diagnoses, “repeated memory wipes will do that to you.”) The whole place is practically crying out, "the Silence!" Amy and Canton have either never seen a horror movie, or are just particularly fond of horror movie tropes. Though arguably it’s bravery rather than stupidity.)
Anyway, they’ve devised a system of marking their skin with the numbers of Silence that they see, and recording sound through devices that fuse with their cartilage, so they can later play back their (instantly forgotten) experiences of the Silence. Amy and Canton both interview the Silence for some answers, Amy using this sound recorder and Canton using Amy’s phone. (As he triumphantly tells the Silence, “This is a video phone…whatever that is…”) The Silence are then a little more forthcoming than their name would imply: perhaps they don’t realise how recording devices work (having relied on their memory erasure skills for so long), or maybe they just like freaking people out with mysterious and ominous pronouncements, such as “You should kill us all on sight…”—which The Doctor then uses against them.
The Doctor replays this message during the TV broadcast of the Apollo 11 launch, brainwashing (most of) the human race to kill the Silence on sight—presumably he only intends to make them run for their lives (“What’s the point in having two hearts if you’re not going to show any mercy?”), but nevertheless it seems quite harsh for The Doctor. And the day (of the moon) may be saved for now, but they still haven’t solved the mystery of the girl in the spacesuit and the Silence’s plans for her. As The Doctor admits, they could try and find out, “or we could just have more adventures”, reflecting the tension between arc-based and standalone stories, one which the show handles very well. Yay, pirates and adventures next week! Anyway, there’s no doubt that the Silence will be back at some point later in the season. Because, let’s face it, Steven Moffat’s not just going to forget about them…
With the line, “Have you seen what’s on TV?”, The Doctor is of course referring to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but meta-textually Steven Moffat could be referring to the Royal Wedding on Friday, which had a similar level of popular viewership.
The episode ends with a massive twist: a dying Peter Petrelli with the power of shape-shifting and healing—no, wait, wrong show, that’s Heroes, not Doctor Who…
This episode was directed by Toby Haynes (Being Human) and written by showrunner Steven Moffat. This makes a run of five consecutive incredibly good Doctor Who episodes that they’ve teamed up on: ‘The Pandorica Opens’, ‘The Big Bang’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, and ‘Day of the Moon’. That is, five of the greatest Doctor Who episodes, by the same writer and the same director, all following on from each other. Of course, it helps that they had the same brilliant cast of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and (except for ‘A Christmas Carol’) Alex Kingston to work with. To adapt the popular cliché, I’d watch these guys film the phone book. (Steven Moffat would probably come up with a chilling story about mysterious phone calls, with The Doctor phoning people up to investigate, but in a hilariously unconventional way. And then the companions would argue about the best way to proceed, and simultaneously try to flick through the phone book to investigate in their own way.)
Overall, ‘Day of the Moon’ is amazing: it’s just so complex and so awesome. Has Steven Moffat been imprinted with a combination of Joss Whedon’s writing skills and The Doctor’s mad genius?
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