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"Doctor Who" Flashback Reviews: "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" (Series Six Episodes 1 and 2)
As I announced on Monday, I’m reposting a bunch of my old TV reviews from YourHub here on this site; yesterday, we began with reviews of NBC’s Chuck, and today, we start revisiting the sixth series of BBC America’s Doctor Who. Over the next few Saturdays, I’ll be reposting reviews of all seven episodes, mostly in sets of two, in anticipation of the second half of series six, premiering on August 27th. Small alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, without knowledge of future episodes, so they may read as somewhat out of date, especially when my crazier predictions are proven wrong. We start with the opening two-parter, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon.
Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…
“The Impossible Astronaut”
Original Airdate/Publication Date: 4/23/11
Episode Rating: A
Well damn….that was amazing.
Before watching tonight’s premiere episode, I asked my friend Sean Chapman (who can be heard with me on The Monthly Ten Podcast) whether or not he thought there was any way head writer Steven Moffat could match last year’s brilliant Who premiere, The Eleventh Hour, wherein we were introduced to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, and a whole host of fascinating story arcs in just one hour. We both thought that was an awfully tall order. After watching The Impossible Astronaut, that doesn’t seem so…well…impossible.
It’s hard to judge Astronaut on its own terms, because it’s only one-half of a two-part story, and its ambitions are far grander than a 45-minute episode. Given what we saw tonight, I’m sure this two-hour premiere will absolutely be, as a whole, on par with The Eleventh Hour. But Astronaut isn’t just set-up for the next half of this one story – it’s also establishing the entire season to come, introducing us to concepts that aren’t going to pay off in the next week, or even the next month. In that way, it’s very similar to The Eleventh Hour, and easily as successful on those terms.
The pre-credits opening sequence was, as the Ninth Doctor would say, fantastic, feeling very much like the beginning of a sequel. The fifth series was the first story, this is the second, and the opening had a very fitting sense of putting the band back together for a new adventure. Our reintroductions to the Doctor, Amy/Rory, and River Song all served as wonderful reminders of why we love these characters, and by the time the theme song rolled, I couldn’t have been more pumped for the meat of the story to get under way.
Okay kids…this is where it gets complicated…
Death of the Doctor
The Doctor was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatsoever about that. The register of his funeral pyre was seen to by Amy, Rory, and River, who started the blaze. The old Doctor was as dead as a door-nail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
Steven Moffat may have already written an episode called A Christmas Carol, but the opening act of tonight’s hour played very much like the opening paragraphs of Dickens’ classic tome. The Doctor’s murder on the beach in Monument Valley, and the subsequent mourning, was the cinematic equivalent of Moffat sitting us down, looking us straight in the face, and saying “The Doctor’s dead. No, really, he is, and you’re just going to have to accept that – trust me, it’s going to be cooler if you do.”
We had morbid hints from the Doctor himself that something was going to happen. “I’ve been running faster than I’ve ever run…and now it’s time for me to stop,” he says. After all the marketing and hype, I was sure that meant facing this year’s big bad alien, an enemy the Doctor knows more about than Amy, Rory, River, and the audience do. Turns out the Doctor wasn’t just talking about his recent past – he was referring to his entire life, a life full of running, a life that he knew full well was about to stop.
He went to his death looking apprehensive, certainly, but also perfectly accepting – he knew it was coming, and if he didn’t absolutely want it to happen, he knew it had to happen, for reasons we can’t even speculate about thus far. What we do know is that when the Doctor dies, he’s 1103 years old, nearly 200 years older than the last time we (and Amy and Rory) saw him. A lot can happen in two centuries, especially for a man with a time machine.
Once the Doctor was shot, his earlier hints started to become clearer, but Moffat hammers home the Doctor’s death in more ways than just that. After taking a few shots from the strange Astronaut, the Doctor begins to regenerate, and just to accentuate the fact that these are, without any doubt, the Doctor’s final moments of life, the Astronaut shoots once more in the middle of regeneration, killing off the Time Lord for good. For longtime fans like me, who know all the intricacies of regeneration, that moment shocked me the most, a confirmation that Moffat really was going through with this. Yet because tonight’s story relies 100% on the audience accepting that the Doctor is, in fact, dead, Moffat goes a few steps further. Amy’s frantic suggestions that this isn’t really the Doctor, that this is a duplicate or a clone, could be plucked from the minds of any fan watching the episode thinking of a way for the Doctor to get out of this predicament. Nope, Amy, that’s not a clone. Well, his body’s still there, the audience thinks; Maybe he can still regenerate down the road. Moffat sees to that too by giving the Doctor a full-on Viking funeral pyre. Twenty minutes into the episode and the Doctor’s body literally no longer exists. He is as dead as dead can possibly be.
And that makes the rest of the episode utterly fascinating, as we learn that the fourth invitation sent (others were sent to Amy/Rory, River, and an old Canton Delaware) was actually for the Doctor himself, the 909 year-old Doctor that Amy, Rory, and River all know so well. The invitations were definitely sent by the Doctor, which means that he fully intends to set his younger self on the path to a fiery grave, assumedly in service of some larger purpose.
Though the Doctor’s death lingers like a dark cloud over the entire episode, it’s actually not addressed much more during the hour, so there’s not a whole lot to go on for theories just yet. At the end of the episode, we do learn a little more about the Astronaut (though that’s a much larger discussion we’ll get to in another section), and we can assume it works for the new Alien enemies we meet during the hour (which we’ll call The Silence for reasons that will also be explained soon). The Silence conspired to kill the Doctor, and since the Doctor has the forethought to plan for his death at the hands of creatures that can’t be remembered unless one is looking at them, we can assume that the 1103-year-old Doctor knows a lot more about the Silence than anyone in the rest of the episode does, including his younger self. Along with the fact that the dead Doctor is 200 years older, it’s easy to assume there’s a long road of story ahead before we return to the Doctor’s death.
I’m sure this event will be revisited during part 2, but I’m also guessing the full reveal of what happened – and the ultimate aftermath – won’t be seen until later this season. I’m inclined to say that the finale will revolve around this, but Moffat is giving us two finales this year. Series Six part 1 will air for the next six weeks, with seven episodes in total before going on a break until September, reportedly a choice by Steven Moffat that came from having a very powerful, “game-changing” cliffhanger. The game can’t change much more than killing off the protagonist, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this plot comes to fruition in episode 7, before leaving us hanging for a few months (damn you!).
Of course, having a dead future-Doctor opens up some amazing storytelling possibilities, since for the rest of the episode, the other characters know more than the Doctor does. One of the best scenes comes right before they travel to 1969, where the Doctor refuses to visit this destination without hearing the full story. Matt Smith’s role was largely humorous in this hour, but apart, perhaps, from his death sequence, this was Smith’s most dramatic moment, as all of his loyalties are put to the test. His dismissal of River was particularly powerful, but also made complete sense – this is only the fourth time they’ve met, and he has very few reasons to trust someone he knows almost nothing about. Amy, however, is a different story, and Smith plays the “my life in your hands” moment so well that even the uninitiated could tell that there is no one in the universe the Doctor trusts more than Amelia Pond – taking series five into account, where the Doctor and Amy literally went to the end of the Universe and back together, the moment is especially poignant.
Amy is able to get the Doctor to travel to America in 1969, and this is where things get scary…
Silence Will Fall
It was in The Eleventh Hour that we first heard the phrase “Silence Will Fall,” and by the end of series five, we still knew nothing about that phrase or its origin. As the series progressed, we learned that “the silence,” whatever it is, caused the explosion of the TARDIS, an event which created cracks in the fabric of space and time and would have erased the Universe from existence if the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River hadn’t been around to save the day. Series five was ultimately the story of the aftermath of the TARDIS explosion, experienced in an out-of-order fashion by the character. Series Six takes a step back, it seems, to tell us why the TARDIS exploded, and what will happen when Silence Falls.
In America, the Doctor begins to piece things together; his companions actually learn even more, but they can’t remember, because the mysterious alien figures they meet can only be remembered when one gazes at them, much like how the Weeping Angels can only move when no one is looking. I’m inclined to call these new aliens “The Silence;” though they don’t have an official name yet, their voice is identical to the “Silence Will Fall” voice River heard in The Pandorica Opens just before the TARDIS exploded around her, and series five was peppered with hints about the identity of these creatures, hints that are just now becoming clear. The Eleventh Hour and a few other episodes introduced the idea of danger lurking in the corner of one’s eye, but the main plot of series five didn’t really follow up on this concept. A monster that can only be remembered when one gazes at it, however, fits the bill quite nicely – you have to keep it in the corner of your eye. There are even moments in the fifth series where characters briefly seem to see something before snapping out of it, just as Amy, River, and Rory all do throughout this episode whenever they see The Silence. Clearly, Moffat has been planning this from the very beginning.
Though it wasn’t explicitly confirmed in this hour, I think it’s also safe to assume that the Silence is behind the main thrust of tonight’s story: the repeated calls to Richard Nixon. This voice was revealed to be emanating from the Astronaut, the same Astronaut that would later kill the Doctor in 2011 – clearly, the Silence is behind everything in tonight’s episode, but the implications for their part in things grows vastly when one considers what is, perhaps, the episode’s second-most shocking sight (behind the Doctor’s death, of course): the reappearance of the homemade TARDIS from last year’s episode The Lodger.
A brief recap: The Lodger found the Doctor investigating a series of mysterious disappearances in a room above a flat in present-day England. When the Doctor finally made his way upstairs, he found a strange spaceship, the exact same ship River and Rory stumble upon near the end of Astronaut. The Doctor determined that the ship was someone’s attempt to build their own TARDIS, but before the Doctor could investigate further, the ship took off into space. At the time The Lodger aired, many – myself included – were a little confused by the episode’s placement in series five. It’s a great hour, but it seemed to have little to do with the rest of the season; yet as we now know, Moffat didn’t intend to tie everything off in one series – his plan is far more wide-ranging than that. Taking Astronaut into account, The Lodger suddenly seems to function as a big prequel for the sixth series.
If the ship really is a makeshift TARDIS, then travelling back to 1969 is no problem – though it’s also possible, given how Moffat writes, that the ship travelled to 2010 after its stint in the sixties to lure in the Doctor and kill him – perhaps the Silence only sent the Astronaut after the Doctor once they failed to kill him in The Lodger.
Speaking of luring, victims were lured into the faux-TARDIS by a voice, the voice of a small girl in need of help. Clearly, that voice returned in tonight’s episode – it was the exact same voice that called President Nixon, the same voice that came from the Astronaut at the end of the hour. This is utterly fascinating, and makes me question what the Astronaut really is; it can’t be a little girl, since a little girl wouldn’t fit in that suit, and it’s not one of the Silence. Is it a machine they crafted, an extension of the voice they use to lure unsuspecting victims? Perhaps. The big question the episode left us with was whether or not that plan backfired, because the voice didn’t stop Amy from firing on the Astronaut to save the Doctor.
I’m pretty sure Amy’s actions didn’t do any damage, since that’s probably not a real little girl inside the space suit. But if it is a real girl in there, then I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Amy revealed her pregnancy to the Doctor just before we saw inside the Astronaut’s helmet. If that’s a real little girl, then it’s Amy’s future daughter. Of course, that seems like such an obvious twist that I’m guessing Moffat’s real plan is something far more complex.
And speaking of complex….
River and the Doctor
Has Alex Kingston ever delivered a moment as good as the one in which she explains her chronologically backwards relationship with the Doctor? The writing was fantastic, of course, but Kingston’s delivery may have been even better. We don’t know River’s backstory, but it seems that Kingston does, and though she may be chipper and energetic on the outside, her relationship with the Doctor has created an awful lot of internal pain, and Kingston plays it perfectly. In that way, she’s just like the Doctor – her exterior hides something far more complex.
Moffat’s 2-part story Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead from series 4 just gets better and better the more we know about River, and her speech to Rory served as a powerful reminder that the audience has already seen the end of River Song. It takes a lot of audacity to start a story at the end and have the fortitude to tell the rest of it completely out of order over the next few years, but Steven Moffat is an audacious writer. He’s also a master of connecting his puzzle-style storytelling to a very poignant, human element, and River’s speech reminded us that while this chronologically skewed relationship may seem confusing and fantastic, it also makes knowing the Doctor incredibly difficult for her. Every time she meets him, he knows less and less about her, and every time he meets her, he learns more. As she says, the last time she sees him, “he won’t have the faintest idea who I am….and I think it’s going to kill me.” Indeed, it does kill her. We already know that, and River’s acknowledgement of her own dark fate proves why telling the story this way works so powerfully.
Premieres don’t get much better than The Impossible Astronaut – and when we pair it with next week’s episode, Day of the Moon, I’m sure it will look even better. Funny, exciting, scary, and incredibly thought-provoking, tonight’s episode demonstrated that the show is on top of its game. Moffat has taken the show to the pinnacle of what it can be, and his master plan is far bigger than any of could have guessed when watching The Eleventh Hour. A year later, some of that material is only just starting to pay off, while new elements have been introduced that could take many more years to pay off. Only a show firing on all cylinders could pull this off, and Doctor Who is that show. From the writing to the acting to the directing, there isn’t anything out of place, and it can only get more interesting from here on out.
--The Doctor didn’t use his sonic screwdriver once in the entire episode, and that may be a good thing – last year’s finale pushed the screwdriver to its limits, and the revived series has used it so much over the years that giving the device some rest would be welcome.
--The Doctor can’t really know his own age, since he doesn’t stay in one place long enough to measure time spent there, and ‘years’ only count on Earth, where time is measured by rotation about the sun. That’s why fans have always doubted the Doctor’s assertions about his age, and it’s possible the Doctor was lying about being 1103 before dying – he couldn’t really know that, so is it possible he exaggerated to make the difference stand out to his companions?
--Mark Sheppard, who has appeared in just about every genre-show on the planet, was fantastic as the young Canton Delaware; Delaware, as his name implies, is the episode’s epitomic American character, yet Sheppard is, ironically, British.
--Filming in Monument Valley wasn’t just hype – the cinematography really was gorgeous, even if BBC America doesn’t make it look too good on the sub-par Standard Definition station (please, Comcast, get BBC HD!!!!) (NOTE FROM THE PRESENT DAY: Comcast still doesn’t have BBC HD, but having purchased these episodes in HD on iTunes, I can say the Monument Valley stuff is absolutely breathtaking in high-definition)
“Day of the Moon”
Original Airdate/Publication Date: 4/30/11
Episode Rating: A-
Day of the Moon is one of the busiest Doctor Who episodes ever, and that’s saying an awful lot after last week’s similarly crowded hour. It certainly didn’t follow the path of most Who 2-parters, because while it continued and (mostly) resolved the story from part 1, it also introduced another cornucopia of new story threads that were still blowing in the wind at the end of the hour. In many ways, it felt like another “Part 1,” laying the groundwork for the immense amount of story yet to come. Taken together with The Impossible Astronaut as one 2-hour story, this premiere was almost all about set-up, establishing new mysteries, characters, and horrors to excite us in the months to come. For the most part, it worked beautifully, and across these two hours, Moffat couldn’t have raised the bar for the rest of the season any higher.
Of course, this two-part opener really did have its own story with a unique set of characters, and if Moffat made any misstep in resolving things in Day of the Moon, it’s that the balance between establishing mysteries and bringing this particular story to a close was a little bit out of whack. The Doctor’s solution to driving the Silence off of Earth was ingenious – more on that in a moment – but the 2-parter, and this hour in particular, was more intensely focused on the mysterious little girl and the strange astronaut, both of which didn’t ultimately factor into the Doctor’s battle with the Silence. Spending more time demonstrating just how much the Silence have permeated everyday Earth life, how they’ve been there for all of time, would have made their eventual downfall that much sweeter (and it was pretty sweet to begin with).
Still, it’s hard to complain about an hour that gave us so much to think about while also nailing many fantastic character moments. There’s a lot to dive into, so let’s get started with Doctor Who’s newest villain…
Meet the Silence
Steven Moffat has created some very scary monsters in his time with Doctor Who; the Weeping Angels, in particular, seemed to be unbeatably frightening. With the Silence, however, Moffat really has outdone himself. They were intimidating last week, but what we saw of them were only hints – in Day of the Moon, they were full-on terrifying, and I haven’t been this unsettled watching an episode of Doctor Who since Moffat introduced the Weeping Angels in “Blink.” Like the Angels, Moffat gives these creatures one simple but immensely powerful trait – they can only be remembered while one looks at them – and exploits that trait for every scare possible.
Last week, we experienced the Silence from an objective audience viewpoint, seeing them whether or not the characters ultimately turned away. This week, Moffat puts us in the eyes of the characters, so we only get to see the Silence if they do. Experiencing them from this point of view demonstrates just how scary they really are. That’s where brilliant visual techniques like sharpie-marks on the skin or the Doctor’s blinking-hand-microphone memory solution come in – both are relatively simple ways to remember the Silence when they pop up, but that means that when a fresh mark appears or the light starts blinking, the Silence have just appeared without the knowledge of the audience or the characters. It’s amazing how quickly the blinking light or the skin marks became frightening, and by the time Amy is trapped in the Silence hive in the orphanage, I was positively terrified.
Of course, the bigger implications of the Silence are just as powerful. Before watching tonight’s episode, I re-watched last week’s part 1, and when I reached the bathroom sequence where Amy first meets the Silence, I noted how intimidating it was that the Silence know everybody’s names – even of the annoying red-shirt woman they kill – and even knew about the Doctor’s death in the future. I wondered if the implication was that the Silence have always been there, observing humans, and sure enough, that was the revelation we were handed tonight. It was even larger than I imagined, however – as the Silence notes, “We have ruled [Earth] since the wheel and the fire.” They’ve been around since the dawn of time, manipulating the path of human history, and in so doing, created many human superstitions, like the fear of monsters in the dark or the mysterious presence in the corner of one’s eye. They’re like every single Moffat villain rolled into one – they don’t just make one mundane, everyday idea scary, they make every mundane, everyday element scary, and they’ve apparently been doing it for billions of years. That is truly unsettling.
We still have a lot to learn about the Silence, however. For instance, we don’t know what their plan was on Earth, though I’m sure they’re not going to abandon their scheming after the Doctor ran them out. I’d go so far as to predict that the explosion of the TARDIS at the center of last year’s season (series five) was a direct retaliation to the Doctor’s meddling by the Silence. They’re also a very mysterious species – they can speak without mouths, spontaneously explode people into clouds of nothing, and have an admittedly fine fashion sense. I’m guessing they’re telepathic, which is why each of them seem to have the same base of knowledge, and it’s possible they talk to people through their minds, rather than through actual sound transmission. It certainly would explain how they can erase themselves from memories while simultaneously using post-hypnotic suggestion to guide their victims along. We have a lot more to learn about the Silence, and I’m guessing they’ll only become scarier as more of their power is revealed.
The Doctor certainly didn’t need to know too much about them to drive them off the planet. By rigging Apollo 11 to send a transmission of the captured Silence saying “You should kill us all on sight” to all televisions in the world alongside Neil Armstrong’s one small step for man, he used the Silence’s own capacity for post-hypnotic suggestion against them – and in true Moffat fashion, this message wasn’t simply going out to people in 1969, but to humans across all of space and time, to any humans familiar with Armstrong’s immortal words. Thus, no matter where the Silence are, humans will briefly recall them, find any Silence near them, and promptly wipe the Silence out before forgetting them again and going back to living in peace. The Doctor has defeated aliens in cool ways before, but this victory is one of my absolute favorites. My favorite Doctor victories are the ones in which he uses his intelligence to save the day, and as in many classic Moffat stories, it was the Doctor’s ingenuity, not brute force or strength, that served as his greatest weapon.
Nevertheless, the Silence certainly aren’t gone for good – we’ll be seeing more of them very soon, I’m sure, especially since one of their most mysterious machinations is still out there: the creepy little girl.
The Impossible Astronaut
Impossible indeed. The little girl inside the space suit is the episode’s single biggest enigma, a mystery where every theory I conjure seems to contradict at least some minor bit of continuity. As with most Moffat mysteries, I’m guessing the identity of the girl is something none of us can accurately guess at just yet, but it’s fun to try.
Here’s what we know: the little girl was put in that space suit against her will by the Silence, and the suit seemed to be a sort of controlling mechanism. We can more or less infer that the Silence stole her from the orphanage. Furthermore, if you listen to the girl’s calls to President Nixon in Part 1, the first call says that she is scared by the spaceman, while the subsequent call says the spaceman is “here,” so I’m assuming she didn’t become one with the suit until after those calls, shortly before the Doctor and company arrived at the end of Part 1. We know the little girl will, at some point, travel to Monument Valley in 2011 and kill the 1103-year-old Doctor, but since she’s in the astronaut suit at that point, I’d guess this event happens before she gets out of the suit in tonight’s episode. Since the Silence have a TARDIS-esque contraption (the same one seen in last season’s The Lodger), we can further assume that they travel her to 2011, where she kills the Doctor. But in 2011, when the Doctor is killed, he seems to know the Astronaut-girl, so he clearly got to know her better during the 200-year-gap leading up to the Doctor’s death at age 1103. Whatever the now-dead Doctor knows about the little girl was enough to convince him he had to die, so she is clearly someone significant.
These details are easy to wrap one’s head around – figuring out who the little girl is and why she’s significant is where things get tricky. There are clues scattered throughout. Amy, who may or may not be pregnant, finds the girl’s room at the orphanage, where there are pictures of Amy holding the girl as a baby. It’s not a confirmation, but it certainly adds credence to the theory that the girl is Amy’s daughter. Naturally, I’d assume Rory is the father…except that, as we saw in the episode’s mind-blowing final scene, the little girl is a Time Lord capable of regeneration. As far as I know, Rory’s not a Time Lord. I’m also pretty sure the Doctor isn’t going to impregnate Amy. This, as I said, is where things get confusing.
My initial theory, which came to me as Amy looked at the pictures in the orphanage, was that River Song is the little girl, all grown up, making Amy and Rory River’s parents. That certainly seems like something Moffat would do, as it would further tie all our characters together, but it’s also in line with evidence we’ve been given so far about River’s identity. Ever since River revealed last season that she’s in prison for killing “the best man [she] ever knew,” fans have speculated she killed the Doctor at some point in her past. The little girl, as we know, definitely kills the Doctor. In last week’s episode, while talking to Rory, River says that the Doctor met her “many years ago” as a “young, impressionable girl,” which opens the door for the Doctor meeting her as the young girl in the space suit. That’s all evidence for River being the little girl, but there’s also a sly hint by River herself in tonight’s episode suggesting Amy and Rory are her parents. After defeating the Silence, and as everyone is getting back in the TARDIS, River shoots one last straggler, and says “My old fellow didn’t see that, did he? He’s ever so cross.” I’d most immediately assume she’s referring to the Doctor there, but notice that Rory is standing right behind her as she says this. Could “old fellow” be a reference to her father? Has River been hiding her secrets all this time not just for the sake of the Doctor, but for the sake of her parents, Amy and Rory, too?
The episode’s final scene sort of shot down this theory – as mentioned above, the little girl turned out to be a Time Lord capable of regeneration. This doesn’t alter my prediction that River is the girl – River being a Time Lord would explain an awful lot, more than I could go into here – but it obviously seems to cancel out the idea that River is Amy and Rory’s baby. I still think, no matter what, the girl is Amy’s daughter. There’s something very fishy about her pregnancy – even the TARDIS couldn’t figure out whether or not she’s pregnant – and the Silence kidnapped her for a reason. But since Rory is also human, and the child a Time Lord, we can’t automatically assume he’s the father, and as I said above, there’s no way in hell the Doctor – the only surviving Time Lord – is the father. What, then, are we left with?
The Silence have created their own version of the TARDIS, so we know they are capable of mimicking Time Lord technology. Does this extend to Time Lord physiology? The child may not have been a Time Lord to start out with – and its physiology could be most human (i.e. one heart) – but the Silence may have given the child regenerative capabilities. That could very well be the purpose of the space suit, to grant the child certain Time Lord qualities, and if that’s the case, the Silence are most certainly messing with the child as it grows in Amy’s womb – that’s why the pregnancy is so wonky, and it’s why they kidnapped her tonight. The question is whether they artificially impregnated her, or if Rory did and the Silence are simply altering the child.
River and the Doctor
Both parts of the 2-hour premiere saw River and the Doctor playfully flirting while trying to save the day. When the Doctor returned River to prison, however, we saw that the flirting meant something entirely different to River than it did to the Doctor. Confirming rampant speculation since her first appearance in series 4, River revealed that her love for the Doctor is more than platonic by kissing him vigorously, an action the Doctor seemed entirely uncomfortable with. As we’ve seen before, this Doctor is positively frightened of sexuality, and while River’s sexual flirtations may have been entirely serious, the Doctor was just goofing around – at this point, at least, he’s still not romantically interested in River.
Yet River’s kiss made it clear that, at some point in his future, the Doctor will love River Song on a romantic level, and that’s a revelation that is sure to upset some fans. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with the Doctor falling in love so long as there’s a good reason for it in the story, and they’ve certainly built this relationship up long enough that I’d say those requirements can and will be met. There was no logical reason for the Tenth Doctor to fall in love with Rose, but if any girl in the entire universe is going to open the Eleventh Doctor’s heart, it’s River Song. She is his equal in many ways, the perfect romantic companion for the Doctor, and no matter how asexual the Doctor may be right now, even he’ll have to figure that out at some point down the road. And if River really is the little girl in the space suit, that means she’s at least part Time Lord, further cementing her link with the Doctor.
As with many River stories, though, this revelation was accompanied by a whole lot of melancholy. Her love for the Doctor knows no bounds, but since they are headed in opposite directions chronologically, the Doctor’s surprise at their first kiss was contradicted by her emotional destruction at their last kiss. Above all else, this is why Moffat plays with time the way he does – when it all comes together, time travel allows him to pack an emotional wallop that couldn’t be achieved if the story and relationships unfolded in sequential fashion.
I could write another five pages about Day of the Moon and still have more to say; TV doesn’t get more dense – or rewarding – than this. In these last two episodes, Moffat has told an absolute cracker of a story, while also laying the groundwork for what is sure to be an unbelievably exciting and fascinating season. There are so many balls in the air right now, with the Doctor’s death still looming, the girl’s identity still unknown, and the Silence still out there, waiting to strike. Can the season possibly live up to this set-up? All I know is that after last year’s The Eleventh Hour, we were all asking the exact same question, and the answer was an unequivocal “Yes.” So far, there’s no reason to believe Moffat and company can’t deliver once again.
--I could have talked about nothing but the hour’s string of fantastic character moments and still filled five pages, because Day of the Moon was filled to burst with great character bits. I’ll address a few of them briefly here, but the only one that didn’t entirely work for me was Amy and Rory’s subplot. It was actually really well written and acted, and addressed a concern Rory naturally should have about his wife’s relationship with the mad man in the blue box; placed in the middle of such a busy episode, though, it didn’t totally gel, and the time may have been better spent elsewhere. Other than that, though, it’s proof that Moffat knows exactly what to do with Amy and Rory now that they are officially the TARDIS’ first-ever married couple.
--Canton Delaware…what an amazing character. Across both episodes, he had some fantastic one-liners, and Mark Sheppard delivered all of them flawlessly. My favorite Canton moment was certainly the revelation that he was ousted from the FBI for gay interracial love, and how absolutely comfortable he is revealing that – it shows just how ahead of his time he is.
--This was also a hilarious moment for Stuart Milligan’s Richard Nixon, who actually seemed willing to be liberal for a moment and accept Canton for who he was before homosexuality entered the picture. Milligan was uproariously funny throughout, though, and I loved how “Hail to the Chief” played every time he walked on screen.
--Also loved the Doctor’s final words to Nixon – “Say hi to David Frost for me” – and the idea that in telling Nixon about aliens, the Doctor provided Tricky Dick with the paranoia that would lead to his eventual downfall.
--Surprisingly, Day of the Moon didn’t revisit the Doctor’s death at all (confirming my prediction that this story is going to take a long time to play out), but seeing the full story did clarify some of the old-Doctor’s statements from last week: after knowing what the Silence did (and almost did) to the people of Earth, the line “A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers” carries a lot more weight…
The Doctor meets some pirates and his own ‘wife’ in episodes 3 and 4:
“Curse of the Black Spot” and “The Doctor’s Wife”