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Doctor Who: Day of the Moon (Review)

“No, it’s not Apollo 11. That would be silly. It’s Neil Armstrong’s foot.”

– The Doctor discusses his secret weapon

Well, that was fun. Reportedly, Steven Moffat stated that he wanted the season-opening two-parter to feel like a big season finale, with epic scale, huge stakes and genuine consequences, and – to be frank – I think he accomplished it. Perhaps Day of the Moon leaves just a little bit too much hanging for my own personal taste, but it’s still an exciting and fun conclusion to this story arc.

Spaced out...

In many ways, this feels like a conclusion to last year’s big arcs – perhaps a more logical wrap up than The Big Bang. I mean, they even did that thing that Davies was especially fond of, where they reveal the arc word (in this case “silence”) and flash back to various episodes including the key phrase. We discover that (as hinted last week) “The Silence” built the device we saw in The Lodger, and that they were behind the attack on the TARDIS and the Doctor in The Big Bang (even building another “perfect prison” to house the Doctor at the start of this episode).

We also got a resolution to Amy’s “the Doctor or Rory” dilemma, which I hope is final this time. I liked the scene at the end with Amy and the Doctor at the TARDIS console, where she revealed that he was her “best friend”and, indeed, the pair stand around smiling and laughing without a hint of any of the romantic tension we felt last year. I will genuinely be glad if this is put to bed (so to speak), because we had enough Doctor/companion romantic angst with Rose and Ten (although the revelation in the episode’s stinger surely won’t help matters).

Is Pond out of her depth?

Still, we seem to be addressing the ending before the beginning, but that seems oddly appropriate. I remarked last week I’d be disappointed if the Doctor’s assassination at the start of the previous episode wasn’t dealt with here, and it wasn’t. That said, I don’t mind it being the season-long mystery – I was worried that Moffat would string us along about the Silence, making this episode just feel like prelude. While I doubt we’re finished with any of these elements (especially given “Schrodinger’s pregnancy” and the fact that Doctor explicitly acknowledges that the TARDIS in The Lodger is still something of a mystery), there’s still enough meat here that the episode stands on its own two feet.

Indeed, Moffat stays away from the “timey wimey” stuff (mostly) for this episode. I do wonder why Canton didn’t see River land in a TARDIS when she jumped off the building, even though the TARDIS hadn’t gone back yet. The fact that he didn’t have her body to put in the Doctor’s cell indicates that they didn’t recover one, but perhaps I’m thinking too much about this. Instead, Moffat gave us the wonderful high concept of the Silence, aliens which erase our own memories of them and have been occupying the planet since “the wheel.” Indeed, the fact that these creatures have always been around and that the Doctor’s plot is essentially “revolution”, allows Moffat to position the character where he’s best – the Doctor has always been one to challenge the establishment, and here it helps that the establishment is a bunch of very sinister aliens. It’s a pretty cool concept and one which stands with the very best of Moffat’s Doctor Who plots.

Can he count on Canton?

Indeed, the episode’s finale might be one of the most clever resolutions to an invasion I’ve ever seen. I appreciated Davies’ writing on the show for it’s emotional appeal, but the previous showrunner undeniably had problems wrapping up his big two-parters, frequently breaking out the deus ex machina. Here, instead, the conclusion flows relatively logically, and I like the way that Moffat isn’t afraid to play the “secret history” card, by suggesting that the moon landing video we’ve all watched countless times contains footage that we forgot we saw (and especially since it jokingly explains Armstrong’s awkward pause at “and one giant… leap”, where it sounds like the astronaut is trying to remember something). It is, genuinely, ingenious.

On the other hand, it still struck me as a little… uncharacteristic for the Doctor. Of course, the character has been responsible for countless genocides, typically wiping out the last of a given species after it refuses to back down, but there was something about the way the character manipulated the Silence into ordering their own execution which – while fiendishly clever – seems more than a little cruel. Most times, the bad guys at least get a warning of what the Doctor is capable of, a demonstration of his power. Then they decide to mess with him anyway and his response is justified. Here, he barges in, demand they leave, gives them about two seconds before compelling mankind to commit genocide. Maybe that’s the real aspect which bothers me, using humanity to wipe out the invaders – especially without humanity’s consent or even knowledge (since their minds are wiped). Given that the Doctor got so indignant about Amy, River and Rory keeping a secret from him last time, it seems a little hypocritical that he may lead humanity to commit a subconscious purge that we can’t ever remember.

But it wouldn’t be the first time the character has crossed a line.

Silence is Golden?

Anyway, that complaint aside, it was great fun. In the last episode, the Americana sort of overwhelmed the show. There were lots of location shots in broad daylight, which tend to undermine the horror. This time around, there was a wonderful gothic orphanage for Amy to wander around, reminding me a lot of the Hinchcliffe era of the show (indeed, the guy running the orphanage was “Renfold”, which sounds more than a little like “Renfield”, to add to the gothic horror vibe). Concentrating more on the Silence also amped up the horror vibe – I especially love the early sequence in the TARDIS with Canton.

Indeed, the episode does well to revel in the pop culture of America, rather than just the rich locations. We don’t spend as much time in iconic backdrops (though we visit New York and other landmarks early on), but we get a lot more “American” quirks – based around cultural differences rather than the beautiful scenery. “Welcome to America,” Canton remarks after emptying several bullets into an invader, which is a shocking scene simply because this is a British television show – guns just seem so inherently American that it’s strange to see them used so casually on this show. I would have been disappointed if the Doctor’s trip to America didn’t take in Area 51, and it’s great to see it here, as well as NASA.

Now, ware were we?

However, the most fun aspect of the show for me was the “aw, shucks” aspect of the President. There was a wickedly subversive sense of fun in having the President of the United States wander around helping the Doctor out and generally helping to save the world. It might sound like the kind of thing that you’d see in a stereotypical American blockbuster, like Independence Day. However, I don’t doubt that Steven Moffat was smiling out of the corner of his mouth as the President who saved the world wasn’t Lincoln or Kennedy or Roosevelt – any of the iconic heroic ones. It was Richard Milhous Nixon.

Yes, the most hated and controversial US President helped save the world. It’s incredibly cheeky little moment, and a touch I appreciate, especially since Nixon’s term features a lot of good stuff that (in fairness, arguably quite rightly) gets overshadowed by what came after. Still, lines like “hi, folks!” from the US President addressing a bunch of Americans doing their jobs seem subversively fun rather than boringly cliché when they come from “Tricky Dicky.” I adored the bit where Nixon tried to justify the Doctor’s illegal breaking and entering, “I’m sure he has a very good reason for that.” And the fact that the Doctor advised Nixon to record everything that happened in the Oval Office brought a smile to my face.

More than that, though the episode was just fun. I love the flirting with River and the Doctor during the final confrontation, as both seem to be clearly enjoying it. “Is this really important flirting?” Amy asks, reminding them to get back to her. Maybe it’s not important, but it’s fun. I love the way that Matt Smith played the kiss, as the Doctor is unsure what to do with his hands (he really is an overgrown teenager, isn’t he?).

Canton is deserted...

More than that, as much as I might worry that Moffat is treating out-of-sequence narratives as a crutch, I was genuinely touched at the way that he tied together River and the Doctor, with River getting more character work here than arguably any story since Silence in the Library. “Your future’s my past,” she explains, and we see in the context of the story – literally, this meeting is happening out of sequence, as a microcosm of their relationship. It works really well, and I continue to appreciate the big ensemble family that Moffat has built – not around the companion, like Davies did, but around the Doctor. I really want to see Mark Sheppard and Alex Kingston again.

So, we get the set-up for the season. Amy’s daughter, who – based on the ending – might actually have a “time head.” I’ll wait to see how that plays out, but I’m intrigued. As much fun as the pirates from next week look, it’s Neil Gaiman’s episode in two weeks I’m really looking forward to.

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21 Responses

  1. I loved your review! Practically everything I was thinking got incorperated here!
    I really couldn’t stand it if the child turned out to be Amy and The Doctor’s kid, it just seems so cliched… Also, there are kiddies watching and having Amy comit adultary would be a very difficult thing to explain…
    I’m hoping we’re all mislead and either the girl isn’t Amy’s at all or her beng able to regenerate is just a side-effect of the TARDIS

    • Thanks Hannah. Yep, I’m happy to bury the “Amy has a crush on the Doctor” thing once and for all now.

  2. I think that the little girl is Amy’s child, and her being able to regenerate is the result of Amy traveling in the TARDIS. Also, I think that the little girl is River Song as a child. It makes sense, how she killed “the best man she ever knew(the Doctor)” and the little girl kills him, and how Steven Moffat said that we would be seeing River as a child in this series. River is a time lord in my opinion. Plus, it would make a super epic half-series finale if River told the Doctor she was also a time lord.

    • Yep, I think that makes sense. I’m rethinking my “The Doctor shoots himself” thing, and leaning towards “River shoots the Doctor” as a theory.

  3. With regard to the whole nod to American culture theme, I thought that Amy in a black trouser suit was a big honking wink to Scully of X-files (who also had a mysterious pregnancy).

  4. i agree with hannah! i was looking for reviews and didnt like most until i crossed yours. loved it.

  5. I loved these first two episodes — too much it seems since I’m supposed to be doing other stuff. *lol* I can’t wait to learn more about River Song but at the same time, I’m hoping the events at the end of the episode have major implications.

  6. Amy’s travelling in the TARDIS would make sense as to why te girl seemed to regenerate… But she appeared to choose to do it? Or was that just me… She definately wasn’t dead when she regnerated.

    it would be an interesting twist to have River as Amy’s daughter, but so many people think it that I don’t think Moffat would! Also both Amy and River have then kissed the doctor which seems kinda creepy to me…
    I like the idea of River being a Time Lady and thought that myself!! But can’t the doctor sense other time Lords?
    Is it possible that the girl is the doctor and River’s? There was definately a big smooching going on! 😉

    haha sorry for the long comment!

    • Don’t apologise, I love long comments!

    • Regenerations
      The modern-era regenerations seem to happen before the character is ‘properly’ dead and usually in that head to the sky, arms flung out position. Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor, Derek Jacobi’s Master and David Tennant’s 10th Doctor all finished that way.

      There was a Time Lord – was it Romana? – way back when, who appeared to “try on” a few regenerations before she was happy with the way she looked; which raised interesting questions about only having 12 of them (although The Master seemed to get around it in The Deadly Assassin back in 1976).

      The Girl
      The scanner’s positive reading suggested that the girl definitely is Amy’s as-yet unborn child (it whooshed past a bit fast – I think I remember it right).

      River = The Girl?
      So, if River is Amy’s daughter, and as she and Amy have both kissed The Doctor, then that would add yet another reference to The Graduate: The Doctor gave River the “codename” Mrs Robinson (the mother, in the film, in a nice inversion). That would just be for a giggle, because The Doctor wouldn’t have known that in the Oval Office (unless there’s something else we’re not being told, haha).

      And, if River can regenerate, doesn’t that put her death in the Library into a different context? Well, probably not, because she told Doctor 10 that he wouldn’t regenerate (so, we have to assume, neither would she).

      Well, another long comment (my first) for which I should also apologise.

      After all this speculation I suspect we aren’t going to be any the wiser until after we’ve seen the whole series. And possibly not then. But, isn’t that the great joy of Doctor Who anyway?

      • Okay, thanks for clearing up my confusion for the regenerations! I’m thinking River may be the girl, but I’d also love to have the little girl be The Doctor and River’s child! Imagine the shock that’d be as a mid-series realisation…

      • Never apologise for having anything to add. I love food for thought.

        And I trust Moffat enough to tie together his arc this season. After all, didn’t he say that we’d find out who River Song was this year? Of course, being Doctor Who head honcho does require copious amount of lying through one’s teeth (and I’m not complaining, I’d rather be misled than spoiled).

      • River being the girl would be kinda groddy after her and the Doctor’s kiss. It would put Luke and Leia’s kiss to shame.

  7. I gotta say, that episode was a doozy. I’m definitely interested in (possibly) young River Song, and her regeneration literally had me saying “… the fuck?” for a good 2 minutes.

    And I liked the “Say hi to Robert Frost” bit. I laughed.

    • I thought this was such a good episode!! I know there were some downsides but overall I think it was awesome and it’s just made me want to watch so much more!! This blog http://www.filthynation.com/2011/05/doctor-who-day-of-the-moon-wtf/ has some interesting theories! It says that River could be Amy’s daughter!! It’s quite interesting! lol.


      • I’m leaning towards that myself.

        I’m also leaning toward River being the space man, because it woulod be poetic for her to kill the Doctor the first time she meets him, and also because she holds Amy back, seemingly knowing what would happen. Even when she fires at the space man (and misses, repeatedly) she whispers, “Of course not.” I think the Doctor talks her through it, hence the hesitation before she shoots him and her whole “he knew everything about me” speil.

  8. Thanks for that – it was a bit of a head melter of an episode and that’s cleared up some of my questions. Just a thought on the Canton not seeing her fall into the TARDIS thing – wasn’t he in on the plan in the first place, so, he may have duped his colleagues into believing she actually fell to her death?

    Slightly creeped out by the idea that River may be Amy’s child. Seems wrong somehow. If that were the case then the Doctor would end up getting it on with his best friend’s daughter – there’s got to be some kind of code against that!

    • Thanks Gareth. It would seem inappropriate, wouldn’t it? Especially since there’s some on-line speculation the child might be his! I don’t know, that’s the reason I’m only 98% certain the child is River, rather than the whole kit and caboodle.

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