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Mr. Harvey Watches "Who"

DOCTOR WHO – Series 6 Episode 2

“Day Of The Moon”
A review by Timothy Harvey

Spoiler Free. Ish.

The second episode of this season is also the second part of the story began in “The Impossible Astronaut”, and even though this first part of the review is spoiler lite, it does assume you’ve seen the season opener. So if you haven’t… go watch it. I’ll wait.

There. All in? Good.

Opening up three months after the end of “The Impossible Astronaut”, we find our heroes on the run from the FBI, with former ally Canton Delaware seemingly willing to use deadly force on Amy, Rory and River. And where is the Doctor? Being held prisoner at Area 51. Of course it’s not that simple.

We’ll see little bits of the events between the end of the previous episode and the beginning of this one, but much is left unshown. Some of this gap is filled in by the Doctor and his Companions as they move to fight the threat of the Silence, but not all. And by the end of the episode there are far, far more.

No matter what, this second half of the opener is overshadowed by the Future Doctor’s death, and the darkness of “The Impossible Astronaut” is very much in evidence here. Some of that is quite literally darkness, when Amy and Delaware investigate an almost empty children’s home in a very “X-files” sequence. This part revels in it’s spookiness, and the lighting and set design would be quite at home in a horror film. The revelations and questions raised in the children’s home are made all the more pressing by the capture of Amy by the Silence, and the race to find her and defeat them in time to correspond with the Moon Landing. And then there’s the game changing final moments of the show, where one scene changes one of the central premises of Doctor Who since the return of the show.

Mark Sheppard again turns in an excellent performance as Canton Delaware III, hand picked by President Nixon to investigate a series of mysterious phone calls. Sucked into a much larger mystery by the Doctor, Delaware adapts quickly to the larger threat, and makes for a formidable adversary when hunting down Amy, Rory and River. His cold dealing with the imprisoned Doctor is all business and ruthless efficiency, but there are several layers of the man revealed throughout these two episodes. And he gets to have a great moment that made me laugh out loud… “Welcome to America”.

Rory gets some really good moments here, despite a subplot that has been overworked a little: loving a woman who travels with the Doctor, and wondering… That seems to be resolved here, but frankly it’s a bit we’ve seen before, and I’d be happy to see it go away. Better is the exchange where Rory reveals to the Doctor that he remembers the 2000 years he spent guarding Amy in the Pandorica, and we see that he isn’t going to just wait by the sidelines while the Doctor saves the day. Arthur Darvill gives Rory a real weight and seriousness that we saw a little of in the end of the last season, while still being genuinely funny. His Rory clearly loves Amy beyond all else. “She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. And she always knows I am coming for her. Do you understand me?”

Amy Pond gets to be a fugitive, Dana Scully, and a captive all in one episode, and deal with shooting the Astronaut Child and being (maybe) pregnant. Sounds like a lot but it all works, and the questions that this episode raises about her relationship to what is shaping up to be the larger story arc of this season, as well as her desperate desire to save the Doctor from his fate, might be the true underlying story of the season. Karen Gillan laughs and screams and runs and threatens, and is again, one of my favorite companions.

River. That mysterious woman who has a tendency to jump out of things one shouldn’t. The interplay between River and the Doctor is gold. The flirting, the mystery, the inevitable tragedy of their relationship… much is explained here and still the questions remain. And there’s two moments where she really shines… one raising more questions about her past, and one with a very sad glimpse of her future. Again, River seems to have divided fans, but Alex Kingston is, in my opinion wonderful.

Matt Smith again flips easily back and forth between humor, often physical, and deadly seriousness, all while emphasizing the Doctor’s alien nature. He has some really good personal moments with the Companions here, with his conversations with Rory and River standing out. There’s an interesting thing about Smith’s voice, that lends itself extremely well to the Doctor. When his voice drops to it’s lower register, he suddenly seems much older, and he uses that in the personal scenes to really draw attention to the fact that the Doctor has seen so much and carries the weight of all those centuries.

We also get some humor in Stuart Milligan’s Nixon, which works most of the time, although there is one bit in particular which is a little silly. The best of his moments are at the end of the episode, in an exchange between Nixon and Delaware. Also of note is the performance of Kerry Shale as Doctor Renfew, the administrator of the children’s home. With a name that close to Renfield, it’s only appropriate that he seems to scuttle and react to things that may or not be there.

As for the Silence as our new villains, while there are a couple of things that don’t quite add up (yet?), they really are one of the best monsters created for Doctor Who. Vicious, cunning, and still mysterious, their connection to last seasons repeated theme “Silence Will Fall” and the cause of the TARDIS explosion still unclear, it’s obvious that we’re going to see a lot more of them.

And still there is the little girl in the astronaut suit…

While many questions are answered from the opener, many more are raised by this episode. It’s much more of an action piece than “The Impossible Astronaut”, and could actually have benefitted by a slightly slower pace in places, but that’s quibbling. The contrast between the quiet moments between the Doctor and his friends as great character beats and the darker, spookier majority of the episode is extremely effective, and I for one have enjoyed this darker theme. Of course we’ll see a mix of dark and light throughout the season, but Doctor Who has always had elements of horror, and it’s nice to see it handled so well. Again, I highly recommend it.

If there seems to be a vagueness to the spoiler free-ish review, it’s because so much happens here that it would be really easy to let slip a spoiler or two, which would lead to another and another… so if that’s what you want, then read on.

Spoilers Ahead…

Our second episode picks up three months after the cliffhanger ending of the first, and again, a lot of the details of those months are left out. But Amy, River and Rory are on the run, chased by Delaware, all sorting black marks on their arms and faces. One by one they are hunted down across the US, ending in Delaware seemingly gunning them down. Except for River, who prefers to throw herself out of the 50th floor of a skyscraper rather than be captured. Their bodies are taken back to Area 51, where the Doctor is imprisoned, and deposited in the rather unique prison being constructed around him. Delaware seems to be reveling in the chase and taunting the captive Doctor, until it’s revealed that the prison they have been building for the Doctor is designed to shield them all from the Silence. As soon as the door is sealed, Amy and Rory get out of their bodybags and the Doctor easily slips out of his restraints and de-cloaks the TARDIS. As they escape, they make a stop to catch a falling River in the TARDIS pool, and the Doctor reveals he has a plan to use the Apollo 11 mission to fight the Silence. Or more accurately:

“Apollo 11’s your secret weapon?”

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

It turns out Amy, Rory and River have been traveling around the world, trying to gauge the level of infiltration by the Silence, which pretty much seems to be complete. They are all over the world but with their ability to make you forget that you even saw them, the only way our heroes have been able to track them is to make a black tic mark on their skin every time they see one. Not only doe they make you forget you saw them, but they implant something similar to post -hypnotic suggestions. The Doctor suspects that they have been here for a very long time, manipulating humanity, and that Earth isn’t being invaded, it’s being ruled. Injecting everyone with a telepathic nano-recorder to help record what they can’t remember, he sends Amy and Canton to search for the girl in the astronaut suit, while he makes a visit to NASA.

At Greystark Hall Orphanage, Amy and Delaware find Dr. Renfrew tending to an empty mansion with “Get Out” scrawled on the walls repeatedly, his mind shattered by repeated exposure to the Silence. Here the mystery girl was kept, protected for reasons unknown by the Silence themselves. As Delaware tries to get information from Renfrew, Amy explores and finds herself in a room full of the Silence.

At NASA, the Doctor is caught tampering with the Apollo capsule, only to have President Nixon arrive suddenly to convince the security chief to release him.

Back at the orphanage, Amy finds the girl’s room in a particularly odd fashion: a sliding panel in the door reveals a woman with an eyepatch who says “No, I think she’s just dreaming” before vanishing. Inside the room she finds another odd thing amigo photos of the girl: a photo of herself, holding a baby. Suddenly the Astronaut appears, opening it’s helmet to reveal the girl. As Amy tries to get answers, the Silence appears and she screams.

A knock at the door in Renfrew’s office reveals a Silent, which reveals to Delaware that the Silence has ruled the earth since mankind developed fire, and that they are so powerful they don’t need weapons. Delaware does the only sensible thing. He shoots it repeatedly as he runs to find Amy.

The Doctor, Rory and River arrive to find Amy gone, her nano-transmitter ripped out of her, but still broadcasting her thoughts. When the Doctor explains to a distraught Rory that the transmission is only one way, that Amy can’t hear him, Rory’s response is wonderful:

“She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. And she always knows I am coming for her. Do you understand me?”

The Doctor confronts the wounded Silent, and for the first time has real confirmation they are in fact the source of the “Silence Will Fall” from the previous series. Taking the creature back to Area 51, the other purpose of the prison is revealed as a place to hold and hide their captive. While Delaware questions it, River and the Doctor examine the now empty spacesuit, finding it to be a mix of alien tech, ripped open from the inside. Of the girl, there is no sign, but from the strength required to rip it open, clearly she’s incredibly strong. The questions  increase with the Doctor wondering what the Silence really need the suit for, and how much they have influenced the space program.

At Area 51 Delaware uses Amy’s cellphone to record a videoclip of the wounded Silence. It clearly thinks Delaware is a fool for trying to tend to it’s wounds, telling him: “We have ruled you lives since your lives began. You should kill us all on sight.”

Rory listens to Amy’s recorder, and questions the delay in rescuing her. The Doctor reveals his plan isn’t ready and then asks Rory if he remembers waiting for 2000 years, guarding Amy in the Pandorica.  Rory admits he does, not all the time, but the memories are there.

Amy awakes to find herself in the TARDIS-like ship from “The Lodger”, and in an chilling exchange with one of her Silence captors it is clear that they know who she is, and that she will “Bring the Silence”, although her time is soon up. Suddenly they are interrupted by the arrival of the TARDIS, and the Doctor bearing a television, and River with a gun. Warning the Silence that he’s very confident, and that’s something they can be concerned about, and that he’ll let River kill as many as she can if they try to stop him, the Doctor reveals his plan: Surrender or else. When the Silence refuse to respond, the Doctor points out the importance of the television broadcast of the moon landing. Watched by billions, broadcast over and over, year after year far into the future, this broadcast is one of the most important in the history of mankind. And he’s just imbedded the video of the Silent telling Delaware “You should kill us all on sight.”

Around the world anyone who sees a Silent will respond to this instruction, attacking the unarmed Silence, and then forgetting everything  about it, and every time the footage of the moon landing is seen, this will be reinforced into humanity. For generations, mankind will be fighting a secret war against the Silence. Around the world, mankind sees the Silence in their midst and rise up. “How fast can you run?”

Rescuing Amy as the Silence begin summoning their biological energy weapon, River provides covering fire as they all make their way into the TARDIS, waiting until the Doctor is inside to kill every Silent in the room in an a disturbingly thorough manner. When Rory, staring at the carnage asks her what kind of doctor is she, she replies “Archeologist. Love a tomb.”

At the White House, the Doctor rather fails to reassure the President that the earth is safe and encourages him to let Delaware rejoin the FBI and marry the person he loves, and as he leaves he tells Nixon to say hello to David Frost for him. Nixon asks Delaware is the person he wants to marry is black, and starts to say he’s not as prejudiced as some people think, when Delaware interrupts him with “Yes, HE is.”

The Doctor returns River to her Stormcage cell at her request, but when he tries to leave she kisses him passionately. Stunned he walks away, telling her it was nice, and “There’s a first time for everything.” As she watches him leave, she realizes that with their back to front relationship, that was the last time in her life she would kiss him.

Sending Rory off on an errand, the Doctor asks Amy about her telling him about her pregnancy, and she reveals she hasn’t told Rory, fearing her travels with the Doctor would affect the pregnancy somehow. When it’s revealed that Rory is listening in through the implant, he reminds her that he’s a nurse. Amy tells them it doesn’t matter, since it seem she was wrong about being pregnant. But when the Doctor covertly scans her with the TARDIS, the results are far from certain.

Months later, a small girl stumbles down an alley, telling the homeless man who asks if she’s ok that she’s dying, but it’s ok.

and she starts to regenerate.

Wow.

Oh the questions! Obviously we’re not done with the Silence… the story thread from last year is far from resolved and there are so many more questions! How does Amy bring the Silence? Is she pregnant? What’s her relation to the girl in the spacesuit?

Again, it’s the character interactions that make this work so well. Rory’s mix of insecurity and strength, and his love for Amy drive some of the best moments, although we do have the “jealous of the Doctor” bit which hopefully is done with. The moment between the Doctor and Rory discussing the fall of Rome and Rory’s memory is excellent, and oddly, in a way, Rory is someone who now shares a similar weight of years as the Doctor. More actually.

Amy’s thoughts while a captive reveal the depth of her love for Rory, and those moments and and the one where she talks about her fears about her “pregnancy” with the Doctor help reinforce the sense of family that this group have forged. The weight of her knowledge of the Doctor’s upcoming death still weighs heavily on her though.

River. Oh River. The answers are coming about who this woman really is, but what’s clear is that she is far more the warrior than she’s revealed before. And the tragic nature of her relationship with the Doctor just gets worse as the flirting ramps up. The knowledge that her love with him is coming to an end from her point of view is heartbreaking.

The Doctor still chafes under the secrets being kept from him, but for now he’s at least letting the bulk of his frustration at bay. Oddly, he really doesn’t give the Silence much of a chance to surrender, and his solution is incredibly manipulative and a little scary. Turning mankind into an army and making the Silence order their own execution is something out of the 7th Doctor era. Dark indeed.

His flirting with River is clearly something he is enjoying, but when she takes it to the next step he is completely at a loss, unprepared for his future arriving. Personally, I like the River/Doctor couple, although I hated the Rose/Doctor love story… River is an equal of sorts.

And the girl. Who is she to the Silence? Why were they protecting her? Obviously she is a Time Lord, or something very like one… what did she regenerate into? Who?

Oh this is going to be a really interesting season.

[Preview Episode 3 Here]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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