So, I’m about to pass judgment on Day of the Moon… What’s the Who Verdict? Let me run through a few salient issues that spring to mind after watching this one twice:
1. Beautiful production values, but the energy devoted to the shock & awe surely has both benefit and cost. Who now rivals in pacing and intensity the best of Lost and 24, gripping shows in their own right. Who has never looked this good, but it has also never depended so much on CGI and visual spectacle to make its case. Plot and acting, not one-liners and flash, used to be far more leaned on as regular train-drivers. That’s all changed. Not completely, but the balance has palpably shifted. If Who doesn’t lean as heavily on the same canon and plot values it used to, one worry is that the show can continue with the same vigor, while leaning so heavily on quips and flash. We shall see. The same beloved characters and backstory are always available for the writers, so the momentum is indisputably on the show’s side.
2. Whether the love triangle (quadrangle?) and the related confusion over the Time Lord-ness of the young girl are (a) based in fact–that is, do the Doctor and Amy have a thing, or do the Doctor and River have a thing, or both?; (b) is Amy really pregnant?; or, (c) is this all based on misdirection? I’d love to dismiss all of the first options, but Moffat has proved, not least in Girl in the Fireplace, that romance and the Doctor are squarely set in Moffat’s scriptwriting boudoir. So I expect Moffat to tease us more as to the various possibilities, then tie them up one way or another.
Some or all of it may be resolved as misdirection, though. Amy may not be pregnant: as the character most directly tied to this “crack” in he wall, she could be a living link between two different universes: one where she’s pregnant, one where she’s not. Rory, after all, admitted in DOTM that sometimes he still remembers waiting, as an Auton, for Amy–sometimes he doesn’t. So perhaps he too is crossing universes. And the Doctor-River relationship may end before it starts (well we know it does, but in a different way!) River kissed the Doctor in DOTM, River being younger than we’ve yet seen her, and the Doctor was taken aback at the kiss, and River acted as if it was the first time the Doctor had been taken aback. So the next time the Doctor sees River, two possibilities: either it’s the first time River kisses the Doctor and the last time the Doctor kisses River–or we it gets drawn out. Moffat’s track record favoring hopeless and tragic situations would suggest the former… but we’ll see.
3. How important are the Silents? And is it “Silence will fall” or “Silents will fall?”. Clearly Moffat has been planting clues about the presence of the Silents in multiple episodes–one-off frightened looks by the main characters that are then shaken off and normal dialog resumed–since early in S5. But we’re told the Silents have none of their own technology. The FAUXDIS of the Lodger thus isn’t of Silent origin–where’s it from? (Could it be River’s? The Doctor mused in DOTM that he was about to find out how the Lodger FAUXDIS became abandoned, and River meets the Doctor in reverse order…) And the door to the room in the orphanage which had a small window, and then didn’t, reminded me strongly of the upstairs illusions in the Lodger. A FAUXDIS in the room? Could explain how Amy suddenly found herself in the FAUXDIS itself. But then the TARDIS materializes in the FAUXDIS? Been seen before, hasn’t it? Logopolis, The Time Monster… And the teaser for S6, Space and Time. Recursive loops do wonders for time. Wibbly wobbly, all that.
And so while the Silents were apparently present throughout S5 and are the front and center enemy of these two episodes, terrors of this magnitude in Who–recursive loops, attempts to build TARDISes, killing Time Lords to steal their regenerations, blowing up stars or the universe, and cracks in space and time–have been sins of the greatest order, reserved for the worst of enemies. Not that new enemies can’t be created, but the worst of the worst have included Omega, the Master, the Black Guardian among others. And so I suggest that the Silents are not the big bad we’re looking for. (But for an alternative view, jump over to The Edwardian Adventurer.) As a matter of fact, what better MacGuffin than a race of easily dispatched Silents to distract and please and inhabit the FAUXDIS when the real Silence is trying to simultaneously build that same FAUXDIS and possibly escape through a crack in the universe into our own Doctor’s universe? Remember, the Doctor saw nary a single death caused by a Silent, and Amy presumably forgot the one she saw: so planning all this after noticing a massive infestation and the kidnapping of Amy, to genociding the Silents out-of-existence, doesn’t strike me as the Doctor’s typical M.O. when he’s not under the influence, so to speak.
4. Unresolved matters, new mysteries, and Moffat-isms I need to itch: (a) the eye-patch lady at the door who exclaims, “she’s still dreaming.”. Who is dreaming–Amy? This smells of the little girl in Silence in the Library, doesn’t it? (b) Amy wandered into the orphanage, saw some peculiar graffiti, and confidently called the Doctor to announce that yup, the girl and the Silents had been there. That’s not an impossible narrative leap, but it smells just as probably of Silent psycho-suggestion to get the Doctor, a companion, or the TARDIS in the vicinity of Renfrew, the orphanage, the little girl, &c. (c) What’s the incessant eerie clicking sound seeming to come from the console in the TARDIS? When did it start? It appears constantly in Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, but I don’t recall it ever happening inside the TARDIS except maybe in the dream sequences of Amy’s Choice. Is it something with the TARDIS? The Silents? Just incidental creepy sounds? (d) What to make of not just one fact that most commentators note but, in conjunction, two: Amy’s on/off pregnancy; and Rory’s comment that he has a Schrodinger memory too: on being a Roman, he says “I don’t remember it all the time. It’s like this door in my head. I can keep it shut.”. (e) Humanity decided suddenly to go to the moon because the Silents needed a spacesuit? Really? (f) Was it our heroes’ idea to build the perfect prison around the TARDIS, or was it the Silents’? Because we only see the TARDIS decloak inside the prison–not dematerialize.
And this one feels big: (g) Why did River seem completely unsurprised by the FAUXDIS in Impossible Astronaut? She wasn’t phased at all, but went straight to the control panel–what did she operate at the control panel? And she quickly identified the sound from the FAUXDIS as an alarm. She almost acted as if she knew what the FAUXDIS was. How? See my musing above: is it her ship? (h) The Doctor asked for the Silents’ total surrender and wanted to drive them off earth, and was complicit in their total destruction, despite them only killing one person (in the White House loo), which Amy didn’t even remember? Really? (i) Renfrew: bow tie? (j) When the TARDIS seemed to travel from inside the “perfect prison” to Florida at about six minutes in, there was no dematerialization sound. (k) Were there too many sets of stairs in that orphanage? (l) Why did the Silence identify our heroine not as Amy, but “Amelia Pond… We do you great honor. You will bring the Silence.”?
I was wrong that the season premiere would introduce a classic “big bad” like Omega. A quick reintroduction at the end, a la the Master by RTD, would have whet the appetite for more and carried through the season. But I remain convinced: the Silents seem like bit players in a bigger game. Moffat knows that Big Bads are the stuff Who is made of. I think it’s just matter of time before we’re all bowled over by this drawn-out homage to either a new Big Bag–or the reintroduction of an oldie, but very very goodie, Big Bad. I can’t wait.
5. Regeneration Follies. I’m with the growing choir: Moffat, this one-note regeneration song is getting old. (See this brilliant post from my good friend over at Confessions of a Neo-Whovian.) Change is good, but some things: well, they must change, and not remain absolutely static. So it is with the Doctor’s regenerations up to RTD: each had slightly differed, some greatly, depending on the circumstances of death.
That is, until now: and now we get Highlander-esque, boring, shooting golden pixie dust from the sleeves and collar–each and every time. No, there need be no rhyme or reason to regeneration: there wasn’t for three decades, and it kept a healthy dose of mystery to the show, to Time Lords, and to what the next regeneration would bring, and how. It’s very odd that in wanting to nod to the show’s past repeatedly (the stream of images in Eleventh Hour, for example), this prime feature of the show–regeneration–has become a predictable and boring sequence. Mr. Moffat: bring back the uncertainty, the freshness, to regenerations to Who!
6. Finally, TIA and DOTM were unapologetic plays for the American audience. For France, City of Death gave us the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. The S6 opener was a full-on play for the nation. (a) it gave Nixon an out, surely something that will make Americans chuckle in the expansion of Nixon’s fictional boundaries from source of shame to good dramatic and comedic character. American appreciation for turning their shame goes a long way. (b) No less than the President endorses the Doctor. (c) America is called again the most powerful country. Shucks, thanks, Moffat.
And then, there was so, so much to simply love. Let me count the ways. “Zero-balance dwarf-star alloy”: pure Who technobabble–not classic or “nu,” but just plain old Who. I adore River Song. Casting Kingston was a stroke of genius, and the writing is equal parts Time Lord (see Romana) and modern heroine for our times (or baddie–my mind’s still open for what she turns out to be). I eat up the mysteries that Moffat sets up, many of which may go nowhere, but seem to lead somewhere: the very secret of past Who and Tolkienesque success. And, I love that Moffat is so possibly playing not only with modern sci-fi tropes, but also simultaneously with established Who. I’m not yet certain that Moffat sees any break in Who from classic to old–I think he’s one of the true believers in Who continuity–I have a sneaking suspicion we’re in very, very good hands.
Verdict: Full Acquittal. Watch now!