One small step for man, one giant leap for mainstream television. Just as the 1969 moon landing was a monumental occasion in human history, this week’s episode of Doctor Who was a momentous occasion in television history, on a smaller scale perhaps, but important nonetheless. At the climax of The Day of the Moon all I could say was “wow”. Not only had we just witnessed a brilliantly constructed and appropriately mind-bending episode, but I believe we saw Doctor Who take a giant leap in to becoming a legitimate sci-fi drama.
Although I’m fairly new to the world of Doctor Who, I understand its place in British society as a national institution, and I’m fully aware of its cultural impact. Everybody has heard of Doctor Who, and for those that have watched it over the years, whether they are new fans or long time Whovians, they have built certain expectations of the show - they expect a fun, entertaining romp through time and space, the perfect Saturday evening tea-time show. Doctor Who, for all its timey-wimey madness and scientific mumbo-jumbo, has always been a mainstream show, and on the most part has catered to those mainstream tastes, but Steven Moffat is changing that.
In the age of DVRs, iPlayer, and DVD boxsets, Moffat knows that he can take risks, he can create multi-layered season long story-arcs, and know that his audience will be rewarded on repeat viewings. This is not unusual for cult television or HBO style programmes, but it is a significant progression for mainstream BBC Saturday night television. This may put off some of the casual audience, but that’s the risk Moffat has to take.
Episode 2 Review: The Silents Will Fall
The Day of the Moon begins three months later from where the last episode left off at the warehouse. Amy, Rory, and River are on the run from Canton Everett Delaware III and his gun-toting FBI chums. Although the three fugitives are in different locations, they are linked by mysterious tally-marks on their arms and faces. Meanwhile, the Doctor, in desperate need of a shave, is being held prisoner at Area 51. Already Moffat is testing the audience, as we jump from Utah to Nevada to New York, he’s making sure we keep up to speed with his fast, pacey story-telling.
With a prison wall being built around him, and his companions seemingly dead, the Doctor seems in jeopardy, or maybe not, “You’re building me the perfect prison, and it still won’t be enough.” I love it when the Doctor gets angry. And of course it wasn’t enough, it was all an elaborate rouse by the Doctor and Canton. With the gang reunited, including a wet River Song who managed to land in the TARDIS swimming pool after her jump from the 50th floor of a sky-scraper, its time to go deal with The Silence, and Neil Armstrong’s foot.
The three month gap leaves me a little uncomfortable, because that seems a hefty chunk of story to simply wash over. I’m not sure if it was just a plot device to advance the story on more quickly, or if we will return to those missing three months later in the series. Judging by all the tally-marks, Amy, Rory, and River must have had plenty of encounters with The Silence, and it would be interesting to know what effect this had, especially on Amy, who was acting kind of strange in this episode - I’ll come back to that.
Quick question - Where did The Silence get all those matching suits? Do you think they got a discount at Marks & Spencer for a bulk purchase? Or maybe they used post-hypnotic suggestion to get them for free, because that’s what we discovered this episode - as well as having the power to hide their identity (no super-injuction necessary) through memory wiping, they can also influence human beings to do their bidding. “They’ve been running your lives for a very long time,” the Doctor tells us.
In order to get some intel on the Silent ones, the Doctor implants himself and the crew with nano-recorder chips that act as a form of voice-recorder, allowing them to describe what they are seeing when encountering a Silent. It also acts as a clever little spying device for those involved in awkward love triangles.
We get a nice example of how the chip works with Canton as the guinea-pig in this experiment. Like I said last week, the effect of the Silence and their memory-loss capabilities works brilliantly on screen, and it was made even more powerful with the inclusion of the vocal descriptions of things you can’t remember seeing.
As well as The Silence, the Doctor and co are also in search of the Little Girl, that we last saw being shot at in a space-suit. Nobody knows who the Little Girl is or what role she plays, but we know that she is important, she’s especially important to The Silence, “The child, she must be cared for. It is important. That’s what they said.” When River finds the empty space-suit she describes it as an exo-skeleton, a life-support machine that was keeping the Little Girl alive, providing her with food, light, and sustenance, all this leads River to assume that the Little Girl is human. River also asks if the space-suit could move without an occupier, interesting, but I think it is a red herring, I believe someone was in that suit when they shot the Doctor.
The search for the Little Girl leads to my favourite scenes of the episode, inside the spooky, abandoned orphanage. Kerry Shale gives an excellently creepy performance as Dr Ranfrew, reminding me of an eerie Scooby Doo hotel owner. The Doctor says too many memory-wipes courtesy of The Silence would fry your brain, and that is what has happened to Dr Ranfrew, who doesn’t even know what year it is. Again, this leads me to think something more must have happened during those missing three months, if the gang kept meeting The Silence, what effect did this have on their memory, or specifically, on Amy Pond’s memory?
The orphanage is seemingly empty, and the walls are smeared in ominous messages such as “Get Out Leave Now” and “Leave Me Alone”. When Amy breaks off from Canton and goes wandering on her own, things really get freaky.
Amy notices that her chip is flashing, meaning she has recorded herself a message, and unbeknownst to her she has bumped in to a Silent, many many Silents going by the amount of tally-marks over her face and arms. In the horror-genre the general rule of thumb is “Don’t look behind you” but in this situation it is a case of “Don’t look up”.
Like bats, hanging from the ceiling, the Silence sleep. How unsettling is that image? And people call Doctor Who a childrens show? Pfft! Amy looks away, forgets, and continues her search. And if things weren’t already frightening, they then take a turn for the surreal, it all goes a little Twin Peaks, and that’s more than alright with me.
Things are going along quite creepily when suddenly Frances Barber in an eye-patch pops her head out of a door-hatch (a hatch that disappears!). That’s not weird at all! Maybe she just popped up to say hello, or maybe not, as her response to Amy’s friendly greeting is to turn away and say “No, I think she’s just dreaming.” When I talk about this episode being appropriately mind-bending, its moments like this that spring to mind, absolutely bonkers but so delicious.
The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Amy opens the door to what appears to be the Little Girl’s room, the dresser adorned with framed photographs of said Little Girl, and then, behind the other frames, Amy finds a photo of herself holding a baby. I assume we are supposed to believe that this is Amy with the Little Girl, and that the Little Girl is Amy’s daughter - linking up with the pregnancy story that was put in to play last week. I’m not ruling out that possibility, but I’m uncertain at this point in time.
Karen Gillan just gets better and better, she is fantastic in the scene with the space-girl, managing to perform a mixture of fear, anger, and confusion at the same time. “I didn’t mean to shoot you, I’m glad I missed,” Amy tells the Little Girl, so that clears up last weeks cliff-hanger (note: this makes it the second time someone has shot at the astronaut and missed). The Little Girl is not one to hold a grudge however, as she still asks for Amy’s help, but before any help can be provided, The Silence arrive and take Amy Pond.
Providing the light-relief for this episode is, surprisingly, President Nixon. Despite having one of the worst false noses in the history of false noses (and if there isn’t a book on the history of false noses then there should be), Nixon brings plenty of humour to the proceedings. I love the patriotic American music every time Nixon appears, and all the references to Watergate, “You have to tape everything that happens in this office - every word,” the Doctor tells the President - superb! And Matt Smith’s delivery of the line “Say hello to David Frost for me,” is the episode’s biggest laugh.
But with a missing Little Girl, a missing Amy Pond, and the lurking threat of alien takeover, we don’t have time to trade jokes with the President. The Doctor needs to put his plan in to motion, and thankfully Canton is on hand to move that plan along, shooting and wounding a Silent. “This world is ours, we have ruled it since the wheel and the fire,” the Silent tells us, and we have a cool flashback to all the mentions of Silence in Series 5.
Canton is having fun with 21st century technology, I’d like to think that before he got to grips with the video phone, that he also used it to set up a Twitter account, and watch Rebecca Black on YouTube. Luckily the Silent was not camera shy, and foolishly told Canton what the humans should do if they were smart, “You should kill us all on sight.”
Rory tells Amy he is coming for her, but Amy begs for the Doctor to save her. It is one of many awkward and ambiguous moments in the love-triangle between Amy, Rory and the Doctor. The most ambiguous part is the pregnancy, is Amy pregnant, and if she is, who is the father? Rory would be the most obvious choice, wouldn’t he? But there was plenty of hints and sideways looks between Amy and the Doctor that you could read in to. Or perhaps Amy was impregnated by The Silence? She does say there is lots of stuff she can’t remember.
Amy is being held prisoner on board one of the Silence’s ships, the same kind of ship we saw in The Lodger in Series 5, something which the Doctor confirms in this episode. Okay, so here’s a theory, in the episode The Lodger the Doctor made a quick reference to the spaceship looking like someone’s attempt to build a TARDIS, so is that what The Silence are trying to do? Do they then need a Time Lord to fly it? Maybe that’s why they need Amy, if in fact she has slept with the Doctor and is carrying his baby, then that baby may have Time Lord DNA, and would be incredibly useful to The Silence, or maybe, as I said earlier, The Silence could have impregnated her somehow. After all, The Silence do say to her “We do you honour, you will bring the Silence,” maybe there is a baby Silent growing inside her, and the Silence will fall…out of her womb!
Matt Smith puts on a masterful performance here, as he waltzes around the ship, shattering the hopes and intentions of The Silence with his witty remarks and put-downs, and he even finds time to flirt with River, “Is this really important flirting? Because I feel I should be higher on the list,” well said Pond. His plan comes together perfectly, as he places the video footage of The Silence ordering their own execution “kill us all on sight”, at the exact moment Neil Armstrong’s foot touches down on the moon, using the Silence’s post-hypnotic suggestion against themselves. “One small step for man, and one whacking great kick up the backside for The Silence.”
It was beautifully executed, and smartly put together, although I do think it was a bit too easy to destroy The Silence completely, and I don’t think we have heard the last of them, especially because the build up to them has been so long. The effects of The Silence will continue, and I think they’ll continue through Amy Pond, and maybe her baby, if she really is preggers.
After all the flirting, the looks, and the “my old fellar”, River Song and the Doctor finally kiss, but the reactions are completely different. This isn’t a new thing for River Song, but it’s the first time this has happened for the Doctor. It leads me to another theory, and the reason why I’m not sure the Little Girl is to do with Amy. What if the Little Girl is the daughter of River Song and the Doctor? They obviously have a romantic connection, and they are both time-travellers, and going by the episodes cliff-hanger, it could go someway in to explaining that.
Amy’s pregnancy is still left ambiguous come the end of the episode, as the Doctor scans her the computer flashes back and forth between Positive and Negative. Inconclusive? Or does it mean it is both Positive and Negative? I read a brilliant theory on the Cook’d and Bomb’d forum that if it is indeed a Silent growing inside Amy, then the flashing between Postive and Negative could be the scanner detecting it and then forgetting about it, detecting it, then forgetting about it etc.
Now for the ending, and oh what an ending it was. I always thought Lost had the most mind-boggling cliff-hangers, but this was right up there with anything Lost ever did. We are in New York, six months later, and the Little Girl, out of the space-suit, is dying. Sydney Wade is terrific here, a very talented young actress who should have a great career ahead of her. I love the dialogue: “It’s alright. It’s quite alright. I’m dying, but I can fix that. It’s easy really. See?”
The Little Girl starts regenerating. Yes, you read that right. Regenerating! What the hell? Let the theories commence! I’ve touched upon a couple of theories earlier, the Little Girl could possibly be the daughter of Amy and the Doctor, a half-human/half-Time Lord, or she could be the daughter of River and the Doctor, a combination of two different time travellers. Or maybe she was created by The Silence, as a function to fly their make-shift TARDIS, there are many ways they could have created her - the main one through Amy Pond.
But here is the theory I’m going with, and it doesn’t have anything to do with pregnancies or human/Time Lord hybrids, all of those are just red herrings to throw us off the scent. I think the Little Girl is the Doctor. How? I’m not quite sure yet, but there were a couple of things that made me believe this. The Doctor says “So, this Little Girl, it’s all about her. Who was she?”, maybe I’m just reading too much in to it, but he said “was”, this could be taken many ways, but I took it as the Little Girl was someone else before she was the Little Girl. She also talks like the Doctor “It’s quite alright. I can fix that,” pure Doctor speech.
This means the Doctor was in the space-suit, the Doctor killed himself, and the Doctor was regenerating, back in to himself? How, and for what reason, I’m not quite sure yet, but as the series progresses we should find out more - hopefully!
It was a truly mind-blowing, complex episode, that really pushed Doctor Who in to new heights, and widened the scope of the sci-fi genre. It took mainstream Saturday night tele in to a new dimension, a million miles away from Britain’s Got Talent or Hole In The Wall, and I would like to thank Mr Steven Moffat for that.
by Martin Holmes