Sunday, May 1, 2011

Doctor Who - Season 6, Episode 2: "Day of the Moon"

"There's always a bit left over, isn't there?" - The Doctor

Last week I mentioned how hard it is to write about the first half of a two-parter, given that you can't know how everything fits together until you've seen both parts. I also complained about how much stuff Steven Moffat crammed into "The Impossible Astronaut," and expressed my hope that its counterpart would slow the pace and answer more things than it asked. Now that "Day of the Moon" has come and gone, where do we stand?

Frankly, not much nearer to figuring out any of last week's little puzzles. Moffat wasn't just setting up this week's episode, he was setting up the whole season. As a result, we've got a two-parter that feels more like five episodes smashed together, and an arc that we won't be able to judge in context for months.

When he was still just a writer, not the writer, Moffat might have seen fit to dedicate an episode solely to The Silence and the panic you feel when you know they're around but just can't remember them long enough to save yourself. They fit well within the dark fairy tale/primal fear milieu that Moffat's stand-alone episodes have always milked. The scenes where Amy wanders through the semi-abandoned orphanage—and encounters a whole brood of sleeping Silence hanging from the ceiling—are probably the episode's strongest moments, overall. They at least provide the sort of creeping terror that filled Moffat's best episodes from previous seasons.

The rest of "Day of the Moon" is as hurried and unfocused as last week's episode. There are quite a few narrative digressions that simply feel egregious. Why do we need any of those scenes where the Doctor is held captive by the FBI and former agent Delaware? What led to this captivity, and why did no-one at Area 51 think to just call President Nixon sooner? When Nixon arrives at Cape Canaveral, why are Rory and River dressed like 60's bureaucrats? If the Doctor was never at odds with Nixon, as I'd assumed he was before Nixon happily redeemed the Doctor twice within a few minutes, what point was there to any of this?

Was it an entertaining episode? I think it was better and more enjoyable than last week's entry, though not by very much. I enjoyed some of the business where the characters mark their skin or record themselves to try and remember seeing the Silence—though the nano recorder was underused for that purpose and over-used for the Amy/Rory thing. But I found that all of the skipping around rather killed my concentration. It was full-speed ahead, sure, but that's not beneficial when you always feel left behind!

I fear—and I hope that I'm wrong—that some of my problems with "Day of the Moon" stem from different edits for the BBC and BBCAmerica. I would rather the episode be a little slapdash on its own than realize that I'm watching a mangled cut. But why else would Moffat feel the need to elide so much of what could have tied part two to its prequel last week? When we last saw the Doctor in "The Impossible Astronaut," he hadn't yet even encountered The Silence. The only indication we get about this changing comes through a jumbled flashback montage, and that doesn't really clarify how we went from Amy shooting at and (apparently) missing the mysterious girl in the astronaut suit, to where we are three months later with the pointlessly-imprisoned Doctor and his faux-dead friends. I just kept feeling like I might have missed a conversation or two, and I hope that these conversations weren't cut for BBCAmerica's sake.

Edits or no, this episode didn't really clear up too many questions from last week. Who sent the "TARDIS blue" invites to the Doctor, River, the elderly Delaware, and Amy/Rory? We still don't know. Who is the mysterious girl in the spacesuit, and what do the Silence want with her? Aside from some hints that she may be Amy's daughter, and from an episode-closing regeneration sequence that suggests some Doctorly DNA, we still don't know. Who shot and killed the future Doctor, and is he really dead? We still don't know. Details like last season's recurring phrase "Silence will fall" are touched on only in brief. Heck, the fact that the Silence use identical "control rooms" to those found in "The Lodger" was hardly mentioned, let alone explored in any depth.

All of this makes me feel as though Moffat was in a rush to establish the season's arc rather than letting it emerge slowly over time. Either approach can work on a serialized show, to be sure, and the choice can only legitimately be judged over the course of a season. So far, though, I am concerned. To me, much of this episode's potential drama was pushed aside by the stuff being seeded for the future. All of the cross-cutting between disparate times and locations certainly didn't serve to highlight the central Silence-related storyline. The conclusion felt sudden and almost unearned, even if it showcased some of Who's usual verve and a few choice speeches from the Doctor himself. That said, it's typical that a US-set episode would end in a crazy gun battle and imply 40+ years of mass Silence murder on our part. We do enjoy our violence, don't we?

At any rate, it seems that this season is going to play out with the future Doctor's death, this Time Lord child, and Amy's Schroedinger's Cat–esque pregnancy/non-pregnancy hanging over everything. My hope is that future episodes will take things slowly, with each week providing a detail or two about these ongoing themes without sacrificing the pleasure of a satisfying stand-alone plot. Steven Moffat has, in the past, demonstrated a talent for tying things up that's far superior to that of his predecessor Russell T. Davies. Can he pull it off over a season long mega-arc without too many left-over bits? Time will tell.

Notes and Quotes:

  • I'm glad to see that I was right about Canton Delaware's romantic situation. I mean, I guess the way it was teased last week was a bit obvious, but STILL. And do you suppose his beloved is that intense Secret Service agent we saw in both episodes?
  • Safe? No, of course you're not safe. There's about a billion other things out there just waiting to burn your whole world. But if you wanna pretend you're safe just so you can sleep at night, OK, you're safe. But you're not really.”
  • I didn't have a good place to mention it above, but after this week's failed kiss, I'm definitely looking forward to a fitting conclusion to the River Song storyline. It was quite sad to see her realize that she'd kissed the Doctor for the last time in her life, but the first in his. And I'm still not 100% convinced that she's not also pregnant, since only she and the quasi-pregnant Amy have felt physically ill after dealing with The Silence. 
  • I loved the moment where Rory breaks the Apollo 11 model, nervously fumbles with the broken bits, and then, clearing his throat, tells the security guards (in deadpan), "America salutes you."
  • Also dug this exchange - The Silence: "We have no need for weapons." Canton: "Yeah, well, welcome to America." (shoots)
  • "Oh, and this is my friend River. Nice hair, clever, has her own gun. And unlike me, she really doesn't mind shooting people. I shouldn't like that, kinda do a bit."
OK. I'll see all of your stupid faces back here next week for what might as well be a short film entitled Doctors of the Caribbean. 'Til then!

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