So, here’s what I expected of “Day Of The Moon,” the second part of Doctor Who’s sixth-season opener: I assumed we would pick up more or less where last week’s “The Impossible Astronaut” left off and start answering some of the questions it raised right away. Boy, was I off. Instead we’re three months in the future and the episode starts raising more questions right away like, “Why is Amy covered in those strange markings?” And, “Okay, why is Amy dead now?” And, “Did The Doctor regenerate as Jeremy Davies? Oh wait, that’s just Matt Smith with a scraggly fake beard.” Like “The Impossible Astronaut,” “Day Of The Moon” again drops viewers into the deep end. And, also like its predecessor, it ends with a lot of unanswered questions, suggesting that this season’s overarching story might be bigger than any previous seasons.
But how is it on its own? Pretty good, I’d say, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of “Astronaut.” “Moon” only eases up on the propulsive pace that made last week’s opener such a thrilling kick off to the season at the very end, which means plenty of thrills. But it also left me kind of exhausted by episode’s end. But complaining a show is too thrilling isn’t that much of a complaint, really, particularly when the thrills come attached to some mindbending twists and turns.
I’m not sure which twist was cleverer: The notion that The Silence have been present on Earth—unremembered but not unseen—for thousands of years or The Doctor’s method of repelling them by dropping a sort-of post-hypnotic suggestion into the footage of the moon landing. Maybe they’re both equally clever, but the latter’s a little disturbing. The first reminds me of the “filthy scarecrow” from the They Might Be Giants song “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” but the second suggests we’ve all potentially been killing aliens all our lives, turned by The Doctor into mass murderers (although, to be fair, mass murderers acting in self-defense).
The cleverness doesn’t stop there, however. Those strange marks on Amy, Rory, and River’s arms turn out to be a method—if a not always effective one—of not forgetting the malicious “super parasites.” Joined to a tiny recording device, they’re slightly more effective, however, but, from a purely visual standpoint, I appreciate the primitiveness and simplicity of the body markings. (I suspect Stephen Moffat has Memento on Blu-ray.) The recorders do allow for another development in the Rory/Doctor/Amy love triangle, if that’s the right word given that it now pretty clearly seems to exist only in Rory’s mind. And that’s fine. I think it would be good for the series to move on from that particular storyline. (On the other hand, if Amy’s maybe/maybe not pregnancy is somehow affected by her time on the TARDIS and the astronaut child seen regenerating in the final scene is tied to her and The Doctor somehow, maybe we haven’t seen the last of it and with good reason.)
The twists don’t stop there, however. There’s also a visit to a largely abandoned orphanage presided over by a caretaker an unconvincing Southern accent. (I think that was simply a matter of a British actor not getting it right, but if we’re being generous we could just say it was an effect of living with The Silence for so long.) From a purely visual standpoint—and director Toby Haynes did a fine job with both halves of this two-parter—this was the most exciting part of the episode. The environment is creepy, but the use of The Silence creepier still, particularly the shoots of the brood sleeping on the ceiling.
And while I don’t know that The Doctor will ever have occasion to visit 1969 America again, I’d welcome any excuse to reprise Mark Sheppard’s Canton Delaware. He gets one of the episode’s best one-liners—“Welcome to America”—and his dry, wry persona provides a nice contrast to Smith’s interpretation of The Doctor.
Finally, does anyone still have questions? Because I sure do, and here they are: Who is the girl in the spacesuit? Is that her with Amy in the photo? How can Amy be at once pregnant and not pregnant? What did The Silence want with her? And she is regenerating at the end, right? Wait, there’s more: Does River know that this will be the last time she kisses The Doctor or just think it? Does he always flail his arm about when he kisses a woman? And: What’s going to happen next? If you’ve got the same questions, I guess we’ll have to keep watching.
• Karen Gillan’s got a piercing scream, doesn’t she? I hope she never finds herself reduced to playing a victim in a slasher film, but if she does, they won’t have to dub in anything.
• Nixon popping up out of nowhere = hilarious.
• Is anyone else confused as to the relationship between The Silence and past occurrences of the word “Silence” as suggested by that montage? Maybe that’s something else we have to find out down the line.