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Published on May 1st, 2011 | by Elton Townend Jones

Day of the Moon

Doctor Who is brilliant. We all know that, but what I’m saying is that Doctor Who is brilliant right now. You might not necessarily have been able to say that during last year’s Silurian story or The Doctor’s Daughter or Fear Her – or any number of stories going as far back as, well, The Keys of Marinus (probably) – but right now, Doctor Who is one brilliant TV show.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to avoid spoilers (I hear River Song’s admonishing voice every time I run away from one). I even stick my fingers in my ears and shout ‘la-la-la’ when the ‘Next Time’ trailers come on. So I was thrilled when this week’s episode kicked off three months after last week’s cliff-hanger. Straight away, we were treated to beautiful, epic sequences that saw the best TARDIS crew ever being hunted across stunning American locations to be seemingly killed (as the Doctor was last week…) in order to regroup in a dwarf star alloy cell and plot against the Silents without their ever knowing. Phew.

From here (with three months’ worth of ‘knowledge’ about the Silents and some handy ‘telepathic’ trackers), the brilliant Canton 3 accompanied Amy to a ‘haunted house’/Arkham Asylum-style orphanage, and the Doctor broke into Apollo 11. In the orphanage, Amy (apparently no longer pregnant) made a shocking discovery about the little girl in the space suit, only to be kidnapped by the scary monsters. Finally, the Doctor defeated the aliens (a little disappointingly, given their utter scariness) by capitalising on their own arrogance and hypnotising the human race into murdering them all, whilst condoning River’s own policy of shoot first and ask questions later – which was cool, but also worrying. And that kiss! Just watch the Doctor’s arms during that kiss…

And how beautiful did it all look? Doctor Who has never looked more like a movie. The camerawork and lighting was exemplary, the direction faultless, the music delicious and the acting superb. Matt Smith’s Doctor continues to swallow the screen whenever he’s on it, but Karen Gillan’s Amy is so perfectly pitched now that she’s well on the way to becoming one of the series’ best ever companions. Arthur Darvill’s Rory is bolder now, too; more focused and balanced than last year (and I mean the character not the performance). But River Song…

Oh, River Song. Don’t you just love her? How cool can she get? And at the same time so sympathetic. Her face when the Doctor appeared to be leaving without a kiss… Watch Silence in the Library again and you’ll see the same emotions – that sense of loss and pain that the man she loves doesn’t know her. I’ve had many theories about River; to me, she’s been a future Amy, a future Doctor, the TARDIS, but maybe, just maybe, she’s River Song and nothing more. I suspect that when her story finally plays out, the tragedy of it all will be enough to allow her an identity that needs no bells and whistles. That said, she might just be the little girl in the space suit. Who might just be the child of Rory and Amy. Or not. And whoever that kid is, how stunning was that regeneration moment? What a wonderful, iconic image.

Doctor Who - Day of the MoonFor me, the most wonderful moment this week was the brief and unexpected appearance of the ‘eye-patch woman’ who appeared to have burst in on what she interpreted as one of Amy’s dreams. Among the many mysteries we’re going to have to solve this season (and beyond?), we now have what I assume will be this year’s running motif (a la Bad Wolf/Torchwood/Vote Saxon). But what does it all mean?

Following last week’s opener, Day of the Moon came in the wake of a whole pandorica full of new questions and mysteries. If you’d hoped that many of these questions would be answered (while suspecting that some might be held back for later on), I hope you were as thrilled as I was to have your expectations quashed when Steven Moffat chose simply to tighten the mystery screws. This series is all about questions now.

Until this season opened I thought I had a handle on it all, but now, there have been so many twists and turns in the plot, not least of which include: a Doctor from 200 years in the future being killed in 2011, where a Silent that should have been killed in 1969 watches on; Amy being pregnant, then not, then seeing a photo of herself with a baby who might be the little girl, who’s been kept alive because she’s important, but who would have to have been born before Amy arrived in 1969, and, oh look, she’s bloody regenerating… Well, it’s almost as if the River Song mystery hardly matters any more – suddenly we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

If Steven Moffat has the courage to address the questions he is positing (older questions, too, like whose voice that was in the TARDIS in The Big Bang – it didn’t sound like a Silent – and what was that Silent ship/TARDIS thing doing in The Lodger), then Doctor Who might just have hit a period of epic maturity. There are those of you who worry that ‘casual viewers’ may be lost the more clever and mysterious this show gets. Agreed, this might not have been the best story in which to instigate non-linear plotting (something fairly new to Doctor Who, but commonplace elsewhere), but what better way to have the show’s production style complement its content? And I’d rather have one brilliant and challenging season of Doctor Who than a hundred unambitious ones – wouldn’t you? What you have seen may seem confusing, but it might just prove to be some of the most ambitious television ever made – right there, inside your favourite series.

And this is why Doctor Who is brilliant. Right now.

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About the Author

Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.




4 Responses to Day of the Moon

  1. Paul Cavanagh says:

    Hello Elton – thanks for a great review, your positivity and enthusiasm is wonderful. Though it pains me to say it, I’m afraid I’m falling into the ‘it’s too complicated!’ camp. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Doctor Who, and there’s plenty about these two episodes that I can enjoy. But it’s all just a bit too overwhelming, all these unaswered questions. Yes, it’s bold, and I agree it’s good to try something new in a show that is all about change. But, it’s just too much all at once.

    I loved the performances, and Canton is a wonderful addition to the TARDIS crew, but with everything that’s going on, I feel we’ve hardly got to know him at all. It’s the same with many of the quieter moments in the story – they feel as though they’ve been squeezed in.

    I’ve got other grumbles too. But I don’t want to be too down, and I’m very aware of the fact that I love the way that Russell T Davies tells stories, and as a consequence I tend to be rather harsh on Steven Moffat. So I’ll shut up for now.

  2. 23skidoo says:

    Personally, I’m in the camp of “it’s about time it got complicated”. I know some viewers prefer their stories to be standalone – the long-term success of Lost was an oddity more than the rule – but for Doctor Who to introduce these elements of “we may not find out for a year what X means” is breathtaking and refreshing. And it makes you pay attention. I have confidence people’s attention spans (and by people I also include kids since that’s still the primary demographic) are still strong enough for them to handle ongoing plot threads and mysteries. And if not – well, the show just gained an added incentive for rewatching, yes? You tell me people won’t be coming back to the Eye-Patch woman’s appearance(s?) as more is revealed. Are there clues as to the Doctor’s fate in the first episode? Heck, apparently the question Amy was going to ask the Doctor in the Comic Relief mini-episode is supposed to be referenced too. This is wonderful stuff.

    The only concern is whether Moffat can pull it off. Other long-form storylines have faltered such as Battlestar Galactica and, definitely, Lost. But that’s often because the writers had no clear game plan or exit strategy. Apparently Moffat and company are already planning out the 50th anniversary in 2013 – so I’m pretty confident he’ll be able to wrap up the current mysteries if he’s thinking that far ahead.

  3. Paul Cavanagh says:

    23skidoo: You’ve hit the nail on the head for me: the key question is indeed whether the Moff can pull it off. I sincerely hope that I’ll be washing the egg off my face soon because Steven’s ambition and vision paid off in style.

  4. castellanspandrell says:

    “Doctor Who is brilliant. We all know that, but what I’m saying is that Doctor Who is brilliant right now.”

    -Hear, hear! Sometimes we need to just appreciate what’s right under our noses, even if we’re not 100% sure what it’s leading to.

    I mean, it’s not like they’re serving us up Warriors of the Deep or Timelash, is it?

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