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.
For 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.