I had the privilege of seeing the first two episodes of this season of Doctor Who in advance. So, when I told people who hadn’t seen them that the Silence outdid the Weeping Angels, and they watched “The Impossible Astronaut” when it aired, they didn’t believe me. That’s because we don’t truly see how frightening they can be until the second part of their story, “Day of the Moon.”
Wait...what are those tally marks on your face?
“Day of the Moon” begins six months after the end of “The Impossible Astronaut.” And - SPOILER ALERT - everyone dies! The episode opens with heart-pounding events that lead to the apparent deaths of all of our main characters and the imprisonment of the Doctor. They don’t all stay that way, of course, and the bulk of the episode deals with the TARDIS crew and River Song, accompanied by Canton Delaware, tracking down the mysterious little girl with a direct line to President Nixon. Along the way, Canton and Amy discover an orphanage where the Silence have driven its caretaker, Dr. Renfrew, insane; Amy is captured by the Silence; the Doctor, Rory, and River rush to save her; and the Doctor defeats the Silence by the magic of television.
And how about that crazy final scene?! Huh?!
The one criticism I would make of this episode is that I wish it hadn’t been broadcast a week later. Sure there have been other two-part episodes that have worked just fine that way in the past, but the way these episodes were structured, separating them by a week took the air out of the first episode. They are definitely best-viewed together, and I’d be curious to hear how other viewers responded to the split.
That said, this episode was even more exciting - and terrifying - than “The Impossible Astronaut.” There is something absolutely frightening not only about memory loss itself, but knowing that you’re experiencing it and are helpless against it. Steven Moffat is great at preying on our most basic fears in his work, and memory loss is something that people might not think about too often, but ties in to our deepest fears about getting older and our own mortality. It’s wonderful, then, that while everyone is dealing with these beings that they can’t remember once they stop looking at them, River is dealing with the thought of the Doctor not remembering her, tying the story lines together thematically. In the scene in the orphanage, it was both heartbreaking and terrifying to watch Dr. Renfrew (Kerry Shale) walk past warnings he’s written on the walls (in blood? red paint?) reminding himself to get out, only to forget that he’d done it and continue to wander around and around alone in an empty building for years, his brain seemingly short-circuited from all the experiencing and forgetting. The terror is taken up a notch when Amy goes to search the dormitory for the mysterious girl and ends up infiltrating a Silence nest (where they all sleep like bats, apparently), promptly forgetting that she’d done so, only to see tallymarks all over her face and listening to a message she’s left for herself.
Something else at which Moffat excels is giving the audience visual and oral cues upon which to hang our fear. In “Forest of the Dead”/”Silence in the Library,” it was those data recorders that replayed the echoed consciousness of a person who had died. That voice on a loop started playing, and those green lights started to dim one by one, and the creep factor was turned up to eleven. (Incidentally, those episodes also used mysteriously animated spacesuits. Moffat has a thing for those, apparently.) Here, we have the tallymarks that Team TARDIS mark themselves whenever they encounter a Silent so they can keep track; and we have the recorders the Doctor implanted into each of their hands to record their descriptions of the Silence. Those red lights start blinking, we know there’s trouble. And worse? When the Doctor and Rory find Amy’s recorder on the floor in the orphanage, we know that she’s had it dug out from her hand and that she’s in for something horrible.
Performance-wise, the ladies deserve focus, as Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston both gave mesmerising performances in this episode. Gillan’s terror as Amy was palpable, and the scene in which she sees the photo of herself with a baby only to be face-to-face with the mysterious girl in the spacesuit was wrenching. Kingston has never been more compelling as River Song as she was here. The shootout at the end? What an amazing moment of badassery. Yet it was her final scene with the Doctor, where they kiss and he doesn’t remember having done that before, that was really devastating, and she did so much with just one look. Arthur Darvill continues to impress as Rory, finding a beautiful balance between humor and drama, and he and Gillan continue to make Amy and Rory’s relationship one of the most interesting marriages on television. Mark Sheppard, in an outstanding two-episode guest spot, gave a funny, nuanced performance that genuinely made me proud to be an American.
“Day of the Moon” is a well-structured, beautifully performed conclusion to this story about The Silence. The resolution of how the Doctor used “Neil Armstrong’s foot” to save the day was brilliant, and we were left with a lot of food for thought:
- Is Amy pregnant? She said she was, then she denied it, then the Doctor tested her with the TARDIS, but we were left not knowing what the Doctor saw in the result. It would be very easy to assume that she’s pregnant because of the picture she saw of herself with a baby, but....
- Who was that woman with the silver eye-patch? As Amy explored the orphanage, Silver Eye looks through the door at her and says, “I think she’s dreaming,” then shuts it again. Is someone making Amy think the things she’s thinking? Is she actually dreaming all this and is really somewhere else?
- What did the Silence do to Amy? She was with them for five days in an attempted TARDIS that looked like the one in “The Lodger.” What happened to her there? And how is she going to “bring the Silence?”
- Is the little girl is a Time Lord? At the end of the episode, she says she’s dying, then begins to go through the now-familiar regeneration process. We know that River identified her as human according to what was keeping her alive in the spacesuit, but we also know that she must posses a huge amount of strength to have pulled herself out of the spacesuit in the first place. Increased strength, human, regenerates, and was doing an awful lot of running. Is she the Doctor and Amy’s child? Have the Silence somehow gotten their hands on some of the Doctor’s DNA to put into the child the way they used other alien tech for the spacesuit? Did the Silence then spend five days taking organic material from Amy to blend with the Time Lord material to create her?
All of these questions, including “Who is River Song?” (or so we’ve been told), will be answered on Doctor Who - Saturdays at 9PM ET on BBC America.
Teresa Jusino is the Thirteenth Doctor. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.