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Doctor Who XXXII.2: Day of the Moon

April 30th, 2011 (10:04 pm)

Begun at 1904 BST and written in between family friend visit socializing; easier than the circumstances of last week, though my viewing was still somewhat disjointed...

Doctor Who tells epics in forty-five minutes, and entire legendaria in ninety. This is what we might have seen last week and this. It was easy to dismiss Scaroth in City of Death as deluded; he had nudged human history along, encouraged a few technological innovations, but his scheme was on the verge of falling over even before the Doctor gave it a push. Image of the Fendahl offered the race memory model, borrowed from Quatermass and the Pit and calibrated for a specific event, and so, once defeated, relatively inconsequential. The Daemons thought they had set humanity on a particular path, and left a representative to sleep inside a barrow until someone woke him up. The Silence seem not only to have shaped human development from the earliest times, but have maintained a constant presence. The Doctor's victory is a limited one; he can't eradicate them, only make life on Earth very, very difficult for them. The Doctor bounds around a lot, and while there are guns, and bangs, and explosions, and great cleverness, they only represent a limited solution to a complex problem. This story, taken at face value, has changed the lens through which the Doctor Who narrative perceives human history. The Doctor's beloved species have been the creatures of the Silence - and so, up to a point, has he. Dealing with their infestation of Earth and its consequences is so complicated an undertaking that it's understandable that he wants to go away and have some adventures.

Doctor Who under Steven Moffat is once again happy to let the audience fill in the blanks. Russell T Davies's incarnation was too, but Moffat actively signals that the audience is expected to do some work. There might be no better way to do this than make explicit the audience's usual advantage over the lead characters, a level of foreknowledge about the direction the story will take. Even this is undermined - this adventure wasn't tidily over in two forty-five minute episodes. We are already well beyond memes.

The Doctor's interference in history was subtly pointed out too. Richard Nixon was already established as an adept disciple of the tape recorder in The Impossible Astronaut, but during Day of the Moon the Doctor impresses upon him the need to tape everything as a way of gathering information on the Silence. (Why don't the Silence just encourage people to destroy the tapes? Presumably over the centuries they have become terminally complacent; or there is something about them that we don't understand yet.) The Doctor didn't quite inspire Watergate in the way he might have done the great fires of Rome and London, but he certainly reinforced the Nixon White House's tendencies to fear and paranoia. If the Apollo programme was principally a convoluted way for the Silence to gain a space suit (though surely they had other aims too), then the use of the moon landing broadcast to alert humanity to their presence likewise went much further than the Doctor wanted. Leaving subliminal impressions of a deep-rooted, enduring threat, the Doctor enables a thousand conspiracy theories. His decision to encourage worldwide paranoia might in the context of the episode be necessarily for humanity's own good, but reminds me of the arguments put forward about the need to make people less secure in their lives, more self-centred, more aggressive and ruthlessly competitive, by veteran policymakers who turn up on Adam Curtis documentaries. These figures were often shady influences on the Nixon administration, just like the Doctor. There's a neatness that the Doctor, still disapproving of Nixon, doesn't seem to understand his influence on his character.

This season seems to be moving still deeper into the realm of dreams and dark fairytales. Frances Barber's character popped up to comment on the action and suggest that this narrative is inhabited by more than one source of in-diegesis editorial interventionist. How far is Amy 'asleep', and what might that mean? Amy's exploration of the orphanage brought her deeper and deeper into her own unconscious, as she was faced with a childhood with a close relationship to the version of her own which we first encountered and with her own anxieties about pregnancy; 'her' child then came to claim her, with its too-earthly foster parents, and when we next saw Amy she was being held within a bio-mechanical device, as if compelled to join the new family unit.

Rory's conversation with the Doctor in the TARDIS while Amy was being held by the Silence was a reminder that both he and Amy carry conflicting but interdependent pasts in their heads; they have existed through and across different and contradictory possibilities, which they reconcile simply by their continued being. Amy's spoken fear about what travel in the TARDIS might do to a foetus draws on established lore, recalling the ninth Doctor's farewell warning to Rose in The Parting of the Ways that he "might have two 'eads"; the fate of the Doctor-Donna in Journey's End; and, more distantly, the fears of Sarah Jane Smith in Lawrence Miles's BBC Books novelInterference that her biology had been rewritten as a result of her travels with the Doctor. From the scan the Doctor performs on her at the end of the episode (paralleling the one which revealed the continued presence of the crack in time at the end of The Eleventh Hour) it appears Amy is simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant; her unborn child exists outside Time and Space, as if it is a TARDIS itself, or indeed a Time Lord.

The fate of the child whom Nixon had sent the Doctor and company to rescue was left untidy; she was not recovered, though given the last scene and the warning River gave Amy and Rory in The Impossible Astronaut about the properties of a Time Lord body, this is just as well. How long have the Silence been studying the Doctor? "Silence will fall" is presumably a prophecy; we are invited to make comparisons with the fall of Rome, so that the fall of Silence isn't their triumph but the end of their empire. Are they making their own Time Lords?

One wonders for what's left the sanity of the poor tramp who is a witness to the regeneration at the end of the episode; but sanity is fragile in Steven Moffat's domain. Stuart Ian Burns has rightfully emphasised the performance of Kerry Shale as Dr Renfrew, a man driven mad in the service of the Silence much as his near-namesake and similarly institutionalised inspiration, Renfield, was left unhinged by association with Dracula. Amy and Rory both suffer severe existential doubts, and River's cool masks someone who is second-guessing her own future. After the awkwardness of the kiss I wonder whether the Doctor and River will ever be lovers; perhaps it's something River hopes has happened in the Doctor's past and will in her future, but all she has done is plant expectations in the Doctor's mind which will shortly be undermined.

I described this episode elsewhere as 'insouciant', and was rightly called to clarify my terms. The storytelling is devil-may-care in attitude but one suspects it's rigorously disciplined otherwise, although final confirmation that all the plot threads were meant to dangle won't be forthcoming until the autumn. The Doctor is absolutely in control of his TARDIS now, flitting from one government installation to another and flourishing the President of the United States of America as if he were psychic paper. It even materialises at right angles to a skyscraper in order to casually confirm River Song's absolute faith that the Doctor will come to rescue her - a fond and anticipatory parody of Amy's cries from the Silence-imposed dark. This tendency masks the lead character's apprehension and exhaustion. By the end of the episode, the Doctor needs a forty-five minute adventure, not a three-month one, to recharge, but his world has changed (more, perhaps, than he knows) and he needs to find out how.


Posted by: thanatos_kalos (thanatos_kalos)
Posted at: April 30th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)

It's established in TW 2.6 that Martha's immune system has been altered by travel in the TARDIS as well, so the idea of artron radiation-- or whatever, Heart of the TARDIS, pneuma-- changing human physiology is already established. One could argue we've seen it already in Jack as well, given that it was Rose/TARDIS who made him immortal. His body regenerates itself after death, though still in the same form, much like we saw Ten do in 4.12/4.13.

Also, 11 just caused the Fall of the Silence, or at least gave them a great push toward falling. Self-fulfilling prophecy, in some way?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 30th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the Torchwood reminders; and Eleven might have given the Silence a push but I don't think it's necessarily the end of the Empire quite yet.

Posted by: gwydion_writes (gwydion_writes)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)

Great explorations! I am particularly perplexed by the Amy dreaming thing. Pleease don't let this whole season be a dream.

Posted by: gwydion_writes (gwydion_writes)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 03:21 am (UTC)

Great explorations! I am particularly perplexed by the Amy dreaming thing. If this season is all a dream I'll be very unhappy.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 06:58 am (UTC)

I'm sure it won't be 'all a dream' in the Dallas sense...

Posted by: A Meticulous Catalogue of Wrongs To Be Avenged (splendorsine)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)

I thought it was super-interesting, the implication that the Silence ran the show until 1969 but not thereafter; don't the vast majority of adventures where the Doctor is on Earth take place after 1969, starting with Spearhead? So Pertwee and UNIT are exonerated from being the foolish puppets of a sinister alien menace, which is probably for the best all things considered.

What are the adventures on earth set before 1969? With few exceptions: historicals. I wonder if any connection can be drawn between the Doctor's early powerlessness to influence the course of human history and the fact that someone else was already doing so. It would also conveniently explain how it's become much easier for the Doctor to p*ss around with the timelines and human destiny over the past few decades...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 07:30 am (UTC)

Largely historicals and 'pseudo-historicals' to 1967; contemporary and futuristic stories afterward until 1973 when historical settings make a return. I'd not thought of 1969 in Doctor Who terms; the Silence endure (we first see one in a scene set in 2011) but perhaps in a weakened state; or perhaps that particular Silent travelled with the future Doctor?

Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 08:22 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 08:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: sharaz_jek (sharaz_jek)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)

Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)

Posted by: sharaz_jek (sharaz_jek)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: John E (john_amend_all)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)

Posted by: A Meticulous Catalogue of Wrongs To Be Avenged (splendorsine)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

Thank you. I wish I had that level of insight!

I've been wondering if the pregnancy test result meant that there were two timelines here, already separate but still copinciding, in one of which she is pregnant and in the other she is not.
One could then assume that one of these leads to the Doctor not being killed (which is sort of necessary for the BBC, so the series can continue ofter Matt Smith...). If, as we are lead to believe* the little girl is linked both to this pregnancy and the Doctor's death, the challenge might be to find wher these timelines first start spearating.
Back to Ledworth?

*then again, I don't trust things I'm led to believe, even though I fell for this one at first. An interesting alterntives come to mind since...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)

Unorthodox pregnancy is the fashion for BBC telefantasy this year, given what's happening in Being Human. Amy's personal timeline is already somewhat confused - she is an amalgam of at least two pre-existing Amys after all...

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)

The Silence seem not only to have shaped human development from the earliest times, but have maintained a constant presence.

A personal one too. While those other aliens you mentioned manipulated humanity in a general sense, the Silence went up to world leaders and said "You will do this!" which somehow seems to me a greater violation (cf. the Master).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 09:23 am (UTC)

Clearly believers in the Great Man Theory of History!

Posted by: Andy (alitalf)
Posted at: May 1st, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)

I had wondered if it was "the silents" not "the silence", but maybe that was meant to be ambiguous.

I remember from the first episode, wondering if the age of the doctor when he was finally killed really meant that the present actor is the last?

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

...really meant that the present actor is the last?

Whether or not he is, I very much doubt the BBC would allow it to be made quite so final...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)

Posted by: Andy (alitalf)
Posted at: May 5th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)

Steven Moffat is a native of Renfrewshire, which adds another layer of meaning...