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21 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 810: Day of the Moon

Dear diary,

Steven Moffat is very good at opening hooks, isn’t he? We had some absolute stellar ones to round out the season finale at the end of Series Five, and we’re getting them at a great quality here, too. In yesterday’s episode, the Doctor’s friends are gathered together to watch him get killed! In today’s one, we pick up three months on from the last cliffhanger to find someone we thought was an ally chasing down and eliminating our regulars… only to have them wake up in a cell with the Doctor and we discover that it was all a ruse! Say what you want about the man, but you can’t deny that he’s good at grabbing you for a story…

This is perhaps also my favourite example of something Steven Moffat is very keen on - starting the second episode of a two-parter somewhere other than where you left off the previous week. Giving the impression that while we’ve been away for seven days getting on with our lives, the Doctor and his friends have been getting on with the adventure, too. It’s great because it means we can pick up today with the characters far more informed than they were, and we’re given all the information without it feeling too much like a great big info dump.

It serves as a good way of introducing the Silence to us, as well. You get a fairly decent idea of the way they operate during The Impossible Astronaut, but everything being confirmed here during scenes set in the TARDIS is rather well done. And actually, they are quite scary, as Doctor Who monsters go, aren’t they? Last year, I did some graphic design on postcards for the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, and part of the project involved dressing an actor up in full Silent costume so we could hold a photoshoot. Once he had the mask on over his head, and was standing there a good seven feet tall in front of you, it’s not hard to find them somewhat unnerving! The same is true of this episode: when Amy’s trapped in the orphanage, and looks up to find the ceiling filled with the creatures… I think I even felt a twinge of fear. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been scared by Doctor Who, but this particular moment, drawing on my own memories of what the costumes are like up close and coupled with the helpless situation that Amy’s found herself trapped in… yeah, it’s probably the closest the programme has come to actively scaring me… and I knew what was coming, too!

The big downside to this story, though, is that it sets up the major points of the Matt Smith era arc - and specifically the elements that are going to keep on recurring through Series Six, and there’s elements here which simply don’t square with the information I can recall from later on. Specifically, it’s said that the Silence here have been on Earth for millennia, and have been nudging the human race in the required direction all this time. Specifically, the Doctor points out that they needed a spacesuit, so they made man go to the moon*. But then later on we discover that the Silents who’re working with Madame Kovarian (which presumably these ones are, since they’re all tied in with the little girl in the spacesuit and kidnapping Amy) have travelled back in time to carry out the mission (the little girl has been brought to Earth from Demon’s Run, for example, because they want her to grow up in the ‘right’ environment)… so they’re not the ones who’ve been here since the dawn of time… Oh, it’s giving me a headache!

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that there’s bits of this arc which already are sitting ill with me, and I worry that the more I try to make sense of it as I go along, the more the series is going to suffer as a result…


*Actually, no, sorry, I’m going to have to take issue with this while I’m thinking about it. I was always under the impression that the little girl was kept inside a modified Nasa spacesuit because it was the best thing to adapt as a life support suit on 1960s Earth, but why does it have to specifically be a spacesuit if the Silence can nudge humanity into simply creating any old thing to keep the girl safe? Am I missing something?

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