Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Toby Haynes
The Silence have infiltrated all nations and use post-hypnotic suggestions to manipulate humanity. How can The Doctor and his assistants end a centuries-long occupation by a hostile alien force?
Rory: What kind of doctor are you?
River: Archaeology. Love a tomb.
It is hard to not see further influences of The X-Files on this story. In the two part stories, The X-Files would often give a re-cap, then take us either to a completely different location with totally new characters, or jump ahead to some other incident our characters are involved in, only to catch the viewers up later. As mentioned previously, Doctor Who has entered modern sci-fi storytelling. And to a degree, it is what Doctor Who would be if it were created now. It it’s own way, Moffat Who is serialized. Old Who was also serialized, actually more-so than series six. But that was storytelling at the time, drama told over successive parts. Moffat Who is following that pattern, but it is doing so according to modern television. Shows like Lost, The X-Files, and Babylon 5 are the modern form of serialized storytelling. While there is the appearance of stand-alone stories in Moffat Who, in reality there are none. Even in series five the stand-alone stories either had a opening segment or closing segment that connected to the series arc. Moffat Who is more arc driven that RTD Who. As series five is, I think, a transitional series (from RTD to Moffat
Who), series six will be full-blown Moffat era, Moffat in its purest form, if you will. Thus, I think we will see episodes more closely connected to the arc. If this theory is correct, we shall see it in the next episode. All that said, I can see why people wouldn’t like it. Pseudo-serialization aside, this is a far cry from the feel, look, and tone of the classic series. Even the storytelling is quite different. And I think the demographic for the show is not the family viewing that many would say it is. Sure, there is no sex and the language is mild, but the show is darker, scarier, more complex (both narratively and conceptually). I think the demographic is more firmly rooted in adolescents, established fans, and possibly people who like “cool, dark stuff.” This is Doctor Who that can take root in American television. This is Doctor Who that can appeal to the modern science fiction television viewer, but not necessarily to the person who watched old Who. But I also think I would be unwise to judge the rest of the series based on these two episodes. I look forward to seeing what the next few bring, and who knows, we may get some great stories that are less Moffat-y and more traditional.
The Eleventh Doctor is not an authority figure. Evidence is two-fold. First, he needed Nixon to travel with him to command people. Second, Amy specifically says The Doctor is her friend, her best friend. This is rather interesting as I’m not sure how many previous companions would describe their relationship with The Doctor as friendship. Sarah-Jane Smith, perhaps. Maybe Jamie McCrimmon. But overall, The Doctor has maintained a certain distance. As I mentioned in the previous review, Moffat Who is “The Doctor mucking about in time and space with his friends.” This bears out here. Sometimes he is a bit manipulative as well. But it is all about friendship now. I can see some objection to this, but in reality, I’m not sure it is a horrible thing. I believe that The Doctor is going through a bit of an existential crisis, albeit an unconscious one. Without the identity of being a Time Lord, a designation that is largely meaningless in a universe without Time Lords, The Doctor can now choose what it means to be a Time Lord. He last did this in The Waters of Mars, and the universe (well, Adelaide) slapped him down for it. He cannot resurrect Time Lord society in and of himself. Thus, being the last of the Time Lords is merely a designation but not any type of identifier. He can either go around being moody and sulky (which the Tenth Doctor was not above doing) or he can redefine himself. He has no people to react against, no one to run from. He can choose to be who he wants to be, providing that his choice is to not be a Time Lord. Thus, The Doctor is no longer the man he once was. Unless The Time Lords return, he can’t be. With this in mind, it is fairly significant that we end the episode with a scene where a little girl regenerates. This girl is possibly the daughter of Amy Pond, perhaps from a timeline that could be but as of yet is not. Are The Time Lords returning? And if so, will the be the original Time Lords or a rebuilt race. Perhaps The Doctor is, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi from Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire, “The last of the old, the first of the new.”
The dynamic of the companions are interesting in this episode. Yes, we have the reaffirmation of Amy and Rory’s love and I hope we have no more of the love-triangle issue, especially now that we have strong confirmation that River is not just teasing The Doctor. There is no room for the triangle with a romance on the horizon. In the earliest incarnation of the show, the companions had to fulfill the following roles: they needed to ask questions, they needed to be rescued from danger, and one needed to be a fighter. The first two were usually done by the female characters, while the male companion would be
the fighter. Day of the Moon gives us that dynamic. Amy needs to be rescued. Rory and Canton asked the questions, and River Song played the alpha-male fighter. I enjoyed this dynamic and while I know we won’t see River in every episode this year, I enjoy a character that can fight, when needs demand, and not be lectured about it. The Doctor always wants to find a way other than violence, but let’s face it, so many of the stories end in violence, even in the classic series. Sometimes it’s like the Billy Jack films, which often preach non-violence and tolerance, but in the end, Billy Jack isn’t a half-breed Native American, ex-green beret martial artist just to make him an interesting character.
River Song’s story will most-likely end this series. Too much attention was drawn to Silence in the Library last episode. Too much attention was given to the emotions River has toward The Doctor and how from this point on (from her perspective) they no longer have a relationship. From The Doctor’s perspective, however, it is beginning. Narratively, I think her story is close to its end. This story was possibly the most I’ve enjoyed her character. She was finally given some emotional substance rather than being a temporal gimmick.
While I loved how The Doctor defeated The Silence, I don’t think they are gone. We still don’t quite know how The TARDIS was hijacked. We know that it is connected, in some way, to The Silence, but we don’t for sure know if The Silence were involved. The only clue we have is the voice that said “Silence will fall.” Perhaps The Silence were like many occupying forces, they were, by their sheer power, holding another force back. Perhaps something or some one wanted The Silence to fall, wanted The Doctor to defeat them, so this other force could move in. Pure speculation, I know. We also don’t know why The Silence wanted the girl. This really is like The X-Files, lots of questions. Unlike The X-Files, however, I think Steven Moffat has an ending in mind. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying the ending will be satisfying. I hope it will be, but I’ve been burned by other shows that appeared brilliant, but dropped the ball in the end. I’ll wait and see for Moffat’s era. On further reflection, however, I think my major hope for the return of The Silence is due to how they were not fully fleshed out. I mean, we had an entire series (five) building up the threat of The Silence, and they are defeated in two episodes by a post-hypnotic suggestion delivered via television broadcast. We still don’t know what their motivation was, why they were manipulating humanity, where they came from, and how they related to the exploding TARDIS. I have some speculations on this, but they are merely speculation based on the barest clues given in this episode (and I think calling them clues is being rather generous). I want The Silence to return so they feel adequately threatening. And again, I think they will return. The build-up in series five is screaming that this story is not over and this is a feint on the part of Moffat. Why do the fish-people from Vampires in Venice mention escaping The Silence. Shouldn’t they have forgotten The Silence when they turned away? Did they develop their own ways of remembering or do The Silence only affect humans, making them less than parasitic and more symbiotic? When the TARDIS is hijacked, we are told “Silence will fall.” Who said this? If The Silence hijacked the TARDIS, why would they predict their own demise? Or are they being clever about their own name? Perhaps their marketing division came up with a war chant that is broadcast when they invade. “You are being invaded by The Silence. Please remain calm. Silence will fall.” No, we will see them again.
In all, though, I’m quite excited. The final shot of the regenerating girl makes me very excited. I’ll admit that while I enjoyed The Deadly Assassin from oh, so long ago, I didn’t like the definition it gave to The Time Lords. I liked when The Time Lords were mysterious forces that we never saw, something that The Doctor was cautious about. Robert Holmes did a great job of building their society, but it took away the mystery. RTD gave the mystery back by killing them and writing about them cryptically. Steven Moffat may be rebuilding them. Then again, rebuilding The Time Lords might be too big a plot development. Again, The Doctor rather needs them to be his old self again, as he doesn’t have anyone to react against, but I think the show does well by not having the convoluted, and occasionally dull, Time Lord continuity. I would love to be able to speculate more on what Moffat is doing here, but I really don’t have enough to work with. I’m just glad that the mystery of The Doctor’s death at the beginning of the series is still an unknown. It seemed too much to deal with that, The Silence, the mysterious girl, and introducing the show to old fans and new. Once more, series five was the transition, and we are now moving forward into Moffat’s era. It should be an interesting journey.