Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Jeremy Webb
Silence must fall. And as The Doctor draws closer to his inevitable death he wants answers. Why must he die?
“But if River is not unreliable, there is something gratifying to this classic series fan in hearing River chew-out The Doctor over his reputation, his legend. I can’t help but wonder if Moffat is moving toward dealing with this problem.”
Is it cheating to use a quote from myself? Granted, there are no particular rules to this beyond those I make up as I go along. Regardless, by all accounts I think Steven Moffat did what I hoped. Well, as best he could. How does one deal with the reputation of The Doctor? How does a writer come on to a show with nearly fifty years of continuity and the realization that The Doctor has achieved mythic, god-like status and then resolve to tell interesting or compelling stories without completely resetting continuity (or at least the last five years of it)? Based upon all evidence given in this episode, this is what Steven Moffat was attempting. Series five and six, while seeming to be about River Song, were in actuality an attempt to reset the show to The Doctor, on the run, with a TARDIS. Here’s the thing, you don’t fake your own death, then go gallivanting about the universe bragging about it. If The Doctor is going to keep The Silence off his tail, he has to stay in the shadows. The has to be what he once was, a renegade Time Lord trying to keep a low profile. He may have to be another Hartnell, but I doubt Moffat will take the show in that direction. And while I believe that this particular Silence/Question arc will one day return (possibly in conjunction with The Doctor’s next regeneration), I am greatly interested in seeing how The Doctor attempts to keep a low profile.
But there is an interesting premise at the core of the question. If Dorian’s rantings at the end of the episode are at all accurate, the question in plain sight is “Doctor who”? And Silence legends say that the end will come when this question is answered. This is the reason Jonathan Nathan Turner made Marc Platt re-write Ghost Light, moving the focus away from The Doctor’s past and to Ace’s instead. “Doctor who” was the question that existed in the Hartnell era. Who is The Doctor? We have been given many answers as to his race and planet, but the exact circumstances to his rejection of Gallifrey have never been answered in the show (sure, much has been written in The New Adventures, but I doubt Moffat is going with those answers). So, symbolically, if all questions about The Doctor are answered, the show ends. In theory, at any rate. I personally believe The Doctor stopped being mysterious somewhere around the Pertwee era and didn’t become mysterious again until the McCoy era. We knew who The Doctor was in those interim years, not because of his background, but because of his actions. We judged him by what he did. So, to a degree, the question may be irrelevant.
Okay, enough of that. As to the episode itself, I went in hoping I wouldn’t dislike it as much as Let’s Kill Hitler, and I didn’t. My wife certainly didn’t like it, but I enjoyed it for what it was. As a resolution to the River Song arc, it was good enough. It fits, and for a story that was being made up as it went along, it fits quite well. And the episode had some great moments, from The Doctor playing cowboy while searching for information on The Silence to The Silence completely fooling Amy Pond’s military organization. Madam Kovarian has become an interestingly portrayed character, but I still want to know more about her because her motivation seems quite lacking. And I feel there are quite a few major conceptual holes in the portrayal of “time gone wrong”, not least of which is the concept of time as a mystical force rather than a unit of measurement. But I really don’t feel like going in to that right now. I’m contenting myself with the fact that the story of River Song holds together. It may not have been the most interesting way to tell the story, nor was it the most compelling story that could have been told (Because when you really look at it, it is merely a love story told out of order. The story didn’t demand an out of sequence narrative. The entire River Song story could have been told in sequence just as effectively, if not more so.) But it holds together well enough. It works. And I’m happy that the show seems ready to move on to something else.