07 May 2011

The Watcher: Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 2

Transmission date: 30 April 2011 (BBC One/BBC America)

Plot: Team TARDIS face The Silence, a foe that has been living on earth for centuries and appear impossible to beat.

Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston. Guest starring Mark Shepphard. Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Toby Haynes.

So the Grand Moffat leaves us with the cliffhanger of what happened when Amy pulled the trigger at the little girl in the space outfit. Did she kill the girl and save The Doctor in the process and possibly creating a paradox? Did nada happen? Did the little girl get pissed and go crazy? What the frak happened?

Well, nada happened. Amy shot but missed, piercing the helmet right above the little girl's head. The Doctor, River, Amy, Canton and (a unfazed from his mini-cliffhanger) Rory run from the girl in a spacesuit and the narrative jumps ahead three months later. In those three months, Team TARDIS are seemingly enemies of the United States, being tracked down by Canton.

This is the first instance of wah? Ultimately, this particular 'twist' or jump in the narrative does not get addressed again nor find any sort of resolve. Later on, after The Doctor has (thankfully) shaved his beard and broken out (in a sense) of the 'perfect prison', he chats with President Nixon rather cavalierly, making the whole Canton-chasing-River/Amy/Rory subplot confusing and a bit unnecessary. Hopefully, like many of the subplots and hints in "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon", will be brought up again throughout the series.

Subplots aside, "Day of the Moon" is The Doctor confronting The Silence, coming face to face with them for the first time after hearing plenty of ominous tellings in "The Eleventh Hour" and "Vampires of Venice", as well as a odd female-like voice chanting that whole 'Silence Will Fall' schpeel in "The Pandorica Opens". Speaking of which, now that we know who and what The Silence are in a general sense, the whole 'Silence Will Fall' voice seems a bit out of place with how they normally speak, and really, what type of catchphrase is 'Silence Will Fall'? Taken literally, it's basically prophesying them losing than descending on its victims. Eh, nevermind. So, The Silence needed a spacesuit for this girl, this impossibly strong little girl, so they used post-hypnotic suggestion for scientists to create a spacesuit (and 'make' the choice to go to the moon) to keep the little girl alive. Why does she need it to stay alive? If, as the ending suggests, she isn't exactly human, yet The Doctor interacts with nearly all environments just fine, I find it puzzling they need to do so for her.

As for this little girl, all the stuff at the orphanage and Amy was extremely well shot. There is the complete randomness of the cyber-eyepatched woman who said 'I think she's just dreaming' through a (imagined?) door slot as Amy investigates. Who is she? When is she? How did Amy see her? Why did Amy see her? Why at that orphanage? What exactly is going on? Besides that, the orphanage sequence also accomplishes two things: the first, it's friggin' freaky. Another masterful accomplishment of directing and editing, the framing and pacing was just exquisite, making the entire scene full of suspense. Secondly, the photo of Amelia Pond with the little girl. The plot thickens. So the natural questions arise: is the little girl the daughter of Amy and The Doctor's? Or River and The Doctor's (cos River got momentarily sick, too)? Is she a lost Galifreyian? What is the history of the little girl and Amy? What does this have to do with anything? Is this how Amy will bring about The Silence, as they say? Again, lots of questions, and this subplot I am quite intrigued to see played out. This being Moffat, it's a given that, similar to River, nothing is gonna just be simple and spelled out. Things are gonna get complicated.

From here on out there's lots of The Doctor putting his master plan of stopping the Silence into motion, which is difficult for a enemy you can't completely remember. There's a lot of funny moments with Richard Nixon, primarily involving him dealing with The Doctor's many problems he makes for himself (see first screencap - The Doctor biting handcuffs at NASA). Relationships also see some development, as the Amy/Doctor 'romance' (?) is reintroduced with Rory uncertain of Amy's true feelings; the pregnancy seems to be false, but The Doctor's computer later is unable to identify exactly what's up with her. This all leads us to the thirty minute mark, when The Doctor's plan to stop The Silence comes into fruition, the flirting reaches hilarious heights, and the emotion and scariness of relationships and the alien beings come to a crazy head as The Doctor and River fight their enemy in a quasi-TARDIS like counsel. Before having a love fest about the fight, here's a snippet of Doctor dialogue concerning River's weaponry skills:

The Doctor: ‘And unlike me, she really doesn’t mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that, kinda do a bit’

The Doctor: ‘Yes. Right. Sorry. As I was saying, my naughty friend here is going to kill the first three of you to attack, plus him behind’

And then Doctor Who gives us one of the most jaw-dropping, OMG that is soooo AWESOME! battle scenes since its 2004 re-emergence. Since writing about its awesomeness won't do it justice, I'm going to try and accomplish this by caps.

Better yet, watch the scene on YouTube. But you get the general notion: lots of explosions, flirting back and forth between The Doctor and River, and lots and lots of gorgeous visuals. More on this below in regards to worshiping Toby Haynes. Now, after giving us one of the greatest battle scenes ever - with a hilarious diss on The Doctor's sonic - Team TARDIS 'defeats' The Silence and run off. More confusion regarding Amy's pregnant/non-pregnant state, which is most definitely interesting. Rory is understandably concerned about who Amy is truly and love with, and I'm still battling whether or not I'm all that keen on this subplot resurrecting itself again after Series 5, but I'll stick with it because I'm interested. And Amy is a strong character, so if some sort of romantic entanglement does happen between them, I won't be all 'grr' about it. Still, loads of relationship drama in this show.

The Doctor brings River back to her futuristic prison, and the whole River-and-Doctor-romance is quite confirmed from an passionate and supremely awkward kiss. Passionate on River's end but awkward on The Doctor's, who has never kissed her before. At least we can tell he's starting to dig her. And it's here where I find problems with River's many hints at her future. This time, she's all worrisome that the day will come very soon when The Doctor will not recognize her, and it might kill her. Alright, gotcha, Silence in the Library. However, there's still plenty that needs to happen before River goes to the library. At the very least, she sees The Doctor once more, so he can give her the sonic that will 'save' her life. This needs to be addressed better. Can't wait for the day when the fans can construct a full Doctor/River timeline and have everything match accordingly. That will be a happy day.

One note about the snogging scene: I adored Matt Smith's performance. Kingston was fantastic, as well, but Matt's physical and apparent awkwardness about what just happened is a series high point. Hilarious, sorta sad, and always fun to watch, Matt Smith proved one again he owns this role.

So, in the end, with Amy maybe/maybe not pregnant, The Silence still out there, the little girl regenerating in a New York alley, and The Doctor wanting to just go on a simple, fun adventure instead of investigating (possibly out of character?), there's a ton of story that still needs to be explored, and it is a understatement to say that Moffat has planted the seeds that will make up the rest of Series 6 and (maybe?) 7, what with all the elements that needs to be resolved. Looking forward to seeing Moffat's grand vision realized. Still, I have some reserves...

I'm all for ambiguous endings and leaving plot points open ended, but I do ask for these episodes to have a sense of 'completeness'. As in, "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" tell a complete-like story, and I personally feel they fail to do so. "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" are perfect examples of a story with plenty of unanswered questions but yet feel perfectly complete. These two episodes have the feel of set-up all over them, and although I do love 'em loads and will watch 'em affectionately for years to come, the execution could have been better.

One thing is most definitely for sure: Toby Haynes needs to direct every episode of Doctor Who. The man did wonders with the Series 5 two-part series finale, and now has utterly amazed me with the two-part series premiere. The scene that specifically made me watch with my mouth open and fall in love with his style is the fight with the Silence, where Haynes completely goes cinematic. To make a comparison, the lens flares and shaky camera movement was very reminiscent of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (2009). Coupled with the beautiful score by Murray Gold, that scene is nothing short of spectacular. Hell, both episodes are spectacularly shot and edited together. The helicopter shots, the brilliant use of editing, the loads of hilarious visual gags brought to life by Haynes, and, as another example, gorgeous cinematography and lighting during the River/Doctor smooch in the end. Since Series 5 this show has a new visual style that I am in absolute love with, and this series premiere is a perfect example of how excellently its realized.

Overall, "Day of the Moon" is a fine episode, but at the end of the day, I still would have liked more. Not necessarily answers, just more of a complete feel where we watched a full story unfold. Sure, it was The Doctor against the Silence at the most basic level, but with the loads of subplots tacked on, that simple underlying story thread easily becomes overshadowed. Nonetheless, it was one hell of an enjoyable hour, with Moffat's trademark witty dialogue and a testament to the technical achievements of the Doctor Who team. Also a marvelous example of the still very much necessary use of prosthetics and in-camera special effects.

Next week is episode three already. Blimey, these episodes are gonna fly by, and I'll have to wait another two months for more. I shall dedicate myself to enjoying 'em as much as I can. Till then, cheers!

Grade: B


Distilled said...

I did quite enjoy the two Silence episodes but you're right, some things about them did seem rather incomplete.

The whole Amy shooting at the spaceman thing was totally glossed over - considering it was the biiiiig cliffhanger of the previous episode, it was a real shame.

Similarly, if the silence can just *poof* people out of existence with their electro hands, why don't they do it to the Doctor when he's waltzing around their spaceship? I suppose theres an implication that they've been so well hidden that they haven't had to fight back - but that one in the bathroom in the first episode burst that old woman in front of Amy without a seconds thought.

I liked it how they kept a tally on their bodies, and the red beacon in their palms - it was very spooky to see them just appear out of nowhere and know the silence are near but they don't remember.

The random woman with an eyepatch (who also made an appearance in the latest piratical episode) is also an enouraging plot point. I love how story arcs have mysteries woven into them (ala planets disappearing), and I can't wait to see where this goes.

Regarding the pregnancy thing. Ultimately, miscarriage is a heavy subject for DW to tackle, so the upshot is that Amy is probably going to have some intergalactic temporal flux-baby. If there's one thing we know about the Doc, he don't do babbys (also - what on earth happened to his daughter?).

Time Lord said...

Friggin' A YES about the Amy-shooting-spaceman thing. It's the 'biiig' cliffhanger we gotta deal with for a week where I had no idea what was gonna happen next, and then that whole thing gets 'resolved' in a 10-second flashback 4 1/2 mins. into the episode and left at that? Not the strongest Moffat script - but still, of course, pretty damn good.

I think the Silence are waiting to dish out their Dr. Manhattan-like poofiness abilities on The Doctor until later. Judging from the conversation with Amy in the bathroom and the presence of a Silence at The Doctor's death in S06E01, I think it's safe to assume they have a mighty interest in The Doctor stopping them from just killing the guy. Though now they probably quite want him dead...

Just saw episode 3 the other day, and it's nice to see the mechanized eyepatch lady and The Doctor's death will be lingering subplots. I was fearful some elements would simply be dropped. As for Jenny, Davies left her story open enough that I'm satisfied if it doesn't get picked up again. Now Jack, on the other hand, I do wanna see in Moffatville. See if he fancies Tennant or Smith more...