Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

We discovered that Comcast On Demand features Doctor Who, so we’ve been able to watch the first couple of episodes of season six despite not getting the BBC America station. Nice! (Sadly we haven’t been able to see the Christmas episode, but it doesn’t seem like we missed much.)

The season-opening two parter was a little disappointing, though. Spoilers for these episodes if you haven’t seen them.

The biggest problem I have with the story so far is that it has too many elements which seem there merely to seem cool or quirky without serving much purpose. For example:

  • The opening sequence taking place in America, and the Doctor wearing a stetson. Yes, bow ties are cool and fezzes are cool, but this is getting tiresome.
  • Did I miss something? Since when can the TARDIS turn invisible? Isn’t the whole joke about the broken chameleon circuit that it always sticks out like a sore thumb?
  • The Silent that Amy meets in the bathroom killing the woman who’s also in there. This could have been an effective indication of the Silence’s power, but they completely fail to use this ability in any remotely intelligent fashion in the rest of the story, when they should have been able to eliminate most of their opposition trivially. Consequently the woman’s death seems gratuitous.
  • The handling of Amy maybe or maybe not being pregnant was extraordinarily clumsy.
  • The trick Amy and Rory employed of marks on their skin to indicate how many Silents they saw effectively set up the creepy scene in the orphanage, but in a practical sense it seems pointless; they could have recorded that information in better ways.
  • The notion that the girl’s space suit would call the President was rather silly. Why would it bother? What would it expect him to do? Setting up Nixon’s habit of taping everything in the Oval Office was cute, but no more than that.

Oh, and by the way: The Brits get Churchill last season, and we Americans get Richard Nixon? Thanks a lot!

(Bookzombie has his own set of things he liked and disliked.)

To be sure, there are many things for which I give the story a pass, since it seems likely that these are things that will be explained later: Who the girl is, why the Silence needed a space suit, why they put the girl in it, why the girl seems able to regenerate, what the SIlence’s goals are, why they captured Amy, how they survived until 1999 (since we see one in the Utah sequence), who killed the future Doctor and why, why they seem to own the time machine from “The Lodger” (or one similar to it), etc. etc. Steven Moffat has set up a complicated story for the season, and I think he’s a good enough writer to make it all pay off.

However, he must make every one of these elements pay off in order to make the season successful. And even if he does so, I think his predilection for throwing in strange elements for no good reason weakened the season opener. It’s strange that he does so, since it seemed like something that Russell T. Davies would do, while Moffat’s stories for the Davies series were much tighter and contained fewer frivolous elements.

On the brighter side, the most resounding success of the story was how the Doctor managed to deal with the Silence, by essentially programming humanity to kill them on sight. It’s a bit of a stretch when you think about it, but it is fundamentally a cool idea and plausible enough to appreciate.

How the Doctor’s future will play out, now that we’ve seen his future self get killed, is of course the mystery of the season. Will it turn out to be an impostor? A clone? Merely a “possible” future? A future that can be changed? Was he not really dead? After a lifetime of reading comic books and science fiction, this set-up is actually a little less fascinating to me than some of the other mysteries in the story – unless Moffat comes up with some solution I haven’t seen before.

The other big mystery is who the girl is. The prevailing theory seems to be that she’s Amy and Rory’s daughter, who can regenerate because she gestated in the TARDIS, and who might grow up to be River Song. (See, for example, this post at Bleeding Cool.) My personally loony theory is that there’s another Time Lord around, and the last (and first) time we saw her she was, strictly speaking, even younger than the girl we see here. I doubt that’s what’s happening here, but it would be funny if it was.

Whether she’s connected to River, well, it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, we first saw River wearing a space suit, and in an episode titled “Silence in the Library”. Those may both be coincidences, though.

Overall the story was a nice “ride”, but the plotting and storytelling were both rather shaky. It’s very, very hard to tell a serious story with some many superfluous trappings (really, The Avengers is the only TV show I can think of that managed to do it), and I’d much rather have Moffat focus on solid plotting with witty dialogue, and dispense with the stetsons and body markings and assorted silliness. It doesn’t make the story better, and it’s certainly not necessary for a good Doctor Who story.

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon”

  1. “Did I miss something? Since when can the TARDIS turn invisible? Isn’t the whole joke about the broken chameleon circuit that it always sticks out like a sore thumb?”

    They did this in a Patrick Troughton story – I forget the name, one of the Cybermen episodes, where the foolish human CEO stooge thinks he can control the Cybermen with an emotions beam and thusly Rule the Earth.

  2. What should I be seeing there? I know what the chameleon circuit is supposed to do, but it doesn’t do it, because it’s always been broken. That’s why the TARDIS’s sudden ability to turn invisible is baffling.

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