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Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon

This story started where most stories end, for the Doctor. With a regeneration. Not a successful one, unfortunately, but a regeneration nonetheless. During a picnic by the lake our poor hero is killed stone dead by an impossible astronaut. 

Then, back in '69 (I'm assuming you've watched the episodes, I'm not filling in the gaps in the story) a race to discover what the Silence are up to begins and the Doctor meets a brand new friend in Canton Everett Delaware III. From the White House to tunnels below the streets of Florida to the deepest, darkest recesses of your nightmares, this two-parter has blown me away. I don't think I've ever enjoyed 90 minutes of television so much in my entire life.

We have an amazing new enemy (ignore my previous Silence post - unless it is proved true in the future) with a terrifying power in The Silence. Once you've seen them, once you've received their orders, once you turn your back, they never existed to you. The second you look away you forget you've even encountered them! Imagine, you could turn and see one now, then turn back to this post and forget that it's standing right behind you! I find it very hard to believe that this is the last we'll see of this Silent menace. They're too good an enemy with too good a power to just disappear.

But tracking the astronaut to a warehouse, above the Silence's spaceship, and finding a little girl behind the visor is exciting, interesting, even confusing, but it's only the beginning.

The Impossible Astronaut is very much Part One of a much bigger tale. Even the greatest of revelations (Amy's pregnancy, the Doctor's death, etc) couldn't set it as an episode that could be enjoyed alone. This is definitely a movie-sized story that was split because it had to be. It sizzles away quietly, then throws a bunch of massive action sequences at you, then burns quietly away again... Until, before you know it, Amy's shooting a child in the face, at 6.43pm on Saturday night... Doctor Who, in case you hadn't noticed, has grown up a little this year.

Then Day Of The Moon begins, three months after the events of the series opener, and things have changed again! Canton 3 is hunting our heroes - indeed, gunning them down one by one, or chasing them from the high-floors of skyscrapers. Has he turned to the dark side? No. It's all a plan to get the companions - on the run since the Doctor's off-screen capture - all together again! Cue one of the greatest escape scenes (so simple, yet so elaborate!) in Doctor Who history. Inside the "Perfect Prison" at Area 51, the Doctor and the largest TARDIS crew in decades set off once more to continue their mission in peace, without having half the American security agencies chasing them down - again.

Day Of The Moon has, for me, the most exciting pre-credit sequence of any story so far: seeing River dive from that skyscraper, straight into the TARDIS swimming pool, seeing Amy cornered and "killed" in cold blood by someone we have trusted so far, seeing poor Rory face death like a man - there's nothing not to like about it. And you KNOW they're not really dead, obviously, yet that doesn't detract from the excitement and horror of seeing our friends taken out.

Some lovely little "sci fi bits" thrown in, with no real explanation (like those recorders in their palms) and we're ready to visit the creepy orphanage in search of this little girl, the one from the space suit. There's nothing quite like a haunted house and this one doesn't just have Silence on the ceiling but a freaky futuristic woman "in" a door (make sure you remember her). Some of the most chilling scenes ever in "New Who" prove once again that Steven Moffat is at his best when he's creeping us out. 

A really bloody freaky guest appearance by Kerry Shale as the unfortunate Dr Renfrew, "keeper of the kid" at Greystark Hall Orphanage, threw us into horror movie territory and gave Karen Gillan plenty of room to shine, apparently using a talent for emotion and suspense that she kept very well hidden last year (or so some say). The Orphanage scenes are genuinely frightening. Watching in the dark is not recommended for those of a nervous disposition. But watching closely certainly is recommended for everyone! If you didn't see her, there was a cameo from a certain Frances Barber this week. Possible the most unusual, confusing and downright hallucinogenic cameo ever. It's not so much "blink and you'll miss her" as "see her clearly but still have to rewind to make sure you didn't dream it". 

Sinister women peering through doors from what looks like the future aside, what came next in the episode kick-starts a whole new area of speculation! We know that Amy thinks she's pregnant. We know that she's told the Doctor this and that, it would seem, was that. But behind this creepy door (oh, there IS no hatch, by the way, it's not there... I know. Bonkers) is a little girl's bedroom - THE little girl's bedroom. But who is she?!

She has toys and games as any normal kid would. There's a mobile hanging from the ceiling made up of stars planets and moons. And there are photographs; most of them are of the little girl, but one shows Amy, smiling, holding a new born baby. Why would this little girl, in America in 1969, have a photo of Amy and her as yes unborn child? Are they connected in some way? Could that little girl be...? but that would mean... Since... You know, at the end of the episode! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First our heroes need to get rid of the Silence! And what better way to do that than by using their own awesome power against them?! 

Using a video phone, a snazzed-up Walkie Talkie, a few slight adjustments to the Eagle's video feed, a clever word-game with a captured and injured Silent and Neil Armstrong's foot the Doctor, Canton and the rest manage to trick the Silence into ordering their own termination and then broadcast this to the half a billion people watching the moon landing as well as the countless billions who will watch the footage back, at some point in their life. The Doctor only needed six words to bring down Harriet Jones, but the Silent's order of just one more than that seemed to do the trick when it came to destroying their entire race: "YOU SHOULD KILL US ALL ON SIGHT!" - And so we did. The revolution was led, Silence fell.

And that was that! The world saved, in 1969, with subliminal messages! The Silence were defeated. Earth was safe again and we all did our bit - even if we don't remember doing it. But there are more questions left unanswered than ever before! 

The TARDIS isn't sure whether Amy is pregnant or not - so is she? Who actually is River Song? (That kiss makes guessing easier, as does a throwaway line uttered not long before that). Who was in the spacesuit when the Doctor was killed by it? Why did the Doctor have to die? Where did the little girl figure in the Silence's plan? Who was she, for that matter?! She must be important since the Doctor says "it's all about her" just as they take off for more adventures! 

And how the fuck... HOW THE FUCK did she regenerate?! WHO THE HELL IS SHE?!!!

Best. Doctor. Who. Story. Ever!