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22 July 2015 @ 10:00 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon  
Looking back this is the point where Moffat's plotting falls apart. Or perhaps, more accurately, where he ceases to feel the need to fill in the gaps sufficiently.

The double episode of The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon opens the sixth series of new Doctor Who and sets up the over-arching plot asking who killed the Doctor and how will he get out of that?* As a pair of stand-alone episodes these work really well. The Silence are really good monster and the mechanism in which the Tardis crew record the number they have seen in marks on their hands and faces is incredibly effective in building tension. Canton Everett Delaware III is a fun character. The repeated appearance of Nixon reassuring miscellaneous US functionaries is a moderately good joke. The whole is both creepy and fun, as a good Doctor Who story should be.

Sadly, a lot of questions are left unanswered and the answers we eventually get vary from the mundanely obvious (how the Doctor escapes his death, the identity of the child), to the convoluted and throwaway (the nature and purpose of the Silence). In particular, while I've seen Alex Kingston's performance in these episodes praised, viewed through the lens of later revelations (particularly, her relationship to Amy and Rory, the identity of the Child, and the facts of the Doctor's "murder") it does not convince me at all, none of these revelations appeared to me to be foreshadowed and while you could argue that River is simply an excellent actress, as the viewer of a story, I want more.

Relatedly, the child's escape from the Silence seems, in retrospect, entirely pointless. She is, apparently, later recaptured in events we never get to witness. Similarly, it's not at all clear what the Silence are doing faffing around with technology on Earth in 1969 when they have Kovarian's resources at their disposal. I mean, assuming they are working with Kovarian (which I presume since they kidnap Amy who then ends up in Kovarian's care) which is a detail I'm waiting to see confirmed or denied. But the bottom line is that, although Moffat may know how all of this fits together, he is not giving the information to the viewer.

Which is a shame, because as I say, outside of the wider context these form an effective pair of episodes.

Mind you, even NLSS Child, who is oblivious to a great deal of nuance, commented upon how out of character it was for the Doctor to commit genocide, even by proxy.

*In one of the obvious ways, as it transpired.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/165151.html.
eve11eve11 on July 22nd, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC)
I figure River got away there and then was recaptured at the end of um... the one with the Doctor and Craig and the baby? Where Kovarian was like, "You never really escaped us, Melody Pond."
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 22nd, 2015 09:05 pm (UTC)
River gets away at the end of Let's Kill Hitler, and is recaptured by Kovarian at the end of Closing Time, which is the episode of which you are thinking.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 22nd, 2015 09:13 pm (UTC)
But she gets away as a child in The Day of the Moon so either she makes her way to to Amy and Rory growing up under her own steam or Kovarian recaptures her in 1969 (or thereabouts) and then plants her with Amy and Rory. I'd assumed the latter.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 22nd, 2015 09:17 pm (UTC)
I'd always assumed she got away under her own steam. Her programming seems to be reactivated at her regeneration into River, as she makes no attempt to kill the Doctor as Melody.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 23rd, 2015 01:35 pm (UTC)
Doesn't she? I thought her regeneration happened in the midst of an assassination attempt - I'll have see on the rewatch.
parrot_knight: MattKarenArthurparrot_knight on July 23rd, 2015 11:25 pm (UTC)
I'd never read Melody's behaviour during the Hitler assassination scene as part of an attempt to kill the Doctor. I'd need to watch the episode again.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 22nd, 2015 09:14 pm (UTC)
But then how did she end up in the 1990s growing up with Amy and Rory? given she's been abandoned in 1969.
eve11eve11 on July 22nd, 2015 11:17 pm (UTC)
I figured she regenerated a few times in between. She said in let's kill hitler, "last time I did this I ended up a toddler". So that was Moffat's out for the time discrepancy.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 24th, 2015 09:17 am (UTC)
In which case what is she doing in the intervening years? and why does she describe herself as having been a child when she first met the Doctor (as she does here), given she's in her 40s or 50s in Let's Kill Hitler?

I mean, I can see there are all sorts of potential explanations, especially given the gaps in both River and the Doctor's lives that we haven't seen, but Moffat really isn't giving us the information to work with.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 22nd, 2015 09:42 pm (UTC)
I agree with pretty much all of what you say here, but I this season is still my favourite new Who season. I am not sure how that works. I think Moffat has admitted to not working out the whole of his arcs in advance in detail, which is probably a mistake and perhaps a result of scaling up from writing one or two episodes a year to writing longer arcs.

Technically the Doctor might not commit genocide. It depends how fast the Silence can leave the planet... It is out of character, though.

Incidentally, this was arguably the first time in new Who where a historical character appeared who was not - or was not presented as - wholly heroic or admirable, which I think was a small achievement. I hated all that "Ooh, Charles Dickens, you're my favourite novelist"-type stuff in the Davies era.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 24th, 2015 11:52 am (UTC)
As I say, I think the episodes work very well as something self-contained. I'll have to see how I feel about this season as it goes. I have a vague memory that the next few episodes are not so good.