“… all I really want to do is accept your total surrender and I’ll let you go in peace. Yes, you’ve been interfering in human history for thousands of years. Yes, people have suffered and died. But what’s the point in two hearts if you can’t be a bit forgiving now and then?”
And we’re off! The second half of Steven Moffat’s opening two-parter isn’t as strong as the first, even with a clever pre-credit sequence — maybe a little too clever by half — but it’s filled with tantalizing tidbits teased and ends with a mind-boggling shocker in two parts. I have to say I was a little surprised that the title proved to be right on the nose as regards the story and its climax. As a stand-alone story it’s a clever and scary run-around with a few well-placed emotional beats; as an opener laying out the shape of the season, though, it’s a corker. Be warned, while I was a bit coy with spoilers last week, this time I’m laying it all out, all the good business and all the stuff I’m genuinely curious about.
11. Why is it so damned unclear what happened from the time of last week’s cliffhanger up to three months later? The Doctor is under lock and key, the rest of his companions are on the run — why? I suppose the Silence have planted hypnotic suggestions that have made them The Enemy; it’s the only way to explain the sci-fi prison box they’re locking the Doctor away in, some help from the E.T.s to keep some dangerous individuals from interfering in their master plan. So how did Team TARDIS work out the plan with Canton to fake Amy and Rory’s deaths? Is he not under the Silence’s influence because he saw them back at the warehouse? And if the Doctor and the rest are all branded as baddies and are supposed to be locked away or dead, why does the President keep helping out? Did Canton explain everything to the President off-screen after the TARDIS left the dwarf star box but before hitting the trail in search of the little girl? And if so, how did he do that without the Silence finding out? Or by that point did they just not care? Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but I was honestly surprised that Nixon came in and vouched for the Doctor given that as far as the armed guards — government agents — around the dwarf star box knew he was still locked up as an enemy of the state. A lot of holes in this here ship, which would be sorely disappointing if not for the fact that it really is chock full of good stuff, well played by an, as-always, terrific cast, and directed for maximum spookiage by Toby Haynes.
10. And about Nixon, the way he’s used throughout really works with the teetering-on-the-edge-of-caricature portrayal; the Doctor and Canton use him as the ultimate trump card, more effective even than the psychic paper (which seems to have been phased out of the Doctor’s toolkit; it hasn’t been seen at all in the course of the two-parter, perhaps permanently shorted out during “A Christmas Carol”). When he emerged from the prison box to silence the guards’ protest I laughed out loud. Well played.
9. The tally marks across the skin seemed awfully creepy in the trailers for the season, like they might have some supernatural significance, or be a sign of Our Heroes going crazy. When it was revealed that it was a way of tracking how many of the Silence they’d seen, I admit, I “ho-hummed.” Except …
… when Amy looks away for a second, then looks back and sees she’s marked a whole lot all over her arms, and then all over her own face, that was completely freaky. The device of the show itself editing out the memories Canton, the Doctor, and his companions have lost led to some great scares, some of the best I’ve seen in years of watching Doctor Who. It proves to me what I was getting at last week, that despite being another foe that’s all about perception, the Silence’s hook is different and clever enough that it gives Moffat and company a whole different set of tools to scare the kiddies and get the rest of us to at the very least jump a bit and squirm uncomfortably in our seats.
8. I will admit, there was a moment where I feared, just like Rory, that she was talking about the Doctor having always been the one. Yes, even after everything last season. Especially since they’re a pair of odd-looking dudes that she treats with similar levels of disdain half the time — she could have been wanting to see either one’s “stupid face” again. Look, she didn’t tell Rory about the pregnancy, which he had to eavesdrop to even find out about. Hell, the way they were talking conspiratorially, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking maybe they slept together — god knows she wanted to do it back at the end of “Flesh and Stone” last season — if not for the fact that the Doctor has made it abundantly clear (in that very same episode) that no-way, no-how is he interested in that.
7. The Big Bang was the result of the Doctor’s visit to the titular space station in “Terminus.” The planet Earth was formed around a Racnoss ship, per “The Runaway Bride,” while the creation of all life on Earth was the result of the Jagaroth ship exploding in “City of Death.” And now all of human history up to about 1969 has been carefully engineered by the Silence, scurrying about in their tunnels for thousands of years towards what, exactly? Putting a little girl who can regenerate into a space suit? There’s so much more to what they were up to, but I doubt we’ll be seeing much more of the puzzle until about five weeks hence. Point is, though, is there any stage of the development of Earth and its people that the Doctor hasn’t had to help put right? If there is, I’m sure some writer will find it and remedy the situation post haste. Maybe we can find out how the Doctor was involved in the creation of our sun, or perhaps the moon, unless we already have and I just missed those episodes.
(I just looked it up, the moon was explained away in one of the New Adventures novels, but the mystery of its origins was something the Doctor had to unravel; he wasn’t there when it arrived in Earthspace. At least, he hasn’t been there YET.)
6. For all the small holes in the story and the way certain stars had to line up just right for it to work, the Doctor’s plan is damned clever and uses all the clues lined up throughout both episodes brilliantly. Obviously in true Doctor Who style (see: “The Ark,” “Bad Wolf”) we’re going to have to wind up back on Earth to deal with the Silence again and witness the fallout of the Doctor’s actions here — although to some extent I think we already have — but for now, I think we can safely pump our fists in the air at this nifty bit of win. Kind of a cool idea, too, mankind breaking from the yoke of their shapers in ’69; wonder if the Silence reasserted themselves in ’81 following Reagan’s election.
5. If we don’t get a proper Matt Smith-era River Song action figure out of this, I’m going to scream. She is a total ray gun-wielding badass in this episode, and I had to smile at how the Doctor knows he should be bothered by all this shooting, but really isn’t. A far cry from the Tenth Doctor, who’d furrow his brow and get that constipated look on his face if you so much as mentioned a gun around him (that is, until Rassilon came knocking). Seriously, he may not like guns, but it’s not like he’s freakin’ Batman.
4. River and the Doctor’s kiss is an absolutely heartbreaking moment, especially after all the cute flirting they’ve been doing over the course of the two-parter, and I love how the Doctor warms to it while River realizes that if this is the first time for him, then … yeah, no more of that to look forward to. I assume we’ll see her again this season, if this is the season where her backstory is explained, and I worry for her what else she’s seen the end of, which we’ll have to witness her seeing the end of. It was bad enough when she was talking to Rory about the downside of waiting up for the Doctor. The look on her face as she’s locked away again was devastating.
3. From the Department of Things People Called Last Week: Canton wants to marry a dude, hence his getting kicked out of the FBI. I do love the way that reveal is handled, though, and Nixon’s reaction was priceless.
2. Steven Moffat himself has said, in last week’s Confidential, that Amy and Rory have perhaps been hanging out with the Doctor longer than they should have, that maybe growing up and getting married is a good stopping point for life as a Doctor Who companion. Having Amy pregnant and not pregnant at the same time with a baby who’ll grow up into a little girl in the late 1960’s capable of what appears, so far, to be at-will Time Lord-style regeneration — which is, I guess, necessary because she was dying all along and being kept alive by the Silence in the space suit, which was the whole point of NASA … well, yeah, having the Doctor in your life kind of predisposes you to this sort of insane bother. Two questions occur to me: if it’s her in the suit when she kills the Doctor, did she do it before phoning the President? Did her weapon give her the Doctor’s remaining regenerations? Or is Amy’s fear valid, and something about all the madness she’s encountered has changed her to the point that she’s going to have a baby with a time-head? (Before you say anything, Schrodinger’s Pregnancy has nothing to do with the Silence; she was already in that state before they captured her. But methinks they may have captured her to, say, prod the baby’s development in the right direction? Study what makes Amy so special that the child turned out as she did? Who can say, so far?)
1. I’m starting to think maybe River is Amy’s daughter. It sure would explain a lot about River if she had all this weird shit happen to her as a kid, especially given that she said to Rory last time that the Doctor “knew all about her” — implying that from a young age there was already plenty to know. Plus there’s the fact that Amy’s pregnancy is a big story during the same year where Moffat has said that all will be explained regarding River. It would also be terribly appealing from a production standpoint to have River capable of regenerating, giving them a really good out to explain recasting when Alex Kingston can no longer convincingly play the role younger than the last time she appeared.