Sunday, 1 May 2011

'Day of the Moon' Review

Series 6 - Episode 2: 'Day of the Moon'
Written by Steven Moffat - Directed by Toby Haynes

After a cavalcade of unanswered questions and crossing plot lines created by Steven Moffat's wonderful series opener, 'The Impossible Astronaut'; it seemed that the second part would pretty much spend it's running time wrapping up its predecessor - how wrong were we to judge. Like any great author, Moffat spent more time constructing an eerie and affecting horror story that pays homage to classic Hammer pictures and Haunted House tales from yesteryear rather than 'telling it like it is' and finishing off The Doctor's American tale. This may only be the second episode of Matt Smith's latest series, but in all honestly, this one is going to be hard to top. 'Day of the Moon' was not only an exquisite 'Doctor Who' episode, it was a landmark in television writing and direction.

Plot Outline:
The Doctor is locked in the perfect prison. Amy, Rory and River Song are being hunted across America by the FBI. Terrifyingly powerful aliens have invaded Earth, and it's about to get much, much worse.

 'Day of the Moon' was the ace in the pack - the wild-card that changed the game. As the episode opens, we meet our heroes three months later after Amy's gun-wielding incident with the 'spaceman' and everyone is on the run from the FBI, apart from The Doctor whose being held hostage in Area 51. The high-octane opening exploded onto the screen enchanting and shocking it's loyal audience. For me, this was the best opening of Matt Smith's saga. In one respect, it was quite similar to 'The Pandorica Opens' (2010 - also written by Moffat), in which we constantly switch from different locations, but the instant action and drama of this episode is something to be admired and remembered for a long time.

 As I previously mentioned, this story spent more time chilling and engaging it's audience than trying to come to grips with the amount of information presented in the first part of the tale. 'The Impossible Astronaut' was a dialogue-heavy fact file that will be constantly re-visited as a reference point throughout the sixth series, whilst this episode felt more like an exploration into why 'Doctor Who' is such a fascinating television show. Rather than wrapping up the first episode's conundrums in the first 10 minutes, Moffat has composed the opposite - now we have even more questions and theories pressed firmly on our lips and are bursting to discuss with fellow Whovians. (Possible Spoiler Ahead!) Obviously the main item on the discussion agenda will be the young girl - is she Amy's daughter? Is she River Song? Is she a Time Lord? There are so many possible explanations for her presence that it actually makes more sense just to sit back and let Moffat trickle off the correct answers by using his Morse Code-like clues throughout the remaining episodes. It worked for The Silence didn't it?

 Coming on to The Silence, I think it's fair to say they are one of the scariest monsters for some time; in fact they are probably the most terrifying original villain since The Weeping Angels in which share some similarities with - the idea of thing happening once one's back is turned is something we all fear. There's nothing scarier than the unknown and unfamiliar and that's The Silence's key weapon in their arsenal; forgotten once you look away, now that's freaky. The scene with Amy in the orphanage was by far the highlight of this excellent episode and the moment when the tally marks re-appeared on her skin and The Silence entered the room was like a sequence ripped from a Guillermo del Toro picture; it was chilling, atmospheric and affecting.

 Another marvellous scene was the final battle which played out like an intergalactic war inside a TARDIS, and yet even inside this singular space, gallons of action, emotion and intrigue came flooding out. Toby Haynes captured this scene with great skill and intimacy and the end result was impeccable.

 The performances were outstanding and once again Karen Gillan was the star; her story lines are in a state of frenzy and she revels in this territory. Apart from the wonderfully horrific orphanage scene, her heartbreaking monologue through the Nano Recorder hand device was wonderful and a true example of her brilliant acting. Arthur Darvill was also great especially with the emotional scenes and Matt Smith and Alex Kingston was as brilliant as ever - their chemistry is charming and unusually harrowing; we all want The Doctor and River to become partners but their ever-crossing time-lines makes their romance nothing but an impossibility. I'm hoping we see much more of River soon because she is an incredible asset to the show.

 It may still be early days for the sixth series, but I think it's fair to say that 'Day of the Moon' will be a high point of 2011's 'Doctor Who' and indeed a high point of the year's television in general. It was mysterious, gripping and incredibly entertaining - Moffat, you've done it again.

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