In 1960s America, the Doctor fights an alien force dating back to the beginnings of human civilisation: the Silence!
Day of the Moon continues the fine form of The Impossible Astronaut and the end of Series 5. Series 6 is more uneven in general than Smith and Moffat’s debut series, but this wraps things up nicely while setting up the series’ arc of the Doctor’s death. It will always be a story that I hold in high regard and have fond memories of, as it was one of those that set off speculation galore amongst my relatively recently found friendship group at University – for the first time, I had friends who followed the show with the same kind of interest and devotion as me.
Like a lot of Moffat two-part stories, this one does not give us an immediate resolution to the previous episode’s cliffhanger. Instead, it gives us a time jump, seeing the Doctor’s companions being pursued by Canton and his agents through the United States, with all three of them seemingly dying before we get any answers. Steven Moffat throws the kitchen sink of what you’d expect to see in a science fiction show set in America, in the shape of Area 51 and NASA in the run up to Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. The Silence are a foe who seem perfectly placed to form a kind of ‘secret history’, and Steven Moffat uses the pause in Neil Armstrong’s famous saying to make it seem as though he is remembering something mysterious.
Moffat’s use of President Nixon is really interesting – it would be all too easy to make one of the popular US Presidents and make them the Doctor’s ally, but this story does it with one of the most unpopular. Having Nixon trailing around after the Doctor, making sure he faces no consequences after being discovered tampering with Apollo 11 is enjoyable. Moffat even makes sure that the Doctor is ultimately responsible for “Tricky Dicky’s” downfall, telling him to ensure that he is recording every conversation he has in the Oval Office, and telling him to say hello to David Frost, alluding to the famous interview. Nixon is, understandably when meeting a time traveller, concerned by his reputation in the future, and as the Doctor states, he’ll never be forgotten. Stuart Milligan does a great job of capturing his bemusement at the situation he finds himself in throughout the story, especially in the scene at NASA.
So, we’re safe again!
Safe? No! Of course you’re not safe! There’s about a billion things out there just waiting to burn your whole world, but if you want to pretend you’re safe just so you can sleep at night, then, OK, you’re safe. But you’re not really.President Nixon and the Eleventh Doctor
The Silence are front and centre here as it is revealed that rather than being a traditional alien invasion story, this is one where the monsters have been here all along, and the Doctor is quick to state that he and his friends are leading a revolution against an established force. They are used really effectively, especially in the scenes in the gothic abandoned orphanage, with messages scrawled on the walls imploring people to get out. In particular, the scene where Amy explores the dorms on the upper floors with the tally marks on arms and face until the Silence hanging from the ceiling are revealed. The use of tally marks to indicate sightings of the creatures is a simple but effective way of building up the tension and dread in the story until they are revealed, along with the flashing palm implant that the Doctor gives all of his companions.
Matt Smith continues to shine as the Doctor and manages to capture the multiple facets of the Doctor so well. He dominates the scene onboard the Silence’s spaceship as he holds court and is imminently watchable and entertaining, especially when floundering around when kissing River Song towards the end of the episode. Smith always looks profoundly uncomfortable when doing anything romantic and this is no exception. Equally, Alex Kingston gets a lot to do, from being a parallel to Indiana Jones aboard the Silent’s craft, and Smith’s Doctor is clearly infatuated with her in this scene, even though she’s using a gun which should really bother him more than it does. The pair of them make that farewell scene in the Stormcage utterly heartbreaking, especially when River realises that the Doctor has never kissed her before, meaning that it’s most likely the last time for her.
I think that Amy and Rory’s relationship develops well here too, and whilst Karen Gillan is sidelined for a portion of the plot, it is Arthur Darvill who I really want to focus in on here. Darvill’s Rory is a delight now that he has been elevated to the “full” companion role, and he is far more than comedic relief. I really like his discussion with the Doctor comparing to ridding the Earth of the Silence to kicking the Romans out of Rome, an event that both were present for and Arthur Darvill utterly convinces that he carries the weight of the years guarding the Pandorica. It’s interesting that the story establishes that he can remember some parts of his time as the Lone Centurion, which is something that Big Finish have explored recently. Equally, he is great at the more comedic moments – when he turns up with Nixon to excuse the Doctor interfering with the Apollo 11 probe and snaps the dish off the model always makes me laugh. Karen Gillan is good here too as Amy struggles to piece together what is happening at the childrens’ home, including the mysterious woman who appears in the door and the picture of her with a baby. I love her frustration when the Doctor seems to be faffing about rescuing her at the end, and I think this story really does a lot in its closing moments to reinforce that there are no lingering questions about who Amy loves on the TARDIS, something that will be important moving forwards towards their departure.
Verdict: Day of the Moon wraps up a grand, sweeping series opener really confidently, with all the cast on their A-Games here. 9/10
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Alex Kingston (River Song), Mark Sheppard (Canton Delaware), Marnix Van Den Broeke (The Silent), Stuart Milligan (President Richard Nixon), Kerry Shale (Doctor Renfrew), Glenn Wrage (Gardner), Jeff Mash (Grant), Sydney Wade (Little Girl), Tommy Campbell (Sergeant), Peter Banks (Doctor Shepherd), Frances Barber (Eye Patch Lady), Ricky Fearon (Tramp), Chuk Iwuje (Carl) & Mark Griffin (Phil).
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Toby Haynes
Original Broadcast Date: 30 April 2011
Behind the Scenes
- This episode has the working title of Look Behind You.
- Location filming took place across Utah.
- The Little Girl’s regeneration at the end of the episode marks the first on-screen regeneration of a female character since Destiny of the Daleks.
- Chuk Iwuji had appeared in the Big Finish audio A Thousand Tiny Wings, playing Joshua Sembeke.
It’s a small moment, but I do really like the moment where humanity begin to recognise the Silence after the Doctor broadcasts the message in Neil Armstrong’s famous sentence.
Don’t let them build to full power!
I know! There’s a reason why I’m shooting, honey. What are you doing?
You’ve got a screwdriver, go build a cabinet!The Eleventh Doctor and River Song
Previous Eleventh Doctor review: The Impossible Astronaut