Contributor: Gregg Wright
The Doctor’s battle with The Silence continues, as we pick up three months later in 1969. Things are looking pretty dire at first, with Amy and Rory shot, River seemingly falling to her death off a skyscraper, and the Doctor imprisoned at Area 51 in the best prison in the universe. Of course, things are not quite as they seem. I was glad to see that Canton Everett Delaware III was really still on the Doctor’s side.
I thought the episode worked quite well for the most part, and only disappointed a bit toward the end. Given the unconventional threat The Silence pose, it was interesting to see the unconventional methods utilized to combat them. (Though how The Doctor and his companions managed to discover their existence and retain memories of it, in order to begin fighting back, is still a mystery to me.) The memory erasing is again used to great effect, providing some successfully creepy scenes. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Amy and Canton investigate an orphanage, where it becomes quickly obvious that The Silence have been a regular presence there.
Apparently The Silence were what caused the crack in time to form in season 5. They’ve on on Earth for thousands of years, manipulating human beings for some unknown purpose. They seem to have wanted humans to go to the moon for some reason. The Silence also seem to be causing problems on other worlds as well, as was evidenced in season 5. But what do they really want? Why the interest in this strange, seemingly super-human child? And is the girl really the space-suited figure that shoots the Doctor in the premiere, perhaps under hypnotic influence from The Silence? And why was Amy in one of the pictures in the orphanage, holding a child? There’s plenty that’s left unanswered, but I’m fairly pleased with how the mythology is developing this season. It seems highly unlikely that The Silence have been permanently dealt with.
Unfortunately, I did have some problems with the episode, which are indicative of many of my problems with the franchise as a whole. The ending was highly typical of the show, being yet another victorious moment in which the Doctor finds a way to utterly defeat the alien threat and save Earth. I know, it’s not like the Doctor could just outright fail. But it feels like a lot of the elements of the franchise that used to wow me keep getting recycled over and over again.
The new “Doctor Who” has always been pretty outlandish in many regards, but each new season seems sillier than the last. Russel T. Davies took things to such ridiculous extremes in season 4 and in the following specials, it became hard to take the show seriously anymore. Of course, I have always loved the zany humor and over-the-top dramatics of this show, but sometimes it can be a bit much. When you’ve done the most ultimate, ultimate final battle you can possibly imagine, and then continually try to top your previous finale with something even more ultimate, you have a recipe for failure.
Thankfully, Steven Moffat mostly avoided this mistake. But many of the problems that began to crop up during the Davies era remained. This is never more evident than in the climactic final scenes of this most recent episode. At its best, the show manages to be dramatic, awesome, and humorous while retaining a perfect balance with intelligence and seriousness. But that finale and shoot-out were about as silly and ridiculous as “Doctor Who” gets. This isn’t to say that the Doctor’s solution wasn’t clever. I liked that the Doctor used The Silence’s hypnotic suggestion ability and turned it against them. It at least didn’t feel like a contrived ending.
I wish they would tone down River a bit and make her less of a cheesy action hero, because she’s actually fairly likable during her more serious moments. I still find it hard to believe that this River will eventually become the River that we saw during the “Silence in the Library” two-parter. The current River is something of an over-the-top, wise-cracking super-heroine, which is nothing at all like the River we first met in season 4.
The “Hail to the Chief” fanfares whenever Nixon walked in were a bit silly. I felt like the episode was laying on the America-love a bit too thick, what with the multiple references to “the most powerful country in the world” and “the most powerful man in the world”. I love my country as much as any American, and I have a particular reverence for the space program, but it all felt a bit forced. It was almost like the writers were purposefully sucking up to their American audiences. Then again, I suppose this is pretty similar to the show’s usual attitude toward British patriotism and culture, so maybe it only feels weird because I’m not used to it being done with my country. Am I just being overly critical? Or did any other American fans have this reaction? I’m curious as to what British fans thought of these elements as well.
Though I certainly had problems with the episode (particularly the somewhat by-the-numbers finale), much of that is made up for by a great reveal at the end about the little girl. Apparently, she is Gallifreyan, or at least has the ability to regenerate. Perhaps classic “Doctor Who” fans can extrapolate more from this than I can, only being a fan of the new show. Is regeneration limited to the Gallifreyan species? I’m assuming that it is, but I could be wrong. After doing a brief bit of online research, I’ve learned that one can be Gallifreyan and not actually be a Time Lord, which is what I’m guessing is the case with this little girl.
I was rather confused by all the relational issues surrounding Rory, Amy, and the Doctor. We can’t possibly be expected to believe that Amy was talking about Rory, can we? She claims that she was, but it doesn’t fit. Rory doesn’t think that Amy should be in love with the Doctor. However, the Doctor does think that Amy should be in love with Rory, and not him. And her fumbling explanation of why she chose to tell the Doctor about her supposed pregnancy rather than Rory is also pretty suspect. And how could she possibly know that she was pregnant anyway? Amy claims that she was wrong about being pregnant, but the Doctor’s covert scans are strangely unable to determine if she is truly pregnant or not. Perhaps this ties in with the picture at the orphanage in which Amy seems to be holding a child. Could the little girl be Amy’s child, who is somehow part Gallifreyan? Obviously, the Doctor did not sleep with Amy. So it really doesn’t make much sense. One could speculate all day about this, which is all part of the fun, but I’m hoping that it’s all part of a well-planned story that will come together in the end.
I’m also slightly confused over what Nixon actually meant when he was talking to Canton about his fiance. It kind of sounded like he was trying to discourage him from marrying her, which seems to contradict the Doctor’s suggestion that Nixon find a way to let him get married and still keep his job at the FBI. It’s a minor issue, though. We know that Canton will receive an invitation to the beach just in time for the Doctor’s death, but is that the extent of his involvement with the Doctor beyond events in 1969? I’m hoping Canton plays an important role again, maybe around the finale.
Again, despite the episode’s problems, it further builds on the solid set-up for the season arc presented in the premiere. Matt Smith is still a tremendously good Doctor. And with the right writers, the season still has the potential to improve on the last one. The real test is going to be the stand-alone adventures, as you can usually count on a certain level of quality in the more season arc-oriented ones.