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'Doctor Who' review: 'Day of the Moon'

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Doctor Who S06E02 - Amy Pond

© BBC

After the sensational opening gambit that kicked off the series premiere, it's perhaps unsurprising that 'Day of the Moon' starts with a similarly thrilling onslaught of action. With The Doctor having kicked the bucket ten minutes into episode one, you'd be forgiven for wondering whether the show has done it again when Amy, Rory and River all appear to die before the opening credits have even rolled. Naturally it's all a ruse, but what's really interesting about these opening scenes is their unique structure. We all know that Steven Moffat loves to play with time, but now he's playing with structure as well, picking up the story three months later before flashing back to resolve the episode one cliffhanger. It's a neat trick that he'll use again soon afterwards, as Amy and Canton's visit to the creepy children's home is followed by a Tardis flashback scene that explains exactly what they're up to.

The nano-recorder introduced in this sequence is another great gimmick, providing a number of unsettling moments in which characters listen back to their own terrified exclamations about the Silents. As we step inside the children's home, we meet its owner Dr. Renfrew, who has apparently been an unwitting slave for a very long time indeed. Guest star Kerry Shale absolutely shines as the disturbed Renfrew, transforming what could have been a one-note role into a truly memorable character.

Doctor Who S06E02 - Amy Pond
As Amy breaks away from Canton to explore the children's home, she encounters another batch of Silents, and if you thought her alien confrontation in the last episode was unsettling, then you'll have found this sequence absolutely terrifying. Adults and older kids will positively lap up the scares, but as the slimy Silents linger above the terrified Amy, like something out of an Alien film, you again have to wonder how anyone ever thought it was a good idea to air this at 6pm. What with this and Don't Scare The Hare, maybe it's time for a Saturday night schedule revamp?

Meanwhile, The Doctor is caught apparently sabotaging Apollo 11 and is forced to call on President Nixon for help. Jonathan Creek's Stuart Milligan gets more of a chance to flex his comedy muscles in this instalment, and Nixon's recurring appearances certainly raise a smile. However, it's a shame that the character doesn't really play an important part in the episode's resolution, essentially being reduced to a series of amusing cameos.

Doctor Who S06E02 - The Doctor
Back at the children's home, Amy is captured by the Silents, after discovering a rather shocking photograph (So the little girl is...? No, but surely that's too obvious!). Her disappearance leads to more heartbreak for Rory, as he hears his wife crying out for The Doctor just moments after swearing that he will be the one to protect her. The whole Doctor / Amy / Rory love triangle was thoroughly explored last series of course, and it would be in danger of becoming slightly tired, if not for the moving performance of Arthur Darvill. He's really never been better and it's certainly pleasing to see Rory move beyond the stereotype of 'bumbling geek' into something far more interesting.

As the team track down Amy and The Doctor unveils his plan to defeat the Silents, it's time for another Moffat masterstroke. The method of the creatures' downfall - tricking them into ordering their own execution - is very clever indeed. A lesser writer would be forced to cheat having created such a seemingly unbeatable foe, but Moffat skilfully utilises the Silents' greatest strength to bring about their demise. Top notch. A final hilarious scene with Nixon and Canton, plus River and The Doctor's first and final kiss, leads us into a brilliantly audacious epilogue that seemingly sets this latest series off on a completely unexpected tangent.

Doctor Who S06E02 - River Song
Unfortunately these final scenes also expose this episode's chief flaw - quite simply, too much is left unresolved. The entire plot hinges on The Silents secretly encouraging humanity to reach for the stars, in order to obtain a space suit, but by the episode's conclusion, their motive remains ambiguous. Why were the Silents protecting the little girl? Who indeed is the girl? Why can she regenerate? And is Amy pregnant or not? It's all very well to aim for a stronger story arc and, knowing Moffat, it will all be resolved perfectly well by series end, but is that really an excuse for failing to provide closure and satisfaction in the short term? Even The Doctor himself seems to acknowledge this lack of answers, opting to "go off and have some adventures" rather than follow up on the mystery of the little girl.

While 'The Impossible Astronaut' aced the set-up, 'Day of the Moon' falters slightly in providing the resolution. Once again though, you'd be hard-pressed to fault the Who team's ambition, and this latest episode is every bit as moving, shocking and, with a few more of those lovely Utah scenes, just as visually stunning as the series premiere. Let's just hope that when answers finally come, we'll be more willing to forgive this episode's lack of resolution. Next up - pirates!

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