Day of the Moon (Doctor Who series 6, episode 2)

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

Writing about The Impossible Astronaut last week, I noted that I was going to entitle my article “The Impossible Astronaut: First Impressions”, and the entire article would consist of the following: “What?”

So, predictably, here are my first impressions of Day of the Moon:


It’s pretty much impossible to discuss this episode without spoilers, because the whole story was an intersecting mish-mash of mystery plots.  If I tried to be unspoily I wouldn’t be able to say much more than “There were some aliens, and the Doctor did something clever”.

So be warned — SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Well, then.  What do we still not know?

Why was “Get out” written all over the orphanage?  If Amy wrote it, she would have recognised her own handwriting, so I don’t think this can be a Sally Sparrow retread.  Who closed and locked the door when she was in the room with the sleeping Silence?  Why?  Who unlocked it?  Why?

Who was the woman with the eyepatch, who Amy saw through the window in the door to the little girl’s room?  Why was the hatch there and why did it vanish?  Why did the woman say “No, I think she’s just dreaming”?  Who did she say it to?

Now that we know the alien race who can’t be remembered are called The Silence, what does Series 5’s repeated threat “Silence will fall” mean?

Why did The Silence have a TARDIS-like console room identical to the one in The Lodger?  Wikipedia, rather disappointingly, says that “the control room set used from The Lodger was used again for this episode.  Moffat wanted the set to be used again, feeling it would be a suitable Silence base.  The set was adapted to give it a darker, evil feel.”  But surely we can hope for a story-internal reason.  Was The Lodger‘s ship actually The Silence’s?

The Doctor reasoned that The Silence incubated the Apollo program as a way of causing a space suit to be made — but why did they want one?

Why did The Silence Kidnap Amy?  What was their plan for her?  They tell her “We do you honour; you will bring the silence”, but what does that mean?  They are The Silence?  Is that different from the silence?

Is Amy in fact pregnant?  Why doesn’t the TARDIS know?  It seems that its built-in pregnancy scanner is trying to tell us that Amy’s uterus is in a superimposition of quantum states.  How will the midwife cope?  (And will the baby have a time-head?  I loved that.)

Who is the little girl that we first saw in the suit at the end of episode 1?  Is she, as the photo in her room invites us to believe, Amy’s daughter?  If so, with whom?  If Rory, then how was she able to regenerate at the end of the episode?  If not Amy’s daughter, is she River’s?  With the Doctor?  That would explain the regeneration.  Or could she be The Doctor’s Daughter, from the terrible episode of the same name?

How did the little girl get into the spacesuit at the end of the last episode and during this?  Did it “eat her”, as suggested?  How did she get out, after Amy saw her?

We are still no closer to answering the long-running question: who actually is River Song?  Could it be that the girl in the space suit is River?  Why is River in prison?  Who is the “best man I ever knew” that she killed?

And we are also no closer to knowing who killed the Doctor, despite having thought about that in detail last week?  Will he continue to have been killed?

What else might The Silence have done that no-one remembers?  Did they impregnate Amy?  Ugh.  Would Moffat go there?

And finally, most important of all: is a review a review if it consists of nothing but questions?

I’ll close with a few observations.

We saw that River is an excellent shot — she took out all of the Silence in the control room — but we know that Amy is is a very bad shot, having missed the astronaut at the end of the last episode from point-blank range.  This is hardly conclusive, but does seem to gently suggest that they are not related.

The Silence look kind of like The Gentlemen from the classic Buffy Season 4 episode Hush — the one where everyone’s voices are taken away.  They share the same formal elegance, unhurried menace, and distorted, shiny heads.

And of course the name of the alien race called The Silence chimes (har!) with the modus operandi of The Gentlemen.

I doubt that has any plot significance, but I wonder whether it’s a deliberate homage.

Finally — where now?  As usual I avoided the trailer for next week, but from what I’ve not been able to avoid finding out, it seems that it will be much more of a self-contained romp, and so we shouldn’t expect much in the way of resolution of any of the issues raised last week and this.  I love a good, provocative mystery or six, but is Moffat pushing it too far?  One insightful commentator noted, “I think Steven Moffat’s audience is going to start getting a bit frustrated if we don’t start getting some answers soon — it’s just too much to hold.”

Come on, Moff.  Give us some answers.

Not all of them.  But some.

28 responses to “Day of the Moon (Doctor Who series 6, episode 2)

  1. NoobixCube

    My assumption (yes, assumptions make an ass of you and your mumptions) was that the girl, who I’m going to go forward believing is Amy’s daughter, soaked up a lot of Huon energy in the womb. All time travelers have it kind of stuck to them, but what’s the effect on an unborn child? I don’t think she’s a Time Lord, but being so close to the heart of a TARDIS might cause Time Lord-like things to occur. As for the quantum state of her pregnancy, all I can do is grab a bag of popcorn because this should be interesting.

    I doubt this has anything to do with Jenny, The Doctor’s clonesisterdaughter, but as bad as that episode was, I really wish they’d done something with her. What’s interesting is, because the little girl has regenerated, we won’t recognise her next time she’s on screen. Moffat might intend us to not recognise her, or he’ll do some creepy and obvious musical cues so we know. Either way, last season taught me to trust him when he wants to play the long game.

    We’re still left with the unresolved matters of The Doctor’s death, who the space man is, and River’s sudden inability to hit the broad side of a barn, despite earlier demonstrating she could shoot The Doctor’s stetson off, and later, slaughtering the Silence with one shot kills. It may well be past-River in the space suit, probably the first time she met him was when her work in *ahem* “archaeology” had her trying (and apparently succeeding) to kill The Doctor; though I don’t know why she didn’t retrieve the body, if that’s the case.

    The BBC won’t commit to making Matt Smith the last Doctor, I don’t think. I expect we’ll see future Doctors die a couple more times this season. Doomed time duplicates, or something, not that Doctor Who has done much with that, but I’ve been reading too much Homestuck. I’m hoping, actually, we’ll see more with alternate realities. In the alternate reality episodes, The Doctor never really explained anything about an alternate Gallifrey, or alternate Time Lords; just that Time Lords used to be able to travel freely between realities. What if the Time Lords only had a subset of realities they could traverse, and their alternate selves had a different subset? With the universe’s recent reboot, the walls between the realities might be open again. Bit of a reach, and I don’t think this has anything to do with the current mysteries, but I’d like to see the alternate realities revisited; and perhaps as more than just a way to revive the Cybermen (AGAIN!).

  2. The caretaker left the writing on the wall as a message to himself. He just never remembered doing it. In fact so much of his memory is missing that he is not even in the right year.

    The Silence look like grays and men in black rolled into one. About that time in history, people started drawing pictures of grays and talking about MIBs wiping their memories.

    Those are the only answers I have for you. I’m looking forward to a very X-Men season.

  3. I enjoy the diversion of the single-episode romps, but they are snack food compared to the arc of the main story that we are embarked on. I absolutely loved these last two episodes for the fact that raise more questions than they answer. Furthermore, I’m not in a particular hurry to get those answers too quickly: we are being treated to a score of Mahler-like proportion, that must be allowed to explore its intricate themes through many variations before we are finally led to a resolution. I am confident we won’t be disappointed!

  4. I found this episode disappointing, as it seemed to walk away from most of the questions raised in The Impossible Astronaut. Moffat is at his best when he’s up to his elbows in the timey-wimey, and TIA teased at an intriguing story spanning multiple timelines… but I guess we’ll have to wait to see how that plays out.

    Making the Silence responsible for all of mankind’s ingenuity from the wheel to Apollo seemed like an unusually cynical move for this show. If the Silence have lived alongside us for millennia and all that’s come from it is creaking floorboards, an exploded woman in a bathroom, and *everything anyone has ever invented*, well, I’m sorry, exploded woman, but I think it’s okay if we keep them around. Prosecution of the ladies’ room Silent would be warranted, but “revolution” and genocide? Maybe not.

    In addition to the questions you asked, I’m still wondering what happened in the three-month gap between episodes, and whether we’ll ever get to see it. Why and how did The Doctor get captured? Why were Amy, Rory, and River on the run — separately — and being followed by the Silents and hounded by the FBI? But given that the Silence have been explained and everyone is safe and sound, I’m not confident that the gap will amount to anything beyond just a way to make this episode more suspenseful.

  5. Ok here goes. My explanation, with a big assist from my son on a key aspect.

    The girl IS Amy and Rory’s daughter. The TARDIS is messing with the very fabric of her being, and because the TARDIS is a creation of the timelords, she ends up being very much like, or even actually, a timelord.

    The Silence, driven from Earth and on the run, use their time machines (like the one from the lodger) to go and capture Amy and Rory’s daughter. Pure revenge move here. They construct for her a spacesuit, not knowing that its their real undoing (wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey here). The spacesuit is to hold her captive, but it’s also something more.

    My son came up with this bit. The spacesuit is a TARDIS itself. Or at least like the lodger device which itself is like a TARDIS. That’s how the astronaut materializes in the water at the beginning of the impossible astronaut. Other facts supporting this are that the spacesuit is healing itself and that it chases after the girl (the TARDIS sometimes comes after the Doctor when he’s in trouble). Also, the TARDIS has a knack for calling world leaders (i.e. Churchill).

    So now on to why the astronaut kills the Doctor in the first place. Well, as an orphaned timelord (that we see at the end of this episode) she’s very pissed about the Doctor leaving her behind. So making use of the TARDIS she has, she manipulates the Doctor into meeting her in 2011 in Arizona and Kills him. She also shoots him again in mid regeneration to make sure he stays dead.


    She comes to feel really guilty about killing the Doctor. Having access to a time machine, she arranges to learn more about the man she killed. Her guilt leads her to eventually turn herself in for “killing the best man she ever met”, which is why she’s in jail. The touching irony is that she falls completely for the Doctor.

    River is the girl is Amy and Rory’s daughter and is for all intents and purposes a Timelord. Her knowledge of the TARDIS comes from having a time machine of her own that is very similar to the TARDIS, complete with a working chameleon circuit and cloak. Which is why they never catch her with it in her cell. Of course her TARDIS’ natural state is a spacesuit. And remember, the first time we meet River, she’s in a spacesuit.

    This gives the Doctor and River’s relationship the circular nature. She kills him at their first meeting from her perspective. She dies at their first meeting from the Doctor’s perspective.

    The rest of this season is going to be about piecing together this whole back story. The Silence will be on the chase for Amy’s daughter. River will have to come clean about what she did. And they’ll have to find a way to save the doctor from her.

    That’s my guess.

  6. I’m going to say that the Doctor that was killed was the little regenerating girl. If she’s a timelord, she could have chosen to look like the Doctor for some reason. I believe it was Romana who regenerated into the look of another character (before eventually choosing to look like what we call Romana II). I saw that a long time ago so I could be wrong but that’s definitely precedent for the situation. Now why that’s the case is anybody’s guess obviously.

  7. The horrible part about how Moffat has set this season up is that, thanks to The Silence, we can’t take anything for granted. We know Amy & The Doctor never got it on… or did they and they just forgot? Think about the finale of S5: “It’s like someone else is flying the TARDIS.” Well, we can now be reasonably certain that someone else was; they were right there with River; it’s just that both she and us forgot about them the moment we looked away.

    To quote Monty Python: “AnyTHING goes in, anyTHING goes out.” Or something along those lines.

    I had this big, long comment going into all the theories I’ve been mulling over, but I decided to cull them because there’s not enough information to draw any sort of rational conclusion at this point.

    I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. :P

    About the only thing I’m reasonably convinced of at this point is that River didn’t kill The Doctor. If she had, she surely would have remembered the lake where it happened. Also note that River appeared to be shocked when he was actually killed. I still think Rory is a potential contender; not many men would wait two thousand years, alone, to protect the woman they love.

    @NoobixCube: Yeah, these Who fans think they have it bad with Moffat. We have to put up with Hussie who, in the realm of Timey-Wimey [male bovine manure], makes Moffat look like an amateur. I mean, I get a headache just thinking about the parentage of the main characters.

    honk HONK.

  8. The Silence is the Tardis from The Lodger, the doctor does remark that it seems very “Ackman road” and that he has “seen one of these before… but it was abandoned? I wonder how that happened, I guess I’m about to find out.”. When they are shooting, the Doctor tells River Song to do something to full power, but I cannot make it out. In the Lodger the hologram says “The ship has crashed, the crew is dead, a pilot is required”. I assume that all of this is consistent with what happens in The Day of The Moon.

    I’m not sure about the feeling of the episode, it left me feeling concurrently both satisfied and unsatisfied in an odd sort of way. I’ve also found the way the flashbacks and cuts to work to be incredibly confusing, but on the whole it was a really good episode. The Doctor upon meeting all of them for the first time after three months really knew he was going to use the recording of the moon landing broadcast to bring down the enemy.

    What I find difficult to understand and worrying that the pieces won’t fit together is River Song, it’s not clear to me what order the events in Silence of the Library, Time of Angels, Pandorica, and Day of the Moon take place on her timeline. On the one hand I believe Moffat has strongly suggested that these are in reverse order for her (as this would be the simplest for the viewer to understand), and is reinforced by things like “His past is my future”, etc… However it doesn’t strictly have to be this way, as the 11xx year old doctor had done so much with her but out of order for a strictly backwards meeting order. It also seems odd that Pandorica RS wouldn’t recognize Rory (“That Centurion”), so it seems that the Pandorica RS is before The Day of The Moon one, additionally she breaks out of prison by “packing again”. Finally the second last time they meet (from River Song’s view), the doctor meets her and gives her the sonic screw driver. But which doctor is this? It seems unlikely based on how little trust there has been that it was the 10th Doctor, but it’s his screw driver and that would go with the general meeting with opposite order idea. On the other hand if it was a later Doctor, perhaps the 11xx Doctor or a later version, regeneration, etc…, then it seems that all of River Song’s moping about losing the Doctor because of the opposite direction seems to be for nothing as it doesn’t strictly have to be this way. However I agree that Steven Moffat plays a long game, and it has paid off in the past, but did he really know when writing for 2008 and not show head, what direction he would want to take it in 2011? I perhaps as much as others thought last season Steven Moffat was reaching too big and couldn’t possibly pull it off, especially at the end of the Pandorica where it felt like he was written into wall of requiring sheer stupidity to get out(I mean you especially Rise of the Cybermen), but he pulled it off, and it seems he is really reaching even further this time. I really hope he can pull it off.

    Other thoughts were that he does seem to reuse the same themes again and again, although maybe it’s the power of suggestion, the “perfect prison” seemed to be retread. Finally was it just me that found it infinitely frustrating when the doctor said “or we can just go off and find adventures”. Last season especially it felt that the filler was really filler and this comment just reinforces the point, I want the next Moffat episode…

  9. I was particularly frustrated with the first two episodes as I both hated them and loved them. I hated them in the sense that absolutely none of the questions I had were answered, other than the fact that Amy missed. All we got were more questions. I loved them in the sense that I have a feeling that by the end of the season or maybe some time next season I’m going to think that these were brilliant episodes. I’m hoping that Moffat has plans to fill in all the pieces like he did in the botanical on the spaceship in the Angel episodes. In fact I’m hoping that when we do get the answers it’ll give us answers that we’re still waiting on from last season. Who was piloting the TARDIS, for example? I’m reminded of two episodes in another show, Babylon 5. The first episode was very early in the series and didn’t make much sense, but the second episode, which took place at the same time filled in all the pieces and made you love them both as a whole. I do hope this is the direction we’re headed.

  10. On the issue of the pregnancy, I thought it meant that there were two possibilities. There’s a time line where Amy is pregnant parallel to one where she isn’t.

    I took this to mean there’s two Doctors also, so the Astronaut at the start was The Doctor, killing himself to remove a paradox. Also the astronaut shot a green bolt, which is the colour of the the sonic screwdriver. (River made comment about The Doctor using the screwdriver in the battle with the Silence).

  11. Arcond,

    The episodes you refer to are Babylon Squared from season 1 and War Without End from season 3. Awesome stuff, with time travel issues and everything.

    In fact one of the core mysteries left by Babylon Squared is the identity a person who is “unstuck” in time. That person happens to be someone wearing a spacesuit….

  12. I absolutely loved the “oh she’s only dreaming” things, wonderfully weird and rather creepy, stuff I really want to see more. And while I dislike River, I feel like the idea of a woman who is slowly losing the man she loves is splendid: the last/first kiss was absolutely amazing as a moment.

  13. Sorry if someone’s already said this but I had to catch a train and didn’t have time to read everyone’s comments properly. How about if the girl in the spacesuit is River. It’s her (still) in the spacesuit who kills the doctor (the best man she ever knew). River is Rory and Amy’s daughter, affected by the Tardis while still in the womb. She can re-generate and is going to be a future doctor who.

    Actually, now I’ve said this I don’t really like it – preferring Dan G’s doctor kills the doctor to remove a paradox idea.

    P.S. to mister K – if you loved the first/last kiss thing and haven’t already read it then can I heartily recommend The Time Traveller’s Wife, from which the whole idea was clearly robbed, even if very affectionately.

  14. Oh I have, and did indeed love it!

  15. So is Rory a robot? Is Amy having a quantum baby?

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  17. weeping angel

    Rory is certainly not a robot, he is in fact a Nestene – from the episode Rose. And as for Amy having a “quantum baby”, well, I have no clue there. I disagree that River is Rory and Amy’s baby, especially since that would cause a paradox as seen in the episode Father’s Day. The rest is stuff that I have no idea for.
    Now for a question; what the hell is the Doctor doing with his screwdriver while River is owning the Silence? (By the way that scene earnt River my undying respect. If she shoots that good with a pistol, i would like to see her on a minigun =D )

  18. Well, Rory was an Auton (one of the Nestenes’ plastic automatons). But he isn’t any more, is he? As Quuxy pointed out in a comment on my review of The Big Bang, he says at the wedding “I was plastic”, past tense.

  19. weeping angel

    I’m pretty sure he still is an Auton, for his true self got sucked into the crack. The Nestene simply took his image from Amy’s memories and mind but somehow screwed up and ended up giving the Auton version of Rory the heart and personality of the real Rory. In other words, it was the perfect Rory clone, except it was made of plastic. And just because past tense was used it doesn’t mean it’s changed. Nonetheless I will admit that it is a good point, and I thank you for reminding me of the name Auton =)

  20. weeping angel: I think episode 3 pretty conclusively proves that Rory isn’t an Auton.

  21. weeping angel

    I havn’t seen episode 3 yet, I live in Australia, and so the episodes don’t show until Saturday nights after seen in UK. Sure, I could watch it off the internet, as I have done with almost all other episodes, but that spoils part of the thrill. I look foward to seeing it though.

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  23. slumlandlord

    The silence are extremely similar to the internet meme Slenderman. Tall elongated body. Mostly featureless face. Simple black suit. Memory problems with anyone who comes into contact with him. Electronic recording devices start to malfunction when he is close. Time and space disturbances.
    If you are patient (the series only gives tiny crumbs of information with each film) then turn off the lights and watch the Marble Hornets series.

    The human protagonist becomes becomes progressively paranoid till he records everythinan and keeps reviewing the film of himself to see what he has missed. Great low budget paranoid film making.
    A particular good point was the Doctors advice to Nixon to tape everything that happenend in the oval office, so setting up events in the Watergate scandal.
    The other SF meme that overlaps this is the FNORDS.

  24. And Jason wins the “psychic link with Moffatt” prize..

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