I’m not sure what annoys me more about the Ponds: is it Rory’s lack of self-confidence, or is it Amy giving him reasons to doubt himself all the time? I wish he had more backbone and conviction and faith, and I wish she wasn’t mean. And here’s a big reason why the series stopped catching fire with me around this time. There are some companions I like more than others, and I don’t like these two. Imagine you and your spouse going to dinner with them. Check, please.
But I have a bigger difficulty embracing this story, and the sixth series in general. It feels like giant swaths of it were left on the cutting room floor, including the characters’ emotional reactions to things. This will soon become a massive disappointment in later stories like “Let’s Kill Hitler” and especially in both “Deep Breath” and “Into the Dalek,” where Steven Moffat starts trusting that the audience is going to intellectually understand how these puzzles work out without spelling things out for the crowd. But strangely, no matter how much I might enjoy reading between the lines and putting things in sequence, I like the payoff onscreen even more. This is something I’ll come back to when it’s more disappointing, but the problem first appears here, where talk and connection are sacrificed in favor of plot surprises and action.
A couple of years before this was shown, DC Comics published one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever read. Grant Morrison had been one of my favorite comic writers for many years, mastering cliffhangers better than anybody else in the business and inspiring a legion of also-ran imitators in the process. Some of his DC superhero stuff had been bubbling away out of sight for many years until the publication of Final Crisis in 2008-09.
Like almost all of these asinine crossover “events” from DC and Marvel, a full understanding of the story typically requires purchasing dozens of tie-in issues and related mini-series, and you can’t ever trust a collected edition, because usually – as was the case with Morrison’s genuinely excellent One Million in 1998 – the book version will delete one of the sixty-eleven tie-in issues which you need to read to make sense of each plot point. But Final Crisis was especially egregious because Morrison – apparently by this time too powerful for an editor to tie down – elected to tell the story in a deliberately fractured way, keeping events offscreen as though this epic story was on every television channel and reading each episode was like tuning into one network for a scene until you lost interest and then flipping around to find a fight scene. It was bold, daring, challenging, and also utterly impenetrable and incoherent. After the first issue, I put each subsequent one down having no idea what I’d read.
“Day of the Moon” feels a lot like that, and it’s not the only time this year, either.
At least “Day of the Moon” contains the triumphantly frightening orphanage scene, but even it is frustrating because the most interesting thing about it is that there is an amnesiac caretaker called Dr. Renfrew who has alternately been painting messages like “Get out” and “Leave me alone” on the walls and then, forgetting about the Silence, painstakingly trying to clean up after himself having no idea what year it is. This character vanishes completely from the story. Everybody was so concerned about the visuals being spooky and creepy and scary that they created something genuinely horrifying without even realizing it. This poor guy’s story is a thousand times scarier than the Silence hanging like bats from the ceiling.
It ends with something that’s just badly ill-advised for me. Did the Doctor pause, or stop to think at all, anywhere, about whether he should give the entire human race a post-hypnotic suggestion to attack and kill the Silence on sight? That bothers me tremendously. The big laser-gun shootout in the Silence’s time machine – a very interesting tie-in to last season’s “The Lodger” – seems to mark an ugly, ugly first for the show: giving a companion license to mow down a lot of alien baddies with shots to the chest. I liked it better when the Doctor told Leela not to use any more Janis thorns, ever. Maybe this would have felt better to me if the program was breathing and letting the characters talk more, and just explain things. But as we’ll see, this is the year the show doesn’t want to do that.