By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | May 2, 2011 |
By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | May 2, 2011 |
“This world is ours. We have ruled it since the wheel and the fire. We have no need of weapons.”
Picking up not quite where we left off from the cliffhanger in “The Impossible Astronaut,” three months have passed. With a crew of armed federal minions at his side, Canton Everett Delaware III tracks down in succession across America Amy Pond, River Song, and Rory Williams, who have been on the run and have prominent tally marks scrawled on their arms. (Rory has applied the marker to his face as well.) Delaware shoots Amy and Rory and forces River into an apparent deadly dive from a New York skyscraper.
The Doctor is in federal custody. The months have given him a full beard, and he sits in chains, as the “perfect prison” composed of zero-balance dwarf star alloy (the “densest material in the universe”) is built around him by federal employees acting under the influence of the creatures that we will soon officially find out are called “The Silence.”
As the prison is completed, Delaware drags in the body-bagged bodies of Rory and Amy and seals the prison door behind him with The Doctor inside. Not a single particle or radio wave can penetrate the material, which gives Delaware the opportunity to reveal that his villainy is a ruse. Amy and Rory, done playing dead, emerge from the body bags. The Doctor throws off his chains and straitjacket and swings open the door of the cloaked TARDIS that — unknown to the Silence — has been locked in the prison as well. Their first jaunt is a quick trip to New York so that they can neatly catch River plummeting in a perfect swan dive through the open door of the TARDIS and into the swimming pool. (We see the splash overflow from the doors, but, alas, the TARDIS’ famous leisure amenity remains a visual mystery.)
Back in the TARDIS, The Doctor has ditched the beard. (Is there an electronic razor in that sonic screwdriver too?) Amy privately informs The Doctor that she was mistaken about her pregnancy, and the gang fully briefs Delaware about The Silence. I am not entirely certain of the logistics that would have allowed Delaware to remain loyal to The Doctor over these months and safely trap the companions without actually killing them, but Delaware is a good guy who was immediately impressed by The Doctor and the TARDIS, so I’ll file it under suspension of disbelief.
The Silence have been dwelling on Earth and influencing humanity throughout history, using the people’s inability to remember them as a method for a sort of post-hypnotic suggestion that has controlled the course of human civilization. The Doctor implants speakers with message lights into the hands of the whole group that are telepathically wired to the speech centers of their brains, so that any future encounters with the creatures can be verbally documented and then recalled afterward thanks to the blinking reminder. The more primitive method of using a marker to count the number of Silence on your own skin is also handy.
While The Doctor travels to the Apollo 11 rocket to initiate his Silence-thwarting plan, Delaware and Amy investigate a spooky, all-but-abandoned orphanage that seems to be the source of the little girl in the spacesuit. The mind of the orphanage’s superintendent has been scrambled by repeated contact with the Silence, as the children are all gone, but he is still trying to run business as usual in spite of the foreboding scrawling that covers the walls, presumably left by the terrified former occupants. Amy splits off to explore while Delaware interviews the doddering supervisor.
At the Apollo 11 site, NASA officials apprehend The Doctor while he is outfitting the tip of the rocket with a modification. River and Rory, decked out in 1969 attire, bail him out by bringing President Nixon to attest to The Doctor’s work on top secret American business. (Yes, President Richard Nixon took a ride on the TARDIS.) They then return Nixon to the Oval Office, and The Doctor reaffirms the President trusts him.
Amy finds a room with multiple Silence that are sleeping while hanging from the ceiling like bats. With the aid of her blinking recorder and several tally marks she leaves on her face, she retreats to another room in the orphanage. She is beckoned to this particular room by a face peering through a window in the door that promptly disappears. The woman wore what seemed to be a metallic eyepatch and said, “No, I think she’s just dreaming.” When Amy enters the room, it is empty of people. Inside, she finds what appears to be a series of photos of either herself as a little girl or her yet-to-be-born daughter, culminating in a photo of herself holding a baby.
Meanwhile, Delaware encounters a member of the Silence trying to pull the supervisor’s strings, and upon being told by the creature that it has no need for weapons, Delaware shoots it.
The foreboding spacesuit shows up again in the room with Amy, and the mysterious little girl is once again revealed to be inside asking for help. Amy apologizes for shooting her; the helmet has a hole in it, but it would appear that she missed the little girl. Then the Silence enter the room as well. Amy screams for help.
Delaware rushes to help Amy, but the door is locked. The Doctor, River, and Rory show up to give the door the old sonic screwdriver treatment. Inside they find the now empty spacesuit. They are unaware that the freed little girl hides outside in the hall. The only trace of Amy is her hand implant, left behind in the room and still transmitting her voice in present time. Rory assures her that he will save her, but it is a one-way transmission, so she is unable to hear him.
They drop Delaware and President Nixon off in the dwarf-star prison container with the wounded member of the Silence. (Idea for a short film: What takes place during President Nixon’s two trips on the TARDIS?) The guards are confused as to what Delaware could have been doing in the prison for so long, but the Presidential authority assuages their concern. Delaware discreetly calls in a medical doctor to tend to the creature’s wounds; the doctor forgets about the aid as soon as he is done. The creature taunts Delaware, telling him that he is foolish to help it, and that if humans knew what was best for them, they would kill the Silence on sight. Under The Doctor’s instructions, Delaware conveniently records this advice on a videophone.
The Doctor and River work on dissecting the spacesuit to ascertain its significance. It is loaded with alien technology and is the perfect life-support device for its occupant, who would not even require any outside nourishment to survive. The suit self-repairs and might not even require an occupant to operate. The Doctor posits that humanity’s space program was nothing but a side effect of the Silence’s plot to obtain a spacesuit. They also learn that whatever broke out of the spacesuit used superhuman strength to do so.
Rory disconsolately listens to Amy’s broadcast from wherever the Silence are holding her prisoner, and it would seem that she is declaring her love for The Doctor as opposed to him. (This again? At this point I assumed that the Silence were manipulating her somehow to attempt to turn Rory against The Doctor.) The heartbroken Rory and The Doctor share something that resembles a heart-to-heart conversation, in which Rory reveals that he can still remember waiting for Amy for those 2000 years in that alternate universe by opening “a door in his head.”
With The Doctor’s big plan to defeat the Silence ready to roll, he tracks the signal on Amy’s transmitter back to the TARDIS-like console room we saw in the Silence’s underground lair. The Doctor plops a ready-to-broadcast television down on the console, River covers the room filled with Silence with her gun, and Rory rushes over to the bound Amy. All make sure to keep eyes on the Silence to prevent forgetting. The Doctor and River trade fun, sexy, flirty banter. Smith delivers one of those fun Moffat monologues that taunts the Silence and leads up to the big reveal, which is Delaware transmitting his video of the Silence encouraging humans to kill them right in the middle of Neil Armstrong’s small step on the lunar surface. It is an image that will be watched over and over by people the world over; though people would immediately forget the Silence once the image was out of their sight, it would gradually give people the impetus to kill the unarmed Silence that are always lurking around the corner. As the image is first broadcast, we see the beginnings of humans spotting the Silence and slaying them.
Of course, even if the Silence technically use no weapons, they still have that electrical power that can kill people. There are bound to be human fatalities. The Doctor’s solution is elegant from the simplest narrative standpoint, but it seems to me this revolution could not possibly have stayed completely hidden in the history books.
Once the Silence in the console room realize what The Doctor has done, they do attack with that electrical power, and the companions make a hasty retreat, with The Doctor using the sonic screwdriver to deactivate electronics from which they draw their power and River doing the more grisly work of adeptly shooting them dead.
Rory discovers that Amy was talking about him and not The Doctor through the transmitter, using the figure of speech “dropped out of the sky” to describe Rory’s entrance into her life. It was an effective bit of misdirection, given that River had just referred to The Doctor as having “dropped out of the sky” when telling Rory about their first meeting. Thank goodness we averted that, and I hope that we have seen the last of that uncomfortable triangle.
Back at the White House, President Nixon thanks The Doctor and asks for insight into his own future. The Doctor dodges the question posed by “Tricky Dicky,” assures him that he will never be forgotten, and asks him to say ‘hello’ to David Frost. He also encourages Nixon to give Delaware a break and let him marry whom he likes. We discover that although Nixon is a little more liberal than we might believe, he deems same-sex marriage a frontier even more distant than the moon landing. (Sorry, Delaware, but forty-two years later America is shamefully still not there.)
The Doctor drops River Song off at Stormcage prison, and she insists on a farewell kiss, which The Doctor handles completely awkwardly. The kiss is his first with her, and as such she realizes that for her it is the last. It’s another well-acted moment for the both of them that reinforces the poignancy and tragedy of River Song’s story.
On the TARDIS, The Doctor asks Amy why she told him about the pregnancy and not Rory. Amy says that The Doctor is her best friend, and that she is concerned that all her journeys through time might have an adverse effect on any child of hers (e.g., it could be born with a “time head”). Rory is listening in on the transmitter, and Amy busts him for eavesdropping.
The Doctor says that they should track down the mysterious little girl, or they could go on a more generic adventure. He opts for the latter and also uses the TARDIS to surreptitiously scan Amy for signs of pregnancy. The reading is confusing, as it toggles between positive and negative. There is a paradox in Amy’s womb.
The coda: Six months after the moon landing, the little girl coughs and stumbles through a New York alley. She assures a concerned man that although she is dying, everything is fine, because she is able to regenerate. The man flees in response to her strange power. We end on the image of her face and arms erupting light, in the same manner that Eccleston’s and Tennant’s Doctors did.
It was a fun conclusion in my opinion. I was a little disappointed we did not receive more answers to the big questions remaining in Moffat’s mythos. Who is the little girl? Who shot The Doctor? Why is River in prison? Is Amy pregnant or not? It would seem that we will be dragging this out for at least half the season if not the entire thing, and we will be revisiting that deadly picnic that opened the season.
My Doctor Who viewing circle and I discussed the many possible guesses for those big questions. We also spent far too long discussing the significance of the “Jim The Fish” diary-matching conversation from part one. If diaries must be checked, this would imply that encounters between River and The Doctor are not simply “back to front.” In the middle, their graphed meetings must resemble a scatter plot instead of a straight line. That is, in the middle of their meetings, the next time The Doctor sees River would not always be the immediately previous time that she saw him. Otherwise, there would be no need to check diaries at all. As such, we concluded that the next time The Doctor sees River could not be the immediately previous she saw him. Otherwise, they would not still be checking diaries during that first meeting in the diner. (Does that make sense?)
Adding together the facts that the astronaut is coined “impossible,” that Amy views photos of herself apparently with her own daughter just before encountering the little girl in the spacesuit, and that her pregnancy simultaneously exists and does not exist per the TARDIS readout (i.e., it’s “impossible”), I lean strongly toward the opinion that the little girl is her daughter and was likely in that spacesuit when the trigger was pulled. If that is the case, is the little girl’s regeneration something akin to Amy’s feared “time head” side effect on her pregnancy? If a “time head” is as laughable as The Doctor treated the concept, then this might contradict the possibility. Is the little girl not related to Amy at all and simply a lost Time Lady? Did the Silence implant The Doctor’s DNA in Amy as a pregnancy experiment to produce this little girl with both human and Time Lord characteristics?
Of course, given that River is in prison for killing the best man she ever knew, this also seems to be strong evidence that River is the one in the spacesuit that shoots The Doctor.
The Silence evidently are not completely vanquished if one of them was surveying the scene of The Doctor’s death. We saw in the Pandorica plot that the Silence want to see the destruction of the universe; perhaps a paradox involving The Doctor is their endgame. If The Doctor avoids tampering with the paradox and maintains the closed time loop, he must die at the hand of the spacesuit. With The Doctor out of the way, the Silence can do as they please. If The Doctor prevents his own death, he risks unraveling and destroying the universe himself. These would seem mitigating circumstances for the person that pulls that trigger, whoever he or she is, and it would explain why The Doctor is so understanding and reassuring to the shooter.
And who was that lady with the metallic eyepatch that Amy saw?
I do not know. My brain hurts trying to make sense of all this. Until next week, my Whovian friends …
C. Robert Dimitri equates spoilers with brute force and cynicism. Stay true to the intellect and romantic spirit of The Doctor by remaining spoiler-free.