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Dark Side Of The Moon

May 4th, 2011

The second half of the season opener of Doctor Who–the charmingly-titled “Day of the Moon”–aired this past weekend on BBC(ohgodsomanycommercials)America. I wish that I could say that I was thoroughly satisfied by the conclusion.

As I suggested last week, showrunner and screenwriter Steven Moffat has not only embraced the season-long story arcs that previous producer Russell T. Davies toyed with, but is currently fornicating with them behind the shed. So, while we had a wrap-up of sorts in which the aliens known as the Silence were booted off Earth by Neil Armstrong’s foot, there’s still a lot of stuff left unexplained. (BIG SPOILERS!) Who killed the future Doctor? Who is the unearthly child, and how is it that she can regenerate? Why did the Silence blow up the TARDIS last year?¬†Does Amy being simultaneously pregnant and not-pregnant mean that she’s going to give birth to Erwin Schr√∂dinger?

The admittedly clever climax of "Day of the Moon."

And just as most of the previous year’s stories served as components of a complicated puzzle box, “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon” can’t be fully appreciated on their own. I’m not sure that I care for this.

Classic Who dabbled in story arcs long before they became fashionable, but most of them were loosely-connected strings of adventures. The six parts of Fourth Doctor’s year-long quest for the Key to Time largely stood alone, with only the inevitable reveal of the disguised Key segment to link them. The one exception was the fourteen-episode “Trial of a Time Lord” season, and that was frankly a hot mess.

The problem as I see it is that Doctor Who remains, first and foremost, a kids’ show. That doesn’t mean that it has to be stupid, but it should be accessible. I can’t imagine the average eight-year-old being able to keep this plot straight.

At this point I’ll use my wife Vicky as an example. Not because she’s eight, but because she’s coming at it with only a casual interest. She hated classic Who, and while she acknowledged that the new series was a vast improvement, it wasn’t until last week that she voluntarily sat down to watch it with me. Now, Vicky is far past first principles when it comes to Doctor Who; she knows about Time Lords and regeneration and “bigger on the inside.” But I found myself having to explain huge chunks of backstory about River Song and the Silence. In the end, she generally enjoyed the episodes–laughing at all the right places–but she was confused by the plot. (Keep in mind that she made it through all six seasons of Lost, including the time-travel stuff.)

I could put forward a bunch of theories about what’s up with the Silence and how I think they may be trying to genetically engineer a new race of Time Lords subservient to their will. (The TARDIS knockoff from last season’s “The Lodger” put in another appearance as the Silence control room.) But honestly, I know that I have next to no chance of sussing out Steven Moffat’s 17-tumbler lock ahead of time.

This week’s show looks to be a romp about pirates. Good. I hope that’s all that it is.

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