Arthur clearly likes Karen rather a lot.



TV Kerry Shale is one of life’s unsung actors. Like Stephen Tobolowsky he’s a character actor who’s never out of work but unlike Tobolowsky who’s had a fair few iconic roles in his career (Ned Ryerson, Werner Brandis, the forgetful guy in Momento), Shale’s always stayed on the fringes, and despite turning up in some prominent tv work, including Moffat’s own Joking Apart, he’s primarily called upon for voiceover work on the likes of Budgie: The Little Helicopter and the cgi abomination of Thomas The Tank Engine.

He’s also the king of audio books including the majority of The X-Files tie-in readings (despite never having appeared in an episode) so it was quite a pleasure to see him as the random oppressed stranger saying enigmatic things when Doctor Who paid homage to its US genre cousin. Dr. Renfrew is just the sort of desperate figure who doesn’t receive a happy ending in either show, so far gone that their function along with their bloody environment is simply to creep out the audience, a wide-eyed desperation that suits Shale’s style.

If such talk seems like I’m playing with the packaging and not the treats inside, it’s because appreciating such incidental pleasures will be the first casualty of the opinion war when The Day of the Moon with its gobsmacking, hopping on one foot pointing at the television screaming epilogue is discussed. I’ve already glanced at a couple of reviews and neither of them have seen fit to even mention Shale or his character even though they’re both vital in making us understand what The Silents are psychologically capable of.

Similarly Mark Sheppard’s laconic gay agenda nudging Canton Delaware one half of the Mulder/Scully dynamic in these terrifying haunted house sequences might not be recognised for the point of view character he is, orientating the audience outside of a TARDIS crew which has slipped ahead of us three months in terms of understanding, as Moffat boldly experiments with the temporal order of his narrative having already begun a narrative which resequences the temporal order of his characters. Luckily he’s rather smarter than Duggan in City of Death.

And so I think is the television audience. Rather like the politicians in the NO! campaign for AV in relation to counting from one to some other number under ten, professional tv reviewers this week have seriously underestimated the capability of the public to follow the twists and turns in the show’s sequence of events, some even suggesting that Doctor Who has lost the ability to tell a coherent story even though they were reviewing half of one and had no problem previously in suggesting that they should keep with something like The Wire because it’s a slow burn.

Well, this is Doctor Who as slow burn. As Doctor Who Magazine dvd reviewer and ex-editor Gary Gillatt tweeted earlier, this is just episode fifteen in a twenty-six part story which in terms of the Key To Time season means part three of The Androids of Tara which as episode threes often were, half an hour of running around hoping to bump into the cliffhanger. We know now what the aliens behind the cracks and the explosion of the TARDIS in the last run of episodes look like and that Amy's Schrodinger's pregnancy (that joke © a bunch of clever people on Twitter).

Plus there's the epic concept that the silent have been on Earth for thousands of years guiding the human race each of its scientific marvels a result of their nudging, rather like Scaroth times several dozen. Reminds me a lot of the revelation in Big Finish's Sixth Doctor and Charley arc that he's had an invisible friend floating around the TARDIS for the duration of the series. That the Silents own the FAUXDIS also explains why the Doctor failed to notice all of those deaths in The Lodger. He simply didn't remember.

But I’m getting ahead of myself because as well as the Canton device, Moffat keeps the audience orientated here by offering what at its heart is actually a pretty trad bit of Doctor Who. For all their other functions in the wider story, in The Day of the Moon, Moffat keeps The Silents very much in the alien of the week mould with the Doctor having already decided how to defeat them very early in the episode, the methodology unspooling like an episode of the unreal Hustle, a methodology for all its epic underpinnings that shows the Doctor himself learnt something from The Wire. No, the other one.

This is not a criticism. Big, cocky speeches from its Bafta award winning Time Lord centre are the franchises’s stock in trade as is the “broadcast something to defeat the enemy” trope. Perhaps his visit to the royal wedding this week was to make sure that it all went down without a hitch because as per some story soon to appear in Doctor Who Adventures, he’s using the tv coverage to battling a time travelling rogue element in the Forest of Cheem who’s trying to destroy the fleshy future of the human race by activating his ancestors incongruously planted in Westminster Abbey.

You know you want to Eddie Robson. Russell T Davies already did at the end of Torchwood’s Children of Earth. And Moffat himself a couple of times. Not to mention the classic series. At some point, some clever person will work their way through the whole series, perhaps the whole franchise and produce a taxonomy of story resolutions and find there are only about five. Which is another of my problems with professionals who suggest the tv series has run out of ideas because they’re clearly under the impression that’s why we love the series.

We love the series because it surprises us. Surprises us by employing the real moon footage as part of the plot or by creating NASA related elements that feel just right, feel indeed like Apollo 13, even if detaining of the Doctor in a lecture theatre is a bit of a hedge scratcher as is the fact that Nixon now seen more of the TARDIS interior than Churchill despite his slightly less admirable rep. We love that the cliché of American’s previous oblivious huddled around their televisions watching history is can be given a neat twist as they turn to fight a newly obvious interloper, regaining their grip on that history in the process.

Yet in the midst of all that, we love that this is still the Moffat who brought fairy tale scares back to the series, and stunning images like faces covered in tallys, doubly scary because they’re self inflicted, a physical approach to remembering the unmemorable. Employing a similar jump cut to the that used for the voting machine in The Beast Below, when the character forgets we remain in their point of view by not witnessing the events they’ve missed, piecing together their action just as they are like that Hangover film over and over again the hierarchy of knowledge forever fluctuating.

Yes, this is Moffat who even as far back as The Empty Child isn’t capable of writing a script with a simple conclusion, without some strands left dangling (two years?) and given the reigns of the series has taken it to the most obvious extremes. It’s not enough to Amy to become lost in the haunted house; she experiences strange images which generate still more questions. Who’s baby are you? Who was that terrible woman? When she’s snatched by The Silents and spirited away to the FAUXDIS did Amy spend all the time just strapped to the chair or …

At least we know that Rory does sort of remember his two thousand year wait and the depth of performance Arthur Darvill’s capable of. As I’d hoped more of the chemistry between he and Gillan seen in Confidential has seeped into the scripts and it’s rather poignant not mention realistic that no matter how much she says she loves him, he still can’t quite believe it. If you want my opinion (and lets face it you’ve read this far) I think some of their character’s relationship has soaked into their real world friendship. Watching this week’s Confidential, Arthur clearly likes Karen rather a lot. Bless. But then, don't we all?

Speaking of which, storywise, River had less to do this episode, leadership of the group dynamic having shifted back to the younger version of the Doctor for the duration and into the rest of the series. The already convoluted TARDIS Index File entry for the character will now require and extra dimensional supplement as we now have to cope with the fact that the version left in the Stormcage at the close of the episode has already had dozens of adventures with the future Doctor (including Billy the Fish & The Easter Island statues) and now shared her final kiss with the younger version.

I’ve suggested previously that Moffat’s running two separate narrative threads and that at some point in the future we’ll be able to watching all of the River stories in reverse order culminating in Forest of the Dead. Now I’m not so sure. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell at which point their time lines intersect since this version seems well aware of the Pandorica business even though if we’re taking things literally as backwards/forwards it should be in her future. Either way, her reaction to the kiss, impeccably played by Alex neatly demonstrates her fears and apparently hints at more complex issues.

All of which brings us back to the alleyway in New York and the little girl regenerating. There’s a universe of possibilities, from Jenny to any one of a number of other random femlords (let’s not forget when the Master was hidden away it was as a child – imagine if he’d opened the pocket watch at a much younger age) but because this is episode fifteen of a longer story it can’t be some random element it has to be locked into the story. Could my unlikely theory that River Song’s a Time Lord and Amy’s her mother be combined here somehow?

Professional journalists will hate all of this of course but us amateurs are also in a bit of a bind (explaining a little bit why this has all been a bit slapdash and haphazard) because we won’t properly know just how successful as a piece of art even this episode is until Moffat reveals his whole story or indeed how much of it was just in service of this week’s set of incidents, if we’re all just chasing a transparent dangling carrot or if in another eleven episodes we’ll be properly satisfied. It has to at least be better than The Armageddon Factor. "Men out there - young men - are dying for it." Including Canton apparently.

Next week: Shiver me timbers.

No comments:

Post a comment