This week ...
Amy, Rory and River are keeping a secret from the Doctor ... they have just watched his older self die at the hands of a mysterious astronaut. All they will tell him is that they must go to America in 1969 where President Nixon enlists their help in saving a little girl. But from who, or what? By the end of this week's episode it's fair to say we're not really any the wiser, but boy can we not wait till next week to find out!
What's right with it?
The pre-credit sequence is visually astounding and pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the episode: big is beautiful. In these opening scenes River, of course, steals the show. Throwing yourself off a skyscraper in a gold evening dress and living to tell the tale requires a certain something which Dr Song has in droves.To my mind she's one of the top TV heroines of today and deserves to be long remembered.
With the Tardis crew safe from the clutches of the FBI we get down to the business of seeing off this week's nasty, the Silence. The idea of our heroes not being able to remember them and so marking a tally on the skin every time one of the creatures is seen was a lovely nod to Christopher Nolan's Memento. Similarly, the creepy children’s home paid homage to The Orphanage, with an unsettling performance from Kerry Shale as the demented Dr Renfrew.
Indeed, this episode was packed with excellent turns. Arthur Darvill again delivers a lovely performance as Rory, the scenes where he listened to Amy call out for the Doctor and not him were heartbreaking - seriously, can someone give this man a hug? Karen Gillan was given plenty to do this week and rose to the challenge. Amy finding the picture of her with a baby in the little girls room was a neat twist and one that toyed with the ongoing question: is she pregnant or not? The cliff-hanger of the little girl beginning to regenerate also calls into question who her father might be... Oh Doctor, what have you been up to, naughty man?
Speaking of the Doctor, Matt Smith continues to prove he is a natural for this role. Through all the larking about with Nasa staff we get a clear sense of a razor sharp mind. Using the moon landing broadcast to plant a subconscious reaction for all of humanity to destroy the Silence on sight was played out masterfully but with a lightness of touch. This Doctor demonstrably enjoys saving the universe from bad guys and is once again an utter joy to watch. Sorry, David who?
What's wrong with it?
There are times when ambitious storytelling treads a fine line between complex genius that ultimately rewards and loosing your audience in unexplained mysteries. There were definitely a few moments while watching this episode that there was a risk of falling into the latter camp with a lot of questions that remained unanswered. Who is the mysterious girl? Will the Doctor still die at the hands of the Astronaut? Who was that cryptic woman with the silver eye patch? And have we really seen the last of the Silence? The group that we met in the faux Tardis were dispatched by River with panache, but given the build up to their introduction surely that can't be the end of their story? Also, have they done something to Amy? The way the Doctor kept on asking her if she was alright threw up red flags for this viewer at least.
As the credits rolled I felt just enough closure was given to this story with other threads to be picked up on later this year, but only just. A lack of payoff can feel very unsatisfying, so watch your step with the long game Moffatt, I want some answers to these questions and soon please. Finally, isn't the Tardis rubbish at doing pregnancy tests? Positive, negative, which is it? I reckon Rory and the Doctor should stump up the £7.67 between them, send Amy down to Boots for a Clearblue and get this settled once and for all.
As we have seen over the last year, the eleventh Doctor is a man who often keeps things from his friends... for their own good of course! As River once said, 'rule one, the Doctor lies'. This isn't a new personality trait and in the late 1980's the production team of the day sought to explore the devious side of the seventh Doctor. Sylvester McCoy's 1989 adventure Ghost Light is an excellent example of this new approach. The Tardis team arrive in a sinister Victorian house full of secrets which has a profound impact on the Doctor's companion Ace. But why has he brought her here and what is waiting for them in the cellar? Like Day of the Moon, Ghost Light requires several viewings to pick up all the clues that lead to the finale, even if the Doctor's motives beyond that remain unclear.
The bottom line
A qualified success that is pacey and stylish but doesn't tie up many of the loose ends from The Impossible Astronaut. This indicates an ongoing story arc will run through the rest of this series - a brave move on the part of Steven Moffatt and his team, but one which has the potential to be terrific fun and a huge success. Good luck all concerned. So roll on next week for Hugh Bonneville and Lily Cole in pirate themed episode, The Curse of the Black Spot!