Monday, 6 May 2013

The Promise vs the Reality 5

Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

Day of the Moon is the second part of a two-part story that began with The Impossible Astronaut, and together they make up the first story of season 32. Previously when I have looked at two-part stories in 'Promise vs Reality' they have come from the end of their seasons, usually having been built up towards throughout a season-long story arc. So Day of the Moon is different in that it only has one preceding episode for this build up to happen in.

Immediately prior to the trailer, The Impossible Astronaut ended on a cliffhanger of Amy shooting a little manny in a spacesuit. This was an odd cliffhanger to say the least, relying on intriguing the audience with a "WTF?" moment rather than the usual having characters in peril. Still, this was hardly the first time that this had happened in Doctor Who, with even the great Terry Nation making use of this technique sometimes.

So, with the audience left puzzling over what could possibly happen next, here's the trailer:

It starts with it looking as though the little manny is going to be alright. Amy says "I didn't mean to shoot you," so that's that cleared up. Wait, no it isn't.

A rocket is about to take off into space. Space travel is intrinsically interesting and exciting (and scary) to cats, so its presence here in the trailer seems designed to distract us from the plight of the little manny and onwards to other things that will be coming up next time.

"Do not approach the prisoner," says a sign. Mannys are approaching a prisoner.
No, it's not Number 6, it's the Doctor in a beard - suggesting that he will get captured by some baddys.

The trailer cuts to River Sue being menaced by some aliens while Rory gives some exposition:
"They are everywhere. It's like they edit themselves out of your memory as soon as you look away."
This power evidently doesn't work on cats, because I can still remember River Sue when I look away from her.

A manny with a gun (Canton Everett Delaware III, whose name sounds like it belongs to a Shakespeare king) and Amy are in a scary blue house, then Rory and Amy are running through some countryside. It looks as though they are being chased by mannys with guns. Maybe this is supposed to be exciting, but what does it have to do with space rockets?

A manny's voice counts down the last 5 seconds of the trailer, and we see Amy is back in the scary blue house with writing on her face. She screams, which has the effect of making the end of the trailer seem more like a cliffhanger than the cliffhanger itself.

While it is a bit confusing and hard to make sense of, the trailer does give the overall impression of the next episode being exciting, what with the Doctor being captured and his Companions being alternately chased and in a scary house (which is very blue). But perhaps the most puzzling aspect to the trailer is how little it seems to relate to the situation that The Impossible Astronaut left us in.

In The Sound of Drums the complete lack of reference to the cliffhanger of Utopia was clever, with no hint as to how that would resolve. Here, the trailer picks up where the cliffhanger left off for its first few seconds, and then moves on without anything to bridge one scenario (little manny being shot at by Amy) to the other (chases and captures and scary blueness). The trailer not giving us an explanation is fine - that's not what trailers are for - but it makes us want to demand an answer when we reach the episode itself.

So, what did Day of the Moon end up being like after all that?

This caption, saying "3 MONTHS LATER," is one of the biggest cheats in Doctor Who. With it, we skip forward 3 months into a completely different scenario than the one we left the characters in. Because this is virtually the first thing that happens in the episode, coming right after a recap of The Impossible Astronaut's key points.

And, while there is a flashback later in the episode, there is never a point at which the join is properly made. To that extent, Day of the Moon may as well be a separate story from The Impossible Astronaut, one that starts in media res. Even the "ONE YEAR LATER" of Last of the Time Lords doesn't feel as much of a cheat as this (though that is at least in part because that story was already broken). To illustrate...


When the Monkeys With Badges finish making their spaceship, I will be able to go into space. I imagine it will look a bit like this:

Sadly, they have not been making much progress with the spaceship recently, even though they now have Chu Chu to help them. Now that I think about it, maybe Chu Chu's help is counterproductive, since he is a cheeky monkey.

Given how much emphasis the trailer puts on showing the Doctor being captured and his Companions being chased, it is disappointing to find out that this is an overly-elaborate ruse to make the aliens think the Doctor has been captured.

While the Doctor pulling off such a plan is exactly the sort of thing that you would expect to see in Doctor Who, when taken in combination with the time-skip cheat it feels like yet another cheat for the episode when compared with the trailer: the trailer shows the Doctor is a prisoner, so it asks the questions "how does he get captured?" (since he was certainly not a prisoner at the end of the preceding part, we have an expectation that we will see him go from one state to the other) and "how does he escape?" The eventual answers to both of these can only let us down.

If you can take the episode in isolation, Day of the Moon is not a bad story, with some clever moments such as the way the Doctor defeats the aliens, but when compared to its own trailer or taking it - as we ought to - as being the second half of a two-part story, it is just a horrible cheat.

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