‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’ by Steven Moffat
‘Curse of the Black Spot’ by Stephen Thompson*
I’m not sure why people hate ‘Black Spot’ so much. It’s a perfectly serviceable episode. The Doctor lands, as he does, where something is wrong, but of course it turns out to be more complicated than he thought. Quality side characters learn things about themselves, and life, and no one actually dies. Of course it’s a bit silly; it’s Doctor Who, and also pirates. But the idea of ships becalmed in adjoining universes totally works. A medical program gone awry works. A ship captain who can captain any ship may be far fetched, but it works. They even use CPR more or less correctly. There’s pretty music, and exotic people, and a non-annoying child. Other than some (unavoidable at this point) Amy/Rory melodrama, I have no problem with this episode.
I have more trouble with the series opener. Partly because of River, I think; her being a criminal still bothers me. Also her backstory is inconsistent. If she and the Doctor are meeting each other exactly backwards as she says, then the last meeting she had with him as described in the Library makes no sense. That Doctor didn’t know her less than this one; he knew her better. He was older and wiser. So they’re not meeting in order, but they’re not meeting strictly backwards either. Basically, the character is a bit of a mess, and only works because of Alex Kingston’s spectacular delivery.
Or maybe it’s just a minor quibble, I don’t know.
I also had trouble with the disjointed storytelling. There’s a big dramatic scene at the end of ‘Astronaut,’ then suddenly at the start of ‘Moon’ three months have gone by. I don’t feel that the eventual payoff justified the gimmick: it built up drama that ended up not really being there. Again, it might just be me, but I didn’t like it. I think the investigation into the Silence could have been presented in a way that works and doesn’t rely on a fake-out. It’s one of Moffat’s weak moments; he is definitely capable of better.
I do love every moment of Mark Sheppard. I enjoyed the jabs at Americans. (Sometimes I desperately wish I were British instead.) And some of the stuff with the Silence was really, really scary. I don’t like the hijacking of the moon landing, and I don’t like the idea of every human being as a mass murderer. Matter of taste. I do like that there’s moon landing stuff in the ep, I just wish it was used differently. Human beings hypnotised to commit murder without their knowledge is icky – and also unlikely.
The Madame Kevorian stuff is actually bothering me a bit less than I thought it would. It builds up a nice season arc. The Doctor’s surreptitious body scans of Amy are a bit creepy, but again not as bad as I thought – she did tell him she thought she was pregnant, so he’s not just randomly scanning her all the time. That would be pretty gross. It’s not great that he does it without her knowledge, but it’s not as bad as it could be.
One item from ‘Black Spot’ did jump out at me: the Doctor’s reaction to ‘alien bogies.’ He’s an alien himself; why would he phrase it like that? Both Moffat and RTD do things to appeal a more juvenile side of themselves – farting aliens, belching bins – but Moffat does it with the Doctor’s character. He’s made him more a ten-year-old boy than any other Doctor. Not more childish, necessarily – plenty of Doctors have been childish – but that variety of childishness particular to human males. (Another example was the female mystery of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – ‘Are you supposed to talk to girls when they’re crying?’) Moffat is channeling himself, in a way that comes off as exclusive to boys. I think RTD’s vision was much more universal.
What do I know. Short version, I’m liking S6 better than I feared I might, but it’s still way not my favorite.
* Thompson is also responsible for ‘Journey to the Center of the TARDIS’ and some share of ‘Time Heist,’ as well as three episodes of Sherlock of varying and debatable quality. He’s also a former math teacher, and one of his students was reportedly one Stephen Willis, founder, arranger, and co-ordinator of the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra.