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Doctor Who: Day of the Moon - The Ex-Communicator

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April 30th, 2011

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11:28 pm - Doctor Who: Day of the Moon
I often say that the key to good TV writing is to maximise the carrying capacity. You get as much content as possible into the viewer's brain, using just a moving square of light with sound. There are many different ways to do it but one way is tight plotting, and efficiently conveying information, so the story bounds along without any longeurs. Criminal Intent before the opening credits provides a very good example of compact and efficient story-telling, conveying a murder mystery and several distinct characters in three or four quick scenes.

Anyway, the first sequence of The Day of the Moon, shown today, was another very good example. I honestly can not remember a crisper tighter bit of storytelling in modern Who.

So, for about a minute I didn't understand what was going on, but it was possible to hold in mind everything that was happening: people scribbling on their bodies, Canton shooting the companions, the Silence are everywhere, the Tardis crew have worked it out and - and the scribbling is how they keep track - and the shootings were fakes - and it all fell together very rapidly. I was slightly disappointed that after the opening credits there was a bit of talky explanation, because I had been pleased that they didn't need to explain what we had just seen. I suppose for the kids though.

This episode showed very effective storytelling, going at a much faster pace than usual. The script was crisp and neat, while the structure and the plot were complex - this is the perfect way round - tell a complex story in a sharp way. I was impressed. It assumed an intelligent audience, and expected you to keep up.

I could have done without the shoot-em-up resolution: I think it's a good discipline to keep reliance on ordnance to a minimum, and that discipline also distinguishes this show from the run of the mill. People will say there's been shooting before - well, no doubt, but I would prefer none.

(Obviously I don't mind TV gunfighting in general, I just think the aesthetic of Who is a distinct one, and works better without resorting to this type of scene)

There are a lot of explanations still to come. I have no idea who the female Travis was, peeking through a window which then disappeared, she said something like 'She's still dreaming' - but that could be fun to find out.

Best script I've seen so far for this Doctor. I think Moffat is at the top of his game, and he doesn't care who knows it.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 07:51 am (UTC)
The gunfight scene was interesting, particularly when you look at it in the context of Davros ranting at the Doctor about claiming to be a pacifist but using other people as weapons. In this scene he quite explicitly acknowledges that he doesn't use guns himself but that in extremis he's prepared to use other people's guns. I agree with you about keeping the guns out, but I think that scene was a very deliberate use of guns.

And I think it's also there to say something about River Song. Eventually we're going to find out what she is and did to have a Dalek terrified and pleading for mercy when she told it who she was, and my feeling watching that scene was that it's part of that story arc.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
Yes, that's a good point on River's development.

I am slightly worried that this season so far seems to be an outreach to the Americans. Sorry - to be clear - I am not worried about outreach to new markets, I am just worried if they feel they have to be more friendly to shooting, to appeal to Americans. In fact, in commercial terms, I think they'd be better off preserving the distinctive feel of the show, rather than becoming more mainstream.

Edited at 2011-05-01 07:58 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 08:18 am (UTC)
Given that the actual machanism of the resolution to the alien menace was quite subtle and intellectual, I'm somehow prepared to fogive the fact that the entire human race was incited to murder.

Also I thought all the "I'm an american" but re guns was satirical.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 08:20 am (UTC)
Also also, in execution if not in concept, this two-parter has possibly the least 'mainstream' commercial feel Who has had in some time.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
Yes, I think it was satirical, which I liked but then the resolution slightly undermined that stance.

Also, how would non-Americans go about killing the aliens on sight? With knives? We aren't tooled up for killing.

This does not undermine my great appreciation of this episode, but I just don't want it to be a precursor of a new way of fighting.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
I think if they were aiming to take it in a direction more appealing to the mainstream US, we would not have had that bit at the end comparing gay marriage rights to the state of interracial marriage in 1969.

Which was an interesting thing in more way than one. There's that comment from River near the start of the two-parter about remembering that there was good in amongst the bad of Nixon's time in office -- and they left it until that scene to gently point out that one of the good things Nixon did was support for the civil rights movement.

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