April 30th, 2011
|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.
I honestly can not remember a crisper tighter bit of storytelling in modern Who.
I think that's going a bit far. How does Canton fake Amy and Rory's deaths in front of other agents and The Silence? How long do Amy and Rory spend in the body bags before Canton opens them in the Doctor's cell - especially given that he tracks River down in the interim and construction of the cell has only started when Amy is captured? For that matter, who provided the technology for the cell? Most of all, why is it so important that the five characters hide themselves and their actions from The Silence when their first move after locking themselves in the cell is to venture right back into the world and The Silence's line of sight? I don't see what those three months on the run bought them or why they were necessary.
I found this scene, and the episode in general, rather derivative. Last season's finale did a better and slightly more coherent job with very similar material - for example, the impregnable cell in that story brings its occupant back from the dead, so there's no awkward interlude where a living person needs to fake death so persuasively as to forgo food, water, bathroom breaks and possibly oxygen, as Amy and Rory do here.
Yes, those are valid objections: what I meant was that the story was conveyed very effectively by means of what was shown on the screen, rather than the quality of the story itself.
The overall story was pretty threadbare in places, but the way it was conveyed to us was skilful.
I see what you mean, but that's actually a big part of the reason that Moffat's Who has left me so cold - it seems, increasingly, to be nothing but empty showmanship. I think the sequence you highlight here is a prime example. It's very ably conveyed, but it has no meaning - as I said above, there's no point to the characters' actions and the episode itself belies the significance it claims for them as soon as it does so - except to show off how ably Moffat can convey a story. Which was fine, and a lot of fun, five years ago when both the concept and its building blocks were fresh, but nowadays I find it rather tedious.