With “The Impossible Astronaut,” Steven Moffat gave us a Doctor Who episode that was thrillingly entertaining, but only served to raise more questions. With “Day of the Moon,” he manages to craft an even more thrilling and much more satisfying story, while also crafting new, epic implications for the rest of the season.
SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this review may contain “The Impossible Astronaut” spoilers. If you haven’t seen the season premiere yet, you might want to consider saving this until you have.
“The Impossible Astronaut” saw the death of The Doctor‘s future self, the secret of that death being kept from The Doctor’s present self by Amy Pond, Rory Williams and River Song, and ended with Amy firing a bullet at the spaceman the killed The Doctor, only to see at the last moment that inside the spacesuit is a little girl.
“Day of the Moon” opens three months later, in July 1969. The Doctor is in chains at Area 51 as Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) and a team of government operatives construct an impenetrable prison for him. Amy’s on the run in Utah, Rory in Arizona, and River in New York, each of them covered with tally marks to indicate each time they’ve seen a member of the mysterious alien race that appeared in “The Impossible Astronaut.” They now know that the creatures are more than just a new arrival on our planet. They’ve been here for ages, building an empire behind our backs, knowing that every time we turn away, we forget they ever existed. Only know, The Doctor and his cohorts know they exist, and The Doctor has plan to break out of his containment and stop them, using the Apollo 11 Moon Landing as his weapon.
How the moon landing will serve as a weapon to destroy the creatures, why there was a little girl in that spacesuit and numerous other questions hang in the balance of “Day of the Moon,” and some of them aren’t resolved even as the episode ends. It’s more than just the conclusion of a two-part Doctor Who story. “Day of the Moon” moves pieces of the puzzle into place that will ring down through everything that happens in Doctor Who this year, including some things that, if they come to fruition, have never been done before.
Though it arguably contains more mystery than resolution, “Day of the Moon” does manage to satisfy our need to watch The Doctor go off and fight monsters again. Matt Smith is once again delightfully manic, even in the face of the absolute darkness his team seems to be facing, and much of the older humor that’s characteristic of The Doctor and his team in crisis mode creeps back into this story. It’s plainly filled with hooks to keep us watching throughout the year, but “Day of the Moon” is also something else: a Doctor Who story that’s simply fun to watch.
Moffat continues to retain his inventiveness, setting up the kind of beautifully weird imagery that made us love him in episodes like “Blink” and “The Empty Child.” But watching him work here in “Day of the Moon” is more than just oddball fun. He’s building something, something big, and some of the things that transpire in this episode, particularly its ending, will stay with diehard fans for days.
Even though it carries some portion of the satisfaction that comes with a completely resolved story, “Day of the Moon” is not really a resolution…to anything. You can call it the end of a two-part storyline, but it’s really just the end of a two-part phase of a much bigger storyline, a storyline that we’re going to spend months following. That doesn’t stop it from being so much fun that you’ll want to watch it all over again as soon as its finished.