Last night, we had a moment that would never end, a love that would destroy space-time and a question that must never be asked.
But was it any good?
(okay, that just sounds gay when I say it...)
On the day the Doctor is supposed to die, time is out of sorts. Pterodactls and Mini Coopers share the skies, Roman centurions roam the streets and Merideth Viera announces that Holy Roman Emporer Churchill arrived on his personal mammoth. Time is broken, and a bearded Doctor is kept prisoner in the Tower of London.
A little while ago...
The Doctor has decided that he's not just going to lie around and just die. He's tracking the silence, and the weakest link. He tracks down the Tesselecta (the transforming, time travelling robot manned by tiny people), an operative of the Silence (and a deadly chess match) and our old friend the Blue Mercenary (in head-only form, thanks to the Headless Monks). He also encounters the leftovers of the Monks (apparently the heads don't die), and they're hungry.
He learns a bit more of his fate, and tries to ring up Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as another stop on his "Farewell Tour". Lethbridge-Stewart has died, and the Doctor now realizes that his time has come.
The Doctor continues to relate this story to H.R.E. Churchill, and as they talk, familiar gate tallies are appearing on the Doctor's forearms. The Silence are after them, and they are experiencing the discontinuity that follows the Silence. A grenade appears, 'Pond, Amy Pond' strides through the smoke with soldiers, wearing a familiar eyepatch. She raises a gun and fires...
He awakens in an office on a train. The Doctor tries to explain their history- she already knows most of it, though. The time loop has caused an odd alternate timeline. The eypatches are eye-drives, external memory units that allow people to remember the Silence. The Silence's human servants use them in order to be able to work with them.
They travel by train to Cairo, where over 100 Silence are held captive in Area 52 (otherwise known as the Great Pyramid at Giza). He meets Rory, ever the anonymous loyal soldier, and River Song. She has done this because she can't kill the man she loves; however if they touch, the time differential will close and time will go on, the Doctor will not.
The captured Silence are right where they wanted to be. A captive Madame Kovarian reveals that they were just waiting for the Doctor to show up. The Silence can use the eye-drives to kill or disable the people wearing them. Fortunately, they're removable. Unfortunately, they will get Silence amnesia. Rory keeps his on to be able to effectively fight them as they come for the Doctor--- the Silence arrive to kill him, but Amy acting on the ghost of amemory, comes back with a machine gun to save him.
As the battle rages on, they climb to the top of the pyramid, where River has created a timey wimey beacon to call out to the universe. Her love for him is so great that she's willing to sacrifice reality- so he takes his bow tie off and ties the knot with River. This is so he can share his name, and a kiss that restarts time. She walks out of the lake, shoots him, kills him and his body is burned. The Minis and the Pterodactyls disappear from the sky, normalcy is restored.
Amy meets with her daughter (who is currently in the middle of the Weeping Angels episode), where she learns that the Doctor indeed had a plan. He used the Tesselecta to create a Doctor suit that he hid inside. The Doctor did not die, the Tesselecta took the shot for him.
But the question remains, as he replaces the Blue Head in the catacombs- and the question has been hiding in plain sight, the question that the Doctor has been running from his whole life-
There's all sorts of answers and questions (including the big one, which we'll get to later) that are thrown out so fast that if you wander off to the kitchen for some cheddar and jalepeno kettle chips, you will have to hit the ol' rewind on the DVR.
But there is another metric that I think actually reveals the quality of the episode more than heavy analysis and the normal song and dance I normally do with the Doctor and his adventures: The Ten Year Old Boy Reaction Gauge (tm)
As I sat and watched this episode on the couch with Republibot 2.4, (who happens to be a ten year old boy), he squirmed when the animate skulls ate the Silence's agent, he was confused in the appropriate places, and when the final question was revealed, he giggled with glee.
That look of delight is all that matters about Doctor Who. In the long run, it's about awakening wonder in kids... and the young at heart.
Now, to the episode.
I'm going to take a moment to whine about the story structure- With flashbacks inside of other flashbacks and a frame story inside an alternate reality that takes place within a single stuck minute-- it's really difficult to recap that in any sane way. I think my years of covering LOST gives me a bit of a leg up on that, but still .... yeesh, Mr. Moffat, if you are gonna go and be brilliant with your narrative, please release a press kit with a prewritten synopsis.
That's my rather left handed way of complimenting the writing. In spite of it's really jam-packed, blink-and-you'll-miss-it pacing, it was still clear- but it demanded attention.
The acting was both subtle and realistic. Matt Smith somehow manages to convey another couple hundred years of age on the Doctor, even though he already portrays him as an ancient in a young body, he somehow manages to put MORE age on the Doctor. His face, sometimes a caracature, sometimes a mask, sometimes very slight and refined, always displays exactly what's necessary. Also notable, Alex Kingston's performance is very 'truthful',in the parlance of the trade (I'm a recovering professional actor), and she carries every emotion from joy to anguish very well. Arthur Darvill does a great Sgt. Benton imitation and although she's not given a tremendous amount to do, Karen Gillan does well with what she's given.
Plotwise, I'll admit that I'm still puzzled as to why the Doctor inside a synthetic Doctor could make adequate propitiation to the angry timeline with a non-death. Apparently you can rewrite a fixed point in time as long as the actions aren't changed- but the meaning of the moment is?
I dunno. I'm asking. It kind of feels like a cheat, but that may well be intentional. The Doctor lies and cheats and plays with Death like a henchman playing Live Chess.
Speaking of Live Chess, in this episode, Moffat throws a season's worth of cool ideas into this episode- The skulls of the Headless Monks, the game of Live Chess, dirigible Minis... all sorts of cool concepts and images are thrown at the viewer... and the Doctor investigating the reasons for his own death, wearing his long coat, Stetson and bowtie... yeah, Stetsons and bowties are cool.
No more Doctor until Christmas, and then we'll be waiting for a while for the next season. I think we'll be seeing something fairly spectacular for the Doctor's 50th anniversary...
Will Conservatives Like This Episode?
No preachyness, lots of cool action, Winston Churchill and Amy Pond with firearms... yeah, it's worth our time.