"Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again"
Team Tardis are back, reunited after months apart, and all bringing secrets with them. Four Tardis-blue envelopes have been delivered to the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River, inviting them all to a picnic in what Rory calls "Nowhere: middle of... ", otherwise known as the Utah Desert.
But, unfortunately, there's little time for hugs, wine and reminiscing about Jim The Fish and Easter Island, or planning a trip to "Space:1969", because the time travellers are soon confronted by the bizarre sight of a NASA astronaut emerging from a lake in the middle of the desert. And promptly
( SPOILERS! ) killing the Doctor. Before the remaining Time Trio have had a chance to, er, blink, the astronaut has returned to its watery home, a mysterious old man has helped them cremate the Doctor's body, and they're standing in a diner, arguing what to do next, when.....
the Doctor walks back in.
( There was something else, but I seem to have forgotten it..... )
"Because a vision softly creeping / Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
Within the sound of ( )"
( Nope, forgotten it again..... )
In true Steven Moffat, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey style, it turns out that the dead Doc is a future version of the 11th Doctor, and his companions resolve to find out what he wanted them to do back in 1969, but without telling "their" Doctor of his fate. And he's none too happy about all these secrets. They soon find themselves back in 1969, at the White House no less, where they meet up with a younger version of the old guy from the lake, President Nixon himself and...
somebody else. ( Give me a minute. It'll come to me..... )
The Doctor: "Oh, a lot more happens in '69 than anyone remembers. Human beings: I thought I'd never get done saving you."
Bloody Hell! Look at that thing above! It's the Silence! How did I forget it? Must be my age.....
This really is a cracking episode. Whereas before the pattern was to start a new series with a "fun romp" ( only with monsters and killing ), this time Moffat has gone for creepy and complex. Which is fine by me! The secrets being kept by the Tardis crew add new subtleties to their relationships. Who did River murder? Does Rory know about ( SPOILERS! ) Amy's baby? Did the Doctor know he was going to his death? ( By the agonised look on Matt Smith's face it certainly seems so. ) This dark turn of events is brilliantly played by the regulars, all of them raising their game, particularly Arthur Darvill, showing us the beginnings of a depth to Rory that hasn't been apparent before.
The whole episode has an expansive, filmic quality, especially in the Utah scenes. Top marks to director Toby Haynes for creating such vivid, memorable images as the Apollo astronaut wading out of the lake, or River looking damn sexy with a six-shooter strapped to her hip, or the Doctor lounging in the Oval Office, surrounded by CIA agents with itchy trigger-fingers.
And, of course, the Silence must rank as one of the creepiest Doctor Who monsters ever. The concept that you forget the alien's existence as soon as you look away from it is inspired, and leads to some incredibly tense scenes as River and Rory explore underground tunnels filled with Silence. ( Yeah, I mean filled with aliens called the Silence, not filled with a lack of sound. How are we supposed to write about this stuff, Mr. Moffat? You're not making it easy for us. ) And that scene in the White House toilet? Brrrr!! I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.....
I'll have to knock off half a mark for the story being just that little bit too exposition-heavy, but otherwise a fantastic start to the new series, so.....
4 and a half Bow Ties
"Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows"
Soundtrack: The Sound Of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
( of course! )