Doctor Who has a bad habit of having the second part of a two-parter story be a bit of a tonal letdown. Take, for instance, “The Big Bang,” the episode which capped off series five. While the episode was certainly a frantic, exciting episode, it didn’t exactly stick with the tonal darkness of “The Pandorica Opens,” which was one of the darkest episodes of the show in recent memory. In fact, with few exceptions, “The Pandorica Opens” was a really foreboding piece of television, while “The Big Bang” was almost whimsical in its solution to the conflict set up by its predecessor. Perhaps that was intentional. The episode, despite that, was actually quite good, though I would have preferred a few more minutes of prevailing darkness before plunging into the Doctor escaping and running around a museum in a fez.
Here’s where tonal consistency really paid off though: Saturday’s episode of Who, “Day of the Moon.” Last week’s episode, “The Impossible Astronaut,” featured a load of absolutely horrible things happing to our main cast of protagonists — including the Doctor dying (in the future) and Amy shooting a little girl. It also featured some of the show’s creepiest villains since the Weeping Angels — the vengeful Silence, with their black suits and mottled grey faces. You’d think with Moffat’s track record, we’d be getting a happy follow-up, right?
Not so much. In fact, Moffat defied expectations by making “Day of the Moon” even darker than “The Impossible Astronaut.” After all, it began with Amy and Rory apparently being shot to death, and River Song leaping to her apparent death off a skyscraper. Of course, they weren’t really dead, but what an absolutely great setup.
The episode then took us to its main setpiece: an incredibly creepy haunted orphanage occupied by the Silence (who nest on ceilings like bats). Poor Amy got the worst of the frights, but this episode really took the gimmick of its antagonists and made it into something just as chilling as the bloodiest horror movies.
Sure, we ended with our three heroes flying away to another adventure safe and sound, but we also got something else to chew on: there’s apparently a new Time Lord, in the form of a little girl who will apparently eventually kill the Doctor. The girl closes out the episode by regenerating, leaving us to wonder… What?
“Day of the Moon” raised a million mysteries, but we can all be pretty confident that those mysteries will be answered. In the meantime, it’s good enough to reflect on how well Moffat followed through with the promises of “The Impossible Astronaut.” It’s an encouraging sign for the rest of the season — but was that ever in doubt?