Horrifying, mouthless aliens in wrinkled suits? Creepy children’s home complete with messages in blood and self-rocking horse? Sinister space suits like that bit in ET where they come and take him away after he goes all white? I’ve just been watching Doctor Who...
This week’s episode, a continuation from last week’s explosive opening (The Doctor’s recruited himself to help prevent the death of himself at the hands of a spaceman who wandered out of a lake) has you hit the ground running. River, Rory and Amy are being cornered at various gorgeously photographed American landmarks by an apparently defected Canton, sporting Momento-style tattoos and trying desperately to reason for their lives. Meanwhile… DOCTOR WHO HAS A BEARD! I am personally a big fan of this, although the bushiness does remove some of its edge, but then it’s probably difficult to shave when you’re in a straitjacket.
The episode gets into full swing with a cheeky plot twist, and the hunt for the mysterious little girl in the space suit begins. Amy and Canton arrive at an extremely eerie children’s home, kicking off the finest sequence in the episode as they are lead up the spiralling staircase, walls scrawled over with bloody messages, lead by an oddly oblivious old man with a charming southern drawl. The scene could have been cut right out of a classic X-Files episode, although Agent Scully was significantly shorter than Amy “The Legs” Pond, and she isn’t wearing shoulder pads. The slightly cliché thunder and lightning fails to drain any of the carefully crafted suspense, and you feel genuine fear for Amy as she strolls around the quite obviously terrifying building. I’m just saying, I would not wander away by myself, far away from your friend with the gun, no matter how fabulously ginger or Scottish I was. By the time she notices (and then forgets again) the swarming mass of no-mouth, evil-foetus headed monsters wearing suits that are chilling on the ceiling, you’ve practically swallowed your arm with apprehension (I bite my nails when I’m nervous.) The tallies appearing on her face in the window was an especially clever touch.
The tension drops a little as Amy discovers the bedroom of the mysterious girl, and finds a picture of herself holding a baby. WHAT!? Yet another mystery is dangled in front of us by show runner Steven Moffat, only to be snatched away again at the arrival of the NASA Space-Girl and some of her suit-wearing foetus-headed mates. By the time the Doctor and company arrive, all that’s left of poor Pond is a communication chip and the kidnapped Amy whimpering on the other end (she does a lot of whimpering in this episode). Rory gets a rare chance to act impressively as he assures the Doctor that Amy can always hear him, only to be totally shot down when they hear Amy beg the Doctor to come and save her.
The episode loses a bit of pace at this point, as Moffat creates a “calm before the storm” moment to introduce the importance of the imminent moon landing. We also get a chance to enjoy “The awkward moment when your captured wife confesses her love for the charismatic Time-Lord because she’s forgotten about her communication chip.” Poor Rory, although one wonders whether Moffat is dragging out the awkward time-travelling love triangle thing a bit too much. The actual climax of the episode contain probably the least memorable scenes; they’re still good to watch, but the inexplicable appearance of the Tardis at the foetus-headquarters and the conclusion in which the Doctor cleverly vanquishes the naughty memory-altering aliens feels a little rushed. For me, this might have been because it involved River Song doing lots of impressive laser shooting that reminded me a bit of the Haunted House at Alton Towers; they’ve tried to spice it up by adding colourful light guns to distract you from the fact that you’re moving slowly through a dark corridor full of things you can’t quite see. Although the shoot out was a bit exciting, it seemed a bit too easy, and I don’t care how good a shot you are, you can’t finish a gun fight with “I love a tomb” and still come out looking cool.
Apart from the slightly convenient action climax where the Doctor saved the planet and everything, the wrap up of the episode is particularly enjoyable. The sentimental scene between Rory and Amy is sweet, between the Doctor and River, rather sad (I actually felt a little sorry for River, a character I have not really felt much connection with), and the exchange between Canton and the President is worth rewatching. We’re left with some very intriguing questions to keep us tiding over: Is Pond pregnant? Is that spacesuit girl her offspring? Is the Doctor still going to die? Where does Amy get such a dazzling array of lumberjack shirts from? IS THAT A JUNIOR TIME LADY!?
Tune in next week for pirates. PIRATES!