It takes a television series of exceptional quality – and daring – to satisfy its audience without answering almost any of the questions posed in the preceding episode of a two-part story. Yet this is precisely what Doctor Who achieves in ‘Day Of The Moon’.
Instead of being neatly tethered down, many things are left even more up in the air than before, with the only resolution coming in the small matter of the Silence (for now, at any rate; is this really the last we’ve seen of them?) and their long-term occupation of the Earth. Via a videophone and the moon landings, the Doctor leaves half a billion humans to deal with the all-too-easily forgotten aliens who live amongst them and departs 1969, pausing only to fight off a few himself (along with River Song – ‘My naughty friend here’), thank Canton Delaware III for his help and ask President Nixon to ‘say hi to David Frost for me.’
At that moment, an ordinary episode of an ordinary show would be forgiven for coming to an end, with the unanswered questions dismissed for another day along with Amy Pond’s (admittedly convenient) lost memories of what she’s experienced. However, under the stewardship of Steven Moffat, Doctor Who continues to grow deeper, richer and more astounding. The real excitement of an episode that has already done an epic chase across America, creepy gothic horror in the Graystark Hall orphanage and the all-out sci-fi laser battle aboard the Silence’s spaceship comes in the triptych of shattering events in the closing minutes.
The kiss between the Doctor and River Song is perhaps the least important of the three, yet the one which will cause the most controversy. Although the Doctor doesn’t initiate it, this is very different to the exuberant snog from Madame Pompadour or Amy’s misguided tongue-waggling on the night before her wedding. While he doesn’t know where to put his hands, he doesn’t break away from it, either – and afterwards, certainly seems to like it. ‘It was good; it was unexpected,’ he says, embarrassed but not upset. ‘You know what they say: there’s a first time for everything.’
It feels absolutely right, and it works in a way that the idea of a romance with Rose (or anyone else) never quite did. River and the Doctor are both equals and opposites, like all great lovers, and it makes perfect sense. It also makes your heart ache when River comments, ‘And a last time.’ Few people ever know that they’ve just shared their final kiss with the one they love; it’s a concept so exquisitely terrible that it’s scarcely conceivable – and it’s going to happen again. At some point (and in the not too distant future) the Doctor’s going to go through exactly the same thing.
The newly kissed and excited Time Lord could easily have made a shockingly good ending to the episode – as could his watching the TARDIS try and fail to work out whether Amy really is pregnant or not. Yet the final seconds of the episode manage to trump everything that’s gone before. The little girl, who may or may not be Amy’s daughter, smiles at the man who has found her in a New York alley and says: ‘It’s quite alright. I’m dying, but I can fix that. It’s easy, really.’ As regeneration energy bursts out of her, the credits roll and a nation is left yelling at the screen in shock and awe.
Airs at 6pm on Saturday 30th April 2011 on BBC One.