It’s the summer of love in America, and the Doctor’s band of merry misfit toys is running across deserts and dams and skyscrapers. They’re running to escape the men with guns, they’re running away from the ghost of the Doctor, they’re running away from the Silence and from their own secrets.
Except the Doctor himself, who’s grown a major-life-change-indicating beard which appears to be made of lies and glue. (Like marzipan, footnote shoutout to PileofMonkeys, rimshot!) The Doctor has gotten himself trapped in another inescapable prison while strapped to a chair. Like hats and bow ties, this must be Eleven’s thing. Inescapable prisons are cool.
Canton Jefferson Clinton Squints Lampkin is hunting down all of the Doctor’s companions and shooting them. First Amy then Rory are shot down in their tracks, covered in hash marks. River, as she does, dives out of a skyscraper window in New York City, because she is more badass than any of us. Rory and Amy are in their same traveling clothes, dirty and a bit banged up when they’re caught. Not our River, who’s wearing TARDIS blue and perfect red lips. Bad. Ass.
Rory and Amy are drug into the Doctor’s prison in bodybags by Canton Lampkin, who play fights with the Doctor. The prison is sealed with Canton, the Doctor, the Corpse Ponds and the invisible TARDIS inside, at which point the bags unzip and everyone hops in the blue box for more adventure. Meaning opening up the swimming pool so River has a place to dive from the skyscraper.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
Sound the adventure cannons! The Who Crew is off to track down the Silence, but not before bringing Canton up to speed with a hologram of the Silence made from Amy’s phone and implanting themselves with voice mail. Previously, our heroes had been hashing their skin when they spotted a Silence, but the new interior voice mail Flashy Techie Hand Things are voice activated and conveniently smart, so they provide even more evidence of encounters with the Silence long after our heroes forget they exist.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
The heroes end up in a scary little town, and Canton and Amy head off to a scary little orphanage, with a caretaker named Renfrew who minds the Silence when they sleep, hanging upside-down. Eleven’s already dealt with aliens pretending to be vampires. Now he’s up against vampires pretending to be aliens. The cleverness and symmetry please me.
The orphanage is twice as creepy as is possible, with holes in time and dangling nightmares and possibly a freakishly strong little timehead girl. Amy stumbles through the rooms until she’s trapped for a few minutes in a little girl’s room, looking at a photo of herself holding an infant. A slot opens in the door and a woman, similar to Prisoner Zero’s captor in “The Eleventh Hour” messes with Amy’s sense of time, telling her she’s been trapped for several days.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
Aside: BBC’s Doctor Who online treasure chest has several storyboard images from this episode and “The Impossible Astronaut.” It’s well worth a peek if you’ve got the spare time. Also worth a gaze, this lengthy and heartbreaking love letter to the Queen of the Companions, Ms. Donna Noble Temple, by the inimitable Jacob on TWOP. It’s a wonderful bridge between the world of Ten and the world of Eleven, and makes me love each of those raggedy incarnations more for having read it. I read it in small chunks, because there was ugly sobbing. Donna’s story is the foundation for River’s story, and I think each of the companions we’ve gotten to know is going to be a piece of who she is.
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence
Amy becomes trapped in literal dark and silence, but conveniently leaves her palm recorder behind. The rest of the team makes their way to the orphanage, and finds the device, which is still recording Amy’s voice. She’s scared, and says some silly things to make us think she loves the Doctor but she really loves Rory and I think we’ve got that by now. The Doctor knows how to rescue her but chooses not to just yet, as they’ve got to work some magic against the Silence by manipulating the moon landing somehow. Canton shoots and captures a Silent, and tricks him into being evil on Amy’s video phone. The Silence spills the whole plan, and goes so far to say the humans should be shooting the Silence on sight. That sudden pain in your head is from Stephen Moffat hiring a Silence to literally hit you in the head with this message. Take two aspirin and sleep with the gun under the pillow, if you’re an American, you’ll be back to 100% in no time.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Turns out, the Doctor had a plan. He hijacks the signal of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and inserts a clip of the Silence telling everyone to kill them on sight. Which means the whole world just got blanket permission to commit genocide and never remember it. No wonder we’re all exhausted. He rescues Amy and they stage a dramatic exit, wherein River goes through Silence like another River we know goes through Reavers. It is, of course, bad ass. She even shoots one over her shoulder she shouldn’t be able to know is there, because she is River Song, motherfuckers.
Back at the second perfect prison that can’t possibly hold our hat-loving, wise-cracking scamp of a Doctor, the team strolls out with President Nixon, who’s told to record everything that happens in the Oval from here on out. Aw, the Brits just tried to Reagan Nixon. Too soon, but adorable effort.
River is deposited safely back in prison, where she flirts with the Doctor a little more and reminds him to kiss her goodbye. He’s clearly taken aback and pinwheels like his arms are on fire for the whole thing. River is all, “Um, what’s up with the adolescent snog, bucko?” and the Doctor tells her it’s their first kiss. River, moving opposite the Doctor, just kissed him for the last time, and we see it break her heart.
Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor asks Amy about the elephant in her uterus and Amy tells him she’s not in a family way. He asks why she told him and not Rory, and she explains how she was scared being preggars and in time flux at the same time might have unexpected consequences, like a baby with a timehead. Rory, who needs to smash the little blinky that spies on Amy for him, has been listening in and reminds her that he’s a nurse, so he’s all about time head babies. They go off to play kinky dress-up games and the Doctor runs the somewhat creepy TARDIS pregnancy detecting apparatus and it flashes between negative and positive over and over again.
Meanwhile, the mysterious and freakishly strong little girl who
chewed made her way out of the space suit is wandering the streets, sick and coughing. A kindly homeless man asks if she’s okay. She tells him she’s dying, but it’s okay. Then she throws her head back and her arms open and regenerates. Timehead babies FTW.
Image Credit: BBC Promo Photos
Quotes: Lyrics to “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon, 1964