The Doctor set the monsters on them, the worst monsters of them all: the human race.
It's genocide. It really is: an order to kill encompassing an entire race, the Silence. Compared to this, River shooting a dozen of them – in self defence, mind – is pretty fluffy stuff.
He owes an apology to Harriet Jones. And the Brigadier, for that matter. After all, he's the one who implanted the entire human race with a post-hypnotic suggestion to kill the Silence on sight. Genocide against the Sycorax or Silurians isn't even leaving that page of the monster book.
I suppose that it makes for an interesting twist on the UNIT question, i.e. "why does Earth start getting invaded every four weeks from 1970?" if prior to 1969 the planet was really under the control of a far more powerful race than the humans who only appear to live there.
[edit to add:] In fact the Doctor's regular visits to Earth really only start in the Nineteen Seventies; the Sixties incarnation of the series was almost made of the fact that he never really visits the Sixties. The Hartnel stories started off on the basis that he couldn't get back there, or Ian and Barbara's story would end, as eventually happened, but even after that he never got into the habit beyond the occasional pit stop. The Troughton adventures are almost all in the future, especially the "near future" or the twenty-first century. Sure the "modern" Doctor visits the past all the time, but it's much more like he's dropping in rather than hanging around the planet, the way that Three and Four spent time with Jo and Sarah or more recently Ten and Rose's family on the Powell Estate. Consequently, 1969 makes for a convenient break point that might explain why the Doctor has never run into these Silence before.
It might also be a Moffaty riposte to Lawrence Miles' concept of the "ghost point" – the point at the end of the Twentieth Century when humanity suddenly and for no reason stops its rapid cultural development and settles into "mundane" galactic imperialism – if the reason for humanity losing its drive is that the driving force has been, er, driven off.
(More blatantly, River Snog's plunge off the side of a skyscraper into the open doors of the horizontally parked TARDIS is a direct lift from the start of Larry's "Alien Bodies"; that isn't even trying to be subtle. Although the splash-landing in the TARDIS pool is the Moffster's own gag – lifted from "The Eleventh Hour", of course.)
Mind you, if the Silence are supposed to have been here for tens of thousands of years, guiding human development, you have to ask did they not notice everyone else was doing that too? I suppose you can forgive them for overlooking the genetic tampering of the Fendahl; and Azal and the other dæmons tended to be napping under Devil's End for long stretches; and the Exxilons kept themselves pretty much to Peru; but you think that they'd at least start to recognise Scaroth Last of the Jagaroth as he pops up every now and then to hand over fire, the wheel or astronomy.
And it does raise a far more relevant question: where are the Silence from? It's all very well having Amy and River and Rory go round tallying up how many Silence they see – of course, the snag with the tally marks is how do you know if you've seen fifty Silence or one Silent fifty times? ("There's one!" makes note, forgets, "There's one!" makes note, forgets, "There's one!" makes note, forgets, etc.) – but you can do that with humans and find the planet seriously overrun with them, thinking they own the place. Did I mention the Silurians? If only the Doctor had some way of going back in time to see how long they've been here and if they are invaders or natives… oh…
For all that the scale of this story was huge, as wide as the Cinemascope American vistas, for me it still wasn't enough. This needed to come at the end of a whole series of discoveries, a series of stories, where the sheer scale of the Silence's ambitions are uncovered. As it is, we just don't know if the Doctor's response is justified.
Are the Silence actually evil? That's an important question to answer if you're going to commit genocide against them, and one that is somewhat fudged. Yes, there's the whole claim to be running the Earth, but is that actually a reason for them to deserve death? After all, the Doctor doesn't routinely try to wipe out the human rulers of the planet even though they are arguably making just as bad a job of running it. (Or to be fair they appear to be to anyone not in on the Silence's conspiracy.)
And there is controlling people by post-hypnotic suggestion. Which, of course, the Doctor uses himself in order to order the massacre. Are humans really enslaved by the Silence? The editor in "The Long Game" once asked the Doctor is a slave a slave if they don't know they're enslaved. "Yes" was the Doctor's answer, so that may be what's in play here (though it needed saying if that's so). But if the Silence's idea of enslavement appears to be to give us spaceships and Nineteen Sixties consumer good, how is that actually a bad thing? Well, it still is, of course it is, it's still slavery, but we need to here that to understand why the Doctor's response is just and proportional.
It is in the nature of Mr Moffat's writing to keep secrets, hold answers back, and keep things ambiguous. And, for obvious reasons, the Silence themselves aren't exactly chatty about their plans. It's in the name, really. But in this case we really did need the Doctor to get more answers before making his decision.
The main reason we know they are evil is that they blew up that woman, Joy, at the White House for no apparent reason. But given their very particular modus operandi, does anyone else know – i.e. based on evidence rather than "they look icky" – that they are bad? Does Amy remember any of the White House bathroom incident (and can we not call it that again, please)? And does the Doctor ever even hear about it?
It's not impossible that he might: it appears, from that same scene, that you get all you lost memories back when you see another Silent, so Amy could have remembered and told him at some time during the three months between the cliffhanger ending to "The Impossible Astronaut" and the start of "Day of the Moon".
The big cheat in that three month gap is not the "let's not bother to get out of the cliffhanger"; it's that we never see how the Doctor goes from literally knowing nothing at all about the Silence, never even meeting them in the first episode, to being in a position to set up Amy and River and Rory with their tally marks and Canton Delaware as the double (secretly triple) agent hunting them down while building him a plot device from (as Simon points out) "The Invasion of Time" (another story to feature a race of aliens who ought to be all-powerful thanks to their superpower).
And incidentally, how exactly does the American government get hold of dwarf star alloy when, as this very episode is keen to point out, their space programme is currently engaged in trying to land men on the moon using a spacecraft with roughly the computing power of a toaster?
And while I'm mentioning "The Invasion of Time", that story also sees the Doctor respond with summary justice to a race, the Vardans, because the only possible way to beat them is to beat them totally and completely all at once. There's a possible case to be made that that is also true of the Silence: their power means that the only safe response is to turn that against them and make Earth totally hostile to their presence. But if that's so, could the Doctor at least tells us that, and maybe agonise for a minute. Even Tom had his "do I have that right" moment.
It's not made entirely clear whether the Silence's memory thing actually affects the Doctor. We see P.O.V.s for all the others to see that it does work on them, but he only tells us who it works. Certainly, "Time Lord powers" protecting him would be a help. In fact, it's about the only possible explanation for how the "revolution" starts in that the gap that I can come up with. Unless perhaps the TARDIS can perceive them, but then there's the whole question of just how does the TARDIS perceive?
So what we are missing here, and it's somewhere in that "three months later", is the crux of these two episodes: the bit where the Doctor works out what is going on, assesses what the Silence are doing and takes the moral step to annihilate them.
And those are quite big things to be skipping over and taking as read.
The way that you get away with skipping over it, is to dazzle the audience with spectacle. The cinematography was, if anything, more amazing than last week, particularly the helicopter shot of the FBI chasing down Amy, and the astonishing pullback reveal from of the Doctor sitting in the capsule of Apollo Eleven.
The little dots of humour spotted throughout were just enough to keep the episode from disappearing up its own X-Files. The Doctor advising Nixon to tape everything was great, and the lovely "gay agenda" moment – with Nixon being not that liberal.
Alex in particular – though of course I agree with him – thought it was a little bit much to keep using Nixon as a "get out of being arrested" card; he did say he was expecting it to turn out to be Amy using that body-bepple thing from the trailers for the last series of Sarah Jane.
Speaking of disguises, River was a hoot in her Fifties twinset and pearls look, but Rory in his HRG disguise was just adorable. Of course Amy would be wishing it was him coming to save her. Or if you want more depth for the character, there was his conversation with the Doctor about remembering two-thousand years of waiting for Amy, very much a darker twist on the "they sleep in my mind" conversation between the Doctor and Victoria so long ago in "The Tomb of the Cybermen". And in some ways, Rory is twice as old as the Doctor, which connects to the Doctor's being not quite able to kiss River which in turn added another shading to her character.
Then there was Amy's whole Scully subplot. And I don't just mean dressing up the redhead in a little black suit and giving her a flashlight and a spooky old building to investigate. Though they did do that. But the entire abduction/stolen pregnancy is Scully's major arc in the X-Files second season.
Plus the X-Files was definitely the first drama of the cell-phone age, so the use of Amy's phone for the denouement was entirely in the key of X.
(Some people have complained that the Silent gives entirely too convenient a reply on camera with its "you should kill us on sight". But they're forgetting just who it was who briefed Canton on what question he should ask. There's also the sense that, like with the con artists of "Hustle" – or like begging Davros not to use the Hand of Omega – this is the Doctor giving the Silent an "out": the Silence are literally "done by as they do"; they had the chance to say they would treat humans better, but no, they had to say "wipe them out, all of them". Or was that Darth Sidious? That still doesn't excuse the Doctor programming all humans to kill the Silence.)
And by the way, who the hell hires Frances Barber (Eyepatch Woman) for seven seconds of screen time? I think our foreshadowing is showing rather more obviously, Mr Moffster.
Everything about Amy's pregnancy – from its mysterious not-happening-ness to the deep-and-meaningfuls with the Doctor in the TARDIS (overheard by Rory), to, yes, that surprise twist ending – suggests that the little girl is Amy's daughter, who might still be River, taken by the Silence as a baby – my guess: because they need a pilot for their half-finished time machine, and remember River's remark about Empires that would tear the Earth apart for one cell of a Time Lord's body.
(The possibility of River being a Time Lord, or even a half-Time Lord isn't ruled out by us having seen her death in "Forest of the Dead"; at the time she remarked that the power would be enough to fry the Doctor himself, so her not regenerating her way out of that death is no evidence one way or another.)
Whether the "glowy Time Lord energy™" is a full regeneration or not, we have yet to see. Certainly, the implication is that the Doc's Last of the Time Lords membership card has just expired. Again.
It was a moment both glorious and at the same time slightly too much. There are already so many open threads – River, what's she about; the Silence, what are they about; the Doctor's death, what's that about; Amy's pregnancy, what's up with that, the TARDIS exploding, what actually caused that (or rather, if it was the Silence, then why blow up the Universe you happen to be living in?). Do we need another OMG WTF moment on top?
Well, it depends. If, if this series manages to hold together as a seven-part (or thirteen-part… or twenty-seven part…) drama, then we can look back with hindsight and go "ah!". But if it's not all part of a grand master plan, if it's just throwing in more and more stuff just because it's "cool", then this is the moment we tipped over into a "Lost" or a "Heroes".
Don't worry; that wouldn't be the end for Doctor Who. The series has been so many other things in the past – travelogue, Quatermass, Hammer Horror, student revue, Rambo-with-Cybermen – that it can be "Lost" for a while and then it will be something else.
The most crucial moment of all, though, is the one where the Doctor and River face the Silence and River says "he disapproves, but he also thinks it's rather cool". That, for me, sums up Moffat right there. He knows that this is wrong but he thinks it's kind of cool. And, (gratuitous Lawrence Miles moment) as the Enemy tells Chris Cwej at the Hollywood Bowl Shooting: cool wins.
So for me, this was brilliant, but bitter.
The moon landing is one of the most awesome and wonderful achievements of human history. A thing impossible, to reach out to the moon; and we did it ourselves. Brilliant and human and good.
Russell would have celebrated that moment; Moffat has… used it.
With this episode, Moffat first has it all inspired by aliens and second has it used as a weapon, a weapon. It's a violent and ugly reversal of the end of "Last of the Time Lords" – where Martha laughs, laughs at the very idea that the Doctor, the "man who never would", would send her to create a weapon.
Next Time… "Deadman's secret key: Smallwood, Ringwood, Gurney". Well everyone says that this is, astonishingly, a prequel to 1966's "The Smugglers". So weigh anchor with Cap'n Avery for "The Curse of the Black Spot"