...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, May 02, 2011

Day 3772: DOCTOR WHO: Day of the Moon


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"



Tat said...

Back in the Wilderness Years of the 90s, I used to watch episodes of FarScape, DS9 or Quantum Leap and amuse myself by imagining how different it would have been if they'd taken the same premise and made a 'Doctor Who' episode with it. I was doing the same with Saturday's effort to relieve the tedium. That's the main thing I found annoying: not genocide, not inability to tell a story (which was supposedly Oor Moffie's forte, remember?) but the dullest episode since 'Terminus'. I couldn't even keep interest by playing bingo with Moffat Story-Coupons We Have Loved. I was dimly aware that I should have been outraged by the betrayal of a series that provided me with my moral compass but even that was an over-familiar Saward-era throwback. I'm too numb to be offended by this.

Prankster said...

I honestly and truly do not get the complaints that the Doctor committed genocide in this episode. Absolutely no one has to die because of what the Doctor did here--I think his goal was as simple as making sure the Silence get out of the human race's way. Or, at worst, a leveling of the playing field.

We have a race that's been manipulating human civilization since it came into existence, for as-yet unknown ends--but whatever they are, the Silence seems to agree that they're not at all beneficial to the human race. Not only can you not fight or resist them, you can't even look at them without possibly getting subliminal messages implanted in your head. It's one of the most horrific oppressions imaginable.

What the Doctor's done is use their own methods, and their own *words,* to transmit information to everyone who needed to hear it. OK, there's an element of compulsion, but there's an element of compulsion about everything the Silence do, and since they're literally being hoist by their own petard here, I can't see how this is unfair or cruel. All the Silence need to do to avoid getting shot is to back off--it's not like the human race is going to form hunting parties to track them down. And that's, of course, notwithstanding the many other means the Silence presumably have at their disposal to fight back, beginning with another subliminal broadcast to counteract the first. (There may be plenty of ways this wouldn't work, but my point is the Silence did not suddenly become helpless victims after the broadcast.) Indeed, since the Silence are almost certainly returning, you could make the argument that the Doctor's solution is far too temporary a fix.

Prankster said...

Also, I thought the scenario was pretty clear: the Silence didn't actually give a toss about getting to the moon, they just needed the technological side benefits. Since you don't really need to go any higher than orbit to produce a space suit, I think we can still claim the moon landing as a case of going above and beyond.

Actually, the contrast between great accomplishments and the darker motives that spur them could be said to be a bit of a theme in this episode--the idea of the moon landing being used as a propaganda weapon in a cold war may offend you, but it's hardly out of line with, y'know, actual reality. The accomplishment remains despite the motives attached to it.

Millennium Dome said...

Prankster, hello. Thanks for reading.

"I honestly and truly do not get the complaints that the Doctor committed genocide in this episode. Absolutely no one has to die because of what the Doctor did here…" "…All the Silence need to do to avoid getting shot is to back off"

I'm sorry to skip straight to Godwin's Law, but where genocide is concerned the Nazis are the case study.

Would you even consider typing: "all the Jews needed to do to avoid getting gassed was to leave Germany"? No, of course not. If someone were even to make that case, would you say that absolved the Third Reich from genocide? No, it really wouldn't.

To say "no one has to die" is pointless because at least one Silent did die – the one shot in the Oval Office. It is strongly implied that another was lynched. In fact, we have no idea how many were killed instantly and without warning. We have no way of knowing if they had any means of leaving the planet – the only spaceship we know they have is the timeship in the tunnels and we know (from "The Lodger") that that doesn't work! The Doctor delivers his warning to a group of them – who River then slaughters. Does he even check they had time to get the message out warning the rest of the Silence? Not on screen he doesn't.

Our foreknowledge of the TV series that they will (almost certainly) be back does not excuse the actions taken by character who do not have that (metatextual) knowledge.

Maybe they do – I emphasized in the review that that "three months later" could cover a multitude of sins, and that would include the Doctor trying all sorts of other ways to beat them and it coming down to this being the only way out. But the episode never tells us that.

"…it's not like the human race is going to form hunting parties to track them down"

Well, that's exactly what they are going to do, isn't it. The future history of the human race according to Doctor Who is that starting from the Twenty-First Century we expand into the galaxy aggressively forming an Empire. And the Doctor explicitly says this in the episode. Humans will expand into space and they will kill the Silence wherever they find them. This isn't just genocide; it's a crusade!

Millennium Dome said...


"What the Doctor's done is use their own methods, and their own *words,* to transmit information to everyone who needed to hear it. OK, there's an element of compulsion, but there's an element of compulsion about everything the Silence do, and since they're literally being hoist by their own petard here, I can't see how this is unfair or cruel."

He uses (out of context) the words of one Silent (who had been shot and subject to sensory deprivation – what you think that cutting off someone's telepathy, as that cell was designed to do, isn't sensory deprivation?). And there are some humans who would say what that Silent said. I'm not sure about you, but I'd be less than happy if the Doctor ordered the execution of the entire human race on the word of Dr Mengele. (That's an apt comparison, given that this Silent appears to have been part of a group experimenting on Amy and her child; but who is to say he is representative of his entire species?)

If it is not unfair or cruel for the Doctor to use these methods to manipulate the human race, then it is not unfair or cruel for the Silence to do it – so what's his justification?

Conversely, if it is unfair or cruel for the Silence to do it then it is unfair or cruel for the Doctor to do it. You cannot have it both ways. They are wrong, so he is wrong. The ends never justify the means. Even if the ends aren't genocidal!

"And that's, of course, notwithstanding the many other means the Silence presumably have at their disposal to fight back"

Attempting to kill someone is still a crime, even if they have the ability to defend themselves!

I'll give you one thing: you make a very fair point that the motives behind the space race were far from pure, and that it is right for the episode tp suggest these sinister undertones.

But I still object deeply to "One small step for a man…" being perverted with "kill 'em, kill 'em all!"

This episode cuts straight to: "they're the baddies so it's okay to kill them". That appalls me. And it ought to appall the Doctor.

Compare how the Doctor treats the Silurians. He listens to their point of view and tries to negotiate peace. He tries to talk Sontarans into just leaving Earth in peace on several occasions. He's willing to give the Daleks a hearing the first time he meets them. The one time he reacts to a race with "they must be the baddies!" it's the Ice Warriors in "The Curse of Peladon" and he's shown to be wrong.

Prankster said...

Millennium. Dude. You ABSOLUTELY CANNOT compare this to the Nazis and the Jews. That's just so utterly wrongheaded I don't know what to say.

The Silence aren't minding their own business; they're a hostile occupation force. And yes, they're hostile--regardless of their end intent, they sneak around influencing our minds (to the breaking point, in at least one case) and occasionally killing us for undetermined reasons. That doesn't seem like it falls pretty squarely under the category of a violation to you? That's aside from the kidnapping and possibly meddling with Amy's fetus, and, oh yeah, the incredibly strong indication that they've driven other races out across the universe and may have been responsible for the cracks in time from last season. But frankly, fucking around with people's minds without their knowledge and consent, and to have been doing so throughout human history, is all it takes to move them into the "inexcusable" category. These guys are slavers.

And the human race is incapable of fighting against them or even knowing they're being enslaved. That takes the whole situation to yet another level. Given the incredibly narrow options here, the Doctor's solution strikes me as downright elegant.

Look, I have to say at this point that I'm not a hardcore Doctor Who fan (for starters, I'm not British) and my knowledge of the old show is limited. (Didn't like the Russell Davies run of the show, am quite enjoying the Moffat run.) My understanding is that a lot of Who fans are very big on the idea that the Doctor never uses brute force, and that the old show had some memorable episodes about how Ugly Creepy Things Are People Too. So I can't speak to the continuity of the show or the ideals that it maintains. But you can't possibly tell me that the Doctor has never used the threat of force to dissuade his enemies? Because that seems like the crucial business here: the Doctor gave someone (the human race) who had been bullied, oppressed, and had the deck stacked against them for thousands of years and gave them the tools to fight back, something that was remarkably difficult to do given the parameters of the situation.

As long as we're making tacky historical comparisons, this seems like the rough equivalent of smuggling guns to an oppressed/occupied/enslaved group, resulting in a bloody uprising. You may deplore the violence that results, but can you really put both oppressors and rebels on the same moral plane? I simply don't buy the argument that "if it's wrong for the Silence, it's wrong for the Doctor"--when you have a sharpened stick and your enemy has a cannon, is it really a devastating moral wrong to build some kind of Road Runner-esque gigantic rubber band to send the cannonball flying back towards the people who fired it? Because it seems to me that that's essentially what the Doctor did.

Prankster said...


Now, the argument here seems to hinge on exactly how much the Doctor is allowed to let bloodshed occur, and yes, it surely seemed likely that some Silents were going to be killed right after the initial broadcast. I guess, based on what I know of the Doctor, it could be considered out of character for him...not to be upset that he couldn't have found a better way? That seems reasonable. I do think it might have spoken to everyone's concerns a little better if he'd simply taped the Silent saying "We are your enemy" or "we are your secret oppressors" or something--I'm sure violence would have resulted from that as well, but the Doctor wouldn't have had as much moral culpability. I say this, though, as a guy who doesn't really have a problem with the idea of the Doctor subverting a bunch of interstellar Svengalis by urging their subjects to kill, when the tools available are so flimsy and the situation is so tricky, and again, given the many, many ways that the Silence could undo this within a relatively short time (the point isn't that it isn't wrong to kill, the point is that the post-hypnotic suggestion that would spawn your supposed "crusade" seems like it could be undone pretty easily, making this, in my eyes, a pretty short uprising...but who's to say).

At any rate, we can argue at the level of violence, or approval of violence, or compulsion to violence, committed by the Doctor, but calling it "genocide" seems to me, again, to be rather absurd.

Prankster said...

Some fiddly bits:

If the Silence are telepathic, as you suggest and which makes sense to me, than both the question of whether the one Silent speaks for his race and how the Doctor got the word out to all the others seems to be taken care of. Even if they AREN'T telepathic, I'm pretty sure they'd get the idea the instant they actually saw the moon landing broadcast, which I've got to figure most of them did.

(The Silent speaking for his race thing is more problematic if they're not telepathic, though again, I think they did more than enough in this episode alone, even without inference, to peg them as baddies. His statement certainly seems in line from what we see of their actions; they seem pretty contemptuous of the human race.)

The Doctor doesn't explicitly say anything about a "crusade" to the stars--he talks about the upcoming human expansion into space in what seem to me to be glowing, proud terms, THEN mentions that the humans will be seeing the Silence as enemies for generations to come. But the idea that they'll be actively chasing the Silence down--I don't see it. Even assuming that the post-hypnotic suggestion survives for thousands of years (which, again, it seems like the Silence can probably find dozens of ways to counteract this even in the next few days, let alone millennia--I don't buy the Doctor's statement about "generations" as anything but bluff) they won't be actively pursuing the Silence; they'll just be attacking them whenever they pop up. So again, the simple solution is to stay out of humanity's way until they at least find some kind of compromise. I see this as a temporary shift of power, not a crusade.

As for being able to leave Earth? The Doctor seemed to think they could, they have alien tech (including, y'know, a TARDIS), and they had to get there somehow. If they can't leave Earth, well, I guess that does confine them to hiding until they find a solution; they seem to prefer living in sewers and disused buildings, so I'm not sure that's a particularly horrible punishment. But even assuming they hate every moment of it, we're talking about a race that can't even interact with humanity without, on some level, screwing with them. It's hard to see what solution would be better in the short term.

Tat said...

Prankster's half-baked attempt at justification might have had some merit if there had been even the slightest hint of where the idea that the Silence have been detrementally manipulating humanity came from. The person pretending to be the Doctor just plucks this idea from out of the air after three months in sensory deprivation, instead of ever once asking the Silence why they're doing what they do - you know, like what would have happened in a Doctor Who story. I'm not saying it has to be as formulaic as a Hinchcliffe story where he gives the spokesbeing a chance to rant, then a chance to withdraw and then both barrels, but we need a reason beyond 'U.G.L.Y You ain't got no alibi'(even them being literal killjoys won't work if nobody remembers this happening).Moffat grandly waving away any questions by saying 'it's a surprise' won't cut it on a week-by-week basis. The story being told has to have a point, an end, rather than just stopping when ninety minutes are up.

Prankster said...

I thought my defense was pretty well-baked, thank you. Though it could have used some sprinkles on top.

Anyway, I'll let you get back to having your brain wiped and post-hypnotic suggestions implanted in your psyche, since that apparently is A-OK with you and doesn't constitute anything like hostile intent.

Millennium Dome said...

Mr Prankster,

"Anyway, I'll let you get back to having your brain wiped and post-hypnotic suggestions implanted in your psyche, since that apparently is A-OK with you and doesn't constitute anything like hostile intent."

Clearly you are much more okay with being brain wiped than I am, because I'm the one complaining when the Doctor does it too, whereas you think it's fine for our hero to do that, and only mind when it's the ugly aliens.

You say:

"But frankly, fucking around with people's minds without their knowledge and consent, and to have been doing so throughout human history, is all it takes to move them into the "inexcusable" category."

But that is exactly what the Doctor does. He says that people will never forget the moon landing, they will keep seeing the footage; they will keep getting the "Kill All Silence" program boosted in their brains. He fucks with (in just the first instant) a billion people's brains. He does it without their knowledge or consent. And he does, as he makes clear, so it will last throughout human history.

If that is all it takes, then you've just moved him into the "inexcusable" category.

And then you start making excuses for him.

Millennium Dome said...

"You ABSOLUTELY CANNOT compare this to the Nazis and the Jews. That's just so utterly wrongheaded I don't know what to say."

What seems "utterly wrongheaded" to me is that you are justifying extermination on the back of a whole load of inferences and the behaviour of not more than a dozen Silence.

They're bad. They're a threat. There's nothing else we can do. Let's skip straight to killing all of them.

That's the sort of thinking that leads to the West invading Iraq and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis because we changed our mind and decided their leader is a baddy.

And frankly, yes that's the sort of thinking that led to a whole load of German's going along with the Nazi death camps.

The very worst thing about this is that the more you try to justify ordering the deaths of every single Silent, the more it makes the episode sound like the anti-Jewish propaganda of the Thirties: there's this "hidden race" that you don't know anything about with a "secret plan" and for thousands of years they've been "manipulating" honest Joes to do their bidding and you don't even know that you are their slave. They even steal babies! How much closer to the Protocols of Fucking Zion does it have to get?

It's like the accusation against Mark Gatiss' "The Unquiet Dead" that it could be interpreted as propaganda against "bogus asylum seekers". It most assuredly was not the author's intention, but once you know about it it's kind of hard not to see it there.

In "Evolution of the Daleks", Dalek Caan orders (or programs) the battle computer to destroy all the Dalek-Humans. Deaths follow. And the Doctor calls it genocide.

In "Day of the Moon" the Doctor orders (or programs) the human race to destroy all the Silence. Deaths follow.

How is this different?

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Tat,

I must thank you for both your comments, and apologise for not replying to the first one.

I think I'm more optimistic than you about the series. As I said, the series has been so many different things that I think it can absorb this into itself too.

There is much to enjoy here: in the visuals and the performances, even in some of the writing, as Moffat's dialogue remains pin sharp even if he's losing the overall plot. I love Matt Smith as the Doctor, under the madness and the fez there's an ancient sadness and, well, guile that reminds me of Troughton. The Doctor has never been a conventional hero, and I don't mind the capacity for darkness in him – he blew up both Skaro and Gallifrey! – but I do need him to have moral lines and to know that he knows when he is crossing them even if he chooses to do so.

I think where you put your finger on it is that Moffat's desire for secrecy, for "surprise!" means that he is not just abandoning conventional storytelling, but abandoning functional storytelling. Too much of this story rest on the assumptions that the audience makes. I'll be generous to Prankster here and say he is right there with the audience making those assumptions. This looks like it makes sense so we'll assume that it does and go with it.

But one thing Doctor Who has always been about is not asking questions but answering them. This seems to have abandoned that.

And as you say, the series used to have a moral core, and that seems to be one of the things being taken for granted here too.

Site Owner said...

500 million people watched the moon landing out of a human population
of 3.6 billion, so post-Moonlanding broadcast (immediately) a Silent
encountering a human has a 13.7% chance of being attacked on sight
[rising in technological societies with TVs, falling to 0 where no-one
has seen the landing).

Being attacked is not being killed, the physical strength of a Silent
is unknown and they are not immune to bullets, but they are unlikely
to be without some defenses.
I shall assume odds are even. [Again where humans are armed, the White House, Army Bases etc odds will be higher pro-human, and lower in say old folk's homes].

The crucial parameter is how likely is a Silent to be seen, before
this telepathic race dis-engages contact with humanity. Assuming 1%
are seen, on average 13.77% will be seen by someone whose seen the
moonlanding, and of that set 50% will be killed. That's a 0.07% death rate.

Suppose there are 1/10th as many Silent's as humans (they are implicitly fewer as human society is not obviously amnesiac all the time), 0.07% would be 2,500. That's a lot, but a genocide is not killing a lot of humans or aliens, its attempting the extermination of a species or race.

Do you think a hypnotic command to kill rabbits when seen would exterminate all rabbits? It simply wouldn't. Most would be unseen, or if seen escape. And Rabbits aren't immediately forgotten when unseen and can't kill you by 'evil-whistling'.

Simon Bucher-Jones

Millennium Dome said...

Mr Simon,

Thanks for reading

(and I do love "The Taking of Planet 5")

Pedantic point first:

3.6 billion humans
1/10th as many Silence = 360 million Silence
0.07% death rate = 0.0007 x 360,000,000 = 250,000, not 2500

Would two-hundred and fifty thousand deaths be enough for you to qualify as genocide?

But let's take your moral calculus at face value and say that 2500 Silence die.

Are you really, completely comfortable with the suggestion that this is "okay" because the Doctor's order merely results in the deaths of slightly fewer people than al Qaeda killed in the worst terrorist atrocity in history?

If anything, I'm even more queasy about it now!

And you've not taken into account any human deaths caused by Silent retaliation/self-defence.

Given that the order is to kill, not to attack but to kill, the unwitting humans are not going to stop at an attack, they will keep trying to fulfil the program until they succeed or until the Silent kills them.

You estimate that the odds are even, so you are basically suggesting that the Doctor causes 2500 human deaths as well.

But it doesn't stop there, does it. Because as the Doctor says in the episode – as I keep having to repeat, I'm using the episode as evidence – people will keep on watching the moonlanding clip throughout history, more and more and more of them. No one can remember that the post-hypnotic command is in there so no one can ever edit it out again. So the deaths – on both sides – aren't limited to that first slaughter. In fact, the deaths will never stop.

(I have to say that for the Doctor's plan to make any kind of sense at all the Silence have to be on Earth in vastly fewer numbers than you suggest. Because otherwise the Doctor is triggering a war that he knows didn't happen and tearing the fabric of history to bits! The more Silence there are on Earth, the more likely it becomes that they will be provoked to fight rather than flee because it becomes easier for them to fight back and more difficult for them to evacuate the planet. I would say that there can only be thousands and not millions of Silence on Earth, and the number of deaths may be limited to dozens – of whom half are shot by River(!).)

But forget all that, because it's actually irrelevant.

How many die or how many get away isn't my point. Ordering the extermination of all rabbits and not succeeding doesn't mean you didn't order the extermination of all rabbits.

Unlike homicide, the crime of genocide is not predicated on success but on intent; there is no such thing as "attempted genocide". Jews, Tutsis, Chechens (contentious) all survive, but that doesn't mean genocide didn't happen in Germany, Rwanda or Chechnya.

(If you can't cope with the German analogy, the Rwandan Genocide might be a better model: the Rwandan Patriotic Front were an armed, mostly-Tutsi rebel faction that invaded the country and tried to overthrow the government. The Hutu government said that the Tutsis intended to enslave them and so there were mass killing of Tutsis. Does any of this sound troublingly familiar?)

There is no "minimum number" that you have to kill before you stop being "just a mass murderer".

In fact, Gallifreyan Law – yes, I'm aware that's fictional – seems to suggest that killing no more than half-a-dozen Vervoids counts as genocide (though I'd actually defend the Doctor there as it was never his intent to kill them because they were Vervoids).

My point is this: the Doctor programs humans to kill all of the Silence. Not a few hundred or a few thousand. ALL OF THEM.

Site Owner said...

Oops slip, meant to type 1/1000 but I make no apologies for moral calculus, there's a case that neglecting it causes as many crimes as paying it too much mind.

I agree completely genocide is wrong, and is a matter of intent. But that's why I don't believe genocide is what is depicted, nor that what is depicted was wrong.

No offense meant of course I welcome moral discourse, but I disagree for two reasons:

(1) The order persists in potentia but not in actuality, if The Silent remain unseen there are no hunts, pograms or crusades they are literally forgotten to survive (or not) but it has been made as risky for them to be seen, as it is shown it is risky for a human to see them.

(2) Active resistance with deadly force is permitted in self defence if it is proportionate. The Silents are, seemingly, able and willing to kill humans for obscure reasons. They abuse woman and children, drive individual humans mad, are socially parasitic, boastfully arrogant, and ignore a direct call for surrender. Their own words are turned against them.

You seem to be laughing at *vervoids* as genocide, but it seems to me thats an infinitely stronger antiDoctor case, there are only 5 or 6 of them, and he argues they must all die because iirc "animals eat plants so plants must always be the enemy of animals" and they can regrow from a single leaf.
Thats a death sentence of a species based on biological discrimination.

Simon BJ

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Simon,

No offence taken at all. It’s entirely right that these questions should be debated and it’s a mark of a good episode of television that it does provoke debate. I’m just disappointed that the deate was not conducted in the episode.

I’m certainly not laughing at “Vervoids” – neither the episodes nor the mis-created creatures – and I don’t quite see how you arrive at that conclusion.

“he argues they must all die because iirc "animals eat plants so plants must always be the enemy of animals" and they can regrow from a single leaf.”

Or, he is inferring their thought processes based on evidence only once he has heard the recording of the Vervoids planning to kill everybody.

In either case, at least he is THINKING about what he is doing, rather than just skipping to “isn’t my girlfriend rather cool with the guns”.

Millennium Dome said...

To address your two points, though:

“if The Silent remain unseen there are no hunts, pograms or crusades”

Sorry, but speaking as a gay man I find the “so long as you stay hidden, then you won’t get killed” argument… morally questionable. The Home Office use that one when justifying deporting people to Iran.

“Active resistance with deadly force is permitted in self defence if it is proportionate. The Silents are, seemingly, able and willing to kill humans for obscure reasons. They abuse woman and children, drive individual humans mad, are socially parasitic, boastfully arrogant, and ignore a direct call for surrender.”

You see, I would agree with all that with one caveat.

SOME Silence do these things.

Potentially all Silence do them, but – and this is the vital point that I keep making – the episode just skips straight to that assumption with no justification or consideration.

The Doctor’s response is not limited to the Silence that we have seen to be evil; it encompasses all Silence with no restrictions.

That is why it is not proportionate.

But enough of this; I have a new episode to review.