BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!
At first I delayed reviewing these episodes because although I really enjoyed them, I thought they felt a bit incomplete because they raised so many questions. Today having seen several other episodes and a few others from the story arc, I feel more satisfied and although I feel these episodes improved with further viewing, I have to say its a bit of a flaw if I didn't feel that way on first viewing and without seeing more.
It certainly was an ambitious debut story and I quite liked them opening with a 2-parter to kick off the series. It made it feel big and epic as did shooting it in the big open spaces of the Utah desert. The location shoot was breathtaking as were the scenes by the lake.
I'm really growing to love the interactions more and more between the TARDIS team. The dynamic between the three regulars and River Song is great fun to watch. The chemistry between them all is obvious both as actors and characters. River is a great character and although I know she's either a 'love her' or 'hate her' type of character, you can count me in among 'the love her' category.
We are starting to see Rory's confidence build and his marriage with Amy grow stronger. But there are still obvious elements of envy and jealousy from him towards the Doctor. Its obvious from the way the scenes are played and the dialogue is written that The Moff likes to toy with us still that perhaps Amy hasn't really chosen Rory at all...but all of that is just him playing and teasing it always turns out that it really is Rory she's chosen. Which is good because after everything he's been through for her it would really turn a large portion of the audience against her character if she were to ditch Rory for the Doctor at this point. Except of course for the section of Doctor/Amy shippers out there.
Matt Smith has really totally captured the quirkiness of the Doctor. He's become many people's favorite Doctor even beating out David Tennant. Personally, while I absolutely love the quirky aspects of the Doctor he brings forth, I think sometimes he doesn't know how to balance that with other aspects of the character or other emotions. I've some to the conclusion that he doesn't have the range of Tennant or Christopher Eccleston as an actor. Perhaps that is because of his youth. That's not to say I don't like him, I do. Its just that I don't think he's going to be one of my favorite Doctors.
Kudos to Mark Sheppard for his performance as Canton Everett Delaware III. He made this an incredibly likable character and he really delivered his dialogue with just the right delivery. Also bringing in his father Morgan Sheppard to play an older version of him was brilliant.
The Silence are going to prove to be one of the Moff's best creations. They will undoubtedly return. They are given a great albeit brief back story and they truly are one of the creepiest creations to ever come out of Doctor Who. The scenes in the orphanage I think were among the scariest ever right up there with Blink. The idea that you can't remember them is brill...uhm, what was I talking about?
Oh, yes. I remember now. The idea of bringing an astronaut out of a lake to kill the Doctor is one of those ideas that only a genius could come up with because nobody else would be crazy enough to actually make it part of their story. I will say that although shocking and a great way to start off the series, I think The Moff shouldn't have made the statement that the Doctor is really dead and its not going to be a cop-out. The former part is fine and probably true but the latter is really going to depend on your point of view. I can't see how he can get out of this situation without doing something that isn't going to be branded a cop-out by a fair number of the audience. The Doctor obviously isn't staying dead so there's got to be a solution and therefore something that could be perceived as a cop-out if you're saying he's really dead. If its done well, I of course will forgive any solution as a cop-out personally but many won't. It seems like a promise one shouldn't make.
Nixon's scenes were very funny and entertaining. I loved him coming out of the TARDIS to get the Doctor out of trouble. Although Stuart Milligan didn't play the perfect Nixon is was good enough to pass and the writing made up for any shortcomings in the performance.
The resolution of the cliffhanger felt a bit rushed and although I liked the passage of time and the idea seeing everybody getting killed and the resolution of thus, it all seemed a bit contrived to get those scenes. I couldn't see how they actually managed to pull it off and the brief flashback really wasn't long enough to help figure it out. Why was Canton chasing them? Presumably post-hypnotic suggestion from the Silence. Ok, but why didn't he really kill them then? Presumably because the Doctor worked it out with him not to beforehand. But that doesn't make sense either because Canton seems to not realize there's any aliens out there to play act for. He needs it all explained to him so I can't see the point in the charade. Plus presumably Canton's men would also have to be in on the deception because surely trained CIA men would have noticed Amy and Rory not bleeding or having any damage done to them as they were loaded into body bags. It just doesn't fit together properly even though it was fun to watch.
The defeat of the Silence is absolutely brilliant although one has to wonder how the Doctor knew Canton would be able to conveniently capture a Silence saying they should kill them all on video. But otherwise a great resolution and the scene at the end of the little girl regenerating was a great cliffhanger for the rest of the series.
Overall this was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was fun to watch and overall I really enjoyed it. Many really great moments and great dialogue but also some things that didn't work as well as they might have.
I've decided for me the title of the story overall to be THE IMPOSSIBLE ASTRONAUT as although I like Day of the Moon almost as much, it really only pertains to the second episode and the former fits better as an overall title.
Here's my list of comparing the Doctors' twelfth stories:
1) The Romans by Dennis Spooner
2) The Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke
3) The Impossible Astronaut by Steven Moffat
4) The Runaway Bride by Russell T. Davies
5) Enlightenment by Barbara Clegg
6) The Web of Fear by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
7) Survival by Rona Munro
8) The Masque of Mandragora by Louis Marks