Watching this week’s episode was an exercise in how weird it is to watch TV in the 21st century. By which I mean: how strange it is to follow a story for which you have been exposed to many spoilers. As much as I complained about series 5 and 6 in last week’s Doctor Who post, one thing I appreciated in an “isn’t that such a witty critique on modern culture” kind of way was River Song’s constant awareness of the danger of spoilers. I suppose this comes with the territory of time traveling. Or indeed the internet. Although I would have been perfectly happy with River Song’s never appearing again after the two-parter Library episodes in series 4,* the spoilers-theme keeps rearing its ugly head.
This episode was narrated by Amy Pond as if it had happened in the past. My memory may be faulty, but I can’t remember this happening (throughout an episode, I mean, not just as introductory sentences at the beginning of the episode as in series 6) since Rose’s last two episodes in season 2.** I suppose in A Town Called Mercy, you had that unnamed little girl narrating it, but that had more the feel of another nod to the spaghetti western style of filmmaking. In The Power of Three, Amy’s amiable recollection of ‘a year in the life’ was, to me, an indication that she knows something we don’t, that the end is near – in itself, a spoiler.***
In the last few episodes, Rory has seemed remarkably less mopey about the Doctor’s presence in their lives. Whereas for quite some time he seemed unable to do much more than rag on the Doctor for being an interruption in their life – quite right, given that Amy was kind of giving Rory the run-around whilst she got over her infatuation with the Doctor! – he seems to have got to a place where he is much more enthusiastic about travelling in the Tardis. Not that this means he won’t plainly bring up the choice looming before the Pond-Williamses of which life they will live for the long term. When he wasn’t running around in his underpants in this episode §, Rory seemed to be achieving generally badassery in the fields of nursing, tea-making, responsible couple chat, and discovering secret portals to alien ships orbiting the earth. Is there room in the Tardis for a companion who is both bumblingly endearing, practical and also as competent as Rory has become? Doubtful. Donna Noble got too competent and look what happened to her.
Stepping back from the character development of this episode a bit, I wonder what it would be like to watch DW – or any show for that matter – without sort of knowing what was going to happen. I found out sometime last month or the month before that the Pond-Williamses only had five or six episodes left. Most of the tech-savvy whovians out there will know this. I can’t help but wonder how much this influences the structure of the narrative. There’s not much of a possibility to be surprised by the departure of a character from a TV serial anymore, at least for those who follow even halfheartedly. §§ It seems that serials with revolving-door casts must content themselves with supplying their surprises in other places, given that the departure (or addition) of cast members will always be a matter surrounded by spoilers.
Despite the relative poetry of the Doctor’s description of his feelings for the Ponds in this episode, I can’t help but feel less attached than apparently he does to Amy & Rory. Time will tell, I guess, whether the tragic demise (disappearance?) of the Ponds will require tissues in Spitalfields.
* Sorry, Alex Kingston. You’re lovely, but just…no.
** Unsubtlety alert.
*** Although – did anyone else feel a little miffed on behalf of Martha ‘the Under-appreciated’ Jones, who had to deal with the Doctor becoming human for a year in 1914 and completely forgetting her? At least the Doctor has gotten better at valuing his companions.
§ Have the writers suddenly realised that they have a wider demographic watching this show than those who want to see Amy Pond’s unclad knees? Trousers-less Rory, nearly-shirtless Doctor (not to be confused with nearly-headless Nick)…I was almost expecting Arthur Weasley to start stripping at any moment but then I realised that the show is all about its ‘young peepul’ these days and wouldn’t that play hockey with the show’s ratings.
§§ All right, all right, I know I don’t follow Doctor Who halfheartedly, but most other bits of pop culture I follow, I do so with less enthusiasm.