In their infinite silliness, the Beeb and/or their marketing department have decided to string out the current Doctor Who season by inserting a gap in between these past four episodes and those featuring the new companion. Well, you might say, actually, Erin, it’s not very silly at all. Think of the hype that can be built up in several months, the anticipation for the new companion, the internet-fueled excitement, the viewings and ratings boost, etc., etc., etc. Quite aware of this ploy, I can assure you that I still find nothing very sensible in doing it from a purely plot-focused perspective. But let’s tackle the last episode rather than have a meta-moan.
Mr. Moffat, will you QUIT IT with the angels already? That was pretty much my thought upon hearing the title of the episode; ‘The Angels Take Manhattan.’ Whereas ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ was an excellently matter-of-fact spoof, ‘The Angels Take Manhattan,’ felt like a tired re-airing of the Weeping Angels, whom apparently (like the Daleks) are set to become the Baddies That Never Go Away. Though I suppose I appreciate the writers’ insistence on staying away from the aforementioned kitchen utensil-shaped Exterminators or, even worse, the Cybermen, I want to believe they are capable of creating villains that rely on more than gaping plot holes to continue their tenure on the show.
Also, Mr. Moffat, you are dangerously close to exhausting River Song’s usefulness as a character. Maybe let the girl have a bit of a rest and gather some mystique before you fling her back into the action, why don’t you? Without going into the ludicrous conclusion to the last season in ‘The Wedding of River Song,’ I think I can safely say that we have seen enough of River Song in a while,* fantastic vintage styled costumes or no fantastic vintage styled costumes.
Speaking of fantastic costumes**: poor, poor, self-aware Rory. I will admit that I laughed the hardest in this episode whilst he was standing on the ledge of the building arguing with Amy about whether or not to jump. She asked something along the lines of, “What, you just think you’ll spring back to life?” And he answered, “When don’t I?” When, indeed! What does the tally of his death-no-not-quite-death-because-wahey-he’s-back-again experiences stand at now? This is just another example of why Rory is a great companion. He’s the one that everybody watching can associate themselves with, he brings both a bumbling cluelessness and an intuition to the show, he’s motivated by a grounding devotion to something other than the Doctor, and he has a snarky voice for the writers to employ for their geeky in-jokes. I wonder if they, realising Amy’s inherent flaws, set out to really make Rory the person who will be missed now that the Pond-Williams era has finished?
And whilst we’re on the topic of of jumping off buildings: call me conservative, but for a show that is at least on one level a ‘kids’ show,’ I’m not sure how keen I am on a possible double suicide pact being portrayed in such a noble light. Sure, life in the Tardis ain’t real life and all that, but the argument that there are some things/people/relationships that, if one loses them, one’s life is no longer worth living, is not something that I feel needs any affirmation. This isn’t even a noble self-sacrifice; this is ‘I can’t live my life without you so I’d rather take my chance at death.’ Squirm.
Briefly passing over the out-of-the-blue plot weaknesses (the Statue of Liberty marching across Manhattan and doing so completely unseen by anyone, the ‘once you’ve read it you must live it’ rule, and the entire previous episode, ‘The Power of Three,’) this final hoorah for the Pond-Williamses did have a few bright points. Complain though I might about River Song, her presence at Amy’s final departure lent a seriousness and a finality to the moment, even if ‘behave yourself, Melody,’ still fell a little flat as a line. And the married-couple dynamics between her and the Doctor work in an odd way, especially when we saw her choose to lie about breaking her wrist and then deal with the aftermath. And even Mrs Amy Pond continued her less-than-annoying streak this episode with her ‘We’re gonna go save Rory and the angels can suck it,’ attitude and the self-assured, almost maternal tone to her ‘last page letter’ to the Doctor.
But perhaps what was best about this episode was the Doctor’s sheer powerlessness. Matt Smith’s Doctor has been very much about cleverness and control and it is always fascinating to see what happens when he is written into situations in which he has no control or only the illusion of it. Throughout the episode the plot is driven forward either by the time-energy-hungry angels or by the actions of Rory, Amy or River, not the Doctor himself. To see him take a back seat to others is a reminder that despite all the ‘lonely god’ language and mythology built up around him, his arrogant claim to mastery of time and space is a false one.
For myself, I plan to spend the time until Christmas reading absolutely nothing about the upcoming episodes, the new companion or the ensuing hijinks. Because once I read them, of course, they’re sure to happen.***
*Although I would be completely willing to retract that statement if somehow River were to regenerate as, say, DalekGirl/the new companion. That would take some clever cherry-stem-tying with the plot, but wouldn’t it be worth it?
**I really am going to miss his clothes.
***Since when was this a rule of time and space? Plot device, Mr Frodo.