With their penultimate episode, the Pond-Williamses got a little bit of a Valentine’s card from The Doctor. Ostensibly another alien invasion story, it was really just an excuse to situate The Doctor firmly in the world of Amy and Rory just so he could express how much they mean to him.
And we say “another” alien invasion story, but that’s not quite fair to Steven Moffat, whose reign on the show has been remarkably light on alien invasion stories. In fact, this episode felt in many ways like a Russell T Davies-era version of the show. Swap out Rory and Amy for Mickey and Rose, and Brian for Jackie, sit them all on a couch in a London living room watching multiple news reports, and you’ve got a half-dozen stories from seasons 1 and 2 of Nu-Who. It really stood out to us how closely it paralleled earlier scenes in earlier seasons.
In fact, we’re going to take that thought one step further: The rather emotionally open version of the Doctor; the one who sits down with Amy and explains exactly why he can’t let go of her and exactly why he does what he does, wasn’t quite recognizable as the 11th Doctor. The words he was saying – the very action of professing his love for his companions to his companions – is something we really haven’t seen since David Tennant occupied the role. Not that 11 has been emotionally cold; just that he was never as open or poetic about his feelings as the (at times too open) 10th Doctor. Let’s also not forget the obvious symbolism of The Doctor’s heart giving out on him.
And his explanation was rather beautifully written. After Amy accuses him of using his adventures to run away, he insists it’s the opposite: he is running toward the ever-expanding universe, trying to catch glimpses of every little thing before they all flare out and fade away (including the Ponds). It always felt to us like Moffat never quite agreed with the Davies take of a tortured, lonely god-figure and this is his way of addressing that head on. He’s not a lonely god; he’s a scientist, driven by an insatiable curiosity wrapped up in a thirst for adventure. Couple this with the re-appearance of UNIT (as well as the introduction of the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and it all felt quite deliberate. As we said in a previous recap, 11 has, through most of his tenure, felt somewhat removed from his own history and past selves. Moffat really seems to be ramping up the references to the past more and more this season, and we suspect it has something to do with the upcoming 50th anniversary.
As for Amy and Rory, we kind of felt like they were spinning their wheels, narratively speaking. We’ve already been introduced to the idea that they have full lives away from the Doctor and that those lives are becoming more compelling to them. To have them state it outright in this episode felt a little repetitive. Still, it was interesting and charming to see them putter through the life they have now, a full ten years after the Doctor re-appeared in Amy’s life. Rory’s still a nurse (and apparently, a very good one) and Amy’s on her 4th or 5th career; this time, she’s a travel writer, which makes a certain amount of sense, although we wouldn’t credit Amy with being all that good a writer on the face of it. She’s a lot of things, but creatively articulate doesn’t strike us as one of them. They live in a lovely home, and appear to have a large and supportive group of friends – who they will ditch in the middle of their own anniversary party so they can run off and have seven weeks of adventures with the Doctor. This, to us, is the most interesting part of the story. The part of Doctor Who lore one almost never sees: What is life like for continuous time travelers? What does it mean to leave a party, go off for two months, and then arrive back at the moment you left? And what does it mean when someone in your life notices?
Unfortunately, the script never really answered the questions it posed. Brian seemed right on the verge of realizing what a dangerous game they’re playing and how they’re essentially removing themselves from normal human existence, but then he urges them to keep on going. Amy and Rory admit to each other that they really like their day-to-day life, but once they hear the wheeze of the TARDIS engines, they’re off and running – quite literally. It felt like a point was trying to assert itself but then got buried.
Still, it was a fun episode. We suspect the aliens involved will be part of a much larger story, but really, this was just a chance for the audience and the Doctor to spend a little more time with (and fall a little in love with – again) Rory and Amy before they get their no-doubt tearful sendoff. What’s interesting is that the Doctor feels the same way about them as we do – that their time is ending. But we know this because we follow the news of the show and know that Arthur Darville and Karen Gillan are being written out. Why, exactly, does the Doctor seem to know that things are ending soon? After all, didn’t his appearance this episode have the whiff of a man saying goodbye? Having one final fun time before it all goes bad? There’s been some conjecture online that the Doctor we’re seeing – who’s a hundred years older than the Doctor of last season – has already watched the Pond-Williamses meet their final fate and has gone back on their timeline just to spend more time with them. It’s a bit of a riff on the River Song storyline, which makes sense, seeing as how she’s their daughter. One thing’s for sure, after decades and decades of companions, Moffat found a way to make his companion rise to the top in terms of importance. The Doctor hasn’t ever really spent this much time in the life of one Companion (Amy calls it “ten years,” but it’s really 22), nor have any companions seen a Doctor age so much in their time with him (300 years). Like we said last week, it gives these relationships an intensity most Doctor-Companion relationships don’t have. “Your face was the first face this face ever saw” is a lovely – and quite Doctor-specific – sentiment.
And one final drop: Has anyone else noticed that the color of the time vortex keeps changing in the opening credits? Green for the last couple of weeks, and then bright pink last night? Discuss.
[Photo Credit: BBC America]