Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 7 Mid-Series Finale: The Angels Take Manhattan

by Amy Yen

Best. Companion send-off. Ever.

I read that on Twitter after I watched the mid-series finale of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the much anticipated (and dreaded) goodbye for Mr. and Mrs. Pond, & I can’t disagree. It wasn’t a perfect story, but it was a perfect ending for them. Even if the Doctor can’t see it right now.

I have to say, I’m so relieved Moffat did these characters justice. It’s been, let’s just say, not my favorite series, & the main reason is that, for a series that has been leading up to their inevitable departure, I’ve felt like the first four episodes were the least effective use of the Ponds yet. Not one of those stories even came close to featuring them as well as something like “The Girl Who Waited,” or “Amy’s Choice.” Luckily, when it came down to it, Moffat went back to the one thing that was always consistent about Amy & Rory: they will always, always choose each other.

The two choices that were made in this episode — Rory & Amy choosing to jump off the building in blind hope that the paradox would erase Rory’s fate of a life without Amy, and Amy choosing to let the Angel zap her back in time in blind hope that it would save her from a life without Rory — were consistent with every other choice we’ve seen them make. Amy choosing the frozen TARDIS timeline when she realized she would lose Rory in the Leadworth timeline. Rory choosing to stay by the Pandorica to guard Amy. Amy choosing to let her older self die so her younger self could grow old with Rory. In the end, when the Angel took Rory and Amy had to choose between trying to be with him or staying with the Doctor, it never was a choice at all.

The Doctor does not take it so well. It’s interesting, the Doctor hates endings & he’s desperately afraid of losing Amy. That’s why he dropped her & Rory off after “The God Complex.” He’s “saving” them, so says Amy. But he can’t give them up any more than they can give him up, so he keeps coming back (as if to keep making up for not showing up the first time). Here, he is selfish. He tells Amy he doesn’t know if the Angel will send her back to the same time as Rory, when he does full well that it does. That’s why Billy Shipton winds up in the same time as Ten & Martha. He begs Amy not to do this, not to leave him, asks her to “come along, Pond” when he knows it would mean she wouldn’t see Rory again. It’s all very human of him.

What the Doctor can’t see in his grief, in this moment, is this is really the best possible outcome for Amy & Rory. Maybe they didn’t quite go out on their own terms, but they went out together & they lived. And considering how often each of them has died (especially Rory, who, hilariously, died again this episode…one more for the road, yes?), this is a borderline miraculous ending.

More random thoughts on ‘The Angels Take Manhattan”:

  • “To save you, I could do anything.” Don’t doubt it. He’s got two thousand years to back it up. Rory Williams truly is among the most romantic figures in recent pop culture. And to Amy, for Amy, he’s every bit the hero the Doctor is.
  • It’s fitting this episode read like a book, considering Amy Pond’s story has always had a little bit of fairy tale to it.
  • The Weeping Angels really hold up. They’re still every bit as terrifying as they were in “Blink,” & I like that we see them in their original flavor here. I always thought the zapping-people-back-in-time thing was way more interesting than what they did in “Time of Angels.”
  • So. The Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel huh? Of course she is.
  • Look, I really liked this episode, so I’m going to choose to ignore a bunch of plot holes here, like why the hell the Doctor wouldn’t take the TARDIS to go to the hotel instead of stealing a car, or where the hell the Angel went after it zapped Amy at the end, since neither the Doctor or River were looking at it, or since when could the Doctor just heal injuries with regeneration energy?
  • “Just you wait when my husband gets home.” While I don’t know that River was really essential to this story, it’s appropriate she’s here, since it is her parents & all. Plus, it made for a whole lot of awesome flirting between her & the Doctor. Especially loved the Doctor checking his breath & straightening his bow tie before seeing her. Aw.
  • Speaking of River, it’s nice that she was pardoned for that murder she didn’t actually commit (which I’m still kind of appalled by, so hopefully this is the last we’ll hear of it). Yet another convenient side effect of the continuing Doctor-erased-from-everything sub-plot. And there’s that pesky Question again. Hidden in plain sight.
  • I thought for a while, when Amy & Rory were on the ledge about to jump, the Doctor would end up saving them in the TARDIS, like he’s done with River a few times. But I like that the Doctor was so powerless in this episode, that he couldn’t save them & they had to save themselves. This story isn’t about the Doctor.
  • So lovely to see little Amelia Pond again. A lovely touch to end where it began. Amelia, unlike Amy, will never grow old.
  • I’m so not a fan of these split seasons. These series are not long enough to split…there’s barely any momentum & it’s over again. Now we have to wait all the way until Christmas to meet Oswin or Clara or whoever she is.
  • I can’t go without saying, Matt Smith & Arthur Darvill & especially Karen Gillan were all terrific this episode. “Raggedy man, goodbye.” Argh! Just heartbreaking.
  • Did you notice the newspaper Amy is reading in the park at the beginning of the episode? The headline reads “Detroit Lions Win Super Bowl.” And if that wasn’t an indication they were in some bizarre, Fringe-like alternate timeline, I don’t know what is.
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Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6.5 Premiere Let’s Kill Hitler

by Amy Yen

“No, she will be amazing.”

Oh, the twisty-turny, timey-wimey, crazy, tragic, brilliant, impossible life of River Song. How do we even begin to talk about River Song?

So it turns out, everything about the River Song we know is a paradox. Her TARDIS blue diary, the “spoilers” she always warns about, “Rule 1: The Doctor Lies,” all of it came from the Doctor himself, who got it from River. Even her name, both of her names, are paradoxes. Amy names her baby after Mel, who is her baby. River takes her name from the Doctor, after the Doctor knows her as River. It’s impossible. She‘s impossible.

So we finally meet River at the start of her story, so long after meeting her at the end. She’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. “You got to raise me after all,” she tells Amy & Rory, & it’s an awesome idea, the girl who grew up with Amy & her imaginary friend. It’s such an awesome idea, I only wish there had been a few more plants for it. As it is, it does seem odd their best friend isn’t at their wedding or in any of the many scenes of their life in Leadworth, particularly in “The Eleventh Hour.”

So “Mel” regenerates into the future River & man, does Alex Kingston so clearly have a blast with Regeneration Cycle River, who is as spazzy & insane & fantastic as Eleven was when he first appeared. And she uses all of her remaining regenerations in one go, which doesn’t make sense on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it was established in the Sarah Jane Adventures last year that time lords can most likely continue regenerating indefinitely. But it does conveniently explain why River doesn’t renegerate in the Library, so I guess that’s a plot hole we’ll ignore.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” was full of answers, sometimes almost to a surreal degree (particularly when the Doctor accesses the Justice Department robot’s records on the Silence). But there are still plenty more left. The Silence is a movement based around the oldest question in the universe, hiding in plain sight (a familiar Moffat theme). Which is what? The Doctor now knows of his impending death, which we knew was going to happen since he has to set up the blue envelopes. But we still don’t know the goal of that exercise, since it still can’t be to save him, because we know now the Doctor’s death is apparently a fixed point in time. So how are they going to get out of this now?

More random thoughts on “Let’s Kill Hitler“:

  • Love Amy & Rory’s crop circle signal to the Doctor. It’s interesting that this is the first I think we’ve seen companions getting extended breaks on Earth in the middle of their adventures & getting the Doctor’s attention this way. If I remember right, before the Doctor had Martha’s phone, companions on Earth never had a way of contacting him again. Or I guess they did, but they just weren’t as clever as Amy & Rory.
  • “Permission?” “Granted.” I do love Rory & the Doctor’s revolving mutual perception of each other. The Doctor respecting Rory more & more, Rory accepting the Doctor’s role in Amy’s (& his) life.
  • The Justice Department robot thing is really cool, such a neat idea. Executed wonderfully, like Mystique in the X-Men movies. And for another comparison, the inside control room was totally Enterprise all the way.
  • Rory was extra awesome this episode & I can’t tell you how nice it is to see him taking a more active part in all these adventures. “Shut up, Hitler!” “Right, putting Hitler in the cupboard. In you go!”
  • “Time can be rewritten. Remember Kennedy?” Wait, what?
  • Guiltalso guiltmore guilt!” Man, Ten’s companions were emotionally scarring for him. Also, interesting moment when he rejects the image of himself, “No, give me someone I like!” The Dream Lord was right after all.
  • The TARDIS tells the Doctor regeneration has been disabled. Why? How? This is never explained & it’s a troublesome plot hole.
  • “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.” HA! Also, Robot Amy? Exceptionally creepy. And nice job with the dead eyes, Karen Gillan.
  • Sonic cane!
  • River is the child of the TARDIS…so the TARDIS teaches her how to fly. It’s lovely & makes perfect sense.
  • This was Matt Smith’s best performance yet. He’s just so brilliant.
  • “As far as first dates go, I’d say that was mixed signals.” I can’t even put into words how fantastic the dialogue Steven Moffat writes is sometimes.

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Premiere The Impossible Astronaut

by Amy Yen

I must have really missed Doctor Who. I know because all of the callbacks in “The Impossible Astronaut” — from “Hello sweetie” to “fish fingers and custard” — all elicited the same gleeful reaction from me. And why shouldn’t they? Here’s a show where stetsons are cool.

Part 1 of the series 6 premiere is classic Steven Moffat, packed full of extremely creepy monsters, timey-wimey puzzle pieces & clever, clever lines. And while the spacemen (presumably, although it is never actually said, the Silence from last series) are terrifying (you can’t remember them unless you’re looking right at them) & the Doctor recruiting his past self & his companions to…do what exactly?…is both fun & scary at the same time, the best part of the episode to me was the full fleshed out, completely wonderful relationships between the four leads.

The Doctor & Amy are the same as ever, with a full series of complete trust in each other under their belts. Even as the Doctor flirts outrageously with River, he reminds her that he can never truly trust her (cold, even for him). But he will trust Amy.

“My life in your hands. Amelia Pond.” This is nothing new. His life has been in Amy Pond’s hands before & nothing has changed between them. What is new & surprisingly fun to watch is where Rory fits in to all this. With many complaints that Amy & Rory spent very little of series 5 acting like people about to get married, here, they do. Rory has also clearly grown up quite a bit since the last series…he even catches on quicker than Amy about what has to be done. He & River talk logically, maturely, about the clues in front of them, while Amy is still too devastated to think straight. It’s impressive. He’s impressive. And it’s nice to see him develop as a companion on his own, rather than just as an extension of Amy.

It’s also Rory who gets from River the straight answer about the “far worse day” she’s dreading so much. It’s not just that she & the Doctor keep meeting out of order. It’s that they’re essentially meeting in the opposite order. Which means the day is coming when she will meet a Doctor that has no idea who she is. Of course, we’ve already seen this, their adventure in the Library. But it’s heartbreaking hearing it from her. Because it’s taken a little while to love River Song (her, and not just the idea of her), but as she corrected the Doctor’s movements in the TARDIS (“Just admiring your skills, sweetie”), it is hard not to.

More random notes on “The Impossible Astronaut”:

  • I loved Canton Everett Delaware III. I’m a little predisposed to it, having enjoyed genre TV staple Mark Sheppard as Crowley on Supernatural, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica, Sterling on Leverage, Valda on Warehouse 13 & a million other things, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him so well used here in what is reportedly just a guest role. But Canton is a companion, both officially (he is invited to travel in the TARDIS & even gets Rory’s awkward orientation) & spiritually (he delights, rather than panic, in the face of the impossible). I didn’t think of it until later, but what’s brilliant about him is he is our companion introduction — a plot device that reintroduces the wonders of the TARDIS to the audience (think Ten mouthing along with Martha, “It’s bigger on the inside!” “Is it? I hadn’t noticed!”). Usually this is accomplished when the Doctor invites someone new on board, but since this is the first series since series 2 that does not introduce a new full-time companion, we get Canton as a stand-in.
  • “We’re in a box that’s bigger on the inside that travels in time and space.” “Yeah, basically.” “How long has Scotland Yard had this?” HA! I’m really sad Canton is not recurring now. Also, not a bad American accent, Mark Sheppard. It’s kind of funny that he uses his British accent on all his U.S. roles & here, on the quintessential U.K. show, he plays an American.
  • So, the Doctor’s “waving” at Rory & Amy through history books was pretty much the most hilarious thing of all time. I mean, the painting, with the cherubs & the trident? SERIOUSLY.
  • “What face?” “The ‘he’s hot when he’s clever’ face.” “This is my normal face.” “Yes it is.” So, the Doctor flirts now? This one does, it seems, mostly with River Song (although the line about Jefferson, Adams & Hamilton was pretty funny…wonder which two fancied him?).
  • “Human beings. I thought I’d never get done saving you.” Really, so many good lines in this episode.
  • Not one, but two “Doctor who?” lines in this episode. Interestingly, neither of them are answered with “Just The Doctor.” Also, Canton gets to say the “bigger on the inside” line. The Doctor wasn’t even paying attention, so it didn’t even make up with Rory not saying it.
  • Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Eleventh Doctor’s Theme?
  • Nice callback to the Master’s funeral pyre with not being able to leave a time lord’s body up for grabs.
  • “A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers.” Right, like Ten & Martha Jones getting stuck for three months while Sally Sparrow fights off the Weeping Angels.
  • The spaceman kind of looks like an Ood.
  • Utah is gorgeous. Makes me want to go there, which I can say is a new feeling.
  • Amy is pregnant. Wait, really?
  • So, I’m reading a few reviews that are criticizing the episode for being overly mythology-heavy & inaccessible to the casual viewer. They are not wrong. If you’re watching Doctor Who for the first time, this is probably not the episode to do it. There’s not even a previouslys to catch you up on how the blue box is bigger on the inside, who River Song is, how time can be rewritten, etc. But as a fan of Fringe, the most mythology-immersed show on TV right now, I have to say, accessibility is overrated. The serialization, the mythology, the call-backs, that’s what makes this episode so damn fun. If you want to know what’s going on, go back, start with “Rose,” like I did.
  • In memory of Elisabeth Sladen. Goodbye, our Sarah Jane Smith.

PS: So Part 2 of the premiere, Day of the Moon, looks incredible:

A Mad Man With a Box: The Matt Smith+Steven Moffat Era of Doctor Who Begins

-by Amy Yen

It begins with a blue box, crashing through the night sky over London, past the London Eye, where Rose Tyler had to point out to Nine where the Nestene Consciousness hid, past Big Ben, where Captain Jack Harkness parked his stolen Chula spaceship, landing finally in the garden of little Amelia Pond. Amelia Pond, with her red hair & red jacket, who finds magic in her garden. It’s a fairy tale, you see, & it’s irresistible.

After the never-ending indulgence that was David Tennant’s exit from Doctor Who, “The Eleventh Hour,” the series 5 premiere & first full adventure with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor & Steven Moffat running the show, was a breath of fresh air. It was funny & it was scary, it was dark & it was touching. It was magical & wonderful in the way that Doctor Who is when it’s at its best.

What was brilliant about Matt Smith’s performance in this story is there are just enough moments where Eleven sounds like Ten, like you can actually hear David Tennant speaking those words, & it reassures you that this is the Doctor we know & love (love the little “What? What?? WHAT?!?” & even the “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey” callbacks). At the same time, Moffat clearly took great pains to make sure he was different, a new man, & this was infinitely helped by the fact that, unlike “The Christmas Invasion,” the Doctor was up & about through his entire regeneration cycle, with only minimal reminders that he’s “still cooking.”

I loved that Steven Moffat obviously wanted to pay homage to the history of the show with this, his reinvention of it. What a fantastic extended sequence at the end, detailing the Doctor’s long, intimate involvement with Planet Earth, cleverly disguised in a plot device that also conveniently shows what kind of man Eleven is (answer: a confident one, & a righteous one), as well as paying tribute to Doctors One through Ten that came before him.

It can’t be said enough how impressive it is to introduce both a new Doctor & a new companion in the same episode. And yes, I loved Amy Pond. I loved her story, I love that she & the Doctor have this history that goes back almost her whole life (it reminded me a lot of Madame de Pompadour in “The Girl in the Fireplace“). I loved her spirit & her skepticism. I loved that she instantly loved the Doctor. I think from the moment he bent down to meet her eye & told her she  could trust him, she loved him. Then of course, he didn’t come back for 12 years & I imagine she hated him, but it didn’t last. I like the twist with her wedding.

Other notes from “The Eleventh Hour”:

  • With all that’s been made of it, I find Amy Pond’s profession pretty inconsequential. All that you can say about it is it’s not a career, she won’t be missing anything from it by leaving, she is not Doctor Martha Jones. I think it’s interesting that Moffat made her almost purposely unattached, with no family, really, except for Rory. I think Ten’s companions’ families were hit or miss & while it’s interesting to flesh out the companion’s connections to Earth, it’s not, in the end, what the story is supposed to be about.
  • Rory, of course, is the other crucial difference between Amy Pond & Ten’s companions. I love that they made Rory kind of awesome & involved in the action. He was certainly not Mickey Smith as we first met him, a fool who took two series to become a hero. If you’ve heard anything about this series, you know Rory may end up in the TARDIS yet, which is really intriguing to me.
  • Liked the new opening credits, it was same enough…but a little grown up.
  • Eleven’s Rules for Being a Good Companion: “Do everything I tell you, don’t ask stupid questions & don’t wander off.” Yeah, good luck with that.
  • The food craving sequence was funny, but it was also probably my least favorite part of the episode. I thought it went on way too long & more importantly, it was too early in the episode to be wasting time like that.
  • I thought it was very smart to make the monster of the week, Prisoner Zero, genuinely creepy. There’s something so unsettling about the multi-forms the monster took, the man+the dog, the woman+the two little girls, just flat out CREEPY. And little Amelia Pond & the Doctor? Just wrong, that was. The giant eyeball was creepy also, although the creepiest part was when the eyeball was darting in the TV set in the background of the scene. Inexplicable why it’s a human eyeball, but I’ll let that slide.
  • “The final score: no TARDIS, no screwdriver, two minutes to spare…who the man??!” HA!