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 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:

Thoughts on Doctor Who – A Christmas Carol

by Amy Yen

By definition, a Christmas special, especially for a family show, is going to be centered on moral lessons & warm, fuzzy feelings about generosity & love & family & good will toward men. Rarely will you even have anything as substantial as Community’s excellent “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”

Steven Moffat’s first Doctor Who Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol,” is no different, although it does manage to get in some of Moffat’s trademark dark themes (daddy issues & domestic abuse abound!) & timey-wimey goodness to boot. Overall, it was a satisfying episode, to tide us hungry Whovians over until series 6 finally rolls around, & the moral cheesiness & fake CGI shark-powered sleigh rides can be forgiven. After all, it’s Christmas.

Other random thoughts on “A Christmas Carol”:

  • Although the “big idea” behind the episode, the Doctor’s version of the famous Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Future tale—the Doctor literally inserting himself into Kazran’s timeline & rewriting his past to change who he is—is quite clever, it does seem slightly irresponsible on the Doctor’s part. It seems the further we get from the RTD era, the less we hear about fixed points in time, not messing too much with things that have already happened, & the more we hear about how time can be rewritten. Of course, there are consequences, both the machine no longer responding to Kazran’s touch & the tragic romance of Kazran & Abigail. I like that the Doctor didn’t try to fix Abigail, realizing that this is how it has to be.
  • It happens that I just bought Steven Moffat’s version of Sherlock on DVD for my dad for Christmas. Matt Smith’s monologue, where he explains to Kazran the significance of him not hitting the boy, sounded exactly like one of Sherlock’s explanations when he has to explain the 14 logical steps he’s taken in his head, faster than everyone else in the room can get through one of them, to get to the conclusion he’s just presented.
  • “Fish that can swim in fog. I love new planets.” I love that the Doctor can always take the time to smell the roses & revel in the marvelousness of the universe.
  • Little Kazran Sardick cries for the dying shark that just tried to eat him. This is how you know Kazran is inherently good. The Doctor doesn’t change him that much. It’s also exactly the kind of thing I think will earn you the Doctor’s undying love.
  • Kazran has seemingly known the Doctor his whole life. Just like Amy.
  • “Santa Claus. Or as I’ve always known him, Jeff.” The Doctor really did have some fantastic lines in this episode.
  • “Eyes off the skirt.” Heh! PS: Yay for Arthur Darvill making the credit sequence!
  • I love that the Doctor is still possibly married to Marilyn Monroe.
  • “Like we’re saying, well done, everyone. We’re halfway out of the dark. Back on Earth, we call this Christmas.” Halfway out of the dark… Sometimes I can’t even believe how good Steven Moffat is with words.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, the series 6 trailer:

Happy Holidays, everyone! (PS: Remember, stetsons are cool.)

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 5 Finale The Big Bang

by Amy Yen

Spoiler Alert: This review includes spoilers for the US/Canada airing of “The Pandorica Opens” & “The Big Bang,” the 2-part finale of Doctor Who series 5. These episodes will (presumably) air on BBC America on July 10 & July 17.

“Big and little, at the same time. Brand new and ancient. And the Bluest. Blue. Ever.” This Doctor likes to talk, doesn’t he? He likes to works things out, out loud, to himself, to his companions, to us. He likes to muse, he likes to wax nostalgic & he likes to tells bedtime stories to little girls with red hair. He likes the fairy tale — the girl who waited for the raggedy doctor, the boy who waited for the girl, the daft old man who stole a magic box.

It’s poetic that the Doctor chooses to skip the rest of the tour down memory lane (“I hate repeats,” he says) & limits his attempts to save his memory to Amy & Amy alone. It’s like he wants to pretend his past started that night, with that body, when he met little Amelia Pond. It’s a little meta, with Matt Smith finishing off his first series, firmly solidified as The Doctor, with as brilliant a performance as we’ve come to expect of him, & best of all, Steven Moffat topping off what has at times been an unevenly written series with the type of finale that, in the RTD era, we would have expected to get blown out of proportion. But Moffat shows terrific restraint & produces a finale that is large enough in scale to be a real threat (the universe is literally collapsing) but at the same time still feels tight & focused on the characters that matter to us. The Doctor & his companions & really, no one else. There’s no huge fleets of enemies — just a lone Dalek, awesomely dealt with by River Song — & a mess that the Doctor must figure out how to clean up.

Better still, with the exploding TARDIS mystery & the cracks in space & time, Moffat’s major arc this season feels wonderfully personal to both the Doctor & Amy. It’s very neat that the mystery is not over, that there will be some carry-through to series 6. The actual resolution of the problem, the Doctor creating Big Bang 2 to bring back the universe, but being trapped behind the crack & erased by history in the process, and needing Amy to remember him to bring him back, seemed to come about too easily, but I found that I didn’t really care. I didn’t even mind how easily & quickly the Doctor escaped the cliffhanger from the end of “The Pandorica Opens,” when he is trapped by all his enemies in the inescapable box. To be honest, I watch Doctor Who for the Doctor, to see him have adventures & save the world. Nobody wants to see him taken out of the game for too long. I actually thought the time travel aspects of the episode were all really fun & clever. I particularly liked seeing the logistics play out of him going to see Rory to tell him how to get past-him out of the Pandorica (with the cue from Rory involving the ridiculous fez & mop & the Doctor realizing he’s missing his sonic screwdriver now because he gave it to Rory 2000 years ago & thus going back to give the instruction to put it in Amy’s pocket so it’d be there in the future).

I was also hugely relieved that the story resolved with Rory alive & human & back on the TARDIS again, although it conflicts with reports that he wouldn’t be returning with Amy in the next series. Right now I’m choosing to believe the reports were wrong, because Rory is awesome. I loved the idea of the Roman centurion guarding the Pandorica for 2000 years to protect Amy. “Why do you have to be so…human?” the Doctor wonders, because, at that moment, he’s not, & the Doctor loves him for it. Rory is a hero; he is Mickey Smith, much sooner than Mickey Smith became Mickey Smith. In the end, maybe he realizes, he can have the girl and the adventure too. Because in the end, Rory also loves the Doctor.

There’s also River Song in this story, although she turns out to be much less pivotal than originally thought. The most interesting part of her remains what she will be. “You always dance at weddings, don’t you,” she teases. The Doctor remains largely baffled by her, but he’s getting better at hiding it. He hands her back her vortex manipulator with the casualness you’d never see him show with Captain Jack. He trusts her. But even she, in a roundabout way, is warning him that he maybe shouldn’t yet.

Anyway, going back to Amy, because that’s what this entire series was really about. The Doctor asks her if it was worth it. “Shut up, of course it was,” she tells him. He tells her he lied. He didn’t take her along with him because he was lonely (although that can’t be a complete lie). He chose her because her life was all wrong. Her house was too big, there are holes in her story. “Amy Pond. All alone. The girl who didn’t make sense. How could I resist?”

Amy’s story is one of the most interesting companion stories we’ve seen because the Doctor has been entwined in her entire life. He’s been actually responsible for very real emotional issues with her character. “Twelve years & four therapists,” she tells him when he first finds her again. It’s a much more grown-up, serious backstory than we’re used to for a companion. But Amy is tenacious. She doesn’t forget & when she figures it out, she interrupts her own wedding. “I remember you and you are late for my wedding!” she shouts at the Doctor who she’s always waiting for. She is messed up & complex & brilliant. How could the Doctor resist?

Additional notes on “The Pandorica Opens” & “The Big Bang”:

  • I have found Murray Gold’s score inconsistent & at times distracting throughout the series, which is odd because I used to find him very solid in the Tennant years (“Martha’s Theme” remains one of my favorite scored pieces from a TV series). But I thought the music was used very well in “Big Bang” & especially loved the Eleventh Doctor’s Theme at the very end when Amy & Rory rejoined him on the TARDIS & they left for their next adventure.
  • “I found you. I found you with words, just like you knew I would.” Did he, I wonder? It seemed very much like, in Amelia’s bedroom, that the Doctor was resigned to the fact that he couldn’t make Amy remember. But then, she’s right, why tell her the story? And he did show up in his tux.
  • Looking back on it, I wish there were one or two more plants where the Doctor tried to talk to Amy during his rewind. We don’t see her on the TARDIS (amusingly on the way to Space Florida) or dropping off the card during “The Lodger,” so it’s just the scene during “Flesh & Stone” that was our clue.
  • “Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue.” I especially loved all the references to the blue blue of the TARDIS. When they re-painted the TARDIS back in “The Eleventh Hour,” I found it to be almost too blue, like it looked like a toy. But it all went with the fairy tale atmosphere of the entire season. “The Bluest. Blue. Ever.” Sometimes I feel like Moffat likes to write exactly the way I like to think.