“Do we think next week's big reveal will be that the Doctor was a ganger all along? I confess I'd be a tad disappointed if so as I thought that from the beginning and I'd like to be proved wrong.”
“God I bloody hope not. That would be weak. Only Miracle Day would be worse. I do have a theory about all the eye-patches ....”
“Go on, tell me your theory!”
“The eye patches are way for people to see The Silents somehow.”
“Oh now that /is/ good. Eye patches to see the Silents. Definitely I can get behind that.”
TV Looks like Moffat got behind it too. Hello. That’s an exchange from some emails I’ve been swapping with a friend this past couple of weeks (I know! Emails! Like it’s the early noughies!). She’s speaking (typing?) first above and was somewhat correct about it being some sort of shape-changer that explains the Doctor’s lack of mortality, but the metal option instead of the Flesh. The eye-patches were my guess after seeing the front cover of the Radio Times and the Doctor with his Andrew Ridgeley hair wearing one. Unless he’d gone evil, i thought, it had to be a handy device of some sort. That and cunning tribute to dear Nicholas Courtney.
The Brig is dead. Long live the Brig. Moffat’s killed the Brig. Everyone dies, of course, and within the story it is Alistair helping his friend one last time, from beyond the grave, reminding him of his own potential mortality. It’s a sweet scene, beautifully acted by Matt in one of those moments when we can see the weight of the Time Lord’s years on his shoulders. Lived too long and all that. This being Doctor Who, what's to stop Eleventh skipping back to before his friend died and having a chat? He knows Churchill died. He's still friends with him. The Brig is dead. Long live the Brig.
As the past three and a half stand-alone episodes flew by, two elements of the pre-publicity indicated that Steven Moffat had something of a challenge ahead. Firstly, the first forty-five minute timeslot for a finale. Secondly, the photography of the beardy Doctor and Churchill. Not only was the man going to have to tie-up all of those loose ends, he was apparently creating a whole bunch of others. How was he going to cope? Firstly, by not explaining everything. Secondly, by once again packing in so much detail, that there was barely a moment for us to stop and think. This is where the budget for the past four episodes went.
Apart from everything considered below (seriously, your screen is about to be drenched in over-analysis) (find an umbrella), this was one of the best directed of the season, with Jeremy Webb matching Toby Haynes's lustrous work from the opening few episodes. The final push in through the Testicle's eye to the Doctor dancing recalls the magic of silent cinema and if some of the green screen work doesn't quite convince (around Lake Silencio and at the top of the pyramid) thanks to the magic of high definition television, it's that HD which makes this approximate something made on a vast Hollywood budget.
It’s customary now for Moffat to reveals the new status quo and then explain how the Doctor and his friends got into what’s usually a fine mess. The time imprinting on itself is one of the wildest and even if it is more interested in the visuals than anything approaching logical progression, my assumption being that whatever is left of the web of time is, similar to the survivors in The Waters of Mars, consolidating what is there so that it made sense (unlike Torchwood's End of Days when such time intrusions were incongruous). Not sure why you’d need clocks if there’s no such things as time, though, other than because the narrative required it.
As we wait to see which other authors than Dickens might fall down BBC Breakfast's plug hole (Timelash’s HG Wells would have been apt) we're confronted by another of Moffat’s flashback structures, as The Wedding of River Song becomes a clip show full of scenes we haven’t seen yet. This could have created problems up front because although the change in history was exciting and well executed and all of that, it means that the episode becomes pinioned on exposition rather than an emotional journey. The Doctor is telling us and Ian McNiece (who’s given up pretensions to properly mimicking Churchill) about stuff which has already happened.
Moffat counteracts that by creating tension in between by having the pair chased by The Silents, and mimicking the audiences reaction to the Doctor’s filling in of the narrative gaps by showing them experiencing similar. He also sends the Doctor on another one of his quests around the universe filled with brief encounters with unusual people, references to companions of the recent past that sound weird coming out of this later Doctor’s mouth, poignant death and inserting as many jokes as possible at the expense of poor Dorium’s severed head. Some people create whole planets seeking questions. Others ask craniums in boxes.
During all of this, I couldn’t help but watch the counter on my PVR counting upwards, time slipping away. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, and all the while we’re still not anywhere near the character whose name is in the title and we’re still catching up with whatever the Doctor’s been doing between episodes and the events leading up to the trip to America. That was, distracting, clearly, and my own fault and I’m sure stopped me from becoming as involved in the episode as I should. That's the problem with series with complex mythology. A lot of waiting involved. We're the fans who waited.
"Isn’t he rushing this?" I wondered. There’s a two episode version of The Wedding of River Song, with the Doctor’s quest in the first half and the frozen time in the second, a two episode version which might have mimicked The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang rather too much but would at least have given us a moment’s breather. But why should we have those anyway when the thing’s designed to be watched and watched again allowing us to savour every moment? As Moffat himself says, the first broadcast of anything is merely a publication date these days.
Luckily Amy in a business suit wearing an eye-patch broke the reverie which admittedly set me off in a whole other direction which I don’t think we need to go into here. The episode turns from being the Doctor dragging us through his adventure to the Doctor being dragged through the adventure by Amy. A business suited Amy wearing an eye-patch. “Hello Amy.” “Hello.” “I like your business suit.” “Thank you Stuart. Do you like my eyepatch?” “Is it made of metal?” “It has electronics.” “I like electronics.” “What else do you like?” “I …” I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, exposition, no emotional journey. We’re back on the emotional journey.
How old are the Ponds supposed to be now and where does this version fit in with the pair we saw last week, Amy a cosmetics model? Never mind River Song, their linearity is all over the place now too. There have been plenty of references to the three having travelled for "so long" so unlike the Davies years, they're no longer adhering to calender years. But their reunions are always special and like The God Complex harked back to The Eleventh Hour with Amy drawing her memories. Nothing of her family though it seems. Remember how tethered Terran families used to be in nuWho? This is quite a change.
It’s in this section that Moffat reveals how much faith he has in his audience and how often we deny him. How many times have you read online these past few weeks that the writer had lost it because Amy seemed to accept the loss of her baby too readily? Her revenge demonstrated that the Doctor’s influence doesn’t always halt a character’s moral ambiguity (as we’ve also seen with Captain Jack). Will this become an issue of the Ponds reappear or will it simply be put down to the alternative Amy having developed a slightly different personality, albeit with all the same memories? The closing scene keeps that question hanging.
Neat reference to the many deaths of Rory, though as Moffat I think pointed out in an interview he's only really properly died once in cold blood in Cold Blood. Another parallel with The Pandorica Opens but with Rory unable to remember Amy this time, rather than the other way around. This Radio Times interview also reminds us that he's never had an action figure, which is odd considering last season Rory was briefly made of plastic and dressed a Roman Centurian which should have made him a prime candidate. He's had his face scanned. I second his campaign. Centurian Rory limited edition by next Christmas please.
There’s also his daughter’s hasty marriage, another example, like River’s parentage, of Moffat deliberately not flouting our expectations and carrying on with whatever he’d been hinting, marrying and then killing the good man (almost). In these scenes Alex Kingston neatly captures a River in transition, still experiencing some of Melody’s psychosis but also utterly in love with Doctor. Not quite matured and contrasted nicely by the older version who pops in at that climax to see Amy, now well versed with the none-linearity of their family ties (explaining also why River paused in A Good Man Goes To War, remembering to say Rory, instead of simply, Dad).
Yet the character still doesn’t feel parked. Her diary is filled with pages covered with adventures, and although we know who she is now, it's unlikely this will be the last we see of her. She’s the Brigadier, Iris Wildthyme and indeed Captain Jack of the Moffat era, popping into the Doctor’s story when he needs a hand or simply being infuriated. We still don’t know the details of her incarceration. If she’s so good with that lipstick she can run a train through the pyramids with the agreement of Cleopatra, how and why did she let herself be captured? To suit causality? Her attempt to save the Doctor leading to the destruction of the time having taught her a valuable lesson?
She’ll be back even if we’ll never really know what goes on in the evenings. The climax resembles The Parting of the Ways, a kiss saving a companion (at least on an personal level) and the universe, also continuing the love conquers all theme of this series becoming literally all. Is employ the Testicle a cop out after all that build up? I’m not sure. In the vein of so much else in this past couple of series, when we rewatch episodes again, it’ll be with a different understanding of events and it’ll certainly lessen the impact of watching the Doctor being shot in The Impossible Astronaut and make Amy’s cries seem all the more cruel.
But it isn’t a deus ex machina, it is the Doctor taking advantage of what’s available to cheat death, or at the very least give the web of time (and in that moment The Silents etc) what it craves. It is also another example of the Moffat time paradox formula, of the Doctor utilising iinformation about his own future, in order to create that future. But that’s the brilliance of Moffat’s scripts. It prompts these questions, as in Let’s Kill Hitler, about narrative construction and plausibility. Nevertheless, it’d be nice to see something new in the next series, for the story arc not to be about that.
As with last year, questions are left hanging, and in this case the one question which has been so fundamental to the series, it’s in the title and again, not shocking anyone in its content. I don’t think. Doctor who? Spin-off writers have offered their own answers, with talks of looms and The Other and whatnot even producing alternative origins when required, but Moffat’s having none of that. Time can be rewritten and he has become a good man going to war against the Cartmel Masterplan. Dare he really offer the answer, the ultimate answer? Given that the next series begins next autumn and may finish in 2013, the Doctor’s 50th, he might just. Ooh.
Season Six has been another vintage year and another which has taken risks with the format. The gap in the middle was a brave move but one which, thanks to the experimental nature of this back six has paid off. The Doctor’s Wife was the stand out episode, with the Curse of the Black Spot the disappointment, but none of them have been awful, even that had Amy dressed as a pirate. “Hello Amy. I like your sword … I …” Sorry, again. It’s going to be hellish long Who free year through to next autumn (barring Christmas) with no more Sarah Jane and Torchwood looking doubtful. I might have to resort to watching K9. Checks Amazon. How much?