Posts Tagged ‘matt smith’

High concepts fuel a hazardous Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS as the Doctor’s beloved timeship faces destruction and plays host to some of the most dire secondary characters in the history of the series.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Throughout 50 years of Doctor Who the beloved fixed heart of the series has been the TARDIS. Whilst various companions come and go and the Doctor regenerates into different guises the beloved TT Type 40, Mark 3 TARDIS remains. With only slight cosmetic changes happening to that police box exterior the TARDIS is the one of most ingenious, incredible and iconic concepts in the history of science fiction – an infinite otherworld dimension concealed within the incongruous camouflage of an everyday object.

From 1963 to 1989 the various production teams occasionally attempted to show what lay beyond the familiar console room but were usually defeated by a lack of time and money. Over the years came the Cloister Room in Logopolis, the Zero Room in Castrovalva and the secondary console room and boot cupboard (courtesy of a blown-up photo!) in The Masque of Mandragora. Before Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS the greatest extent to which the TARDIS interior had been explored was in 1978’s The Invasion of Time and the 1996 TV Movie. In the not-so-classic Tom Baker tale a disused hospital near Redhill was used to represent the supposedly baffling and labyrinth-like interior of the TARDIS and much ridicule from fans followed. More successful were the elaborate steampunk-themed TARDIS interiors constructed upon a Vancouver soundstage for Paul McGann’s only television outing to date as the Eighth Doctor. Complete with console room, including accompanying library, and a grandiose Eye of Harmony, for the first time the TARDIS truly began to feel bigger on the inside that the outside.

But it just wasn’t possible for Doctor Who to adequately represent the supposedly infinite interior of the timeship until the advent of affordable CGI and far greater budgets from the BBC. With Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS the interior of the Doctor’s timeship has finally been seen on a scale that it always deserved thanks to striking sets, evocative locations and special effects. Though the supporting script was lacking in many areas. (more…)

Advertisements

Starting life as a crossover of two science fiction legends the intriguing haunted house premise of Hide is wasted as the story falls apart under a mountain of nonsensical science fiction, ponderous info dumps and poor acting from the regulars.

Hide

The admiration of various Doctor Who writers for Nigel Kneale’s creation of Professor Bernard Quatermass has been evident throughout the history of the series, especially in stories such as The Web of Fear, The Invasion, Spearhead From Space, Inferno, The Seeds of Doom, Image of the Fendahl. The entire concept of exiling the Doctor to Earth in the early Pertwee years and teaming him up with UNIT was a deliberate decision to evoke the feeling of Quatermass – a man of science and peace in an uneasy alliance with military forces and fighting unearthly menaces together.

Although invited to write for Doctor Who right at its conception in 1963 Nigel Kneale himself was never a fan of the series, commenting in 1986 that “It sounded a terrible idea and I still think it was”.

And since a dialogue exchange in Part Three of Ben Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks it’s been generally acknowledged within the circles of Doctor Who fandom that the Doctor and Quatermass are part of the same fictional universe.

Allison Williams “I wish Bernard was here”
Professor Rachel Jensen “British Rocket Group got it’s own problems…”

The original intention behind Hide was to unite the science fiction legends that are the Doctor and Quatermass but the tantalising premise was scuppered by rights issues relating to Kneale’s creation. However Neil Cross turned to another of Nigel Kneale’s superbly crafted tales for inspiration, namely the classic 1972 BBC Christmas ghost story The Stone Tape and its premise of terrifying events occurring during a scientific investigation of a supposedly haunted house. (more…)

After an absence of nearly 40 years the Ice Warriors make a triumphant return to Doctor Who as Cold War pays homage to the base-under-siege stories so prevalent in the Patrick Troughton era.

Cold War

It’s an Ice Warrior. A native of the planet Mars. And we go way back…WAY back.

In the pantheon of Doctor Who monsters the Ice Warriors rank alongside the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Weeping Angels in terms of popularity. Yet, inexplicably the reptilian Martians had been absent from televised Doctor Who since 1974’s The Monster of Peladon, the penultimate outing for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. With their lumbering gait and supposedly barely audible utterances of dialogue current showrunner Steven Moffat viewed the Ice Warriors as the epitome of the archetypal naff Doctor Who monster and was reluctant to resurrect them for a 21st century audience. In fact for naff Doctor Who monsters examine the likes of the Mandrals from Nightmare of Eden, the Tetraps from Time and the Rani and the Slitheen from Aliens of London/World War Three. Inept lumbering creations and cautionary tales in not how to design monsters.

Thankfully Moffat’s friend and fellow Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss felt differently and across several years fought tooth and claw for the return of the Ice Warriors. With Cold War Gatiss not only succeeded in bringing the Ice Warriors back in style but has also restored them to glory in the same way that 2005’s Dalek made the creations of Terry Nation a cultural icon once more. (more…)

The creator of the psychological crime drama Luther joins the Doctor Who writing team with a script that takes the Doctor and Clara to The Rings of Akhaten to watch a caged god become very annoyed at a young girl’s attempt at singing.

The Rings of Akhaten

Since Doctor Who returned for the 21st century all of the Doctor’s regular female companions have met the Time Lord in stories set in contemporary England and then been whisked off in quick order to adventures in Earth’s future and past. Within such a trilogy the diversity, wonder and danger of space and time that the TARDIS can offer are quickly demonstrated. With its space setting and cornucopia of alien species The Rings of Akathen is reminiscent of one of the strongest voyages into the future that the TARDIS has made, when the Ninth Doctor and Rose travelled to Platform One to witness The End of the World for the planet Earth. (more…)

The Bells of Saint John summon the Doctor to begin his 50th anniversary year of adventures as there are monsters in the Wi-Fi, villains in the Shard and the mystery of Clara Oswald to solve.

The Bells of Saint John

The Doctor’s return in The Bells of Saint John on Easter Saturday 2013 marked the 8th anniversary of the debut of the revived series with Rose on Easter Saturday 2005. It’s sobering to contemplate that as much of a gap exists between Rose and The Bells of Saint John as does between An Unearthly Child and Day of the Daleks, or Robot and Arc of Infinity. The series has come on in leaps and bounds since the painful rebirth pangs of that first production block for the Ninth Doctor comprising Rose/Aliens of London/World War Three when filming was in chaos as the complexities of producing a series like Doctor Who became evident. It was in those early days that the seeds of discontent that would lead to Christopher Eccleston’s departure after just one series would be sown. Yet from that crucible of chaos emerged a series that continues to be more and more confident in itself with each passing day of production. (more…)

Doctor Who: The SnowmenThe foundations for a 50th anniversary year of adventure, fun, and mystery are laid with The Snowmen whilst showing that no one can sneer as effectively as Richard E Grant and that all disembodied alien intelligences should be voiced by Shakespearian knights of the realm.

I said I’d feed you. I didn’t say who to.

“Written by Steven Moffat, based upon a fleeting notion that Douglas Adams had in 1979” may have been a more apt writing credit for the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special as the concept of the Doctor tiring of saving all of space and time and withdrawing into a reclusive existence was first postulated as The Doctor Retires by the legendary Douglas Adams during his stint as script editor.

Also known as Sunburst, the idea was intended as the genesis for a 6 part serial to conclude the 17th season of the classic show but producer Graham Williams nixed it on the grounds that it would be seen as “sending up” the series. On this occasion the instincts of the oft-maligned Williams were correct. Though Tom Baker could have undoubtedly done reclusive and sulky (check out his brooding presence at the beginning of the Hornet’s Nest audio series) the virtual standalone nature of stories during that era precluded the emotional character and story arc required to drive the Doctor into “retirement”.

21st century Doctor Who is a very different animal as numerous narrative “beats” can now be planted across several stories and in order to build to major events in terms of plot and emotion with high concept payoffs. The fall of the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan and the Doctor’s heartbreak at their loss was an entirely believable way of provoking him to withdraw from the affairs of the universe. Being annoyed in the wake of The Horns of Nimon was not believable.

Good evening. I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.

Set aside all cravings for further Torchwood outings! What is needed for 2013 and beyond is The Paternoster Gang! Otherworldly mysteries set in the last years of the 19th century as investigated by Madame Vastra, the lizard woman of Paternoster Row (Neve McIntosh), her beautiful assistant Jenny Flint (Caitrin Stewart), and their mysterious henchman Strax (Dan Starkey), whose countenance was too abominable to be photographed. Steven Moffat has said that if he had the time outside of his commitments to Doctor Who and Sherlock he’d address the clamoring and create a spin-off featuring the popular trio. The masterstroke in The Snowmen was the resurrection of Strax into the role of butler. From confusing Madame Vastra’s offer of help to the Doctor as an offer of grenades to the multiple instances of forgetful handling of a memory worm, the scenes between Strax and the Doctor are amongst the funniest ever seen in the series with perfect timing from Starkey and Matt Smith.

The Victorian era has always been a ripe setting for Doctor Who as it owes many of its roots to the scientific romances of Jules Verne, H G Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle, especially The Time Machine and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Anachronistic technology and elements appeared in the likes of The Evil of the Daleks, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Ghost Light long before the term “steampunk” entered into common usage in the late 1980s. The Doctor is basically a Victorian explorer in time and space so it’s no surprise that all his eleven incarnations to date have donned a late 19th century silhouette in terms of clothing. Whether dressed as “Sherlock Holmes” (a cheeky little in-joke to Moffat’s other acclaimed award-winning series) or in the manner of Jack Wild’s Artful Dodger from Oliver!, Matt Smith’s Doctor looked completely at home in the London of 1892. Thankfully Series 7b will feature at least one further story for Vastra, Jenny and Strax as revealed in the “Coming Soon” segment at the end of The Snowmen. The follow-up appearance is rumoured to occur in the Mark Gatiss penned story (possibly entitled The Crimson Horror) guest starring Dame Diana Rigg. Perhaps the Eleventh Doctor and River Song can be straned in 1892 for a few stories in a manner akin to the exile of the Third Doctor and his adventures with UNIT…

Now whilst Big Finish are currently only permitted to use the first eight Doctors and their companions in their Doctor Who ranges, and absolutely nothing from the new series, perhaps a minor tweaking of rights could happen to allow the Paternoster Gang to appear alongside Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot?

It’s smaller on the outside.

In many classic tales of derring-do the heroine has a unconventional journey from the world of the familiar with into realms of adventurous make believe. Whilst Alice tumbled down a rabbit hole into Wonderland and Wendy was carried aloft by Peter Pan into Neverland, Clara Oswin Oswald’s journey into the insanely wondrous and paradoxical world that is the TARDIS came via a seemingly never-ending climb up a “stairway to heaven”. But why was the TARDIS sat atop a cloud? Couldn’t the Doctor have just parked her at Madame Vastra’s house?  He could have easily forgotten which cloud was his…

Whatever the reasons for the Doctor parking “sexy” atop a cloud the special effects team at The Mill captured the surreal fairy tale nature of the scene beautifully. The camera shot that followed the Doctor and Clara directly into the TARDIS console room may have been technically impressive, the grandstanding of the moment where an incoming companion is expected to make a comment about the paradoxical dimensional nature of the TARDIS’s exterior and interior has now worn thin.

In place of the “coral desktop theme” of the Eccleston/Tennant eras and the “everything-including-kitchen-sink-thrown-at-it desktop theme” (seriously, there were hot and cold taps!) of Matt Smith’s first two and a half series the new interior harkened back to the more clinical interior of the 1970s. A logical narrative explanation for the change would be that the previous console room constantly reminded the Doctor of Amy and Rory given that it was created the day he met little Amelia Pond. It’s amazing how experiencing certain environs and locales can dredge up painful memories of loss.

Despite increased studio space and budgets none of the 21st century TARDIS interiors have come close to capturing the majestic wonder of Peter Brachacki’s original interior as first seen in An Unearthly Child in 1963. Even the wooden console room of Tom Baker’s third season and vast library-like chamber of the Paul McGann TV Movie outdo the most recent console rooms.

Along with the change of TARDIS desktop theme came another bombastic reworking of the theme music by Murray Gold that strays further and further from the Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire original with each update. The opening credits were also revamped into a colorful pulp sci-fi nonsensical kaleidoscopic mess with the Doctor’s face being included for the first time since 1989‘s Survival.

In the early 1970s the combination of the haunting opening credits and the masterfully frightening music, including the sinister “howlround”, placed millions of viewers (including this one) behind the sofa. Nowadays the theme tune has virtually become a singalong with accompanying colorful visuals heralding the beginning of yet another 45 minute romp as opposed to a 25 minute mini-Hammer Horror production. Steven Moffat has proved that he capable of providing “gothic horror” tales to match the likes of The Ark in Space and Pyramids of Mars so let’s have the wrapping to match. The production team must cease trying to go bigger and better all the time. Like wood that has been painted time and time again the opening sequence needs stripping back to the barest aspects and begun all over again.

Carnivorous snow meets Victorian values and something terrible is born.

Finally in the heartless walking sneer Dr Walter Simeon the Doctor was once again delivered of a worthy humanoid adversary to moralise with and ultimately defeat. Now if Richard E Grant isn’t at the top of the list of actors automatically called upon when a sneering villain is required then he must be pretty damn close. Simeon was effectively an Ebenezer Scrooge who had never been visited by any of Charles Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas. Grant’s appearance in the canonical television incarnation hadn’t been so much a matter of “if” but rather “when”. He’s appeared alongside future Eighth Doctor Paul McGann in cult classic Withnail and I; portrayed the “Conceited Doctor” in Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death (a four part spoof written by Steven Moffat for Red Nose Day 1999); and starred as the Doctor in Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka. The flash-animated Scream of the Shalka was produced to celebrate the series’ 40th anniversary and intended to be an official continuation of the television series with Grant as the Ninth Doctor. This was nixed by the revival of the series and the casting of Christopher Eccleston as the official Ninth Doctor for television. Subsequently Grant’s incarnation has been referred to as the “Shalka Doctor” or the “REG Doctor”.

Run, you clever boy, run. And remember.

Is Clara Oswin Oswald related to Rory Williams with all this dying and resurrection going on? Jenna Lousie-Coleman’s somehow seems to be the same person given that her feisty, strong-willed and flirtatious interaction with the Doctor on both occasions. Her presence was the clarion call that the Doctor required to summon him back into adventure, and though Coleman is shaping up as a worthy foil for Matt Smith, Moffat needs to keep her alive for several episodes in a row so as to allow her to develop her character and connect with the audience properly. There’s obviously an intricate concept involved with Clara and her existence and it’s to be wondered if another mystery of that nature is required after the saga of River Song’s identity.

If Clara turns out to be a descendant of River then heads across the globe will explode with the timey-wimeyness of it all. There’s certainly a giant tease of some variety underway given that the latest Clara Oswin Oswald was shown to have been born on November 23 1866 – and as any half-hearted aficionado will tell you 23rd November is the day that Doctor Who was first transmitted in 1963.

Well, we can’t be in much danger from a disembodied intelligence that thinks it can invade the world with snowmen.

The revelation of the Great Intelligence as the true villain of the The Snowmen was a punch-the-air and shout of “Yes!” moment of excitement for the fanboys and fangirls as Steven Moffat once again clearly displayed his knowledge and love of Doctor Who. The Grand Moff also demonstrated how to use correctly employ continuity in a long-running production. It detracted not a jot from the plot if the casual viewer had never heard of the Patrick Troughton classics The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. It was a moment for the fans to smirk over the references to snowmen conquering the world and the 1967 map of the London Underground. Doubtless the really picky fans are bound to point out The Web of Fear and the accompanying Yeti invasion of the tube was transmitted in 1968. And then that will lead to the entire UNIT Dating controversy…and then all the fan theories that the Great Intelligence is in fact Yog-Sothoth, one of the Great Old Ones…

Meanwhile let’s just revel in the fantastic credit of “Voice of the Great Intelligence: Ian McKellen”. New rule, from now on only Sirs and Dames who have performed Shakespeare are permitted to voice Doctor Who monsters. Daleks and Cybermen excluded as Nick Briggs does those rather well…

Watch me run.

With the return of a classic villain from the era of the much-loved Second Doctor and the launching of new mystery in the shape of Clara, Steven Moffat has laid the foundations for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Now will we get a classic element in each adventure of the birthday year?

A year long celebration of Doctor Who at BFI Southbank. Includes a special preview of Mark Gatiss’ new TV drama An Adventure in Time and Space and a newly colour restored screening of The Mind of Evil, starring Jon Pertwee. More info here.

BFI Doctor Who 50th anniversary

Royal Mail 1st Doctor Royal Mail 2nd Doctor Royal Mail 3rd Doctor Royal Mail 4th Doctor Royal Mail 5th Doctor Royal Mail 6th Doctor Royal Mail 7th Doctor Royal Mail 8th Doctor Royal Mail 9th Doctor Royal Mail 10th Doctor Royal Mail 11th Doctor

Doctor Who - The Angels Take Manhattan wallpaper

As the Last Days of the Ponds arrive and The Angels Take Manhattan time can’t be rewritten to save Amy and Rory as they bid farewell to their daughter and their Raggedy Man.

Chapter 1 The Dying Detective

Quite often Doctor Who works best when evoking the spirit of other genres and giving it a special twist to make it something extra special. For example,The Crusades from the William Hartnell era was David Whitaker’s spin on Shakespeare (with lines quoted as belonging to Love’s Labour Won used in The Shakespeare Code decades later); the entire 7th season (Jon Pertwee’s first) called upon the classic Quatermass serials of the 1950s; and the central plot element of Soylent Green in which corpses are recycled as food for humanity was at the heart of Eric Saward’s Revelation of the Daleks.

With the air of a 1930s pulp novel with a dash of film noir thrown in The Angels Take Manhattan commenced with detective Sam Garner (Rod David) investigating the building “where the statues live” at the behest of wealthy collector Julius Grayle (Mike McShane) and ended with a great tragedy for the Doctor as he is separated from Amy and Rory forever.

Chapter 2 The Angels Take Manhattan

Originally Steven Moffat intended to feature the Daleks in the Ponds’ grand finale but whilst visiting New York in 2011 the idea of using the Weeping Angels against the backdrop of the Big Apple came to him. Since the transmission of the highly-acclaimed Blink in 2007 fans had regularly postulated that the Statue of Liberty itself was a giant Weeping Angel. No Ghostbusters II-style romp across for New York preceded the statue’s looming appearance at Winter Quay as this time the city’s most famous icon was there to scare. The concept of the temporal battery farm recalled the scene in Blade Trinity where Blade and Abigail discovered a warehouse containing hundreds of humans in chemically-induced comas waiting to act as a food source for the vampires.

With each appearance the tactics of the Weeping Angels evolve. From barely-surviving scavengers on Earth to manipulative hoards on Alfava Metraxis, the continually changing facets of the Weeping Angels are akin to the progression from the atmospheric Alien to the action-orientated Aliens. Thankfully The Angels Take Manhattan doesn’t parallel Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection for controversial missed opportunities or sheer direness respectively.

Chapter 3 Missing in New York

Virtually from the moment of their conception the departure of Amy Pond and Rory Williams had been planned for. Their connection to the mysterious River Song and their undying love that conspired to survive the birth and death of time and space itself proved to be the most emotional and complex character arc ever granted to companions. Take a moment out and appreciate the genius of the Grand Moff, who created Amelia Pond with the explicit intention of linking her to River Song. Thanks to the impact of the intended one-off character from Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (bought so magnificently to life and death by Alex Kingston) Moffat created two friends for the Eleventh Doctor who will continue to resonate when the series reaches its 50th, 60th, and 70th anniversaries…and beyond…

The presence of the Ponds in the TARDIS (pre- and post-marriage) categorically debunked the long-held view in numerous quarters about the programme’s format working best when the Doctor has a single companion. Some of the best TARDIS crews have featured a male and female duo alongside the Doctor. Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield/Zoe Herriot in the Patrick Troughton era; Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan during Tom Baker’s first season; and Tegan Jovanka and Vislor Turlough in the 20th and 21st seasons alongside Peter Davison. The advocacy for the single companion is often made by lazy and unimaginative scriptwriters who can’t create an interesting narrative for more than two regulars.

Chapter 4 Taking the Case

Alongside the return of the Weeping Angels came Moffat’s other popular Doctor Who creation: River Song. The presence of River in the final outing for her parents was pretty inevitable and she’s now been freed from the convoluted timey-wimey continuity that had been established throughout her previous appearances. Now a professor of archaeology River doesn’t have to spend any more days in the Stormcage Containment Facility. After all, how can she be imprisoned for the murder of a man who never existed? As always the chemistry and interaction between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston was a delight to watch. Only in Doctor Who is it possible to become a recurring guest actor after a debut story in which your character dies. It’s a fair bet that River Song will continue to appear as long as Steven Moffat is the show runner and a part in the 50th anniversary series seems to be a given.

Chapter 5 Night in Statue Park

In the 1980s overseas filming came across as more of a perk for the production team rather than as an integral aspect of the unfolding story. Locations in and around Seville added nothing to The Two Doctors that couldn’t have been achieved with filming in the Home Counties, whereas the original proposed setting of New Orleans had been woven into Robert Holmes’ script almost as a character in its own right. Nowadays a Doctor Who story goes abroad for concrete reasons. The Fires of Pompeii, The Vampires of Venice and A Town Called Mercy could not have worked as effectively without the inclusion of appropriate foreign backdrops. The excursion to Dubai for Planet of the Dead was a complete waste of time though as it all looked like an infamous BBC sandpit with a touch of CGI.

Locations in Cardiff and Bristol were superbly used to render locations such as Winter Quay, the lair of the Weeping Angels, whilst three days of intensive filming for Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in and around Central Park gave the episode a sense of scale, romance and atmosphere it would otherwise have lacked. Rory’s eerie encounter on the lower terrace of Bethesda Terrace and the journey of the Doctor and Amy through Times Square (the latter done in a single take) are highlights of the near guerrilla filmmaking that the BBC undertook. It’s impossible to spot which are the British locations and which are the American ones unless you already know. The meeting of Rory and River was achieved with Arthur Darvill in New York with Central Park as an establishing background and Alex Kingston in Cardiff. The BBC Wales Doctor Who team are certainly at the top of their game seven years in.

Chapter 6 The Gargoyle

As with The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone River’s entry into the narrative came as a result of her investigation into rumours about a mysterious statue in the possession of a wealthy collector. Thankfully this one was chained and damaged and so was unable to run riot. There remains a wealth of backstory to be told about the Lonely Assassins and their presence through time and space. Perhaps a visit to Notre Dame de Paris or the Peace Tower in Ottawa and their respective gargoyles could happen in a future season…

Technically the Weeping Angels seen so far are in fact grotesques, a carved stone figure. A gargoyle contains a water spout through the mouth whereas grotesques don’t. In the Middles Ages, the term babewyn (derived from the Italian word babbuino, meaning babboon) was used to refer to both gargoyles and grotesques. In the November 2001 BBC Books 8th Doctor novel The Adventuress of Henrietta Street by Lawrence Miles (for whom controversial is perhaps the best and politest term) the villain of the piece Sabbath is assisted by savage, demonic apes called babewyns.

Doctor Who can be so damn timey-wimey…

Chapter 7 The Skinny Guy

Rory’s had a rather rough time since meeting the Doctor. Killed and wiped from existence, reborn as an Auton, discovering his daughter was a time-travelling archaeology professor bred to assassinate the Doctor. On any given morning he’s probably trying to remember if he’s human, plastic, or the Last Centurion. No wonder he looks bemused so often…Yet throughout life, death, and rebirth his primary focus remained Amy and her happiness. Time after time he was prepared to give her up as he thought that was the best thing to do – but love always won through. Arthur Darvill will be a much-missed element of Doctor Who and it’s likely to be a while before anyone tries putting another regular male companion aboard the TARDIS.

Chapter 8 Julius Grayle

The characters of detective Sam Garner and the dangerous collector Mr Grayle were just two of many elements that cried out for elaboration but constrained by the single 45 minute episode format. The entire undertaking could easily have become a two parter building upon Rory and River’s investigation of Winter Quay in 1938 running in parallel with the attempts of Amy and the Doctor to land the TARDIS there. Especially noticeable by their absence are new great villains. Where is a new Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn, Sutekh, Magnus Greel, Sharaz Jek, Sil or the Master? Mr Finch from School Reunion and Lillith of The Shakespeare Code are the closest the Doctor come to a new worthy humanoid adversary. Far too often 21st century Doctor Who is told at a breakneck speed that barely allows the viewer to take in the happenings in once scene before plunging into another frenetic round of action. At several points in the past 6 1/2 series poorly developed single episodes should have been abandoned early on in favour of expanding a tale crying out for more time. The Wedding of River Song cried out for an additional 45 minutes, and surely no one would have lamented the absence of The God Complex or Closing Time?

Chapter 9 Calling the Doctor

Whilst River’s personal timeline might now be simplified Moffat didn’t completely abandon his trademark approach to the interconnectivity of time in which past events can immediately impact upon the present by becoming a fixed point in time. The Doctor’s reading of Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town instilled an ominous sense of foreboding as the Time Lord began to realised he was destined to loose his little Amelia Pond and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

Chapter 10 The Roman in the Cellar

…And now poor old Rory finds himself trapped in a cellar with killer cherubs several decades before popping off to get coffee…

Chapter 11 Death at Winter Quay

Unfortunately after all the planning and hype the conclusion to the saga of the Ponds stumbled at the very last. Amy and Rory’s final scene should have been their Reichenbach Falls-style fall from the roof of Winter Quay as they deliberately sacrificed themselves to destroy the Weeping Angels through the creation of a time paradox. The love and nobility channelled by Gillan and Darvill as they effectively chose suicide, together with the horrified reactions of Smith and Kingston, were as heartbreaking stunning as anything ever seen in Doctor Who. Their disappearance from the Doctor’s timeline during the creation of the paradox and their fate left ambiguous could have been one of the greatest moments in the history of the series. Viewers could have decided their fate in their own minds. And perhaps…just perhaps…the Doctor could have met them again in the labyrinths of time…

Chapter 12 Amelia’s Last Farewell

In terms of companion departures and its emotional resonance Russell T Davies liked to have his cake and eat it. At the time the savage separation of Rose from the Tenth Doctor in Doomsday was without doubt one of the most heartbreaking moments ever in the history of the series (the destruction of K-9 Mark III in School Reunion scores top). David Tennant and Billie Piper had the viewers crying their eyes and hearts out. The two of them forever apart due to the barrier of wall and an impenetrable universe. Yet all that was rendered moot just one series later when Rose got to live happily ever after with the Doctor’s human clone. Being ripped from the presence of a friend or loved one for what is likely to be a very long time, or possibly forever, is one of the most traumatic events that can occur. Rarely in life does there come a moment of permanent separation where all parties have agreed upon the timing and been able to somehow prepare for the subsequent emotional shocks. In Doctor Who the best companion departures have been the emotionally wrenching ones. Amongst the most affecting from the classic series were Jamie and Zoe’s enforced removal by the Time Lords and subsequent memory wipe; Sarah’s eviction from the TARDIS due to the Doctor’s summons to Gallifrey; and Tegan’s sudden decision that she’s had enough due to all the killing that followed in the Doctor’s wake.

Steven Moffat, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have made it abundantly clear in numerous interviews that The Angels Take Manhattan saw the FINAL appearance of the Ponds in the series, bar flashbacks. All three believed that the emotional impact and suddenness of their finale would be undermined if they simply popped up a few stories later with a cheerful wave to the Doctor. If that was a sly swipe at the Russell T Davies era then good on them.

Whilst the slightly wrong ending may have occurred in the graveyard courtesy of the leftover cherub, there’s no denying the impact of Amy Williams’ farewell to her Raggedy Man via the last page of the Melody Malone book. When watching the scene it’s worth bearing in mind that during that just out of shot is Karen Gillan reading Steven Moffat’s lines to Matt Smith. By the end both actors had tears in their eyes…

Afterword by Amelia Williams: Hello, old friend. And here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well and were very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you always. Sometimes I do worry about you though. I think once we’re gone you won’t be coming back here for awhile. And you might be alone. Which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor. And do one more thing for me. There’s a little girl waiting in a garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to see and fight pirates. She’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived. And save a whale in outer space. Tell her, this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.

Doctor Who The 11 Doctors