So: last year, space exploded.
This year: time disintegrated.
Next year, and probable climax of the Silence arc: Smeg knows.
The format was both similar and distinct from last year’s finale.
On the one hand, the opener was moving creatively through time and space to achieve a specific aim. The ‘villain’ was largely just chasing the protagonists to move them from location to location, the challenge being a ‘disaster’ rather than a single ‘enemy’. The ending causes things to un-happen, and the true resolution is deferred another year. An ancient monument is put to strange use. Oh, and River pointed a gun at Cleopatra and hijacked a pyramid.
On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a two-parter means there wasn’t that terrible place to claw oneself up from in the second part. Yes, River in the spacesuit is sad for her, but we literally know she is going to be fine. The characters know how to fix the problem from the start, and it is instantly achievable – the conflict is the cost at the loss of the Doctor – and it was so long set up that the risk wasn’t in it with, say, his being erased.
So. Effectively, we did the cliffhanger and resolution equal to last year – it was just the mid-season finale. And that is dynamic – adapting storytelling to an altered schedule. Strange, yes, but it has created what I think of as a mid-arc season finale; the first finale had to be definitive, to cap Moffat’s first season, the finale where this is all resolved will have to be moreso, but this was the middle bit. The bit where we’re armed with the who and the how of the Silence, but vagaries of why and where and when are still in the air.
This was the particularly-timey-wimey season where River was born and died and regenerated, where she hated and loved the Doctor, killed him, saved him and married him. And for those of you who really don’t like River, I feel, because this must have been hell for you, but it is over now. I don’t know if they’ll use her more or less now that it is all out in the open, but at least you’ll know, and all the speculation will calm down.
For me, as I stated, I really was worried about River being Amy and Rory’s kid. There were things that were so risky – like how she interacted with her parents previously and how that was going to fit emotionally. As you know, I hate when the magic-baby plot ‘fixes’ everything. For a while it felt, for me, and horribly, that it might go down that route. Or at least that the risk was there. Cheap risks to children and underplaying damage for a quick fix is a quick route to my anger centre. Part-timelord was tricky.
But, ultimately, it worked for me as the story continued to be told. And then I went back, and watched the Time of Angels two-parter, and everything from the priests, to River legitimately losing it when Amy is in danger both times, to even her giving Amy a booster jab. I may as well tell you now – I’m running on the theory that Rory was erased from River’s mind as well as Amy’s during last season’s finale. That is just what I think – I’d love a confirmation, like they gave to River playing dumb over the spacesuit, but ah well.
Then there was the opening two-parter, and, particularly in retrospect, the trust between River and Amy, the sweet conversation between Rory and River. Tragedy, with the River’s ‘last’ kiss with the Doctor so soon, from her perspective, possibly, after their marriage. I’m not sure there – we’ll need some sort of chart from Moffat on that scale when this is all over. And then Good Man Goes to War, with another sweet Rory talk and some more lovely tragedy. By which time, the fact that she handles such craziness makes sense, given how screwed up she was when started out. In many ways, it must be like having a parent whose recollection occassionally slips.
And when she finally can refer to her parents as parents at the very end, with Mummy and Daddy and so on, it is very, very sweet.
Now that that is out of the way …
I liked the episode. Technically it is even more low-key than last season’s finale, with the action mostly in the all-out mid-season finale. It must wallowed in the delicious anachronism stew and set to boil. I liked Winston and the Doctor – an expository device, but a fun one, with Live Chess and Dorium – and the tragedy, with the death of the Brigadier and forgiving River. I like that Amy’s memory being resistant to change is such a strong piece of the universe. Captain Rory was just lovely, with knowing what was going to happen, just waiting on the when and the how. The eye drives were very nice and made sense. Pyramid was rule of cool, though I was wondering if they were going to use the old bit about pyramids preserving things, but no, and for the best really.
I was kinda hoping to see Canton again, what with the historical figures and the Area 51 thing, but there we are. It would have been nice to see the character simply because a lot of the cool stuff he did in the opening two parter was implied and off-screen – the confrontation with the Silent (I know it isn’t their name, but Le Guin already bagged The Nameless Ones) being his only real chance to shine, and he didn’t even remember it afterwards. Ah well. Yes, the Silent really are just there to escape, as is Madame Kovarian, and they are collectively there just there to hurry the protagonists to the signal, like the dessicated Dalek in The Big Bang. They don’t even go upstairs! I’m fine wih it, though when the Doctor does get to the Academy of the Question’s roots, he really is going to have to punch something, and it is going to have to be pretty big, metaphorically speaking.
Loved Rory and the eyedrive, and it paralysing him at the worst moment, and the Silent taunting him over it, and Amy coming back for him, and ‘We should get a drink”Okay’ and ‘And married”Fine’. Many disliked this end for Kovarian, while I (a) actually felt it adressed a lot of Amy’s expected reaction (b) underlined that Kovarian is middle management and (c) she is probably still alive somewhere, and angry at the Academy, or Amy, or both. I really liked the Doctor, after being confronted at the end of mid-season, and even last season, in part, with what a terrible influence he can be on the universe, to be so convinced that ‘The Doctor is in trouble. Please Help.’ would mean nothing to anyone, and instead the replies manifest so strong as to seem to be sunspots. It is very, very sweet. River saying that her suffering would outweigh all that of the universe? Bit much. Still the fact that she’d be the one to do it does justify that reaction. But I liked the wedding well enough. Yes, it was to a Tessalecta in an aborted universe, but still – they’d never marry him off in a straight-faced fashion.
So a few points. Yes, I too would have preferred a little more on the fact that the Tessalecta could, among other things, fake regeneration. And if River was getting the minaturised Doctor’s life signs, say, then wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to leave, causing the lifesigns to stop, rather than staying around to get ‘barely singed’. They couldn’t play too close to the regeneration previously, I get that, or we’d have all guessed it, and that was a solid double-feint with the Dopple-doctor, but we really couldn’t have a 30-second re-run through from his perspective, just to get the idea? Really?
I really didn’t guess the Tessalecta until it happened. Really. Some say they knew by the appearance of it in the episode, some by the appearance of it in the ‘Previously On’ bit. It just slipped past me. And I suppose the regeneration makes sense given that he could age and change his clothes and cut his hair and fall prey to knock-out blasts – though that last one seemed a little odd, in retrospect. She hit him in the eye, maybe? And the eye drive and physically touching River works because … yeah, I’d like a lot more from his perspective, actually.
Some are saying he should have told the others he was a Tessalecta. I actually liked how this is constructed – at the lake, we have a Ganger-Amy remotely feeding all data and one last Silent wandering about. At thepyramid we had Kovarian and the Silent wandering about, who might well remember what happened there. So – one of the few instances where that worked.
And yeah, the garden was lovely, for the afforementioned relationship reasons. I liked her adapting to her daughter beautifully, and going over the fact that she can remember killing someone and dismissing River’s dismissal. Quite frankly, where this journey has taken the character of Amy has been, frankly, astounding, and a joy to watch, and she is right at the top of my favourite scifi protagonists of all time, to be honest. And the crypt really gelled with the lessons learned, again, from the last season and mid season finales: The Doctor is too big a figure. He has to go back to the shadows.
And yes, I called ‘Doctor Who?’ Quite good – providing that there is a legitimate place to with it, leading into something worth killing him over, something to do with the fields Trensollar (?) and the fall of the Eleventh (probably a bus, right?). But I’m pretty sure they’ve somewhere to go with it. And if Smith stops at three seasons, and they were all this one arc – I’d be fine with it. And that is 1675.