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Doctor Who: Untouched by an Angel

Doctor Who: Untouched by an Angel

The Ponds are gone... and of the all the departures of the modern companions it was probably the worst.

Strange to say after such an opening sentence, but the episode itself was phenomenal, maybe Steven Moffat's best in fact. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in modern day New York City, where the trio calmly enjoy coffee while the Doctor reads aloud from a pulp mystery novel he found in his jacket. It's one of the best just-relaxing scenes in the entire series, which is a great specialty of the trio, and it's the sort of thing you found much more common with the First Doctor and his Edwardian salon TARDIS control room.

It all goes to hell when Rory is hurled back in time by the Weeping Angels on a coffee refill trip, where he runs into River Song. It's now 1930s New York, which gives the show leave to do all kinds of Raymond Chandler settings. Seriously, does the Doctor ever go to New York except when we can pretend he's farting around the edges of the Big Sleep? Last time he came here the Daleks were building the Empire State Building/making pig people.

What unfolds is the best Angel story since Blink, and way scarier than anything they've been involved in previously. How? Well, for one there's a crime boss that has a basement full of baby Angels that he throws people he doesn't like to, which is what happens to Rory at first. Yes, it as creepy as it sounds. It gets worse than that though. What's the biggest statue in New York? Yep, Lady Liberty is an Angel, and just for fun let's re-imagine the opening of Cloverfield with that in mind.

Doctor Who: Untouched by an Angel

Eventually it's revealed that the Angels have a cunning plan to build a prison where they can throw people back in time and use the displaced time energy over and over again. That's where Rory ends up, and we get to see his younger self meet his older self just as he succumbs to old age. Then, the Angels attack.

One of the problems with the episode is tension. The thing about companions is that they very rarely die, and none of the modern companions have except a couple of one-offs. Sure, there have been a few that lost their lives in travels with the Doctor, Adric comes most to mind, but the odds are that a companion will live.

Still, the best moment of the episode is when Rory, acknowledging his status as the Doctor's most killable companion, stands on the edge of an apartment building while the fanged Statue of Liberty attempts to eat his soul. His reasoning for getting ready to attempt suicide is two-fold. One, he's died at least twice so far and always returned, ranking him up there with K-9 as far as disposable companions go. Two, his death before he can be sent back in time will create a paradox that will poison the prison site and kill the Angels.

I can't lie, that is a powerful scene, with Amy insisting on jumping with Rory since he is so sure that he'll survive due to the paradox rewriting history. The two of them have a heart-rending moment that actually sums up their entire history pretty well, and for just one second it was enough to make you think that this is how they were going to go out.

 

Doctor Who: Untouched by an Angel

No, they awaken in a graveyard, with New York now Angel-free and the time energy around the city so toxic that time travel there is pretty much impossible now. Nonetheless, a single Angel survives long enough to send Rory back in time just as everyone is celebrating.

Here's where it all broke down and an otherwise great episode was ruined. Amy insists on letting the Angel send her back too in order to be with Rory, and the Doctor and River both tearfully tell her that there is no coming back this time. It's a temporal ground zero in Manhattan now, and the Doctor can't just pick them up. Amy insists that all will be well since she'll have Rory, and with a blink she's gone.

No.

Seriously, just no.

Even for the fast and loose rules of canon that Doctor Who plays with this was a cop-out way to see off the longest-running companions in the modern series. Manhattan's horribly time-forked? Couldn't you just hop back to Jersey or Pennsylvania then take a train into the Big Apple to find them? The presence of the pulp novel, written by River and published by Amy in the past, proves that at least some method of communicating was available.

Doctor Who: Untouched by an Angel

That's not even counting the fact that Manhattan can't be completely off the time travel grid. The Tenth Doctor is there in 1931 fighting Daleks, The First Doctor passes through their briefly in the '60s, as did the Eleventh Doctor himself when he saved River as she fled the Silence! All those incidents required extensive time travel, which is apparently impossible now that a paradox has blighted the time vortex around the city. Were those previous adventures erased?

Look, the Ponds are not my favorite companions. On my top ten list Rory ranked nine and Amy doesn't appear at all. Even I say this is not the ending they deserved. They should have gotten a Martha ending, growing up and moving on from Doctor, not being locked away simply because none of the three is mature enough to realize when a journey has to end. During the Slow Invasion, the Ponds were almost on the verge of that logical and appropriate conclusion.

Instead the life they built was pointlessly cut short in order to make them undocumented immigrants in a country that has only let women vote for about 20 years (Assuming they were taken back to 1937), full of social norms and information that will forever mark them as outsiders, eating food that is almost certainly going to poison them to death since it predates the health regulations they've enjoyed their whole lives, with World War II to look forward to. This was supposed to sell us on the idea that it was something of a happy ending.

I'm not sorry to see Amy and Rory go. Since Smith assumed the role of the Doctor his story has taken a backseat to that of Amy, making the whole thing a science fiction version of Drop Dead Fred. I'm looking forward to the return of Jenna Louise Coleman. I can also admit that the odds of never ever seeing the Ponds again are very very small, but until that day comes we're left with a most unfair farewell that brought rage instead of tears.

See you at Christmas!


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