Doctor Who

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.

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.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner