That’s not the voice of god, that’s just a ring modulator

Skip to content

Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 1:43 am

    Would it also be fair to call the end of The God Complex a failed attempt at a retro-styled narrative substitution on the Doctor's part? He can see a tragic ending coming, so he tries to avert it by switching tracks onto a tried and tested narrative pattern of the old series, where companions fell out of the world and could eventually be deposited back into it, to get on with normal lives without any suggestion that the Doctor might ever see them again. But the norms of the new series, where the world of the TARDIS is integrated (with increasing intensity) into the companions' "normal" lives, and hence they cannot just be dropped off and forgotten, refuse to be overridden and reassert themselves. So Amy and Rory are driven on into the kind of ending the new series demands, in which the option of future contact by the Doctor must be shut off by the authorial declaration of a rather creaky Unbreakable Rule of Time and Stuff.

    It might also be said that by his very attempt to short-circuit the process and rig the result, by refusing to let the narrative dice keep rolling and let the companions find their own way to their fate, the Doctor burns up the chance for that sort of old-style ending to be the eventual outcome.


  2. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 1:58 am

    Another thing: the Melody Malone business seems to fit very nicely into Moffat's approach to self-aware storytelling, a characteristic of his writing for Doctor Who which surely in part reflects the insight that living with the availability of time travel would be less like life as we know than like living inside a story – but, crucially, a story that is still in the process of composition. In such a life, as in such a story, the future is something that already exists and can affect the present, but can also still be changed. So besides all the usual business about not being able to change your future once you know it (because quantum and so forth), Melody Malone has a special power to fix events in a definitive and unchangeable fashion because it is published.


  3. Scurra
    August 18, 2014 @ 3:02 am

    Yes, I think that's a good point. And I also think it's worth noting that once something is published it stops being the possession of the writer and becomes the possession of the reader instead, and the writer merely becomes one reader amongst many. They might like to think that they have a better insight or whatever into their work, but that's not necessarily the case. As this blog has endlessly proved. πŸ™‚


  4. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 3:35 am

    Yes – it binds the form and lets the meaning loose.


  5. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 3:52 am

    2013 – 50 = 1963 always bugged me: everyone spent the 2013 series supposedly celebrating the 50th anniversary by pointing out all the supposed callbacks (or more often, in fact, complaining about the lack of): the naming of Grandfather in "RIngs of Akhaten" and the mention of the Doctor and Susan's visit, for instance.

    But 2013 was the 49th year – the 50th year didn't finish with the 50th Anniversary episode, it started with it – we're still in the 50th year now until the last week of November comes around again. So far, original broadcasts within the 50th year have run to "Day of the Doctor" and "Time of the Doctor" – and in all likelihood the whole of Series 8 will fit into the 50th Anniversary year.

    Night of the Doctor, An Adventure in Time and Space, the Science of Doctor Who all aired in the 49th year. Or have I got this all wrong?


  6. C.
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:02 am

    putting too much emphasis on this sort of thing reminds me of the people who kept complaining the 20th Century didn't end on Dec. 31, 1999. It technically didn't, of course, but at some point one should perhaps give up and accept that the calendar changing from 19– to 20– marked the turn of the century for most of humanity. Same here. 1963 + 50 = 2013, hence 50th anniversary.


  7. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:17 am

    I guess if people want to insist on being wrong, who am I to stand in their way? It's only maths after all, no-one needs maths…

    I jest, but only slightly! I did find it annoying when people were complaining not enough was happening in the 50th Anniversary year when they weren't even in it. But if I'd had my way everyone would instead be having an absolute fit about the last 235 empty days, so perhaps it's for the best – back around series 7b I was expecting so much more to be happening in 2014.


  8. prandeamus
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:23 am

    "one of the basic mysteries of The Eleventh Hour, namely the apparent arrival of the Doctor during the Night of Amelia’s Joy"

    Can someone explain what this means? I'm just being dumb here… Or did I miss something.


  9. Richard Pugree
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  10. Richard Pugree
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:33 am

    There's a moment in The Eleventh Hour when Amelia is waiting, sat on her suitcase in the garden. She hears the TARDIS and looks up and then the scene cuts away. This is where it pays off.


  11. John Binns
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:50 am

    Why should/would we care about the 50th year? The celebration was around the moment at which Doctor Who reached the age of 50 years. Plus, 2012-2013 was so the 50th year. πŸ˜‰


  12. John Binns
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:58 am

    I was bothered and am now intrigued by the idea that the Doctor can't return to New York during the (post-TARDIS) lifetime of Amy and Rory. The idea that it's somehow just too riddled with timey-wimeyness is clearly bunkum, as is the assumption that New York couldn't just be entered or exited by conventional means, for instance if the TARDIS landed in London and then the Doctor took a plane to New York. (This appears to be the converse of Ian and Barbara's failure to realise that they could have left the TARDIS midway through The Chase, and taken a plane back home.) And I forget – is it coincidence that the young Melody was raised in New York and seen to regenerate there (at the end of Day of the Moon)?


  13. Katherine Sas
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:09 am

    I like it!


  14. John Binns
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:12 am

    The point I guess is that the TARDIS lands not in places but in stories. In The Chase, it landed in a completely different story to the one Ian and Barbara were looking for. The Blinovitch Limitation Effect is a bar on the Doctor and the TARDIS' ability to turn back the pages of a story they've already 'read', which would explain why they always meet the Master in the 'right' order, and why they can't go back and see the Brigadier again after The Wedding of River Song. So the real tragedy for the Doctor in The Angels Take Manhattan is that in an instant (from his own perspective), the story of his life with the Ponds is finished. It's not so much that he can't go back to New York in that time period, but that he can't turn the pages back on that story now it's written.


  15. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:39 am

    Which is also a reflection the Doctor's intersections with "fixed" time. He might be able to fix a marriage in the way he fixes his bowtie, but he can't fix time itself — instead, he ends up becoming a part of the causal events themselves. Which is kind of the whole point of "let's kill hitler" types of stories, making him the monster he is through the very interference time-travel affords.

    And so it is here — the Doctor's attempt to "fix" the narrative in The God Complex ends up yielding a "fixed narrative" that very much resembles "fixed time."


  16. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:42 am

    Interesting how "fixing" the story into place enables that kind of "freedom" in its meaning — it's a weird union of opposites.


  17. Callum Leemkuil
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:48 am

    Blogger ate my comment, so here's the condensed form: this is the only thing Moffat has written that I actively dislike, particularly the last scene. The last scene fails in a lot of ways; it fails to show and not tell; it fails to be set up by the episode that happened before it (the weeping angel mysteriously "surviving" is incredibly dissatisfying); Murray Gold's score, so effective for the same purpose in doomsday, now makes the scene more bathetic than it actually is; and it's not clearly explained why the Doctor can't visit Amy and Rory again (in my opinion, it's the book telling him he never visited and not the stupid New York time travel forcefield).

    That said, Nick Hurran does a great job making it watchable, with my favorite sequence being one in which Amy and the Doctor have a linear conversation across three totally unrelated parts of New York, with the Doctor even carrying a sentence over two geographic areas.


  18. Lewis Christian
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:55 am

    "The Doctor hates endings" was one of many, many issues I had with the episode. I understand it, and I think it works, but it felt mighty convenient that this was the first ever outright mention of it. Yes, we know he hates endings, but do you really have to labour and hammer it home in what we know is the Ponds' finale? It felt very forced and very "feel sad dammit!" in amongst all the knotty timey wimey plot contrivances.


  19. Jesse Smith
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:10 am

    There are a lot of things I like about this story. I love that it gets back to the original concept of the Angels as sending you back In time but finds a way to make that cruel and scary, far from the original "nicest psychopaths In the Universe". On the other hand, so much of this episode fails the fridge logic test. The visuals are wonderful but the concepts are paper thin and don't stand up to much examination.

    The Angels maintain an apartment building that looks like a classic Manhattan pre-war. The implication is that they send people decades back in time and that they've been doing this for a long time. But the apartment building should be relatively new in 1938.

    How are the Angels running their apartment building? Are the victims prisoners? If not, why stay in a creepy building with scary statues that move when you're not looking? If yes, are the Angels getting food and toiletries delivered? It kind of kills the terror for me…

    The Statue of Liberty as an Angel. Cool image. But we were previously told that the Angels are just alien beings who happen to look like angel statues. Now the implication is that the Angels are non physical entities who can somehow possess statues?

    And the Doctor being unable to simply land the TARDIS in Boston and take a train to NYC is kind of ridiculous as well.

    But in spite of all that it's a well shot, scary story that served as a good season finale.


  20. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 7:01 am

    But we were previously told that the Angels are just alien beings who happen to look like angel statues. Now the implication is that the Angels are non physical entities who can somehow possess statues?

    I don't remember it being spelt out quite what they are (as opposed to what they do), though perhaps I am just being forgetful. But while the idea of them taking over statues is certainly new, it's basically just making literal the implication of the statue montage at the end of Blink. Even so, I'm not hugely keen on it myself – but it's a small price to pay for getting shot of the innovations of Flesh Time…


  21. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 7:06 am

    Liking/disliking aside (and also Gold's score) I'm not so sure that the episode isn't delivering on some of these points in several key respects.

    First, the distinction of showing and telling. "Telling" isn't necessarily a bad thing, or "showing" a superior thing: the best literature does both, because all narratives are comprised of "story" and "discourse." And the truth is, the final scenes here (both in the cemetery and in Amy's "afterword") are doing both, too.

    For example, in the afterword: Amy is speaking in voice-over, from the words on the page, which is obviously "telling." Less obvious is the showing, which is focused on the Doctor's reaction to those words. Much of it depends absolutely on Smith's performance. More subtly, though: Amy is visibly absent from the scene, which is actually a use of negative space. In Hurran's work from Series Six, we were presented with many examples of "superposition" or two separate shots filling the frame simultaneously. It's a technique that could have been employed here (like the deceased Lucy Hayward reading her note in unison with the Doctor in The God Complex) but Hurran eschews it, making Amy's VO a haunting presence.

    And then there's the glasses. Throughout Moffat's run, there's been a symbolic emphasis on Eyes, Perception, Vision, and Glass. Reflections. So Amy's glasses are more than just a prop, they are communicating something important thematically — that the Doctor is finally seeing the story through Amy's eyes, not his own. Again, this is all showing.

    As to the setup of the cemetery scene: really? Earlier in the story, we get shots of the TARDIS struggling to enter New York's past, only to bounce back to the cemetery, wherein we see an Angel statue (but not weeping — it's a preexisting statue into which an Angel could escape), as well as Rory's grave and Amy lamp-posting it all with dialogue.

    Furthermore, the whole story goes to great pains to conflate Story and Time. Yes, the book says the Doctor won't visit again, and this is intimately connected to the forcefield around New York. So it is that story and "temporal reality" are made one and the same. Story becomes a metaphor for Time, and vice-versa.

    And it's a union of Line and Circle through which this is accomplished. The Line — beginning at one point, ending at another — well, it's like how we typically understand our time on earth. But here the lines become "fixed" when they loop back around into a circle. Standing for eternity. Or a Ring — a wedding band. It's a… marriage… of opposites. The everlasting story through the ephemera of time; the story that ends because it can no longer change having been fixed through a temporal circle.

    The final scenes are a microcosm of the episode, and of Amy Pond's life, and indeed of Moffat's oeuvre on Who. I find it hard to see how there isn't adequate setup.

    Is the music overdone? Sure, and I'd even go so far as to say it's terribly manipulative, but it's not like it doesn't accurately represent the emotions of the characters themselves, either. Are the mechanics of the time-travel paradox shield not particularly detailed? Again, sure, but then the story was never beholden to the narrative conventions of science-fiction, but rather those of noir and horror, and their primary concerns of character motivation and unspoken supernatural forces.

    Doesn't mean it has to be liked, of course (it's not exactly one of my favorite episodes, either), but I think its got some actual craftsmanship that's gotten overlooked or dismissed as a consequence to the emotional reactions it generated.


  22. Theonlyspiral
    August 18, 2014 @ 7:20 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  23. Theonlyspiral
    August 18, 2014 @ 7:21 am

    As with other Season 7 stories, I unabashedly adore this one. It's full of some absolutely beautiful moments. The use of the Vase to get specific coordinates, the Cherub that blows out the match on Rory, the statue of Liberty as an Angel…and the Picnic. The Picnic is one that I have a special fondness for. The idea that the Doctor picks the Ponds up and whisks them away to New York for a picnic is just delightful. It has a sense of whimsy that was missing as the magic left the fairy tale over season Six.

    Something else I like is the fact that this story gives us evidence that River has her own adventures through time and space. This completely lets the air out of the sails from people who think her life revolves around the Doctor. He's an important piece of it, but that's appropriate for anyone in a long terms (even long distance) relationship. Here she is every bit his equal. He has knowledge of the future and her death, but it is River that has the moral heart of this story, who can see past her own pain and allow Amy and Rory a chance at happiness. The fact of the matter is that there are few shows that would set this up and the fact that River isn’t a twiggy-twenty something makes it play perfectly.

    The revelation of the Angels as things that inhabit other forms is delightful. As much as myself (and others I think) would like a Fourth Doctor novel against the Angels, it’s pretty hard to see them as anything less than a by-product or weapon of the Time War. Here it’s taken to its logical next step: a story where they possess statues that possess an otherwise normal looking Detective story. I like the idea of a feeding ground, even if a couple of the details fall short. The thing is that in Season Seven more than any time since the Second Doctor visited the Land of Fiction, we’re seeing the TARDIS land in other people’s stories rather than places. It’s a place where narrative rather than logical rules have sway. It`s a thing of beauty.


  24. David Ainsworth
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:44 am

    The Doctor ends up as a kind of anti-angel here, doesn't he? Instead of trapping people in a looped piece of time with a non-story (very nursing home vibes to the hotel), he creates a loop for Amy which liberates her. But like the angels, he's not much good with endings.

    That also means that the Doctor needs to be observed for his own safety, that instead of taking away potential stories from his victims he gifts them with new ones, and that instead of being ultimately defined by quantum-locked invulnerability, he's defined by how easily hurt he can be, especially emotionally.

    From the Doctor's perspective, Amy and Rory are dead in a way they could otherwise never be: he could travel back and see them again earlier if he wanted to, be he doesn't, because their story with him is over. That's not just metanarrative, that's narrative.

    I find myself wondering for the first time whether the whole forcefield thing isn't an elaborate excuse. The Doctor can't face Amy and Rory at the end of their story with him, because to him, that's death; he can only imagine facing them at the beginning of the story.


  25. mczolly
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:58 am

    We need Adric to solve this issue.


  26. xen trilus
    August 18, 2014 @ 9:14 am

    You didn't 'miss' anything, but the scene was originally framed as if it were a dream sequence of Amy's (it cuts to her waking up as an adult to the TARDIS noise from outside). So no-one really logged it as a mystery.

    Interesting how the dream appears to become reality, although it freezes to sepia before we can definitively pin down what transpires.


  27. Callum Leemkuil
    August 18, 2014 @ 9:24 am

    "it's a preexisting statue into which an Angel could escape"

    is that how the Angels work? I've never heard that before, kind of a neat idea.

    You raise a lot of good points, but I still feel like the cemetery scene was tacked on – there's an episode of plot, and then Amy and Rory are removed by an entirely separate plot. Even if the angel was an angel that escaped into the statue, how did it survive? Didn't Rory creating a paradox destroy all the angels? Why did one survive, and why is it in the cemetery in the present?

    I agree there's adequate setup over the past several series, but I don't feel like the episode sets up the departure scene adequately.

    "Yes, the book says the Doctor won't visit again, and this is intimately connected to the forcefield around New York."

    I can't really see how this is the case – quite possibly I'm looking at this too non-diegetically, but I can't see the forcefield around New York as anything but a handwaving explanation so the Doctor can't instantly go back and get Amy and Rory. It doesn't feel like a natural occurrence to me; it feels like a narrative device (and not in an interesting metatextual way). I think the show should have made a bigger deal of why the book is the reason that the Doctor can't go to New Jersey and take a bus to New York; this seems to be a point of confusion for a lot of the audience, and it seems inadequately communicated, however.

    I do appreciate your analysis, though; Amy's glasses really is a nice touch, and both Moffat and Hurran are excellent craftsmen, even if Moffat seems to be writing on autopilot here.


  28. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 9:40 am

    the true form of a Doctor Who monster is simply as a set of rules, and that the art comes in telling a story where those rules pay off

    I think we've discussed this before, but I'm having a hard time applying this idea outside of the Moffat era/scripts. It seems exactly right for both the Angels and the Silence and the Vashta Nerada. I guess "kill everything that isn't a Dalek" and "convert everything that isn't a Cyberman" are sorta kinda the same thing. After that I feel like we're getting into fuzzier territory where the "rules" are more like simplified points of view or stereotypes: "talks about war all the time," "hisses a lot," "wants the Earth back," and so on. And I think the second part, telling a story where the rules "pay off," is even more a Moffat thing and not a Doctor Who thing — in "Blink" the Angels are driven and undone by their rule, and you could argue that choosing Craig for Cyberconversion undoes the Cybermen in "Closing Time" is the same kind of thing, but I think it's rarer that this happens. I'd agree that this brings a satisfying sort of unity to the proceedings, but I'd also say that a big part of the reason I've never found the Angels that interesting as monsters is that they really only work on that "rule" level and not as plausible beings in their own right. (I really like Theonlyspiral's theory that they were created by or for the Time War.) Maybe the distinction here is between "monsters" and antagonists, who presumably have motivations and plausible origins.

    I feel like we must also have discussed this before, but in a show where the entire previous season was set up to let the Doctor subvert his own apparent death on a technicality (it looked like him, but wasn't), it seems strange now to assert that because you read some words in a book, suddenly you're bound to have things happen exactly as you're inferring they might based on the words you read. As I said in my review:

    In some cases it seems as though the trap results from jumping to conclusions: for example, one of the passages Amy reads to the Doctor doesn’t actually say “Melody broke her arm,” it just says that she asks “Why do you have to break mine?”

    There are a million ways that story could go, most of which are less ridiculous than "that was a robot that looked, sounded, and felt exactly like me and I was teeny-tiny and driving it from inside its head." It's one thing for this story to assert that what's seen and written is true and inevitable; it's another for it to follow a season that says all you need do is keep up appearances and cheat behind the scenes.


  29. Nyq Only
    August 18, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    "50 years" and "the 50th year" don't quite mean the same thing. One is a cardinal number and the other an ordinal number.
    1963: 1st year of DW, 0 years it had existed (1963-1963=0)
    1964: 2nd year of DW, 1 year it existed
    That makes 2012 the 50th year of Doctor Who and 49 years it had existed.

    This would have been clearer if there had been a season of Doctor Who every year since 1963. The fiftieth season of Doctor Who would then have been in 2012.

    I hope that makes sense. I must now crash a spaceship into some dinosaurs.


  30. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:03 am

    @Callum: Thanks, and, I dunno, just seeing famous statues walking around, it makes me think that any statue could house an Angel, and that therefore a statue of any kind of angel (being an "image" of an angel) would be especially conducive to offering an Angel a measure of salvation.

    Now to your most interesting point, because I think it just clarified something for me: "It doesn't feel like a natural occurrence to me; it feels like a narrative device" — well, yes, that's entirely it, isn't it? So I don't think you're look at it too non-diegetically, but quite the reverse; this whole story is very much driven by non-diegetic concerns, and it rather wears it on its sleeve.

    Which leads me to my revelation, which has to do (once again) with Hurran's direction. See, I'm a big fan of what Hurran has done with Doctor Who, but this entry of his has bothered me somewhat. It's… I don't know if I've got the proper language for it, or the proper analytical tools to pinpoint what's exactly going on, but I've always felt like there's something terribly off with this story, just in terms of its visual presentation (not the story mechanics, which everyone else focuses on).

    And I think has to do with the how the episode is shot, versus the genres in which constitutes it. I mean, for a story that's ostensibly drawing from Noir conventions, or Horror conventions, there's very little I see in the way it's actually shot that feels beholden to those conventions.

    For example, Noir is prototypically shot in black-and-white, and with it comes all kinds of visual language devoted to light and shadow. There's a graininess to Noir, a feeling of being old. TATM, on the other hand, is shot in color, there's very little play of light and shadow, and it's almost so sharp that anything that's not on location looks practically artificial. Even Gillan's makeup seems heavy and overdone, not unlike Grayle's baggy suit.

    Nor is the episode shot according to what I see as the typical conventions of horror. The color is too saturated, the approaching horrors too visible; the teaser itself practically shows the story's entire hand. And, like you say, the soundtrack isn't a horror soundtrack, especially at the end.

    Yet it's obvious that Hurran is familiar with horror tropes: look at what he does with Gillan's hair as Amy and Rory fall from Winter Quay, a visible homage to The Bride of Frankenstein. And yet, this too has a strange juxtaposition, because Gillan's expression is one of rapture.

    So Hurran is directing the episode against its own genre conventions, and this made it all seem, to me, very "artificial" in its entire presentation. But then, as Phil points out, the genesis of TATM is itself artificial, from how we know going in what it is that must inevitably happen, a happening born not of story but of the performers deciding to move on, to the fact that it's consciously and deliberately reiterating key moment throughouts Amy's run on the show.

    So the fact that the direction itself exposes "artiface" makes me pause, now, as to just how self-knowing this episode really is, and how much "artiface" was deliberately woven in, from the whole business of New York timelines to the Statue of Liberty walking about. If so, that makes this a rather more experimental episode of TV than I'd actually thought.

    Not to say that this should necessarily be taken as satisfying — only that there may be more purpose and intention behind it than initially appears.


  31. Alan
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:12 am

    I was actually amused at all the angst over never being able to visit the Ponds because of "timey-wimey." The only reasons Eleven has for thinking that it's impossible to see the Ponds again consist of a letter in a published paperback book and a gravestone. My very first thought was that the book could have been ghost-written by a future Doctor who also paid for the tombstone because it was for some reason important that Eleven never find out how the Ponds escaped from New York. (Spoiler alert: It probably involved Snake Plisken.)

    I mean, seriously, it's not like the Doctor just finished with cheating a fixed point in time in order to fake his own death. And there was a lot more evidence of that death than there was showing that Amy and Rory lived to a ripe old age without ever setting foot out of Manhattan.


  32. Alan
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:17 am

    I prefer to think of them as older than that. I group them along with the vampires and the Fendahl and all the other things from "The Dark Times" that the Time Lords tried to get rid of because they were existential threats to the ordered universe the Time Lords sought to build. Obviously, not on the same level as the other two, but a race that "feeds" by creating time paradoxes is something the Time Lords would never have tolerated.


  33. BerserkRL
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:34 am

    with my favorite sequence being one in which Amy and the Doctor have a linear conversation across three totally unrelated parts of New York, with the Doctor even carrying a sentence over two geographic areas

    Shades of The Third Man, which works a similar magic on Vienna, with e.g. two people having a conversation though the background behind one is nowhere near that of the other. Or whichever Mission: Impossible movie it was in which Tom Cruise jumps off a roof in one neighbourhood of Prague and lands in a street in a different neighbourhood on the other side of the river. But then I've been enjoying seeing the Baltimore Aquarium and San Francisco's Chinatown inserted into Vancouver in Arrow.


  34. BerserkRL
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    I always figured the statues in the Blink montage were supposed to have been angels all along. This works better for the less than for the more famous ones (with named/known designers). Given the widespread availability of photos of the Stature of Liberty in mid-construction, it works especially badly for that one.


  35. J Mairs
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

    Q: Why doesn't the Doctor just do XYZ to work around the fixed point at the end?

    A: It's sign-posted throughout the episode; it's the reason that the TARDIS winds up in the graveyard. The damage to the timeline is Amy and Rory. They're the fixed time, not "New York in the 1940s". The TARDIS can't get near them, so why in god's name would he go wandering off to try to bring them to the TARDIS?

    If the Doctor interferes with them… well… there's the thematic link between "The Wedding of River Song" and "The Angels Take Manhattan" in a nutshell. πŸ™‚


  36. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

    I'm kind of slow, I know, but all of this sounds like "just because" to my ears. If there's more to it than that, you'd have to spell it out if you'd want me to understand it.

    Plus there's the Doctor's actual lines:

    DOCTOR: Does it matter? We got lucky. We could've blown New York off the planet. I can't ever take the Tardis back there. The timelines are too scrambled. I could have lost you both. Don't ever do that again.

    which I guess we must all be conflating with:

    DOCTOR: You are creating fixed time. I will never be able to see you again.

    Understandably, I think. I would rather have had a character-based reason for them not to see each other again than for a half-assed sci-fi allegory to be stretched thin over it, raising all sorts of questions that distract from the heart of the story rather than augmenting it. Instead I feel like with this story and several others there's this constant redirection going on, where we're told not to examine the allegory too closely because aren't the characters the real point? But then when we say the allegory's served to repress the characters' emotions and we don't get to actually explore them, which (exploring emotions) is a legitimate thing stories sometimes do, we're told not to expect any actual drama because the allegory that doesn't bear close examination is doing that work.

    It's frustrating. I don't want to be accused of being a literalist, but there is such a thing as too much coyness.


  37. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

    Whether you've gotten it right or wrong, you've certainly adopted a viewpoint that results in missing the party.


  38. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

    It is a bit of a hazily defined plot point, though it's still more of an answer than we ever got to questions like "why doesn't the Doctor return to visit Ace," "why doesn't the Doctor return to visit Sarah Jane," or "why doesn't the Doctor return to visit Susan."


  39. John Seavey
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    It's interesting that you say the Angels never got an origin, because I've been aching for a while to share my headcanon story about the return of the Daemons and the way that their ancient servants, the Weeping Angels, return to them and are restored to their full strength, able to move when being watched like Bok the Gargoyle from 'The Daemons'.

    …which I guess I just did. πŸ™‚


  40. Richard Pugree
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

    Yes, they're supposed to be one of the ancient races surely, pre-dating the Time Lords? I'm pretty sure Tennant says as much in Blink, and Dalton refers to them as the weeping angels of old. I've assumed that, like the time dragons, the fact that they seem to be cropping up more and more is because the Time Lords aren't around and able to police time any more.


  41. Matthew Blanchette
    August 18, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    Indeed… not to mention that, if the image of an Angel becomes an Angel, shouldn't every postcard of the Statue of Liberty — even the one in the NY hotel elevator lift — become an Angel by dint of the Statue bullshitastically being one?

    Not to mention, "the City that Never Sleeps"… with a million billion eyes, means the Statue should be "the Angel that Never Moves".


  42. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

    True, so let's follow that.

    As far as I know we only have a strong reason to believe he never dropped in on Sarah Jane between "Hand of Fear" and "School Reunion" (not counting "The Five Doctors" of course). I don't think we know one way or the other about Ace or Susan, though for the sake of discussion let's assume he never came back to Susan and let's set aside the Wilderness novels.

    The question is: why?

    1. He didn't want to. There's something fundamental to the Doctor's psyche where he feels that once you've left the TARDIS, that's it. This is honestly the most satisfying explanation for me, not least because it allows for exceptions and shifts over time, as we see with Amy and Rory, and as we're seeing with Clara. If he's mellowing on this over the years, learning to cope with goodbyes and hello-agains, this also helps the showrunners cope with the new, troubling trend where nobody except Martha would voluntarily leave the TARDIS if they didn't have to and therefore we have to dimension-lock them or mindwipe them or time-lock them to get rid of them.

    2. He felt it would be "cheating." If someone is with you in your time machine, you get to age with them for a while and their story syncs up with yours. If you drop them off and then you zip off to the future, in a sense they've already died, even if you come back to them later on in your lifetime. There's definitely a sense in which that's weird. Still more of a psychological barrier, a bit like how reading Game of Thrones books out of order might interfere with getting attached to certain characters. In that respect it ties in fairly well with the themes of this story, though I can see how it might be tough to sell that to an audience who tends to get even more attached to characters than the characters do to each other. So I can see how you might be tempted to bring in a more "physical" explanation, bringing us to #3 or #4… (see next comment)


  43. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

    1. He didn't, because he couldn't. Because dropping off every single companion has created "fixed time" (whatever that is — isn't there an About Time essay about what a "fixed point" actually is, or was that on the Eruditorum?) and the Doctor literally cannot take the TARDIS back there. Either the TARDIS is a bucking horse and won't ride into the rapids, or it's a magnet with the same polarity and all the force in the universe won't push them together. This seems terribly unlikely to me, and this story would have us believe that whatever's happened here is highly unusual and dangerous. And it would be quite a coincidence if dropping off every other companion (or even just these three) created some kind of exotic time-trap that just happened to block him from coming back.

      4. He couldn't, because he didn't. There was something about the way he left Susan, Ace, and Sarah Jane, and probably numerous others, that locked down their destiny with respect to him. Once he dropped them off he knew he didn't come back; they became a part of the history he can't change (like the fate of the Aztecs?). And because he didn't come back, he didn't come back. Some overlap here with the other explanations, but perhaps enough "this is how time works" to shush fans who are less satisfied with "this is how people work"? Unfortunately it makes us ask what's been going on since the end of "The God Complex." He knows he did come back, so he does? It gets a bit abstract, and a bit too enamored of "destiny" for my taste. What made me think there might be something to this approach was the line in "The Snowmen" about how he knows who's going to be a companion and who isn't. If we buy that (we don't have to), we can suppose he knows who isn't going to be a companion anymore once their time ends.

      Still favoring #1, myself, but I'd love to hear other explanations. Extra-diegetically, of course, it's just a way to "kill" Amy and Rory (see above about how only Martha would ever be nuts enough to quit — everyone else has to be fired now) while still giving them the nicest possible ending.

      I would not be shocked at all if Clara got Susaned. I hope not, but that's where it seems like it might be going.


  44. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

    I certainly enjoyed what we had, and stopped me getting hung up over any 'lack' of back-reference in series 7b – but I was expecting even more from 2014.

    And thanks Nyq Only – you are Adric and I claim my five pounds!


  45. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    It's a rather lovely moment – I'm not entirely sold on the whole episode, but this is a wonderful pay-off to Amelia's time in the TARDIS and gets me properly smiley-weepy whenever I watch it πŸ™‚


  46. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

    It seems to be coincidence only regarding Melody, as I think the time periods do not match up – which is a shame, as it would have begun to have made sense (a heartwarming one to boot) of all those happy photographs of Amelia and her baby in the mental institution of "Impossible Astronaut".

    However the circumstances of Amy and Rory then losing their daughter again (or at least being unable to convince her to avoid the Silence after Amy/Rory's death) would probably have needed addressing in it's own story to stop the happy resolution having a sour note.

    It does seem to be a missed opportunity.


  47. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

    River is fairly specific, and seems to have become a self-made expert on Angels:

    RIVER: It's like they've taken over every statue in the city.


  48. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

    The act of reading passages from the book dictating outcomes bugs me – and anyway, why do they presume all the events in the book are true facts? If they'd read "and then the Doctor's head turned into a strawberry jelly" would they expect it to happen? River could have written any old rubbish amongst the facts.

    When River pretends to have not broken her wrist when getting out of the Angels grasp, I thought perhaps she was trying to fool the Doctor into being confident enough to go against the words of the book – but she never says as much when he discovers her subterfuge… I'm still unclear if this was her motivation, as they just bicker over it.


  49. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 3:36 pm

    Yes, I'm not sure how to feel about an episode of Doctor Who (or anything, really) whose plot depends on the characters learning to believe everything they read, and to take it at face value, no less. Talk about literalism!

    Incidentally, seeing your icon on this blog so many times next to interesting and enjoyable comments has made that face incapable of filling me with dread of a totalitarian state. I'm assuming you don't actually have a moustache but in my mind's eye you're permanently Big Brother's twin.


  50. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 18, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

    One or two things you mentioned, Theonlyspiral, that I've been intrigued about: the Vase. Actually the two Vases. There was always that first Vase, which River and Rory saw (or the viewer did) and one of the Chinese figures on that Vase translated to Summer. Why Summer? Why that particular phrase?

    That bit always bugged/intrigued me. Because the second Vase is the one the Doctor used as his coordinate, it wasn't the Summer Vase. And it's later part of the show's canon (and eventually published, written by a real person) that Amy Williams wrote a children's book called Summer Falls, shown in The Bells of St. John. Think on that and if the Doctor could ever find his way back to New York City with Summer…

    And River Song, reading this analysis, made me realize that like most people, she doesn't consider the prospect of her own death and enjoys living in the moment even as she travels through time and space. Death, which is part of her story to the Doctor and viewer, is not part of her personal story to her and her parents Amy and Rory never of course knew what the Doctor did.


  51. Jarl
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    In my opinion, the missed opportunity of the Pond years. They end up trapped around age thirty in 1938 New York. 32 years later, the first regeneration of Melody Pond dies of soap opera disease in an alleyway in the same city, a city we know the Ponds were living in still. 26 years later, she's 7 years old and moved across the world to enroll herself(?) in an elementary school in Leadworth.
    The obvious thing, to me, was that The Angels Take Manhattan was going to end with a similar "return to a scene from an earlier episode only with a different ending" clip of the regeneration from The Day of the Moon. And it didn't happen. So, I figured, maybe there was still more Pond and Song to come along, and it would be settled then. But it never was. Now, we're long past the point where such a thing would make sense. But, in my heart, that scene is how Angels ends.


  52. jonathan inge
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

    “…Amy is lodged in yet another iteration of Amy’s Choice…”

    Not quite. (I say this even though I extremely adore that episode.)

    As I noted earlier, Amy has no autonomy. Her character exists to serve the Doctor and the narrative.

    In that episode, it appeared Amy had to choose, but it was ultimately the Doctor’s decision. This completely nullifies Amy opting to kill herself. The Doctor who knew both worlds were illusions and apparently decided to placate Amy’s deathwish.

    I’m hoping my hypothesis is wrong and a commenter will detail a scenario where Amy took control of the narrative much like the Doctor, River, and a number of other characters do.

    In a sense, by becoming a writer, Amy does.


  53. Jarl
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:21 pm

    "… a Fourth Doctor novel against the Angels…"
    I could totally see that. Actually, I've seen some stuff like that:

    "Jamie, Zoey, keep your eyes open. Those aren't statues."
    "Aye Doctor, then what are they?"
    "They're Angels, Jamie, the Weeping Angels. Don't blink! Either of you. Blink, and you're dead. They, uh, they want to steal your moments, every moment of your life you have left to live."
    "But Doctor, how can it do that? It's just a statue!"
    "Just as long as you keep looking at it, both of you! It's only a statue so long as you look at it, don't you see? Don't look away, don't turn your head for an instant or it will get you!"


  54. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    You're very kind! I could say the same about your once-terrifying Sandminer Robot visage over at The Wife and Blake – I only lurk as I haven't watched Blakes 7 (but know the twists and turns) and always seek out your comments there.


  55. Jarl
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

    That line about reading Game of Thrones out of order actually just convinced me that #2 might be correct. It's also tempting to set it up as the midpoint in a link between the idea of Celebrity Historicals at one end and his actions in The Waters of Mars at the other.
    Futzing about in a companion's history, both the parts he's already experienced with them and the parts he's not present for but knows the result of, would be incredibly painful for the Doctor, which would explain why he's so reluctant to do it, thus his initial distrust of River and his anger at Rose in Father's Day. It also illustrates how concerned he was about Clara, if he was willing to do some serious futzing regarding her past. Pasts? I suspect he would have gone back to 1880s London to see if Victorian Clara had a childhood too.


  56. Jarl
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

    This is the episode where Rory's mirroring of the Doctor reaches its apotheosis. Amy's Choice, A Good Man Goes To War, The God Complex, and The Girl Who Waited all build it up on Amy and Rory's side, but this is the episode where it pays off on the Doctor's side. Because what happens to Rory in this episode?
    He sees his own grave.
    He creates a time paradox to rewrites his past and his future.
    He lives to death.

    The Angels Take Manhattan is a microcosm of the Eleventh Doctor's final three stories, summing up his dying days in a single episode.


  57. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

    Aw thanks! You can just imagine it as D84, even though I probably used an image of SV7.


  58. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

    "Instead I feel like with this story and several others there's this constant redirection going on, where we're told not to examine the allegory too closely because aren't the characters the real point? But then when we say the allegory's served to repress the characters' emotions and we don't get to actually explore them"

    Except here we actually do get to explore them. We explore the characters' feelings in spades; they practically get spelled out for us in both performance and dialogue. (Conversely, of course, this is then decried in some quarters as too sentimental, maudlin, bathetic, pointed, whatever.) This is what we get when the emotions are no longer repressed — but become a flood, inundating the text with actual sincerity; ironically, given the rest of the story's artifice.


  59. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:23 pm



  60. encyclops
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

    That's true; I guess what I'm thinking is that instead of the ordinary reasons a couple might want to stop traveling with their best friend and build a life together, there's an artificial (!) rationale that forces their hand (they choose to leave because they find out that they choose to leave, a tautology that mortars over whatever's underneath) and leads to all the melodrama. I mean, isn't there a middle ground between repressing these things into sub-subtext and bawling them out in a flood of bathos? Can we just have a conversation between grownups or is that just not fairy-tale enough? There are plenty of those little moments even earlier on in 7a; it's a bummer that this is their payoff. But it could be worse.


  61. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:34 pm

    Amy takes control of the narrative here in TATM, at least, by "fixing" her time line with that final time loop, created by having the Doctor go back to tell her child self a story at the request of the adult. She does so to ameliorate her own childhood suffering. That's pretty cool.

    Now, in Amy's Choice, I think her choice there actually has ramifications beyond serving "the Doctor's decision" as based on his knowledge that the dreamworlds were illusions. In at least a couple of respects.

    Amy's choice is as much a surprise to her as anyone else. Prior to this, she had been on the fence regarding her relationship to Rory; this proved to her, beyond a doubt, what she truly valued. So the dreamworlds function as a mirror for her to clarify her own thoughts and feelings.

    No, her choice has nothing to do with resolving the puzzle of the plot. But that ultimately isn't what's important — it's resolving the puzzle of her conflicting needs, when finally faced with the imperative of choosing one over the other. And sure, it's a bit of false choice, because needs can be balanced, as Amy discovers by her wedding day; they need not be, of their own accord, mutually exclusive.

    The other way in which her choice does not serve the Doctor is that she's actively choosing against him. This is not the message that he himself wanted to receive; instead, it's a victory of his dark side, of his own self-hatred.

    And, I dunno, I don't think the Doctor fully understood the nature of the dream reality until after he and Amy had "died" and woken up on the TARDIS safe and sound, and that there really was "a way out."


  62. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

    I think the rationale has to be artificial, because the choice itself is ultimately a false one; we don't really have to choose between one blue box or the other. We can have both. We can have adventures, and put down roots, too. These are not mutually exclusive.

    And at this point, Rory and Amy have mastered both worlds. They've worked it all out. Well, except maybe for growing older "faster" than their friends. That's the only wrinkle: time.

    So we've already seen the grown-up version, which was explored in 7a. They've had conversations.

    And, I dunno, I don't think the "middle ground" is all that compelling. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like an escape from confronting and experiencing the hard emotions lurking underneath, just a gentler form of repression. Or maybe a more effective form of repression, because the imagery in the subtextual explorations is so vivid and striking that it can't be easily ignored, not at the subconscious level, at least.

    I think in the end it has to be melodramatic, because in reality, losing the people we love really hurts.


  63. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

    This isn't Rory mirroring the Doctor to reach apotheosis. The "of the Doctor" stories are really about the Doctor mirroring Rory, in order to reach something a bit more, well, human.


  64. jane
    August 18, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

    Amy would find her regenerated daughter, and tell Melody that she'd be able to find her parents again in Leadworth. My head-canon tells me so: Amy believes in fixed time now, and would certainly help to fix her daughter's path.


  65. Jesse Smith
    August 18, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

    I always figured the montage at the end of Blink was just being cheeky, and not meant to be taken too seriously.

    As for "the image of an Angel becomes an Angel", have we ever actually seen that confirmed onscreen? The closest is that the Angel starts moving on a looping recording and then seems to start coming out of the screen. There's a perhaps related but not identical situation where the Angel then gets "in Amy's eye" and she starts to turn into a statue, but that just turns out to be a cheap prank by the Angels rather than any actual transformation.

    There is a lot of stuff from that crazy book in "The Time of Angels" that was never really explored to the degree it deserved.

    "What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us. The time of Angels."

    I don't know what this means exactly with respect to the Angels, but it sure sounds interesting.


  66. Jesse Smith
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

    I've never really had a hard time with the fact that the Doctor lets people go and never revisits them. In fact, I have a harder time with the idea that he maintains his relationship with Amy and Rory over hundreds of years (longer than the human experience can encompass).

    I have had friends in high school, roommates in college, girlfriends and close platonic friends, etc., all of whom I was very close to at one point or another in my life. But our lives diverged, and I don't feel a particularly compelling urge to seek them out and revive our relationship. We parted on good terms, but our lives simply no longer converge and we are busy enough with our own lives.

    The Doctor seems to be a very busy person. It's really no surprise to me that he's never felt compelled to drop in on Dodo and see what she's been up to.


  67. jonathan inge
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:39 pm

    Thanks, jane.

    A few days ago, I would have agreed with TATM being the one where Amy obviously makes her ONE BIG DECISION. It’s very easy to read Amy’s farewell as autonomy more so since the person who doesn’t want her to go also has had great influence over her.

    Her choice serves the larger narrative surrounding the Doctor though. ‘Time for a change? Make it a sad one.’ IMO, very part and parcel for DW. Rose and Donna, at their own peril, ascend to Doctor status and briefly take over the narrative before exiting at least. (I’m not advocating becoming greater than or equal to the Doctor; there are so many other things to become. Rather I suggest hijacking the narrative, something akin to what Clara does regularly. Jury is still out on her though.) My point is: Amy’s character arc is blighted just so the Doctor can has feels.

    It’s a weird conceit, not having an older version of Amy with older Rory in the Angels’ hotel. Because frankly that is a major discontinuity of how the show has portrayed timey-wimey especially in regards to River Song. It is here Moffat abandons Timey-Wimey for Back to the Future-style paradox. Dare I compare to Looper? The film was released the same month, technically just before TATM. Hmm. Nope, parallels are just too unintentionally obvious. But these two (and so many others) reflect how the zeitgeist synchronized its focus on time travel in recent years. I digress…

    Series 6b wonderfully goes off the rails. However, Series 7a is in a perpetual free fall, down the gorge, exploding on the rocks, and spreading hazardous materials into the local water system.

    Moffat is usually good about showing and not telling, but here he cuts characters and promises us they’ll be okay. Offscreen Amy gets to heal. But where’s our (the audience’s) healing? Where’s our catharsis? (Yes, IMO, Amy and Rory should not have returned after The Wedding of River Song.)

    Exactly when the Doctor figured out everything in Amy’s Choice is open to debate which in the end diminishes Amy’s choice. πŸ™‚


  68. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  69. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

    Somewhere on Eruditorium (possibly the entry on the novel The Time Travellers) there is the theory that every time the TARDIS crew step out of the doors somewhere/somewhen new, they are creating a new parallel universe – and in effect there really is no way to go back to a previous time and place as it won't ever be the same. The Doctor could go pick up Susan, but in some way she wouldn't be the same Susan as the one he left behind – very similar, but microscopically not quite the same person with not quite the same history.

    However this is definitely flouted in numerous stories, especially in NuWho… perhaps there are exceptions, and this is why short hops are tricky? Certainly the frequent drop-offs with Clara render this theory close to unworkable.


  70. ferret
    August 18, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

    Perhaps the events of The Daemons started it all, and once Azal was vanquished Bok and his kind got depowered. Bok isn't destroyed after all, only rendered motionless… perhaps only because we were looking!


  71. Aylwin
    August 18, 2014 @ 11:54 pm

    I always figured the montage at the end of Blink was just being cheeky, and not meant to be taken too seriously.

    Oh, I'm quite sure it was. But it means that the idea that any statue could be an Angel has been lurking around since their first appearance, which makes it somewhat less jarring when that is turned into an in-story reality.


  72. Ombund
    August 19, 2014 @ 1:00 am

    I remember reading an interesting theory that for the Doctor episodes 2-4 of series 7a take place after The Angels Take Manhattan. The Doctor loses the Ponds in New York and so just goes back to points earlier in their timeline when he’s still able to see them and they can have a few more adventures. It’s a nice idea, and one that explains some of his intense behaviour in these episodes; he’s still so upset over what has happened/will happen to the Ponds that he can get angry enough to murder Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and to actually consider taking up arms in A Town Called Mercy. Not only is the Doctor angry about their loss, he also knows that what he’s doing is wrong – what if Amy gets killed in Mercy when he know she has to get to New York? Will he "break time" again for the sake of a few more adventures with them? It gives added weight to the Doctor’s conversation with Brian at the end of The Power of Three: he knows exactly what happens to these companions and what’s more, he knows there’s no running away from it any more. His story with the Ponds is truly over and has been for some time.


  73. Anton B
    August 19, 2014 @ 2:05 am

    I think you just retrofitted some headcanon for me there.


  74. Anton B
    August 19, 2014 @ 2:10 am

    Of course each time Rory 'regenerates' after his many 'Kenny deaths' it is as the same character. The Doctor isn't going to mirror that after what happened when his Tenth incarnation did it.


  75. brownstudy
    August 19, 2014 @ 2:28 am

    You know, I wondered about that too. At the end of DOAS, as they're all looking out from the Tardis at Earth, Matt Smith looks at the backs of Amy and Rory with such an intense longing and sadness that it made me think "He knows what's going to happen to them." It would be Moffat-ish for the Doctor to hold a secret like that through the series and to present little clues to be paid off by the last episode; it makes his scene with Amy in TPOT rather more elegiac. Though the ending of TATM doesn't seem to hint that he will do this.


  76. Anton B
    August 19, 2014 @ 3:27 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  77. Anton B
    August 19, 2014 @ 3:30 am

    In terms of Tarot imagery Amy and Rory were always card six of the major arcana – The Lovers. Depicted in the Rider Waite deck as overshadowed by a huge Angel. The earlier version of the card shows three figures standing under Cupid firing an arrow and is often labelled 'The Choice.
    This story, due to the extra-diagetic 'farewell to the Ponds' nature of its narrative, has something of the mood of a Christmas episode or even a multi-Doctor anniversary special. The 'real' story is forever lurking behind the curtains threatening to poke its head through and destabilise the suspension of disbelief. This creates a malleable space in which Moffat can play his multiple level meta-narrative games. To isolate one aspect for scrutiny is to misunderstand the way this episode is meant to be percieved: like inspecting a single element of a collage up close instead of stepping back to appreciate the art. So while, yes, the Statue of Liberty being 'Angeled' and the 'timey wimey force field round New York' make little sense in isolation, taken as part of the larger picture (that of a story with a specific function, the alchemical/magickal banishing of Amy and Rory and their attendant imagery) they function perfectly. Of course Liberty is a Weeping Angel and Of course the Doctor can never visit New York in the 1930's and Of course River Song will turn up to get closure on her story. Because that's exactly what is needed in this 'celebration' just as bickering Doctors are necessary to an anniversary or some kind of space tinsel in a Christmas episode.


  78. encyclops
    August 19, 2014 @ 6:53 am

    I think in the end it has to be melodramatic, because in reality, losing the people we love really hurts.

    Well, that's the point: there's enough drama in reality without having to distort it with melodrama. But at some point it becomes a matter of taste, and I think you're right that we get some of the realistic level throughout the rest of 7a.


  79. John Binns
    August 19, 2014 @ 7:00 am

    I would suggest that he could drop in on any companion at a point in their timeline after he last saw or heard of them, but generally doesn't (The End of Time and The Death of the Doctor say there are exceptions). He dropped in on the Brigadier occasionally in the same way as he did for Amy and Rory and does for Clara. But the prospect of doing so definitively ends (as it did for the Brigadier in The Wedding of River Song, and the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan) with the knowledge that they have died (or that their story together has ended). Along with his aversion to endings, this explains his reluctance to drop in on people (keeping alive forever the prospect that he might do so; if he visits and they're dead, that's it) and why the loss of Amy and Rory is a greater one for him than the loss of other companions.


  80. encyclops
    August 19, 2014 @ 7:12 am

    To isolate one aspect for scrutiny is to misunderstand the way this episode is meant to be percieved: like inspecting a single element of a collage up close instead of stepping back to appreciate the art.

    I'm not sure I buy this as a defense. Surely every writer would love for you to overlook all the little elements that don't make sense, because come on, you know what they meant.

    If you want the art to be appreciated, you need to make the individual elements support the whole rather than snagging your attention and distracting from it. At least blend the edges a bit. If that single collage element is jarring even from a stepped-back-appreciating distance, maybe it doesn't fit as well as the artist thinks it does.

    If your attitude is "come on, it's Christmas," that's cool, I can respect that. Not everything has to make perfect sense; I personally felt the spectacle of the Statue justified its lunacy, and the mixed feelings I have about the New York travel ban don't have anything to do with the loophole issue. But I don't think the people who go "wait a minute, what?" in reaction to these speed bumps are "misunderstanding" anything.


  81. John Binns
    August 19, 2014 @ 7:17 am

    River of course he can see 'out of order' specifically because they each avoid 'spoilers'. This whole thing has a resonance (not coincidentally perhaps?) with that heartbreaking line in The Doctor's Wife, where the TARDIS (to whom, it seems, past, present and future are the same) tells him, 'this is when we talked'.


  82. Jesse Smith
    August 19, 2014 @ 7:18 am

    I just noticed how clever it is of Phil to skip ahead to this story as a way of launching his discussion of a half season haunted and overshadowed by the looming departure of the Ponds. Nicely done!


  83. John Seavey
    August 19, 2014 @ 8:22 am

    Actually, my thinking is that whatever cataclysm destroyed the Daemons way back when (Azal is more or less depicted as the last survivor of his people) left gargoyles like Bok in a precarious position. Deprived of their masters, they had to find their own sources of food, and went "feral". The Weeping Angels are the result of the evolutionary process, like dingoes are to dogs.

    Why yes, I have overthought this. πŸ™‚


  84. TheSmilingStallionInn
    August 19, 2014 @ 8:27 am

    Off topic here, but I would like to talk about the just released episode titles for this next series. We know a lot of them already, but some of them are a real doozy. Take a look:

    Episode 1: Deep Breath.
    Written by Steven Moffat
    Directed by Ben Wheatley

    Episode 2: Into The Dalek
    Written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat
    Directed by Ben Wheatley
    Introducing Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink.

    Episode 3: Robot Of Sherwood
    Written by Mark Gatiss
    Directed by Paul Murphy

    Episode 4: Listen
    Written by Steven Moffat
    Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

    Episode 5: Time Heist
    Written by Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat
    Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

    Episode 6: The Caretaker
    Written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat
    Directed by Paul Murphy

    Episode 7: Kill The Moon
    Written by Peter Harness
    Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

    Episode 8: Mummy On The Orient Express
    Written by Jamie Mathieson
    Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

    Episode 9: Flatline
    Written by Jamie Mathieson
    Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

    Episode 10: In The Forest Of The Night
    Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
    Directed by Sheree Folkson

    Episode 11/12 Dark Water/Death In Heaven
    Written by Steven MoffatDirected by Rachel Talalay

    Hello, William Blake's here at last! And Dark Water…this is going to be fun!


  85. Nyq Only
    August 19, 2014 @ 10:31 am

    As I am actually a mutant swamp monster with amazing healing powers, whose natural environment is crashed spaceships, I got better after inadvertently killing most of the dinosaurs. Phew! Then using my amazing E-Space DNA I founded the species of Silurians. Yes all Silurians are descended from Adric.


  86. Anton B
    August 19, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    Only if you consider a collage needs to produce a cohesive blended whole image to be effective. Sometimes a jarring element is exactly the intention of the artist. Perhaps I'm being too pretentious here. Maybe I am just saying "come on, it's Christmas,"!
    I do think though that some critics of the Moffat era are, (like @Ferret above worrying whether 2013 or 2014 is the 50th year) if not misunderstanding, then certainly missing out on so much richness by getting hung up on perceived 'faults' in the story. Perhaps to extend my arty metaphor to breaking point, Moffat's Doctor Who can be like a Magic Eye picture; you have to screw up your eyes and squint a little to get the effect even while some people are insisting there's nothing there but some squiggly lines.


  87. encyclops
    August 19, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

    Oh, I guess I should have taken the "collage" metaphor more literally. If that's supposed to be the effect Moffat was going for here, in my opinion (a) it was a bad choice of medium and (b) he failed to produce one. πŸ™‚

    The "Magic Eye" metaphor seems a bit closer to me, though it's maybe less charitable to Moffat since there's less of what we'd consider artistic merit to them (it's not that there's anything especially remarkable about this crude picture of a dolphin, it's just cool that it's "hidden" and in 3D!). But I do find that Moffat's stories do sometimes feel a little Swiss-cheesy, that he leaves the viewer to do more of the work in connecting dots and piecing together what he's saying, as I think Philip's essays have argued.

    We're prone to assume that "the viewer does more of the work" is a sign of quality — that only an inferior production dramatizes everything — but I'm not so certain it's that automatic. There is, obviously, an art to what you show and tell and what you strategically omit / elide / imply. I think sometimes Moffat is devastatingly successful at making these calls and sometimes overly ambitious. The first example that comes to mind is "The Time of the Doctor," which tries to do something very sophisticated with a story that covers a very large span of time, and for me personally it didn't quite have the full emotional impact it could have. That wasn't, I'd like to think, because I didn't manage to cross my eyes enough to see the dolphin, but because some of the details that would have made the dolphin truly wondrous rather than just recognizable as a dolphin were left out.

    Which isn't to say I didn't appreciate the story at all. I've definitely met some fans whose raison d'etre seems to be finding "plot holes," and I get why they seem to be missing the point, but I'm not sure I feel confident saying their priorities are so much less enlightened than mine. I think it's unlikely that Mark Gatiss intended to write "The Unquiet Dead" as a criticism of asylum seekers or "Night Terrors" as a disparagement of the poor, or indeed that Gareth Roberts ruined "The Shakespeare Code" by not making it ALL about racial politics in Elizabethan England, but I've seen critics sometimes summarily dismiss those episodes for all those reasons, and I have to wonder whether those critics are "misunderstanding" how the episodes were "meant to be perceived" by reading them through an ideological lens which is in some ways no less pedantic than a sort of literalist sci-fi lens.

    And beyond that, trees are really interesting and beautiful; why not study them? We wouldn't even have the forest without them.


  88. Spacewarp
    August 19, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    Except there's no indication that River ever told Amy and Rory the complete details of her life. We can assume she did, but equally we can assume she didn't. Just because the audience knows that she regenerated after being ill in New York, that doesn't mean that anyone else does.


  89. jane
    August 19, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

    Interesting… Moffat's sharing writing credit with Ford, Thompson, and Roberts.


  90. jane
    August 19, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

    I am now officially giddy.


  91. Aylwin
    August 19, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

    What encyclops said. Here, and in general.


  92. Aylwin
    August 19, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

    Presumably Moffat's joint credits are a continuation of the practice applied in the latest series of Sherlock, making explicit a previously unacknowledged reality (and again involving Thompson). Whether it amounts to honesty or vanity I'm not sure.

    And of course it does suggest the parlour of game of guessing which past Doctor Who episodes would have had joint credit on the current system. Amy's Choice leaps to mind.


  93. Leslie Lozada
    August 19, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

    Oh the topic of believing what you read, I thought that was a nice callback to 'slience in the library', when The Doctor said something about reading one's future, I think.


  94. Matthew Blanchette
    August 20, 2014 @ 7:30 am

    "Series 6b wonderfully goes off the rails. However, Series 7a is in a perpetual free fall, down the gorge, exploding on the rocks, and spreading hazardous materials into the local water system."

    That's a lovely image… πŸ˜€

    …and what's so apt about it is that, yes, it does have future deleterious impact, because it forces Series 7b on the back-foot when it comes to developing Clara — there's no room. "MYSTERY MYSTERY MYSTERY", even if the mystery has no relevant effect on the narrative or characters. It just hangs there… sadly irrelevant, yet somehow justifying inconsistent characterization when it pops up. Shame Moffat seemingly never nailed that down with his writers beforehand; it would've helped Jenna Coleman a great deal.


  95. Matthew Blanchette
    August 20, 2014 @ 7:32 am

    You miffed now, Phil, that you're not official Eruditorum-ing Series 8? I mean, yes, you're reviewing them, but not in the form of your most prominent work… and Blake's right there in the title, after all! πŸ˜›


  96. encyclops
    August 20, 2014 @ 10:18 am

    DOCTOR: These books are from your future. You don't want to read ahead. Spoil all the surprises. Like peeking at the end.

    It's entirely in character for Ten (for many Doctors, really) to soft-pedal that — i.e., even though he talks like it's just about the fun of being surprised, there may be some real danger there, and yeah, we'd get a better idea of what that danger is here. I don't have a problem with the idea that once you know your future you can't avoid it — as time-travel rules go, it's no more arbitrary than most others — but I DO have a problem with the assumption that what is reported as fact is identical to what is fact. The Doctor would know better than anyone that what's written down as history (or biography thinly veiled as fiction) is distorted by the first time it's told. Refusing to accept it at face value should be step 1.


  97. Anton B
    August 20, 2014 @ 11:03 am

    No. It's no good, I have to reply.
    See, I think we can have both the forest and the trees.
    I'd also like to make clear that I was in no way suggesting that Magic Eye pictures had any artistic merit (for all the reasons encyclops details in his eloquent response) nor was I positioning Moffat as an artist. However…I believe that given the tools or the perspective anything could be considered art. So there ya go. I've outed myself as a fan of subjective post-modernism.

    See, I think what I'm trying to say in my clumsy way is that I love art and everything can be art but not all art is good just because it's art. Some Doctor Who is art because I say it is, while some Doctor Who is not art because I say it isn't. It's called subjectivity. I may love some of the same Doctor Who as you but for different reasons while you may hate some Doctor Who for the same reasons that I like it. And so on. This isn't just a case of 'different strokes for different folks' or even, on reflection, a 'come on, it's Christmas' attitude but a note that I am perhaps looking at these stories in a particular way and getting a particular enjoyment from them that some are not. And that's okay. I'm not saying those people are wrong. I am suggesting that acknowledging and perhaps utilising another viewpoint may provide a way of enjoying this stuff in another way. Unless the suggestion is that I, and others who enjoy Moffat's work are actually only pretending to like it in some bizzare game of 'Emperors new clothes'.

    It's notable that the (accurate) observation that Moffat's stories are 'a little Swiss cheesy' that he 'leaves the viewer to do more of the work in connecting dots and piecing together what he's saying' is one that I wouldn't argue with but is also regularly levelled at Grant Morrison's work and I'm looking forward to reading Phil Sandifer's response to that when we reach that part of The Last War in Albion.

    Lastly, I agree that some people's agenda or ideological lenses can inspire as much pedantry as any other rigid viewpoint. I'm arguing for flexibility and openness to new ideas. Which is why I come here and why I enjoy discussions like this one.


  98. Adam Riggio
    August 20, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

    I do think there is a consistency to Clara's character that wasn't really noticed at the time, again because of the MYSTERY. When the mystery itself was revealed, it turned out to be nothing ontological at all, as both the Doctor diegetically and the viewers in our living rooms thought it would be, that Clara was some kind of special being. But the MYSTERY of Clara arc turned out to be an ethical matter. She was always in control of what she did: splitting herself through the Doctor's past time-stream to create a meta-diegetic bulwark against the meta-diegetic disruption of the GI.

    While not all the writers were as good at handling the character as Moffat himself, she did have a very clear arc of development. It's just that, because most of us were tricked by the narrative slight-of-hand with Clara's MYSTERY, we don't notice it until we can watch the season back through again. Most reasonably dedicated viewers do this now that we have DVD sets and Netflix.

    So the arc of Clara's development starts as a naïve and caring idealistic young woman embarking on adventures in time and space with her new not-boyfriend the Doctor. But she does so on her terms: from the start of their friendship at the end of The Bells of St John, she lets him know when to come back. That sass is a major aspect of Clara, combining with her deeply held ethics.

    The arc of Season 7b for Clara is watching her become a more adept adventurer, and the arc moves much more quickly than Amy's development from a relatively naïve position and youthful appearance in The Eleventh Hour to her adept adventuring skills in Season 6. It helps that all the adventures in Season 7 are narratively disconnected. There's room for plenty of space and more adventures for the Doctor and Clara in between each episode.

    So she's somewhat in over her head facing danger in The Bells of St John, gains a sense of how to apply her ethical conscience to adventuring in The Rings of Akhaten. She still feels in over her head in Cold War, and is suitably nervous. But by the time they get to Hide, they have more equal abilities (I presume whatever messes they got into crossing the Earth from pole to pole to get the TARDIS after Cold War saw her pick up some skills as well). If she seems particularly frightened in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, she damn well should be, because her sentient home (that she managed finally to befriend in the previous episode) is exploding all around her and producing horrors. Even so, she's no shaking violet confronting the Doctor about all these fire zombies. Having dealt with this sort of thing, The Crimson Horror is relatively small potatoes (even if she is preserved in a glass case), and Nightmare in Silver is something she now has enough practice with to hold her own. After all, she has far more adventuring experience than the entire army unit of misfits she ostensibly takes over. Once we reach The Name of the Doctor, she's experienced and confident enough to make the tough decisions she does in that story. Day and Time of the Doctor finds her handling complex and intense situations with empathy and class.

    So I don't exactly find her inconsistent as a character, no. You can see the development arc of her narrative – you just have to pay attention. I'd say Season 8 will find Clara developing a more detailed life outside the TARDIS, and an arc connected with this that will be more of a piece with Rose's and Amy's.


  99. encyclops
    August 20, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

    Anton, I think I understand where you're coming from, and I don't entirely disagree. I'd say the only part where we differ is that it's possible we're looking at some of these stories in the same way, trying to get the same things out of them, but disagreeing about whether the same elements are effective in taking us there. Which I think is also okay.

    I enjoy Moffat's work quite a lot, and I don't say so enough here — I tend to pick more at the stuff that bothers me, perhaps because Philip is usually (but not always) defending it. In my own writing I tend to be more evenhanded and forgiving, and I talk more about the stuff I like. That's partly because of the character of the site that reprints my reviews — I don't want to be a total downer for their readers — but also because I CAN honestly say there's a lot I enjoy about the era.

    Every time I hear Moffat talk about the show I'm impressed and warmed by the sobriety, intelligence, and staunch affection he clearly has for it, and as frustrating as I find some of what he's done with it, I still feel it's generally in very good hands. So I don't for a second assume anyone is pretending to like it. Even when you strip out the stuff that bugs me there's still so much to love.


  100. liminal fruitbat
    August 21, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    I don't know what this means exactly with respect to the Angels, but it sure sounds interesting.

    My headcanon is that Angels are conceptual entities, like a very specific form of anarchitect. The image of an angel becoming an angel, in this case, would be: step 1, someone sees an Angel; step 2, they see something that resembles an Angel and imprint the meaning of an Angel onto it; step 3, the Angels are their meaning, and when enough of it coalesces on a particular image, a new Angel forms.


  101. 5tephe
    August 21, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

    Ooooh. Not to be too argumentative, but that's just the bit I hate!
    It dashes to pieces all of Amelia's childhood stubbornness and vigilance, and going through 8 psychologists and STILL BELIEVING in her raggedy man, despite nothing more than one night-time possibly dreamed visit.

    Instead, we now know that he came back, gave her a pep-talk, told her not to give up because it would be a long wait, and then went off again. It robs her of further strength.

    I like my Amelia raw and angry. (…Why WAS Amy angry when the Doctor turned up 12 years later, now that I think about it?) He came back and TOLD her it would be a long time. Obviously didn't mention HOW long, sure, but….)

    Instead, it becomes yet another example of how Amy's character was moulded by the Doctor. Nope – in my head cannon it remains a dream sequence of Amelia's.


  102. ferret
    August 22, 2014 @ 1:04 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  103. ferret
    August 22, 2014 @ 1:11 am

    I think I was sort-of identified as a critic of the Moffat era above, and I think I suffer from a similar problem – it's too easy for me to post about the nitpicky problems I see, harder to write something interesting about the great stuff… yet I am unabashedly a fan of the Moffat era. I don't know if it's my favourite era in 50 years of Doctor Who, but I don't know that it's not – either way it's definitely superb. I do see some missed opportunities, but no era of Doctor Who has ever been perfect.

    I'm hoping he'll do something different in Series 8, but only because I'm sure he can do it well.


  104. Steven
    August 22, 2014 @ 11:39 am

    On the co-writing thing, coughcoughcough leak I really thought Time Heist was wonderful. It's not overly a Moffatish episode (not a million miles from ST's s2 Sherlock)


  105. jonathan inge
    August 25, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

    My only problem with Clara is that she is too perfect. I mean, much like Martha Jones, Clara is designed to be a perfect DW companion. Moreover, she is designed to appeal to fandom (particularly new fans, the woman ones mostly). Probably said this before, but she reminds me of Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith in how she serves the narrative, supplements/complements the Doctor, and is supposed to exude feminist qualities.

    None of this is negative IMO.

    Jenna Coleman's performance as Clara is much better with Capaldi Doctor than Smith Doctor. Again IMO.


  106. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 26, 2015 @ 5:25 am

    Replying to this aeons late, it's also a reference to the Blake painting The Night of Enitharmon's Joy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Eruditorum Press

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading