In which the writer, Toby Whithouse, borrows from one terrible Classic Who episode and one very good one...
Which is fitting because I don't know how an episode can be simultaneously so wonderful and so terrible. It has become abundantly clear that the writers have been spinning their wheels until they could get rid of the Ponds, and though I'm sad to say it, it has happened not a moment too soon.
We would all have been better off if Moffat hadn't decided that River was the daughter of the Ponds. That revelation has given no narrative payoff whatsoever, and has only served to make the Ponds seem unlikeable and irresponsible.
I won't be sorry to see them again, but I won't care particularly about them one way or another. Even my deep love for Rory Pond will not save what's happened to Amy.
"How can you be excited about a rubbish hotel on a rubbish bit of Earth?" Goodbye Amy Pond. You will absolutely not be missed, not with a worldview like that.
On the one hand, it was gratifying to know that the writers not only recognized how weak a character Amy has become but actually wrote that into the episode:
"Oh, you're good. Oh, she's good. Amy, with regret, you're fired."
Although, with that statement, I knew that shiny new Person of Color was dead (Rule #214: You can be animal, vegetable or mineral, but if you're colored and you aren't a recurring character, you're toast).
On the other hand, Amy Pond has never been less likeable. When the Doctor had an emotional response to the death of someone he liked and respected, she shook her head!
You watched a real person die, and die bravely. SAY SOMETHING!
It's fine for Rory to show no reaction. He already knew that Rita would die. Check out the look of hate he gives the Doctor when he realizes the Doctor has drawn his love into yet another life-threatening situation:
He's very aware that they're not just daytripping through time and space, even when Amy isn't. And when the Doctor pointed out the past tense of Rory's statement, we know that he's already decided to leave, that he's checked out from the adventuring.
Breaking the Faith
I'm not just harping on about the writers' poor characterization of Amy because it's fun (though it very much is). It has created a serious narrative problem in this episode: it was far too easy to disabuse Amy of her faith in the Doctor.
Think about how that faith came about.
He showed up in her room for five minutes, and that was it. Then she waited for 14(?) years. In that time, she developed a near-psychopathic obsession with him. So how can he suddenly just reason her out of it? Of course he can talk sense to young Amy, she hasn't been damaged yet. But our Amy would need more than words to destroy her faith in the Doctor, even for a moment. As the previous episode demonstrated, it took decades of believing herself to be abandoned in a medical facility for that to happen!
Watch this scene from Curse of Fenric, a near identical moment when the Doctor must break Ace's faith in him to defeat Fenric and save their lives:
See that? The stakes are real. Ace's belief in the Doctor is built on the fact that he sees her for something more than what she sees in herself. He had to specifically challenge that. And most importantly? Even when she finds out he was lying, she's still angry.
Amy just wants to...carry on doing exactly the same thing. If they're leaving anyway, she could have expressed an actual desire to leave, rather than being dropped off unceremoniously. The Doctor sees her as a child that needs to be tended to, and he's right.
People who actually experience a loss of faith don't tend to be smiley afterwards. Whithouse was clearly trying to make some statement about faith, but its exploration was utterly shallow.
"Forget your faith in me."
"Ok! Cause faith is a switch you can flip."
"Our anthem is glory to...[insert name here]."
When the Doctor tells her that now she must be Amy Williams, I had the unhappy realization that he is exactly right: Amy has no conception of herself apart from the men she aligns herself with. I can't be upset with the Doctor for pointing that out, since the writers haven't included anything in the show to contradict that.
I had high hopes that this show would contradict the long-standing trope that women don't have stories to tell after they get married, but no. Post-marriage Amy behaves like that has completed her life, that there's nothing more she could want or have. Not even a baby. Not a career, not vagabondism, not a quiet shop selling peanuts in Mexico, nothing.
Why does Rory have no faith? Isn't it abundantly clear that he believes in Amy? Or maybe he doesn't anymore, which would be a nasty though unsurprising (and not OOC) turn for Rory to take, given that he just saw an Amy die, an Amy he believed to be the real Amy. Not for the first time, the Doctor sends the companion off with a character who might well come to hate her.
The Doctor's Agenda
The director of the episode went completely nuts with the angles, drawing shots from Orson Welles and Fritz Lang, but he did make one inspired choice: flipping from young Amy to old Amy in the Doctor's eyes.
Of course the Doctor simultaneously sees his companions as themselves and their even younger selves (to him, humans must permanently resemble fetuses, after all). He feels guilty about disappointing that young girl, the same way that parents feel weirdly disappointed when their children find out Santa Claus isn't real (you created the lie in the first place, you assholes!).
-Can we stop with the running around corridors? The classic series typically had four episodes of 30 minutes each, and usually needed a bit of padding to keep the budget down. There's no excuse in 42 minute episodes, and this is the third episode in as many weeks with pointless scenes of wandering around.
-When Rory makes jokes about being a henpecked husband, there's no evidence whatsoever that Amy is so commanding anymore, so it just feels like cheap jokes that are in the script for the sake of...cheap humor.
-Can't wait to find out who the new companions will be! Will we finally get River in the Tardis?
-I'll be back with a non-Pond centric analysis later in the week (I had to cut so much material from this post, I have 4 full posts ready to go!)
And the biggest question of all: what's behind door #11?