All good things come to an end as we bid farewell to the Doctor for a few months, and a permanent farewell to some beloved characters. Beware: spoilers ahead, sweetie.
“I always rip out the last page of a book,” explains The Doctor (Matt Smith). “Then it doesn’t have to end. I hate endings”. Normally we would too, if this wasn’t such a terrific way to see out some of the most beloved companions of the new era, and perhaps of all time. Showrunner and episode writer Stephen Moffat has long been pushing the idea of Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory’s (Arthur Darvill) departure this season, and it’s a sad consequence of modern publicity that surprise departures are a thing of the past. Yet despite the fact that almost every viewer will be armed with this foreknowledge going in, Moffat has crafted one of the most emotionally satisfying last stands for two of his best creations, bringing an era to a close. Get the tissue box ready.
Visiting New York, the trio are relaxing in Central Park when a literal twist in the tale takes them off on a misadventure. After sending Rory to get some coffee, they soon find that the book The Doctor is reading is actually about them – and Rory is naturally in trouble. Hooking up with River Song (Alex Kingston), the Doctor’s future wife and Rory and Amy’s daughter, it’s all about the Weeping Angels, those nefarious stone creatures that can only move when you aren’t looking. Having hooked up some kind of time loop in the middle of NYC, the Angels are feeding off Manhattan over decades. Despite literally having a guidebook to help them out, the Doctor dare not look at it for fear of fixing the future in place and losing his favourite companions forever.
Long time fans may cry in anguish at the appearance of the Weeping Angels again, originally created as one of the spookiest monsters of the week by Moffat in the show’s third series. However, much of their power was taken from them in the fifth year’s two-parter “The Time of Angels” / “Flesh and Stone” through over exposure and actually seeing them move. Moffat and director Hurran restore much of their terror in this episode, giving them new life in the many statues of New York, and in particular a set of cherubs in a darkened basement. Taking it to its illogical extreme, there’s a wonderful moment with the Statue of Liberty, ignoring the fact that it is actually made of metal, but it’s all in good fun.
Apart from some superb photography, the strength of this episode comes from it being a departure piece that doesn’t focus on that explicitly, which means that the emotional moments between Rory and Amy in particular are disarming. Consciously aiming to have an army of weeping angels on the couches of the world, Moffat weaves in the exit of two beloved characters so that it is not a gimmick but a natural end to an arc that began three years ago. As the final moments come to a teary end, we get to revisit the “The Eleventh Hour” in which the characters were first introduced. It’s a fitting end sending out the team on a high, but it doesn’t make us already miss them both like we’ve just lost a family member.
As the long wait until the Christmas Special begins, we can take small comfort in Matt Smith still being around for the time being and another half-season to go in this blockbuster set of specials, complete with a cute new companion in Jenna-Louise Coleman. The again, if they could bring back Billie Piper, they can make damn sure that there’s a way to revisit Amy and Rory. Now, has anybody told Brian?