by Paul Kelly
All week, the press have been touting tonight's episode as reminiscent of the Russell T. Davies era – which, let's face it, is hardly a ringing endorsement. As it happens, they were mostly right. All the hallmarks were there: the urban setting, the amusing parent, the earth in peril, celebrity cameos galore – it even managed to have an abrupt, reset-button style ending, which made absolutely no sense. But, as with the RTD era, when it worked, it felt like the sun coming out. I'm just not sure 45 minutes was long enough for a 'slow invasion'.
This was essentially a story about people trying to make sense of their place in the world. Whereas Amy’s first adventure with the Doctor resulted in her previous life seeming mundane, this season, both Amy and Rory appear to be suffering from ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. They've started to hanker after normality again. Perhaps the Doctor could've made their readjustment easier by not regularly turning up on their doorstep, but evidently he's been having adjustment issues of his own. He misses Amy. She was, after all, his first companion. So it should come as no surprise that, just as Amy and Rory are contemplating hanging up their time travelling pants for good, the Doctor should reappear and whisk them off on another adventure.
Thankfully, that's all it took for the Ponds to realise the truth: they miss being with the Doctor. They miss the big stage. For a travel writer and a nurse, what better profession than time travelling philanthropists? Surprisingly, it was Rory's Dad, Brian, who seemed to tip the balance. Despite being initially dis-chuffed with the idea of Amy and Rory shirking their collective responsibilities in favour of swanning off with the Doctor, tonight's story forced him to re-evaluate the importance of their roles as his companions. They make a difference on an almost unimaginable scale. Why wouldn't he encourage them to keep going?
By the time Rory uttered the words "I've missed this", you could sense a corner had been turned. For Amy, it was the realisation that the Doctor missed her too. I loved those scenes of them sat beside the Thames. The Doctor admitting his fear of losing them both was a lovely, much needed moment of honesty. The truth is, he can't do without them. Every time he loses sight of them, he just reels them back in. I like seeing this kind of vulnerability in the Doctor. In fact, it's character moments like this which remind me why I watch Doctor Who.
I also got a lump in my throat when it was revealed that Kate Stewart was the Brigadier's daughter. It's virtually impossible to be a fan of the classic series and not be touched by any verbal reminder of Nicholas Courtney. He was such a big part of the show. It was nice to see UNIT back, too -- storming in uninvited, hanging around in underground lairs, and generally being useless. I liked the reversal of the Doctor saluting Kate, and her waving in return. Hopefully a new face, and a new philosophy, will help bring a renewed vigour to the outfit. The Doctor certainly seems to be on better terms with them now. Maybe he just likes being kissed.
The plot itself started off strongly, and built suspense effectively, but was scuppered in the last ten minutes by jaded plot contrivances (the sonic screwdriver saves the day), the frankly unrealistic resuscitation of a third of the world's population via some sort of mass defibrillation (after ten minutes of them being stone dead), and the overly simplistic 'all humans are evil and need to be wiped out' style motivation which seems to dog all manner of 'earth invasion' stories. Would another 15 minutes have helped? I find myself thinking this a lot this season. The scale of the episodes just seem bigger than their allotted time slots.
Having Rory and Amy back as full time companions, although great to see, doesn't bode well for next week. The Doctor's promise to Brian that they'd never die with him, along with his assurance that he'd keep them safe, although beautifully heartfelt, felt eerily portentous. I was hoping the Ponds would just drift back to their old lives -- but that hope now seems well and truly dead. I can only surmise that Moffat has something more sinister in store for them. Bugger!
Bits and Pieces:
-- It looks as though everyone's into fish fingers and custard these days. I think I prefer Yorkshire Puddings.
-- Was that a Westclox Baby Ben alarm clock sat next to Amy's bed? I used to have one of those! It had a loud tick and an awful sounding alarm. It also used to lose time; seven minutes a week
-- It's not often we get a Christmas episode in the middle of September.
-- Finally, Rory returned the Doctor's kiss. If Amy pegs out next week, I see a future for those kids, I really do.
-- If Brian's ever going to travel with the Doctor again, he needs to learn how to run. When two men come at you armed with needles, it's a no brainer.
-- The Birdy Dance on a loop? What kind of evil crap is that?
-- Some nice cameos from Brian Cox and Alan Sugar.
Rory: “What do you think we do when we’re not with you?"
Doctor: "I imagine mostly kissing."
Rory: “There are soldiers all over the house, and I’m in my pants.”
Amy: “My whole life I’ve dreamed of saying that, and I miss it by being someone else.”
Amy: “You’re the one who wanted to observe them.”
Doctor: "Yes, well I thought they’d do something, didn’t I. Not just sit there while everyone eats endless cereal.”
Brian: “Brian’s log, day 67."
Rory: “You... err... you can’t call it that. Brian’s log?”
Brian: “What happened? To the other people who travelled with you?”
Doctor: “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some... not many, but... some died. Not them. Not them, Brian. Never them.”
Doctor: “I miss you.”
Amy: “Why do you keep coming back for us?”
Doctor: “Because you were the first. The first face this face saw. And you were seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be. I'm running to you, and Rory, before you fade from me.”
Amy: “A cube has six sides.”
Doctor: “Not if you count the inside.”