And it looks like we’re 0-for-5 on the “good, but” season.

There is a lot to like here. The Weeping Angels are probably the most effective villains of the new series; creepy visual design, just undefined enough to make them versatile but still with a clearly defined goal. And unlike a lot of Who enemies, they really haven’t worn out their welcome yet (I know I can’t be the only one who groans “more fucking Ood” when something squiggly faced appears on scree). The characterization was nice, with a nice send-off for Amy in terms of character growth, and River was back to being an intriguing side-character rather than the axis upon which the world revolves. If anything, River is actually ill-used here, functioning chiefly as a plot device, hastily plastering over some of the more glaring plot holes and delivering a little moral at the end. Of the departure stories for companions, this was probably the best yet, both in terms of the actual story and the way it treated the character.

And then there’s the “but.” The first one, the major one, the one that really stops me from liking the episode as much as I’d like to is, like the season opener, the story doesn’t make a damn bit of sense if you stop and think about it for more than a moment. For starters, while I can accept that the Angels just happen to be in New York, that they have constructed a building for their own use raises some questions. That they can take over other statues makes sense, but that they can take over the Statue of Liberty, while a nice idea for a visual, just doesn’t logistically work (no one heard all that thumping and looked out their window?). And then there’s the resolution. The paradox wipes out the Angels? Okay, fine. But it conveniently leaves one alive, and that one just happens to know which exact cemetery to wait in for 70 years or so? That’s lazily convenient.

Then there’s the matter of Amy and Rory’s departure. They’re zapped back in time by the Angels, and the Doctor can never see them again. Okay, sure, the timeline is quantum entangled and reversing the polarity of the neutron flow won’t fix that. For seventy years? Ah, but “time is written in stone” so the Doctor can never see them again.

Excuse me?

Did we not just spend two seasons establishing that “time can be rewritten?” Was the Doctor’s death not written in stone, and oh, look, we found a way around that somehow. The entire justification of Rory and Amy’s “death” hinges on violating the central ethos of the show. And that’s lazily convenient.

So where does all this lazy convenience come from? In all honesty, I think it comes from the desire of the people in charge to, as I phrased it to a friend, “pander to Tumblr.” To be specific, I don’t mean that in a “new Who fan/old Who fan” difference. This sort of laziness goes beyond that. No one’s going to pander to old Who fans. We’re cranky and we would happily buy Time and The Rani on Blu-Ray, which brings both our taste and our sanity into question (and I say that as someone who likes The Rani [but the related issues of Who‘s lack of strong female villains and how killing off the Time Lords was the single stupidest decision made in the show’s history are for another time]). And the show is clearly not pandering to new Who fans, otherwise they would have chucked money at David Tennant to get him to sign a life-time contract, and every other episode would give us reminders of how special Rose was. No, I think where the laziness is coming from is that the people in charge of the show aren’t interested in people who are Doctor Who fans, they’re interested in people who are fans. Full stop. People who are, essentially fans of…being fans. Who just like to be into…things. Because it’s a thing, and God help you if you’re not into it. They want to please that mercurial, fickle, transitory audience that watches an episode and immediately floods the internet with animated gifs and posts on Twitter and Tumblr about their “feels” about the show and who communicate with one another entirely in references to pop culture ephemera, like that really shitty Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, only with jokes about bronies and t-shirt’s mashing up Dexter and Game of Thrones. We had four episodes setting up an Amy and Rory departure from the TARDIS on the grounds that they’re growing up and don’t need the Doctor anymore. And that’s chucked out the window, for an over-wrought emotionally manipulative fake death that violates the show’s own logic. But things like “logical character development” and “internal consistency” only get in the way when your goal is to become a big, pop-culture darling. You need “badass” moments and DRAMA! to please the mayfly tastes and attention spans of the audience you need to become a big, pop-culture darling.

I’ve become more or less resigned to this being the new status quo for the show until a new head writer comes on. I do like Moffatt, I think he’s a tremendous writer. And I don’t begrudge him trying to turn the show into the Internet’s favorite. I just wish he would reign it in a bit. The show was doing just fine by every metric, growing in success, without writing scenes with their meme potential in mind. I’d kind of like it to get back to that path.

11 Responses to “The Angels Take Manhattan”
  1. Mike Zeidler says:

    With their control of other statues the Angels have just become a limited version of the Nestene consciousness, with very limiting differences. For foot soldiers would you rather have creatures that can’t move when people are looking at them, but can feel pain despite being made of inorganic materials or those that don’t have those limitations and also come equipped with a gun in their hand?

    Conversely, there’s a lot more plastic around these days than statuary.

  2. Stewart says:

    The concept behind the statues was damaged in the episode with the crashed spaceship when they invented silly, Japanese horror concepts like ‘the statue can come alive in a photo of the statue’ (makes me wonder how dangerous postcards of New York would be if they show the statue of liberty). However, stories like the most recent one make much stronger use of the characteristics of the statues without going into their background & motivations in too much detail, which I liked.

    The plot hole to irritate me was the rule “If you read the future, it is set in stone.” So seeing Rory’s gravestone means Rory must die. And yet there also seems to be a rule “If it’s not written there when you read it, it can still happen” – i.e. they saw Amy’s name wasn’t written, but that didn’t stop it from being written by changing time. That makes NO sense. I mean, in that case they could have saved Rory and then the gravestone could gain the words “… not really, this is just River Song messing around with a stone mason.”

    All gets rather Bill & Ted 2.

  3. Derooftrouser says:

    The events next to Lake Silencio were written in stone, and never changed. It was never the Doctor that died.

  4. merchantfan says:

    Yeah, the second Angel episode really complicated using them. It would also have helped if they had tried to separate the Angels into species or something (oo, “choirs” would sound cool) so that they could add new features in or ignore stupid ones without making a plot hole.

  5. NathanS says:

    ” how killing off the Time Lords was the single stupidest decision made in the show’s history are for another time])”

    Netrul on that my self but given how many seem to think getting rid of them was a great move color me interested in hearing your take on it

  6. Dorian says:

    Short answer: a) it’s the root of the that “lonely god” messianic garbage that pollutes the new series and b) it removes a primary characterization factor that has existed since “An Unearthly Child”, namely “Who/what is he running from?” the frickin’ Time Lords.

  7. JauntyJohn says:

    Oh dear.
    Seriously.

    It’s like if they wrote a Superman story which went something like “Superman can be hurt — even killed — by kryptonite — and the closer he is to it the more deadly it becomes to him; unless he is HOLDING a piece of kryptonite! Then he becomes invulnerable to kryptonite!” The (arbitrary) solution to the problem violates the rules which create the problem to begin with.

    I like everybody in it. I like watching them do what they do. But this story telling was a MESS from almost start to finish. A simple “The Angels have created a Pocket Dimension in which to feed on their farmed victims! A sealed bubble in Time which touches the ‘real’ New York and can influence it along the same timeline but is not … blah blah blah” which could then have explained/excused some of the mess (though I would have ultimately felt cheated by that) at least it wouldn’t have violated so much of the show’s “rules” about… everything. (Especially the Angels.)

    Married Doctor has an interesting vibe, and I thought they played with that beautifully, but the episode was a MESS.

  8. NathanS says:

    Interesting. I’m probably more inclined to agree with you thanks to have come in with the Seventh Doc and then going into the re-runs of the First which early on had all those hints of “being a pioneer once.” shaped my view of the show to being heavily biased to the mystery of the character and the question of why he left Gallifrey.

    Still being fair the Time Lords chasing him thing basically died after “The Three Doctors” (outside of a weak attempt to being it back in the Five Doctors.) And many older fans joined during the Pertwee and Tom Baker years that aspect has become very secondary to a lot of them and by extension most of the new writers. and given Moffatt’s love of the Davison era, well his hatred of the Time Lords is understandable if those stories were the big sharpers of his his view of the program.

  9. G Morrow says:

    Hi there.

    For what it’s worth, I caught the season premiere and enjoyed it well enough. Granted it was the first full episode of Dr. Who I’d ever seen (despite having a passable, if limited, understanding of the series and it’s conceits), so I guess you come at it differently as a regular viewer. But as a neophyte, it was okay.

    Have a good day.
    G Morrow

  10. Hal Shipman says:

    Sigh. You’re right. I’m a new watcher, relatively. Tried it a bit in the Baker years as a teen, but it bored me. Started liking the show with Davies’ run. But even for a new fan, this season has been a mess. I loved a LOT of Moffet’s stuff (Amy and Rory, in particular), but there were a lot of things starting last season that bugged me. The Silence, in particular. But the season so far has just been crap, for exactly the reasons you give. Thanks for articulating the issues.

  11. matthew says:

    This might be the academic in me, but your comments on fandom’s current direction are particularly astute. There seems to be a flattening effect spread across all genre fiction where everything is a quotation from another. Everything is atomized for the sheer “gif-ability” of it. It’s no longer about storytelling but about story-lengthening. I can’t even come up with an example of something relatively novel in genre fiction right now and that depresses the shit out of me.

    This whole series has depressed me because I feel like I’ve moved on from Moffat’s style of writing but the show, and fandom, seem wholeheartedly invested in a self-catalyzing cycle of Tumblr-level shallowness.

    Even though I’ve had fun with Moffat and Smith in the past few years, I’m personally ready for change. A new Doctor, a new tone, a new writer, a new something that wholly breaks with Davies and Ten.

    And I hate being that Whovian that complains about everything because those guys are the worst. But still, a show about constant change should reflect that ethos in the plots as well, n’est ce pas?

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