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.
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.