The first half of Doctor Who's latest season - the seventh of the Russell T Davies/Steven Moffat era, and third with Matt Smith in the lead - closed on Prime last night with an emotionally charged farewell and the return of arguably the greatest villain of the modern era of the show. I have a few thoughts, but first ...
(Warning: Spoilers from the latest season of Doctor Who, including last night's episode, follow.)
It's been a small, yet action-packed, handful of episodes to get us into the seventh season of the show - in just five episodes (six, if you count the last Christmas special; I don't) we've had a run-in with legendary villains, the Daleks, and been introduced to Jenna-Louise Coleman, the actress who'll play the Doctor's companion in the second half of the season but who showed up in a surprise cameo during that first episode, Asylum of the Daleks.
We've had dinosaurs on a spaceship in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and we've had aliens in the old west, and the Doctor in a Stetson, in A Town Called Mercy, my favourite episode of the season so far: I enjoyed the fact that the Doctor was so giddy when he arrived, but so vulnerable by the time things started to get serious, as we saw in his outburst on the edge of town ("today I honour the victims first ... all the people who died because of my mercy").
We've also had one of the most unsatisfying episodes in the modern era: The Power of Three was stuffed with more emotional cheese than it has typically been during the Moffat era, perhaps because it was trying to reinforce the idea that the Doctor is close to Amy & Rory, and to make them seem even more important, before last night's farewell. It needn't have bothered; the Ponds will be remembered as the best companions of the last half-dozen years.
All of that said, I think it was always the case that these five episodes were leading up to last night's mid-season finale (the rest of Season 7 will play during 2013) and an emotional farewell to Amy and Rory.
Right from the pre-credits sequence, The Angels Take Manhattan was showing all the signs of a classic episode: the Weeping Angels are easily the most terrifying villains the show has in its arsenal, with classy director Nick Hurran doing a wonderful job in bringing the subtle horror of Moffat's script to life on-screen - and that was before we were introduced to the fact that the Statue of Liberty was itself a giant angel.
But it was those final few scenes with Amy and Rory that brought the episode home as a remarkable addition to the Doctor Who canon, with emotion running high in the face of an inevitable farewell. Smith did a great job in conveying the Doctor's despair at losing his long-time friend (and mother-in-law), but it was Karen Gillan who deserves all the kudos here.
The relationship between Amy and the Doctor has always been more interesting than that between Amy and Rory, and Gillan did a great job in selling us on just how hard it was for Amy to leave the Doctor for good. I also loved that epilogue, which brought things back full circle. It seems like an age ago, but the Doctor represented hope to a young Amy Pond - now, at the end of their time together, Amy knew that he had given her everything she could ever have hoped for. It was love that she needed now, and Rory was the one to give that to her.
So we're left with a sad farewell, sure, but a necessary one in the timeline of Doctor Who, and an appropriate farewell in the context of these characters. I think the Doctor/Amy/Rory combo had done everything they could do together. Now is the right time for Gillan and Darvill to move on, and for Coleman to take their place.
And more than anything else, this short burst of episodes has merely given me an appetite for a new era in the life of the Doctor. This wasn't the best string of episodes since the 2005 reboot, but it was a necessary string of episodes to move the show forward. I'm looking forward to what is coming up next.
What do you think of the seventh season of Doctor Who so far? How do you feel about the departure of Amy and Rory? And do you agree that this was the right time for the characters (and actors) to move on?