After that last Doctor Who episode, this year’s midseason finale, I think several people owe apologies to executive Steven Moffat. I mean this for naysayers, slackers, heterophobes, and folks (like Joss Whedon) who seem to think stable relationships make for dull stories.
In “The Angels Take Manhattan,” we learned that the Doctor, the thousand-year-old time-traveling Time Lord, hates endings. When he reads novels, he tears out the final page so he can never know for sure what happened. (Presumably the Ninth Doctor missed the very end of The Lovely Bones, and the Tenth Doctor only missed part of the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; he told Martha Jones that made him cry.)
Yet Moffat, knowing the long-predicted departure of “the Ponds,” Rory and Amy Williams, decided to go “meta.” What if the Doctor himself knew that ending? What if the characters were made aware of their own “script,” and tried their best to thwart a disaster?
Those are the first of a few spoilers I must reveal here.
But you likely don’t need me to tell you that Doctor Who fans are (absurdly, I say) divided on the Ponds’ storyline. Internet commentators are spitting mad at “the Moff.” He stomps on classic Doctor Who with his ego, they insist. He has social agendas. He has supposedly threatened to ruin canonical mystery by exposing the Doctor’s real name, answering the show’s title question, in a grand story next year.
First, about the “Moffat is an egomaniac” accusations: those are likely overthrown by the fact that most humans are far too arrogant to expose their actual, comparatively shallow ego trips in public-relations campaigns. Real egomaniacs care little for what others think and feel no need to craft images of posturing, chest-thumping media executives. (By the way, this also explains conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh.) So readers, when you buy into that he’s-a-raging-egomaniac PR, that may be exactly what they want.
But it’s the “Moffat promotes social agendas” accusation I attack as the worst absurdity.
Unless by “agendas” you mean rejoicing in love, sacrifice, and God-given marriage.
That’s why I suggest people may owe Doctor Who writers an apology. I’ll go first.
Grand Moff Moffat, I apologize for my 2010 accusation that you would sex up the show.
In the Moffat-written series-5 opener “The Eleventh Hour,” the story introduced new companion Amelia “Amy” Pond. She’s not a teenager or adult, a la the revived series’ first three companions. She’s a delightful child. We meet her alone without family, on her knees praying (though bizarrely to Santa Claus). Later she’s perplexed and intrigued by the mad man who crashes his blue police box in her backyard. How sweet and different was this?
Flash forward a few minutes, or a few years of Amy’s life. When next we see her, she’s all grown up. And the camera practically gropes her overexposed, pantyhose-clad legs. She’s a “kiss-o-gram.” Innocence lost. Ha ha! the show seemed to shout. Fooled you. You thought you would only hear more slight innuendo? Well, take a gander. This one’s for the blokes!
After that came reprieves and more sweetness. Amy was a human being, not just eye candy.
But then several episodes later she threw herself at the Doctor, in her bedroom — and I wanted to quit on the whole program then and there. Already I’d had it up to here with companions crushing (making Donna Noble a welcome relief). But near sex scenes besides?
… Then came another about-face. The Doctor rejected Amy. Fetched her fiancé. Took them both to Venice to meet water-vampires. Then beyond. At the series’ end, Amy married Rory.
Still, Moffat kept head-faking: does Amy really prefer the Doctor over her husband? At first it was annoying. But now that their arc is done I realize what he intended all along. The trope is this: couples aren’t meant to stay in stable relationships, so a Breakup is inevitable. Any time now, it’s over! Back to the angst and wandering, another Love Interest and male cast member! It’s the No. 1 Romance Rule of Television! And Moffat laughed in the trope’s face.
This is why I name-checked Joss Whedon. He has many strengths. But knowing what to do with stable relationships is not one of them. Someone is doomed to break up, or at least die.
“Angels” spoiler here: Rory and Amy did have their tragedy. Eventually they did die.
But they died in their 80s. After decades of growing old together. Their love endured, never threatened by the Doctor, clichéd marital boredom, or “inevitable” television cast changes. Per the program’s own (temporal) rules, their storyline is fixed. And theirs was a fantastic love story, with ups and downs, distance and closeness, and realism.
Coming tomorrow: Doctor Who’s reflections of sacrifice and God-given marriage.