Review: The coming-of-age of the eleventh Doctor
We're at the mid-season break for Doctor Who, and our favorite Time Lord has been left in an interesting emotional space.
We all knew that the Ponds had to go. Not only technically - they overstayed their usefulness as character foils for the Doctor - but also emotionally and practically. It was time to move on, and we'd already been told that the mid-season finale would be the final episode for the couple.
The writers had a challenge, though. The Ponds were far too ingrained in the current Doctor's life. Amy was the first person he met in this regeneration, and she'd become too important, too good a friend. Very few things would make sense as a means for removing them from the story. Surely, they could not be killed. It would put this Doctor into too grave a space, but they could not either simply decide that they were done with the Doctor, as that doesn't fit their characters.
The Ponds needed an ending that pulled them away from the Doctor permanently without killing them, and without even making them unhappy. Bonus points if it gave a final salute to the previous major plot arc for them: Amy's need to decide between Rory and the Doctor.
Of course, as soon as we knew that the Angels were the villains for this final episode, it was pretty obvious what that resolution would be. I won't spell it out for sake of those who haven't seen it, but it's well-executed, tearful, and hits all the points it needed to hit to be a great and final ending for the Ponds. Ultimately, it is they who must defeat the invaders, and they show, just before their final departure, that they have surpassed the Doctor himself in bravery and problem-solving aptitude.
I liked these companions, but, as I said, their time had come, and now that they've been carefully and artfully extracted from the plot, there is something grander to look forward to: The return of the Doctor's more sensible personality.
The last two and a half seasons have shown us a Doctor who is essentially a little boy in temperament and attitude. A new body, and new companions, the 11th Doctor approached the universe as if it too were brand new, and as Amy and Rory became closer and closer to one another, the Doctor became less and less the focus of the adventures, and by the end, the frequent references to him as Amy and Rory's child who needed looking after were lampshades over the issue with the character which had become all too real. The Doctor had become too juvenile, and there was no good way to back off from that, while Amy and Rory were still his friends.
This reset will allow him to reinvent himself, and for the writers to reinvent their perception of him for us. Hopefully, we'll see a return to a more classic Doctor persona, one who is a man of mystery and intellect, rather than a youth to be chastised by his more mature companion. He'll have someone new to show the wonders of the universe too, and we'll get more exposition, and more opportunity for the writers to show us new things in the universe.
I'm looking forward to Doctor Who's return with great expectations.
The second half of the season begins in the new year, but in between we'll have a holiday episode, in which the Doctor's new companion will be introduced. An exact airing date has not yet been announced, but in the past the Doctor Who holiday episodes have shown very near Christmas Day, if not on it.