Timestamp #239: The Angels Take Manhattan

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan
(1 episode, s07e05, 2012)

Timestamp 239 The Angels Take Manhattan

Goodbye, Ponds.

The Angels Take Manhattan

Julius Grayle, an art collector and mob boss, hires private detective Sam Garner to investigate statues that move in the dark. Garner thinks that Grayle is crazy, but the mob boss knows that the threat is real. Garner follows his instructions to Winter Quay, an apartment complex with familiar weeping angels out front.

When he enters the building, he goes up to a room on the seventh floor where he finds his name on the door. He enters, unwittingly avoiding the Angels as he goes, and finds artifacts from his own life. He also finds an old man who claims to be him. The old man dies after warning Garner that tonight is the night he gets sent back.

He tries to run, eventually ending up on the roof, but is cornered by an Angel. An Angel in the form of the Statue of Liberty.

[Insert facepalm here.]

Moving forward to New York City, 2012, the Doctor and the Ponds are enjoying a picnic in Central Park. The Doctor is reading aloud from a pulp novel, Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town, a habit that drives Amy mad. He pokes fun at her use of reading glasses and then the wrinkles around her eyes. Rory tries to dodge the situation by going for coffee, but Amy defuses the whole affair with a kiss. The Doctor borrows her glasses for fun and Amy asks him to read to her. He rips out the last page and sets it aside – a habit he’s formed because he doesn’t like endings – and begins to read.

Rory heads back with the coffee, hearing cherubic laughing as a small statue under Angel of the Waters disappears and rattles around in the shadows. As the Doctor narrates, he realizes that he’s reading a tale about River Song and that Rory has somehow traveled back in time. Amy and the Doctor use the TARDIS to travel back to April 3, 1938, as the story continues. As Melody Malone, River tells Rory that the city is full of time distortions and will prevent the TARDIS from landing. She only arrived by use of a vortex manipulator.

After the TARDIS bounces off of 1938, it lands in a 2012 graveyard. As the Doctor uses a fire extinguisher on the TARDIS, he stops Amy from reading the book because once she reads from it, history will be written in stone. It will become a fixed point.

What they don’t see is a headstone nearby that reads “In Loving Memory: Rory Arthur Williams”.

Back in 1938, River and Rory are taken to Grayle’s mansion. River remarks on the mob boss’s affinity for Qin artifacts and the number of locks on his doors. Rory is taken to the basement to wait with “the babies”, a box of matches as his companion.

Once the Doctor knows about Grayle’s affinity for Qin artwork, the Doctor sets a course for China, 221 BC, and has a special vase made. In 1938, River notices the vase and translates the symbols through residual TARDIS energy: It reads “Yowza!”, prompting River to utter a trademark “Hello, Sweetie.”

River uncovers a chained Angel in Grayle’s office, then transmits the “Yowza” as landing lights for the TARDIS, offering the Doctor coordinates to lock onto. Grayle has damaged the Angel, which prompts River to tell him that the Angel is screaming. Grayle uses it as an interrogation device, flashing the lights to drive it closer to intended targets.

Down in the basement, Rory is being tormented by the smaller statues. The whole house shakes as the Doctor arrives, punching through the interference and literally spinning the TARDIS into place. Amy searches for Rory as the Doctor reunites with River in a humorous exchange about The Wedding of River Song.

The Doctor knows that River can only be freed from the Angel by breaking her own wrist. Amy has the idea to use the novel, but only to use the chapter titles instead of the actual contents. Through them, the Doctor finds out that Rory is in the basement, but he also finds out that Amy is due for a final farewell. This angers him because it’s now a fixed point, and he demands that River figure her own way out while he tends to Amy and Rory.

Unfortunately, Rory is missing. The Doctor and Amy surmise that he’s been taken by the Angels, but River deduces that he’s only been moved in space. The Doctor notes that River has escaped, but soon finds out that it was because she followed the future as written. He has Amy track Rory while he patches things up with River by transferring a bit of regeneration energy into her broken wrist.

River doesn’t take that well and storms out. Amy follows and has a heart-to-heart with her daughter about endings.

The trio makes their way to Winter Quay, leaving Grayle behind, unaware that the mob boss is trapped by the statues. Rory has been exploring the building and the trio reunites with him near a smiling Angel. The door nearby reads “R. Williams” and behind it lies an elderly Rory on his deathbed. It is the Death at Winter Quay forecasted by novel’s chapter.

The building is a battery farm for the Weeping Angels. They keep their victims imprisoned and send them back in time repeatedly. The elderly Rory’s death means that Rory is destined to remain there, and Amy won’t be with him because of how eager the elderly Rory was to see her. If Rory doesn’t remain, the Angels will chase him forever. River realizes that if Rory escapes, the subsequent negation of the timeline will cause a paradox that will poison the time energy the Angels feed on and kill them, but the Doctor is unsure because of the power that it would take.

The stomping of the Statue of Liberty Angel grows closer, prompting Amy and Rory to run. The Doctor and River are trapped behind but eventually catch up via the fire escape, reuniting with the Ponds on the rooftop. Rory considers jumping off the roof to cause the paradox. After some discussion, Amy joins him, jumping just as the Doctor and River arrive.

The companions embrace as they fall. Their deaths traumatize the Doctor but disrupt the timeline as the paradox takes effect. All four of them escape the collapsing timeline and awaken in the 2012 graveyard with the TARDIS nearby.

Rory is drawn to the nearby gravestone, puzzled by his name being engraved upon it. He’s suddenly touched by an Angel and disappears. Amy cries out and the Doctor determines that it is a survivor of the paradox.

Amy sees the headstone and realizes the truth. They cannot use the TARDIS to travel back and get Rory because any additional paradoxes would destroy New York City. The timelines are scrambled enough already. The only alternative that Amy sees is to join Rory, assuming that she’ll be deposited there with him.

She says her farewells and then turns her back on the Angel. The headstone tells the tale. Amy survived and created a fixed point. The Doctor can never see her again.

The Doctor and River take off in the TARDIS, and she makes him promise in his grief to never travel alone. They discuss the novel and River promises to make Amy write an afterword for him. He runs back to the park and pulls out the last page. He puts on Amy’s glasses and reads it.

Afterword, by Amelia Williams.

Hello, old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone, so know that we lived well, and were very happy. And, above all else, know that we will love you, always. Sometimes, I do worry about you though; I think, once we’re gone, you won’t be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor.

And do one more thing for me: there’s a little girl, waiting in a garden; she’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that, if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates, she’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived, and save a whale in outer space.

Tell her: This is the story of Amelia Pond — and this is how it ends.

The TARDIS is heard as young Amelia sits on her luggage in her garden. The Doctor honors Amy’s last request.


Picking up directly after The Power of Three, the Doctor leaves with Amy and Rory after having dinner with Brian.

A week later, Brian answers a knock at the door. His visitor is an American man named Anthony, a sixty-year-old holding a letter addressed to Dad. The visitor waits in the hall while Brian reads the letter. It is from Rory.

The letter tells the story of how Amy and Rory were permanently trapped in the past in New York City. Rory assures his father that they lived happily together for the rest of their lives. In 1946, they adopted a son named Anthony, who is the man that delivered the letter. Rory tells Brian that he misses him and loves him, and he understands how weird it must be to have a grandson who is older than he is.

Brian returns to the hall to see Anthony. Anthony offers a handshake, but Brian hugs him instead.

Starting with the good stuff, I really love how this story plays with the notions of fixed points and temporal paradoxes. Fixed points are a narrative tool developed for the post-Rose revival era in an attempt to deal with things that shouldn’t be changed despite the inherent power of time travel. We’ve seen how violating fixed points can break the universe (Father’s Day), delay the inevitable (The Waters of Mars), and assist our heroes in creating loopholes for victory (The Wedding of River Song).

The concept plays around with the First Doctor’s imperative in The Aztecs: “You can’t rewrite history. Not one line!” It turns out that a time traveler can rewrite history, but it’s complicated.

In this story, our travelers play around with the rules of fixed points and paradoxes, exercising them a bit to play a “will they, won’t they” game with the fate of the Ponds. The end result is a victory for the Weeping Angels and a tragic blow to the Doctor as his faithful companions are locked away from him forever by powers beyond his control. The first paradox that destroyed the Winter Quay battery farm – since it never existed, they never traveled there in the first place… even though they remember everything about the trip – prohibits the Doctor from traveling to that exact time and space again to rescue the Ponds.

What stops him from parking the TARDIS in New Jersey and crossing the Hudson River to Manhattan? I guess it depends on the Doctor’s intent or something. The Doctor has yet to travel (on television, anyway) to 1930s/1940s New York City since. It’s a complicated conceit to lock the Ponds away permanently without killing them off. I give Steven Moffat credit for the effort.

I also give him credit for a tearjerker of an ending that finally makes me believe that Amy actually cares about Rory. I’ve talked many times about how selfish and poorly communicative Amy is with respect to the Pond relationship, but here she twice displays how important Rory is in her life.

I also give a ton of credit to Chris Chibnall for his follow-up that ties off the thread for Brian Williams that was laid down in The Power of Three. The Doctor kept his promise and the Ponds technically survived.

One conceit nearly ruins this whole affair for me: The Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel. The concept is just dumb from both the writing and in-universe logistics. In the Doctor Who universe, who isn’t going to notice a series of stomping earthquakes as the most popular local statue leaves Bedloe’s Island/Liberty Island and maneuvers through a tightly packed city? In our universe, it’s a pretty bad example of making enemies bigger in an attempt to make them badder. It’s just terrible.

The Doctor once again uses excess regeneration energy to affect the world around him. Here he heals River’s wrist, while previously he recharged the TARDIS in Rise of the Cybermen. One presumes that it’s a leftover from Let’s Kill Hitler, because (within the timeline to this point) this is the Doctor’s final regeneration. Even though he doesn’t remember the War Doctor at this time, he shouldn’t have physically been able to muster the power unless it came from somewhere outside himself.

River has been pardoned since she never killed the Doctor, though this does wreak a little havoc with the opposing timelines nature of their relationship. This phase of their lives may be somewhere in the middle of the two converging timelines.

This story also prevents a crux by which to explore the alternative theory presented in The Power of Three, specifically how that story and A Town Called Mercy take place after the Doctor loses the Ponds, giving him one more adventure with his dear friends as he tries to overcome his grief. Thanks again to Jennifer Hartshorn and Mike Faber for that discussion.

The Statue of Liberty aside, I find this story to be an engaging and emotional mind-bender well worth watching again. I’m not sure that I’ll miss the Ponds, though. It was time for them to go.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Snowmen


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.


Timestamp #238: The Power of Three

Doctor Who: The Power of Three
(1 episode, s07e04, 2012)

Timestamp 238 The Power of Three

Pond life redux, but is it entirely linear?

It is July. The Ponds have just returned home from another trip with the Doctor. The laundry is pungent, the food in the fridge has turned multiple times, and the answering machine has 59 messages. The Ponds realize that they lead two lives: The normal everyday and the adventures in time and space. They realize that they have to choose one or the other, but as the TARDIS sound echoes around them, they know that today is not the day to decide.

Every time that Amy and Rory go away with the Doctor, they become a part of his life. He has never stuck around long enough to become a part of theirs… until the cubes arrived.

Thus began the Year of the Slow Invasion.

Brian Williams arrives at the Pond residence early in the morning to alert Amy and Rory to the strange, perfect, identical cubes that have appeared overnight. The Doctor is involved as well, and he appreciates Brian’s thorough analysis of all the possibilities.

The Doctor has moved the TARDIS into the Pond home and uses the kitchen as a makeshift lab. He’s surprised that Amy and Rory have actual jobs – Amy now writes for a travel magazine and Rory works part-time at the hospital – and Amy replies that she can’t hold down a normal job with all of their travels. She calculates that they’ve been traveling with the Doctor (off and on) for approximately ten years.

The moment is broken by a UNIT strike team led by a woman named Kate Stewart, the head of scientific research at the organization. She detected a spike in artron energy and, with all the goings-on, decided to investigate. She also determines the Doctor’s identity and is pleased to meet him. UNIT has been testing the cubes but has no idea what they are. The Doctor decides that observation is the best policy.

He does so for four days and is absolutely bored. He needs to be busy, so Amy and Rory volunteer to watch the cubes while the Doctor does various tasks, including painting the fence, practicing his football skills, mowing the lawn, rewiring the car, and vacuuming the house.

All of that takes about an hour.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS to find Brian, who has been watching the cubes in the console room for the last four days. The Doctor wants to travel again, but the Ponds refuse to join him because the have lives to lead, so the Doctor takes off alone.

Come October, Amy promises to be her friend’s pending bridesmaid and Rory gets a full-time job offer. This could be the beginning of real life for them. Meanwhile, Brian has spent the last 67 days studying and documenting the cubes.

Then it’s December. Rory tends to a man stuck in a toilet while a series of cubes spontaneously activate at the hospital. A little girl appears possessed by them and an orderly dispatches an elderly man.

Life goes on as the cubes take positions of normalcy in everyday life, from paperweights to knick knacks. As June rolls around, the Ponds celebrate their annivesary with a cookout. Amy leaves a message for the Doctor and he stops by with a special gift. He takes them to the Savoy Hotel’s opening night in 1890, only to stop a Zygon plot to remove their spaceship from underneath the hotel. They go on several other trips, during one of which Amy accidentally marries Henry VIII.

The Doctor returns the Ponds to the moment he took them. Brian worries about what happens to the Doctor’s companions. The Doctor explains with a look of regret that most of them have left willingly or he purposely left them behind, and very few have died. However, he promises Brian that he will do everything within his power to keep Amy and Rory safe.

He then asks Amy if he can stay with the Ponds to watch the cubes.

On the anniversary of the cubes’ arrival, the cubes spin slightly. Brian notes this and tricks the cube by pretending to sleep, finally catching it moving. A cube at the Pond home opens and closes, piquing Rory’s curiosity. Another samples Amy’s hand. The Doctor watches one float by as he’s playing a tennis game on the Wii and realizes the enormity of what’s happening. When he threatens it, the cube shoots a laser at him before running a scan of the planet.

Rory is called to work as the cubes start attacking people. Brian joins him as the Doctor and Amy are paged to the Tower of London. Kate tells them that the cubes are acting randomly and the Doctor starts looking for a signal that controls them.

He also makes the connection: Kate Stewart is the daughter of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

The cubes remain active for 47 minutes and then shutdown. The Doctor leaves the underground base to think, taking the time to ask Amy about her future on the TARDIS. She considers his travels to be “running away”, but the Doctor considers it “running to”, a quest to see whatever the universe holds before it’s gone forever. He comes back to Amy time and time again because her face was the first face his face saw. Its image is seared onto his hearts.

The moment gives him an epiphany: The cubes have scanned everything about humanity in 47 minutes. As the power goes out, the cubes activate a countdown starting at 7. As he tries to figure out what’s happening, the Doctor locks himself in a room with a cube. At zero, the cubes open but contain nothing. The Doctor is perplexed, but suddenly people start going into cardiac arrest, including the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the program he set earlier to find the source of the cubes reveals seven different sources. The closest is the hospital where Rory works. It’s also where Brian has just been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an orbiting spaceship. Rory has chased them there.

The Doctor, Amy, Kate, and UNIT go to the hospital to look for clues. They find the little girl, who turns out to be a surveillance drone, and look for a wormhole. Amy also resets the Doctor’s heart with a defibrillator. They find the wormhole and step through, finding Rory and the others who have been taken. Amy revives Rory and they start rescuing the victims while the Doctor confronts the leader of this threat.

The Doctor finds that the Shakri are behind the plot, who are told of in Gallifreyan legends as the “pest controllers of the universe”. The Shakri consider humanity to be a plague and have set to that task, but the Doctor stands in defense of the people of Earth. The Shakri representative announces that another wave of cubes will be sent to Earth before vanishing, nothing more than a holographic transmission.

The Doctor plays with the controls and rewires the cubes on Earth, reversing the damage with a mass defibrillation. As the humans are revived, the backlash of energy overloads the ship. The Doctor, Amy and Rory escape just as the spaceship is destroyed.

Kate Stewart is impressed and expresses her gratitude as the Doctor flips her a jaunty salute.

That night, the Doctor has dinner with the Pond family before getting ready to leave. Brian encourages Amy and Rory to go with him as full-time companions, travelling to make the universe a better place. Brian offers to stay behind to take care of the house as the trio board the TARDIS and shut the door.

There is an rather interesting theory about this story and the previous one, particularly as they relate to the departure of the Ponds in the next adventure. It was brought to my attention by Mike Faber and Jennifer Hartshorn. The question is whether or not Series 7 is presented in order, particularly if A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three occur before or after The Angels Take Manhattan.

The big pointer is how the Doctor treats Amy and Rory in both stories, especially when it comes to his heart-to-heart with Amy in this episode.

I’m not running away. But this is one corner in one country in one continent in one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that is a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And this is so much, SO MUCH, to see, Amy. Because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them before they flare and fade forever. That’s all right. Our lives would never remain the same. They can’t. One day, soon maybe, you’ll stop. I’ve known for a while. […] I’m running to you and Rory before you… fade from me.

He’s known that they’ll stop traveling with him for a while. He’s running toward them before the fade away from him.

There’s nothing definitive from Steven Moffat or the production team, but there are a lot of hints and clues. We know that A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three come after Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but it is possible that those two happen simultaneously and after the Ponds leave the TARDIS.

I actually like that theory a lot.

Back to this story, there’s a lot to like in this expansion on Pond Life. We get the introduction of Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brig, who will play a large role in the series going forward. We get a fun look at the home lives of the Ponds and how much they have loved traveling over the last ten relative years. We get honesty from the Doctor on the fates of his companions.

Some have left him, some have been left behind, and a very few have died. Raise a glass for Katarina and Sara Kingdom (The Daleks’ Master Plan) as well as Adric in Earthshock. If we count the audios, the Eighth Doctor lost three companions in one adventure, namely To the Death.

Finally, the callbacks: The Doctor mused about humans having only one heart in The Shakespeare Code, experienced a defibrillator in the TV movie, and lamented Twitter in The Girl Who Waited.

Overall, this story is filler, but it does so many bold things for this era of change in the Eleventh Doctor’s run.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #237: A Town Called Mercy

Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy
(1 episode, s07e03, 2012)

Timestamp 237 A Town Called Mercy

Living in the wild, wild west.

The Making of the Gunslinger

Scientist Kahler-Jex is working in a lab, announcing that “Subject 6”, Kahler-Tek, has been activated. The cyborg raises up his arm weapon and a light emanates from it.

A Town Called Mercy

Against the backdrop of a starry night desert, a narrator with an American western accent narrates a story her great-grandmother told her when she was a girl. It is a story about a man who fell from the stars and was weighed down by the things he had seen.

The Kahler-Tek cyborg shoots down a probe in the desert, then takes aim on an injured man. The man comes from the same place as the cyborg gunslinger. He attempts a last stand and fails, but before he dies, he asks if he is the last one. The cyborg replies that there is one more: “the doctor”.

In the daylight, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory stand outside a perimeter of stones and wood that surrounds the town of Mercy, population 81. They cross the barrier and stroll down the main street. The Doctor notes that the town has electricity, something that is ten years too early for this time. The Doctor is intrigued by the town and heads for the saloon. When he introduces himself, he is promptly measured for a casket by the undertaker.

After he admits to being an alien, he is forcibly removed and thrown over the barrier. The townsfolk all draw their sidearms as the gunslinger approaches the Doctor. As the preacher says the Lord’s Prayer, Isaac, the town marshal, interrupts the festivities and brings the Doctor back across the line.

Turns out that this ain’t the right doctor.

Isaac explains that the gunslinger showed up about three weeks earlier and built the barrier to keep the people of Mercy imprisoned. All he wants is the alien doctor. The Doctor stares at the lights and comes to a conclusion: The marshal’s office is the safest place to be if the townspeople wanted to hand over the doctor.

Sure enough, the right doctor is in the jail cell. His name is Kahler-Jex.

The Doctor is over the moon. The Kahler are one of the most ingenious species in the universe. Jex explains that his ship crashed in the desert and the people of Mercy rescued him. He saved the town from cholera and provided them with electricity, and Isaac defends him since Mercy is a town of second chances. Without Jex, Isaac fears that the town would fall into chaos.

The Doctor decides to use the TARDIS to help Jex escape and evacuate the town. To do that, they must engage in a little sleight of hand to get past the Gunslinger. Isaac (dressed as Jex) and Rory run through the desert in one direction while the Doctor borrows a horse — “He’s called Susan, and he wants you to respect his life choices.” — to ride out to the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Amy sits with Jex. The scientist knows that she’s a mother because of the kindness, sorrow, and love in her eyes. He goes on to say that he’s something of a father himself.

On the way to the TARDIS, the Doctor finds the power cables providing electricity from Jex’s ship. Susan reminds the Doctor that they have a mission, but the Doctor is not one to give up on a mystery. Jex notes the power fluctuations in town and Amy laments the Doctor’s failure to follow a basic plan.

The gunslinger catches up to Issac and Rory after using infrared scanning. When the Doctor scans the ship, it sets off an alarm that distracts the cyborg and draws him away. The Doctor overrides the self-destruct system before finding the personal files detailing Kahler-Jex’s brutal experiments. The gunslinger finds the Doctor and explains that he wants justice. He promises to kill the next person who leaves town.

In town, Jex turns on Amy and uses her as a human shield. The gunslinger will refrain from taking innocent lives unless it is necessary. Luckily, he is stopped by Isaac.

The Doctor confronts Jex over the atrocities he witnessed, barely restraining his rage. He explains Jex’s experiments to Isaac and the Ponds. Jex further explains that he saved millions by sacrificing the few as cyborgs. After the war, they were supposed to be decommissioned, but one escaped and took revenge on those who created him. Jex is the last survivor.

Jex also draws a parallel between himself and the Doctor, forcing the raging Doctor to usher the scientist to the edge of town. The Doctor holds Jex at gunpoint as Amy protests his actions. The Doctor wants to honor the victims, including those who died as a result of his mercy, and Amy points out that this is why he cannot travel alone. The Doctor finally agrees that prosecution outweighs vengeance.

The gunslinger finds Jex and nearly kills him, but Isaac takes the fatal shot instead. With his dying breath, he transfers control of the town to the Doctor, who in turn appoints Amy as his deputy after placing Jex into custody.

The gunslinger gives the town of Mercy an ultimatum: Surrender Jex by noon the next day or he kills everyone in town. Later that night, the preacher stops by to invite the Doctor outside, stopping long enough to warn him that he should be armed. A mob of townsfolk want to take Jex to the gunslinger to protect themselves, but the Doctor cannot do that. The Doctor wonders if the mob leader, a man of barely 18 years, has the courage to pull the trigger. Turns out that he doesn’t, and the situation is defused for now.

The Doctor returns to talk with Jex. The scientist suggests that he be turned over to Tek, but the Doctor is firm in his resolve. It would be easier if Jex was only one thing — mad scientist or benevolent doctor — instead of both, and the Doctor reminds him that Jex doesn’t get to decide how his debt is repaid. Jex explains that he fears death. Kahler religion dictates that the dead must climb a mountain, carrying the souls of all those whom they wronged in life. Isaac will be added to Jex’s load, and the the Doctor sympathises.

But, he also has a plan.

Come noon, the Doctor waits for the gunslinger. Instead of a firearm, he wields his sonic screwdriver, producing a high-pitched frequency that shatters glass and disorients the cyborg. The Doctor runs as the gunslinger fires wildly, taking refuge as the townspeople run about Mercy with simlar marks on their faces to Jex’s own.

The gunslinger searches the town, eventually breaking into the church and frightening the women and children. The Doctor urges Jex to run into the desert in order to save the townsfolk. Meanwhile, the gunslinger switches to manual targeting and locates the Doctor.

Jex reaches his ship and pages Tek, sympathizing about their mutual status as monsters. Jex knows that if he runs, he’ll only place another group of people in danger. Instead, he arms the self-destruct and sacrifices himself, completing Tek’s mission and atoning for his own crimes. The gunslinger sees this as honorable.

Because the Gunslinger sees himself as nothing more than a weapon of war, he prepares to self-destruct a safe distance in the desert. The Doctor changes his mind by telling him that while he may have built as a weapon of war, he can now protect the peace instead.

Later on, the Doctor brings the TARDIS to Mercy to collect all of the anachronistic technology. As the Doctor leaves to take Amy and Rory home, the little girl from the church walks into the desert to gaze upon the gunslinger. She’s the narrator from the introduction, and he is now the town marshal, protecting her and everyone who calls Mercy home.

As the first western-themed story since The Gunfighters, this was a good adventure. I enjoyed the redemption story for Jex and the turn from assassin to guardian for Tek. War creates consequences, most times unintended, and here we explore how those propagate, fester, and hurt the innocent.

The Doctor knows this all too well.

As a big Farscape and Stargate fan, I was overjoyed to see Ben Browder join the Doctor Who family. He nails the role of Isaac and I really wish we could have seen more of him in the future. Perhaps he can return in a different role?

Finally, it was fun to see Matt Smith in a Stetson again. That man looks good in the brand.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Power of Three


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #236: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
(1 episode, s07e02, 2012)

Timestamp 236 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Sailing the stars Jurassic-style.

The Doctor did a good thing and saved 1334 BC Egypt from a swarm of locusts. On his way back to the TARDIS, he’s intercepted by Queen Nefertiti who wants to thank him properly for his services… if you know what she means.

Her efforts are interrupted by a message on the psychic paper from the Indian Space Agency. He’s forced to take “Nefi” with him because she forces her way onto the TARDIS, and once he arrives in the 24th century, he’s informed of a non-communicative spaceship approaching Earth. If it gets within ten thousand kilometers – the edge of the Earth’s exosphere – the Indian Space Agency will start shooting missiles.

The Doctor decides that he needs some additional help, so he jets off to Africa in 1902 to convince game hunter John Riddell to join the fun. He then travels to 21st century London. There, Rory and his father Brian are changing a lightbulb. Amy finds things amusing until the Doctor arrives, materializing around the three and immediately setting course for the 24th century.

Brian is shell-shocked and the Doctor is confused, but soon enough everything is set in motion as the crew starts exploring amidst the pounding noises around them. When they reach a lift, the doors open to reveal a pair of dinosaurs.

On a spaceship.

*ding* There’s the title!

The group runs for cover from the Ankylosauruses. Riddell claims that he can take one of them alone with his knife, but the Doctor is intrigued by the discovery and wants to preserve them. They find an interactive monitor and the Doctor starts mapping the ship. When he asks for a path to the engines, he, Rory, and Brian are teleported to a foggy beach. Brian loses his mind as he tries to process what’s going on.

The Doctor tastes the air and determines that they are on Earth… sort of. The air is slightly wrong, the ground is humming, and Brian discovers a metal deck under the sand. As Rory calls for the Doctor to show him what they found, a mysterious watcher orders someone to bring the Doctor to him.

Amy, Nefi, and Riddell continue to explore the ship, literally stumbling into a Tyrannosaur nest. Luckily, the tyrant lizard is fast asleep. The trio continues on.

The Doctor finds another monitor and learns that the beach is the engine room. In fact, propulsion and energy are maintained by the waves. The Doctor’s excitement is cut short by the arrival of a flock of pterodactyls. The trio rush for a cave, avoiding the snapping beaks but running right into a pair of stomping robots.

Amy’s team find another monitor and review the ship’s logs. Amy finds out that the ship is Silurian and was a form of ark that was launched when the Silurians feared a cataclysm when the Earth aligned with the Moon. Between the time of launch and now, the population has drastically decreased. Also, the ship has been boarded before.

The Doctor’s team and the accompanying robots run into a triceratops that acts like a puppy, licking Brian’s face and playing fetch with a golf ball. The group is taken to Solomon, a man listening to Fantasia in F minor by Franz Schubert as he tries to recover from a raptor attack. Solomon has mistaken the Time Lord for an actual medical doctor, which isn’t that far from the truth. When the Doctor offers assistance in exchange for information about Solomon’s arrival, the wounded man orders the robots to shoot Brian. The Doctor works on Solomon while Rory tends to his father’s burn, and Brian is surprised that Rory keeps a medical supply pack with him. It’s a family habit to carry tools around, as evidenced by Brian’s convenient trowel.

Amy calls Rory via mobile phone – the TARDIS superphone returns! – to tell him about the Silurians. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds out that Solomon is a trader and is interested in selling the dinosaurs as precious cargo. He is intrigued in how the Doctor doesn’t exist in his database. Solomon explains that the Silurians rescued the trader, and in return he ejected them from their own ship. Unfortunately, Solomon couldn’t control the ship so it automatically set course for Earth.

The Doctor gathers Rory and Brian, set on making sure that Solomon does not control the ark of the Silurians. The trio hops aboard the triceratops – which the Doctor has named Tricey – and they escape from the robots as the dinosaur chases the golf ball down the passageway. When Tricey catches the ball, she bucks her passengers off and sits patiently.

The Indian Space Agency calls the Doctor, warning him that the ship has entered the atmosphere and they have no choice but to open fire. Meanwhile, Amy’s team finds some stun rifles. As Nefi learns that the Doctor is married, Amy watches the Doctor over the security feeds as he tries to figure out how to stop the missiles.

Solomon catches up to the Doctor and makes him an offer: He’ll let everyone go if he surrenders Queen Nefertiti. The Doctor refuses, so Solomon shows that he’s serious by murdering Tricey. Amy’s team uses the teleporter to reach the Doctor, and Nefertiti offers herself willingly. Solomon transports himself, Nefi, and the robots back to his ship.

The Doctor takes everyone else to the control room, explaining that Solomon couldn’t control the ship because the Silurians designed it to require two pilots who share similar DNA. The Doctor magnetically locks Solomon’s ship to the ark as Brian offers to pilot the ship with Rory. The Doctor explains how to control the ship while Riddell stands guard against the roving velociraptors.

The Doctor works on the wiring, chatting with Amy while he works. Amy expresses her fear that his visits are becoming farther and farther apart. One day, he might never show up. The Doctor comforts Amy by explaining that he’ll always come to see them. As the Doctor teleports to Solomon’s ship, Amy joins Riddell on guard duty and fends off the velociraptors.

The Indian Space Agency notes that the ark has changed course, but they still maintain their missile lock.

The Doctor arrives on Solomon’s ship and disables the robots as Nefertiti disables Solomon. The Doctor leaves a green tracking orb on the ship’s bridge and releases the magnetic lock, teleporting back to the ark as the missiles destroy Solomon’s craft.

With the ark back on course for deep space, the Doctor offers to take everyone on an adventure, but Rory suggests that he take everyone home. Before they do, Brian asks for one favor: As the TARDIS orbits the Earth, he sits on the edge of the doorway and sips coffee while staring at his homeworld.

Riddell returns home, though he is now joined by Nefertiti. The Ponds return home as well, but they keep receiving postcards from Brian. It turns out that Rory’s dad – a man who used to be afraid of traveling – has gone traveling with the Doctor, including to Siluria, the new home of the dinosaurs.

David Bradley does his best evil in this story. I mean, it was deliciously evil. He was previously the voice of Shansheeth in Death of the Doctor, and (spoilers) he’ll eventually follow Colin Baker’s and Peter Capaldi’s lead by playing an incarnation of the Doctor after previously holding a role on the show. His demise did strike me as especially brutal: The Doctor literally set him up to die, which differs from the typical tactic of allowing the foe to set themselves up.

Sometimes this particular incarnation scares me.

Brian Williams is so much fun as well, paving a narrative path for Rory to become the only person to travel in the TARDIS with both a parent and a child (though not at the same time). Brian’s excitement nearly leapt off the screen as he tried to figure out what was going on around him and how best to help. His travels at the end of the story made me smile wide.

This story was a great follow-on from Doctor Who and the Silurians, which previously showed us the relationship between the Silurians and dinosaurs. At that time, the Silurians were using a dinosaur to guard their base. It also echoes back to previous stories about arks (The ArkThe Ark in Space), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (wherein the Third Doctor also prioritized preservation of the dinosaurs), and the literal extinction-level event for the dinosaurs (Earthshock).

How many more times can I say dinosaur? I’ll save the most moving instance – the most traumatic, especially as a dog owner – for last. Tricey’s demise was heartbreaking. It serves as a fantastic testament to the writer and production staff since it solidifies Solomon’s despicable nature and makes me stand in awe because I fell in love with a computer-generated dinosaur in a handful of minutes.

That writer, by the way? Chris Chibnall.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #235: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks
(1 episode, s07e01, 2012)

Timestamp 235 Asylum of the Daleks

Eggs… Eggs… Eggs…


The Doctor is enjoying an afternoon tea with scones, cream, and jam when he interrupted by a mysterious hooded figure staring at him. When he looks away, the figure is suddenly sitting at his table.

The hooded figure says that a woman wants to meet him, and when the Doctor tries to brush the figure off, he waves his hand and makes the tea room empty. Everyone is gone.

The Doctor is intrigued, but he can’t get much more from the mysterious figure than a name: Darla von Karlsen. The Doctor says he never heard of her and stands to leave, but he’s instantly in a dark room. The message is a psychic projection. The room is familiar, forcing the Doctor to try waking up. He ends up in a chair on a beach, but the figure tells him that it’s still a dream.

They end up in space. The figure gives him space-time coordinates and explains that Darla wants help saving her daughter. The Doctor is visibly shaken by the coordinates, but refuses to say the name associated with them. The figure pushes until the Doctor wakes up in the console room of the TARDIS. There he whispers the name…


Asylum of the Daleks

On Skaro, the Doctor meets with Darla von Karlsen in the eye of a giant Dalek statue. Darla doesn’t say who told her of the Doctor. She’s also cagey about how she escaped a Dalek prison camp because no one escapes from Dalek prison camps. She’s cold to the touch and the Doctor knows that this is a trap. Sure enough, an eyestalk emerges from Darla’s forehead and a gunstick from her palm. She blasts the Doctor and a Dalek saucer swoops into to take him prisoner.

We then see Amy Pond, supermodel, who refuses a call from her husband because she “no longer has one.” Rory has brought divorce papers to her dressing area and she signs them, only expressing regret when he leaves without a word.

In short order, both Amy and Rory are taken prisoner by the Daleks. They awaken in a cell with a view of Dalek saucers and are soon greeted by the Doctor and his Dalek escorts. Together, they are all taken to a vast circular auditorium filled with Daleks. This is the Parliament of the Daleks.

In view of the captured TARDIS, the Doctor spreads his arms wide, ready to be exterminated. It is Christmas for the Daleks… their greatest wish come true. Except they stun their prisoners with two simple words.

“Save us.”

After a new title sequence, we meet Oswin Oswald. It’s Day 363 of her confinement in a mysterious place besieged by Daleks and she’s having trouble with soufflés.

Back in the Parliament, the Doctor assesses the Daleks and the Ponds and Amy narrates his thought process. When they arrive at the destination, a Dalek in a transparent tube asks the Doctor about the Dalek Asylum. It is a place where outcast Daleks – the insane, the battle-scarred, and the uncontrollable – are exiled. They aren’t killed because the destruction of “Divine Hatred” is offensive to the Daleks, so the outcasts are sent to this automated planet surrounded by an impenetrable shield.

But the Daleks have detected a signal of unknown origin on the planet. Of course, they never considered tracing it to the source, but the signal is “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” – an aria from Carmen in which the Doctor played the triangle – and it is coming from Oswin’s tiny apartment. Which, in reality, is the remnants of the crashed starliner Alaska upon which she served.

The Daleks plan to send their predator, the Doctor, to the surface to deactivate the planetary shield (which, conveniently, can only be done from the surface) so they can destroy the Oswin’s signal at the source. They send him and his companions on a gravity beam where they are promptly separated.

Amy awakens on a snowy mountainside next to a man named Harvey. She runs off in search of the Doctor and Rory. The Doctor comes to next to a Dalek eye stalk which is linked to Oswin (“soufflé girl”) because she found it easy to hack. Amy and Harvey find the Doctor and search for Rory, leading them to a giant hole in the ground. Rory wakes up inside that hole surrounded by dormant Dalek shells.

Harvey leads the Doctor and Amy to one of the Alaska‘s escape pods. Harvey claims that he’s been on planet for days, but that doesn’t mesh with Oswin’s story. In fact, all of Harvey’s crewmates are long dead. Harvey then remembers that he died out in the snow and that the planet’s nano-cloud transformed him into one of the Dalek puppets like the ones that trapped the Doctor and the Ponds.

The only thing stopping the travelers from transforming is the bracelets that the Daleks provided them.

Unfortunately, the cloud also transforms the dead so now we have Dalek zombies. Joy.

The Doctor and Amy take refuge from the Dalek puppets in the escape pod’s cockpit. Oswin engineers an escape path for them while the Doctor starts working on Amy’s marital problems. Before they descend into the mountain, they realize that the zombies have stolen Amy’s wristband so she’s now vulnerable to the nano particles.

Underground, Rory inadvertantly awakens the dormant Daleks who immediately focus on exterminating the intruder. Oswin opens a door for him and, after he escapes, makes introductions by flirting.

As the Doctor and Amy descend, he explains that the nanocloud will slowly reprogram Amy’s mind. In fact, it’s already started since they’ve repeated the same discussion four times. He encourages her to embrace her fear of what’s happening because Daleks don’t feel fear. Oswin coordinates with the Doctor to reunite him with Rory, but that means leaving Amy for a moment. That presents a moment for Amy to interact with what she things are people but are really the Daleks that Rory faced. Thankfully, they’re decayed enough that they cannot give chase for long. Unfortunately, they can still activate self-destruct.

The Doctor is able to override a Dalek’s motivators and send it back into the chamber with the others. The self-destruct eliminates all of them and the travelers are reunited. The Doctor has a brief conversation with Oswin, musing about how she was able to survive a year alone and where she gets milk for her soufflés.

The Doctor lays out four goals: Neutralize all of the Daleks in the Asylum, rescue Oswin, escape from the planet, and fix the Pond marriage. Luckily they are standing on a teleport pad, so they need to lower the planetary shield and beam out very rapidly. Oswin sends a map of her location to the Doctor, so the Doctor tasks Amy and Rory with keeping Amy from becoming a Dalek while he’s gone.

Rory assumes that he can give Amy his wristband because the transformation will be slower for him. Since the nanocloud transforms love into hate, he would last longer because he always loved her more than she loved him. After all, he spent 2000 years protecting her inside the Pandorica as an Auton. They argue, uncovering that the focal point of their conflict is children. The conflict at Demons Run left Amy sterile: Rory thought Amy kicked him out after deciding she didn’t love him, but she knew that he had always wanted children so she “gave him up” to give him a chance with someone else.

They then realize the Doctor put his bracelet on Amy while she was sleeping. Amy muses that he probably doesn’t need it and he used it to trick them into working out their relationship problems.

The Doctor reaches the Intensive Care area, the home for Daleks defeated in particular battles, all of which occurred during the Doctor’s first, second, and third incarnations. Once he realizes this, the Daleks revive and corner him. Oswin hacks into the Dalek Pathweb and erases all data on him, effectively making them forget the Doctor. The deranged Daleks quietly go back to their cells.

Oswin opens the door and invites the Doctor in, but he hesitates when he sees Oswin’s true form. She dreamed up her situation because the reality was too terrible. She was in the cockpit of the escape pod and climbed down the same ladder that the Doctor and Amy used. The Daleks need her genius, so they converted her in full.

Oswin Oswald is now a full Dalek.

The truth is indeed too much to bear. She asks why the Daleks hate the Doctor. He tells her that he beats them everytime. She says that the Daleks grow stronger in spite of him… because of their fear of him. She tells him to run – “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” – and lowers the planetary shield, ready to die as a human at heart.

The Doctor reaches the Ponds and teleports them to the Dalek Parliament ship just as the Daleks destroy the Asylum. Unfortunately for the Daleks, the Doctor has really good aim with a teleporter. Fortunately, for the Doctor, the Daleks have no idea who he is, so he escapes in the TARDIS as the Daleks scream “Doctor WHO!?” over and over again.

The Doctor drops the Ponds at their doorstep, leaving Rory overjoyed that Amy has welcomed him home. The Doctor flies on, reveling in his new anonymity, as he looks forward to the next adventure.

This story presents a good payoff for the previous season’s shenanigans, offering the “what happens next” scenario for the traumas that our main characters faced with the Silence. It also pays off Pond Life to a degree, answering the question of the rift in the Pond household.

Of course, Amy’s relationship problems still center on a lack of communication and unilateral decision making. It’s been a common theme for her: Despite loving Rory, of which I have no doubt, she still treats him poorly and doesn’t communicate with him until she’s forced to.

I did enjoy the visuals on the Asylum, particularly how the construction was much like the city from The Daleks. The Intensive Care Unit also offers a few nods to history, including SpiridonKembelAridiusVulcan, and Exxilon. The Daleks have asked for help before, leading us back to The Evil of the Daleks.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Parliament of the Daleks, which offered a smorgasbord of Dalek history, including:

Really, all we’re missing are the Imperial Daleks from Revelation of the Daleks and/or Resurrection of the Daleks, the disc-backed units in silver-and-black-striped livery from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the gold-ringed versions from The Chase, the gold units from Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space, the Supreme Council Dalek from Planet of the Daleks, the “Skittles” units from Victory of the Daleks, the Supreme Red from The Stolen Earth, and (why not?) the variety of unofficial models from both Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

That bit of fun aside, this story also ends on quite the question for the Daleks to ask. It’s a great place to leave everything as the Doctor’s biggest enemy can’t even remember their supreme rival’s name.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #234: Good as Gold & Pond Life

Doctor Who: Good as Gold
Doctor Who: Pond Life
(6 episodes, pre-Series 7 Specials, 2012)

Timestamp 234 Pond Life

Catching up with the Ponds.

Good as Gold

The Doctor and Amy are traveling in the TARDIS. Amy notes that the Intrepid Universe Traveler Handbook says they need to have at least one adventure per week, so the Doctor turns on the “Adventure Setting” for the TARDIS. In short order, the Cloister Bell sounds and the TARDIS crashes.

After the crash, an athlete runs through the door holding the Olympic Torch. They’ve landed in the middle of the Olympic running track, but it’s a good thing since the athlete was being pursued by a Weeping Angel. The Angel wants to steal the Olympic flame and destroy the Pride of the Olympics, so the Doctor points his sonic screwdriver at the torch and fractures the Angel.

The athlete grabs the torch before it hits the floor, then thanks the Doctor for his assistance by giving him a gold medal before running on to light the 2012 Olympic flame. As the Doctor prepares for the next adventure, the Weeping Angel reappears in the doorway. It is cracked and missing the arm that touched the torch, but it is still inside the TARDIS… a story fragment to probably never be resolved.

Pond Life: April 2012

The Doctor leaves a message on Amy and Rory’s answering machine about his recent adventures. He has fled Sontarans by surfing the firefalls on Florinall 9, had a risqué meeting with Mata Hari in Paris while roasting crumpets, sung the backups for an album, and crashed into ancient Greece due to a fault in the helmic regulator.

It seems that the TARDIS was hit by an arrow at the Battle of Hastings.

Pond Life: May 2012

The Doctor bursts into the Ponds’ house while they sleep. The world is endangered and the Ponds need to save the world! Except that it is the wrong time for them – helmic regulator! – so everything is fine. He wishes them a good night and leaves to find the right Ponds, leaving Rory to remark about how much he hates it when the Doctor does that.

Pond Life: June 2012

Rory steps into the bathroom only to be startled by the unexpected. While Rory collects himself, Amy checks things out. She finds an Ood on the loo who asks, “May I be of any assistance?”

Pond Life: July 2012

The Ood is no longer on the loo, but instead is acting as a butler for Amy and Rory by cleaning their windows, making food, and doing the wash. The Doctor explains that he rescued the Ood from the Androvax conflict and is planning on returning it to the Ood Sphere. Unfortunately, he misplaced the Ood on his last visit but plans to pick him up tonight.

Whenever that is.

Pond Life: August 2012

The Doctor has returned the Ood to the Ood Sphere. While changing the TARDIS light bulb, he recounts his recent adventures on the Ponds’ answering machine, including riding a horse through 11th Century Conventry, having invented pasta, and visiting their home (except that they were out).

He hopes that everything is okay, but he’s unaware that Rory stormed out of the house during a fight with Amy. He decides to delete the message just before Amy returns home. She checks the empty recording, then looks into the distance with a wish on her lips.

“We need you, raggedy man. I need you.”

Good as Gold written by The Children of Ashdene School in the same spirit as Death is the Only Answer. It also links back to the Olympic moments of Fear Her and provides a potential crossing of the Doctor’s timeline.

Good as Gold joins Pond Life to provide some fun filler while the show was away for nine months between the 2011 Christmas Special and the Series 7 premiere, but ultimately they are an average prologue to pass the time.

Even if they did give us “Ood on the loo.”

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #233: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2011)

Timestamp 233 Doctor Widow Wardrobe

Facing traumas and Christmas miracles.


The Eleventh Doctor holds a button that, when released, will blow up a ship that’s about to destroy the Earth. He calls Amy Pond on the TARDIS phone to ask her to rescue him, but he realizes she cannot fly the TARDIS. He also doesn’t have the coordinates and, well, Amy is no longer with him.

The Doctor admits he just wanted to chat and wishes her a merry Christmas before triggering the explosion.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

A spaceship approaches Earth in 1938, ready to destroy the planet, but it blows up from within courtesy of the Eleventh Doctor. The Doctor is ejected from the ship and plummets toward Earth as he struggles into a nearby spacesuit.

He plummets to the ground near a woman riding her bike in the dark. That woman, Madge Arwell, finds the Doctor in a crater, his helmet on backwards, and mistakes him for a space angel. Madge leaves an elaborate message with her son and takes the Doctor to town to find a police box. Unfortunately, they find the wrong box at first, but Madge is presumably successful by the time she returns home. The Doctor tells her that all she needs to do is make a wish and he’ll be there.

Three years later, her husband is lost in the war when his plane crashes. Madge Arwell now is a war widow with two kids. She makes a silent wish before taking the children to Uncle Digby’s abandoned country estate for the holiday. It is there that the family formally meets the Doctor, posing as the caretaker.

A whirlwind tour reveals a sitting room with moving chairs, a kitchen with a lemonade tap, the rumor of panthers, and a magical children’s bedroom complete with hammocks. Madge is beside herself and privately asks why the Doctor is doing all of this. He tells her that he knows the sadness that will come when she finally tells them the bad news.

The family adjourns to the main sitting room with a large Christmas tree and a giant glowing present. The Doctor wanders away as Madge promises the kids that this will be the best present ever. That night, Cyril sneaks down to investigate the present while Lily looks in on the Doctor. Lily finds the Time Lord fiddling with the TARDIS while Cyril discovers that the present leads to a Narnia-like world beyond its wrappings.

Once the Doctor realizes that Cyril has entered the package, he and Lily give chase. The Doctor tells Lily that it was supposed to be a portal to the safest planet he knew but it wasn’t supposed to be opened until Christmas. Meanwhile, Cyril has followed mysterious footprints from a creature that hatched from a silver ball to a tower in the woods.

The Doctor recognizes that the voices around him are the trees talking to each other. There is something wrong in the forest. As they search for Cyril, Madge finds the package and enters the portal as well, soon encountering three harvest rangers who hold her at gunpoint. The forest is private property and an acid rain storm is about to melt the trees for fuel. The stress of the entire encounter is too much as Madge breaks down in tears.

Cyril enters the tower and finds a wooden being on a throne. It comes to life as Cyril climbs the stairs behind it. When he reaches the top of the tower, he finds a throne with another wooden statue. The Doctor and Lily enter the tower and recognize the Wooden King and that the tower is made from trees. It is a trap, but the Doctor questions why the forest needs people. Above them, Cyril is forced to sit in the throne and is crowned by the Wooden Queen. This forces the Wooden King to rise and ascend the stairs.

The harvest rangers are from Androzani Major and they lower their weapons, believing that Madge is no harm. Unfortunately for them, she pulls out a gun. After all, there’s a war on. The men are bound as the female ranger tries to scan for the Arwell children. Unfortunately, she can’t pilot the ranger vehicle and the rangers are teleported away as the final warning is announced.

The Wooden King and Queen speak through Cyril, passing along the news that they are shepherding the lifeforce of the forest away before it is melted. They are using Cyril as a lifeboat, but the boy is too weak to hold forest’s lifeforce. The Doctor is also not compatible, but Lily is. Unfortunately, she’s also too young.

Then the rain begins.

Madge can hear the children and the Doctor over an open channel, motivating her to drive the ranger harvester to the tower. It topples over as it reaches the tower but Madge makes it inside safely. After she chastises the children, she is crowned by the Wooden Queen. Madge is strong enough to save the forest.

The Doctor is perplexed by Madge’s ability to house the entire forest in her head, then realizes that weak and strong are code for male and female. The geodesic sphere atop the tower lifts off and plunges into the temporal vortex to remain safe while the forest is converted. The Wooden Queen tells the Doctor that Madge can pilot them home with a single thought.

Using the telegram that announced her husband’s death, she focuses on her family and plots a course home. On the way, she sees her history with her husband, including his death over the Channel, revealing the truth to her children.

The transit ends with the forest finding a new home among the stars. They have returned to the estate and the family shares a moment over the tragic news. The Doctor leaves them for a moment and makes a life-changing discovery.

Madge’s husband died because there were no stars to light the way home. Because of what Madge did for the forest, the light of the temporal vortex became his beacon home. He landed with them and survived the war after all, given the Arwells a Christmas miracle.

Later on, Madge discovers that the Doctor is her spaceman angel. She thanks him and asks him to stay for Christmas. He declines and readies to leave, and she tells him that no one should be alone for Christmas. He should go see his family, even though they think that he’s dead.

If Madge needs him again, all she needs is to make a wish.

The TARDIS dematerializes, taking the Doctor to the Pond home. Amy answers the blue door, ready to spray annoying carolers, and expresses her annoyance at the Doctor’s two year absence. She reveals that River told them about the Doctor’s survival, and after a brief standoff, the two hug once again. Rory and Amy also tell him that they always set a place for him at Christmas dinner.

The Doctor steps inside and smiles as he wipes a tear from his eye.

This story embodies the positives of the holiday specials. They typically meld the science fiction elements of the franchise with a feel-good story to life viewers up in the season, and this was a prime example of their magic.

The story handled the trauma of loss and the family left behind in war quite well, allowing the family to heal from the obvious friction that started their Christmas holiday. I admit that I was crying as Madge faced that which she did not want to, and I kept crying as her family found their miracle in saving his life.

The plot plays a wonderful parallel to the Doctor’s own life, resulting in a payoff as he realizes that he needs other people in his life after all.

Reg Arwell as played by Alexander Armstrong, whom we have heard before over five series as the supercomputer Mr. Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s good to put a face to the voice.

The parallels to the C.S. Lewis Narnia tales is quite obvious, as are several of the ties back to this show’s mythology from the Magna Carta to the Doctor’s respiratory bypass system to survive in space. Oh, and the entire Androzani link for the Fifth Doctor’s swan song.

And the sonic screwdriver being used as a tool and rendered inoperative because of all the wood. That was a nice touch.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Good as Gold and Doctor Who: Pond Life


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #232: Space/Time & Night and the Doctor

Doctor Who: Space/Time
Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor
(7 episodes, Comic Relief and Home Video Specials, 2011)

Timestamp 232 Night and the Doctor

Wrapping up some loose ends with the time travelers’ dating game run amok!


Set between The Big Bang and The Impossible Astronaut, we begin with our travelers fixing the TARDIS in something called “conceptual space”. Amy unsuccessfully tries to get the Doctor’s attention, but is distracted by Rory installing thermocouples. Banter flies about Amy’s failed driving test and the fact that she was wearing a skirt. In fact, it’s the same skirt that she’s currently wearing, which distracts Rory and forces the TARDIS to execute an emergency landing.

When the Doctor restores power, the team is shocked to find the TARDIS materialized inside the console room. The Doctor presumes that it was the safest place to land, but when he investigates he finds that it is the same TARDIS as the one they are currently occupying.

More than a time loop, it is a space loop. No one can leave the TARDIS again.

That is, until another Amy walks through the doors. This, apparently, is where it gets complicated.


The new Amy is from the future since the exterior shell is running slightly ahead of the console room. After the Doctor makes sure that the timeline stays exactly as it should – and after present Pond flirts with future Pond, much to Rory’s amusement – Amy enters the TARDIS.

Directly after, both Amy and Rory enter the console room. The Doctor sets up a controlled temporal implosion to reset the TARDIS, but since he doesn’t know which lever to pull, the entire TARDIS could explode. He doesn’t know which lever to pull, but a future version of the Doctor rushes in to tell him to use the “wibbly lever”. The Doctor thanks himself, pulls the lever, and enters the TARDIS before it dematerializes.

Everything’s back to normal and there’s no longer any danger of the localized time field imploding. But, just in case, he asks Amy to put on some trousers before they get back to work.

Bad Night

The console room is dark and the phone is ringing. Amy answers the phone, obviously having just been asleep. The voice on the other end, a Prince of Wales, asks for the Doctor as Amy swats a fly. The Doctor rushes in, clad in top hat and tails, and hands Amy a goldfish and bowl while he deals with the nighttime caller.

He assures the prince that his “mother is fine” while chastising Amy for answering the phone. It turns out that the Queen has been transformed into a goldfish at a party, and the warrior chief who did so is trapped in the TARDIS until he reverses it. Unfortunately, that warrior chief was the fly that Amy killed.

Oh, and River Song was at the party as well.

As the Doctor rushes off to solve the problem, Amy asks for his help. She can’t sleep because something is on her mind. Convinced that she’s “having an emotion,” the Doctor calls for Rory to handle it. It seems that they take turns dealing with her emotional needs.

Finally, the Doctor realizes that he has the wrong fish. He also only has three hours to get the right one before the pet shops open and the Commonwealth is potentially destroyed.

Good Night

The Doctor returns from another night with River Song, this time carrying a euphonium. This time, Amy’s waiting up for him, wondering if he does this kind of thing every night. While the Doctor explains his adventures in saving people – he helped a possessed orchestra on the moonbase, prevented two supernovas, wrote the history of the universe in jokes, and worked as physician in Brixton – Amy wonders if the companions’ lives are just brief flickers in his overall life.

She also explains why she can’t sleep. Her life doesn’t make sense because, as a result of The Big Bang, she can remember two versions of her life, one without her parents and one with them. The Doctor comforts her, in the process reminding her of the saddest moment of her life. It was at a fair when she dropped an ice cream, and she suddenly remembers a woman with red hair, dressed in a nightgown, who came to give her a new ice cream. When she finishes the story, the Doctor is by the doors, ready to go with her to the fair.

Time and space will never make sense, including this causality loop, but at least the Doctor gets ice cream and a trip to the fair.

First Night

River Song is in her cell at Stormcage when the Doctor arrives in a white dinner suit. The Ponds are asleep, so he is taking her to Calderon Beta. It’s a boring planet aside from a four hundred foot tall tree growing out of a cliff-top in the middle of the sea, which is where the Doctor wants to show River the starriest night sky in the entire history of the universe.

Which happens to be on September 21, 2360.

This is apparently right after he gave her the TARDIS diary so they can keep their timelines straight. He’s also chosen a dress for her, but there are more in the wardrobe down the corridor if she wants something different. While she runs off to rifle through the racks, the TARDIS lands. Curious about the sound of gunfire outside, he opens the door and finds a different River Song.

This one collapses into his arms, calling him a nostalgic idiot for coming back to this spot.

Last Night

This new River wasn’t injured, but rather holding her breath for dramatic effect. She flirts with the Doctor while explaining that she’s running from some Sontarans. She spots the dress and gets jealous, storming through the TARDIS to find the presumed mistress.

Of course, future River remembers the encounter – it’s the same night! – but not the details, so chaos ensues between the Doctor and the two Rivers. It gets worse when a third River enters the TARDIS, this one actually wearing the gold dress that the Doctor had picked out. This River was expecting to meet the Doctor here, but she questions why the same dress is hanging by the console. The Doctor asks her to step outside to check if the light on top of the TARDIS is working, which she does.

The second River rushes back into the console room and the Doctor sends her back to Stormcage by tweaking her vortex manipulator with his sonic screwdriver. The third River returns to the TARDIS, followed by an older version of the Doctor who tells her that she’s in the wrong blue box. His, after all, is parked around back.

River muses about two Doctors at once, then rushes out, excited about a trip to the Singing Towers of Darillium. The two Doctors are saddened because River visited that site before she died, but the older Doctor refuses to reveal any spoilers before leaving.

The first River returns, catching a glimpse of the future Doctor and developing a liking for the word “spoilers” before joining her Doctor on their night out together. She jokes that him and his secrets will be the death of her.

Up All Night

In a prequel to Closing Time, we find Craig Owens in his home, eating baby food as he protests to his wife Sophie that he can’t be left alone with their baby. He’s terrified that he’ll break Alfie, but Sophie disagrees, puts Alfie in his arms, and tells him he’s amazing. Craig bounces a little as Sophie notices another disappearance in the newspaper.

Craig questions whether or not she should leave the both of them alone all weekend, but Sophie is sure. She says that it is bath time, which Craig protests because it happened just yesterday, but Sophie suggests that it’s not the end of the world.

The kitchen lights flicker as they walk out.

Overall, this collection of shorts was entertaining enough. Space/Time were part of the 2011 Comic Relief special, the first multi-part charity story since the 30th anniversary special Dimensions in Time (“Which is totally canon, right?” he asked with a grin). It’s also the fifth televised story in the forty-eight year (to this point) history of the franchise to be set entirely on the TARDIS.

Meanwhile, the Night and the Doctor collection was a special feature for the Series Six home video release.

With that context, the source of Space/Time‘s humor is understandable since it caters to a lower denominator to drive pledges. It’s also irritating since it reduces a competent companion and woman to an upskirt gag to propel the story. Space/Time is definitely my least favorite part of this set.

Night and the Doctor plays with downtime on the TARDIS, addressing both Amy’s dual timeline crisis that stems from The Big Bang and going slapstick with the divergent linearity of the River/Doctor relationship. The Amy thread does quite well with the Eleventh Doctor’s aloof and detached nature when it comes to relationships, and it is by far my favorite subset of the collection. The dating game falls in the middle of the set by having fun with a lot of confusion.

Up All Night just… exists. That’s about it.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Series 6 Summary


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #231: The Wedding of River Song

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song
(1 episode, s06e13, 2011)

Timestamp 231 The Wedding of River Song

A wedding, two funerals, and a question.


A digital clock flickers on a computer screen, bouncing between 05:02:57 PM and 05:02:58 PM. Two soldiers patrol the corridors in Area 52, looking into supposedly empty tanks on their rounds. The tanks are not empty, however, but instead each contain a Silent. Behind a barricaded wooden door in a room containing an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a familiar woman stands in a black suit. She is River Song, wearing an eyepatch over her right eye. She smiles as the ominous nursery rhyme ushers out the scene.

Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock…
Doctor, brave and good.
He turned away from violence.
When he understood
The falling of the Silence.

The Wedding of River Song

It’s a weird timeline. Cars are flying on hot air balloons, the War of the Roses enters its second year as London picnickers are warned not to feed the pterodactyls, and Charles Dickens is interviewed on television about his new Christmas ghost special. Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill returns to Buckingham Senate on his personal mammoth.

Uh, what?

The Emperor is not pleased about his conference with Cleopatra and he asks his Silurian physician, Malokeh, for the time. It’s 5:02pm on April 22, 2011. Emperor Churchill is troubled by this news, despite the fact that it has always been the same date, so he summons his soothsayer from the Tower. He demands an explanation about what has happened to time. The Doctor raises his head and replies, “A woman.”

Some time before, the Doctor addresses a video receptor in a dark and damaged room.

“Imagine you were dying. Imagine you were afraid and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up and saw the face of the devil himself… Hello, Dalek.”

The Dalek Supreme is damaged beyond repair, so the Doctor takes it apart and scans its memory banks for any information regarding the Silence.

At a different time, now on the docks of Calisto B, the Doctor arrives at a bar and asks for Father Gideon Vandaleur. He offers the eyestalk from the Dalek Supreme as a calling card. Once he meets Father Vandaleur, once an envoy of the Silence, he uses his sonic screwdriver to reveal the Teselecta. The Father has been dead for six months, and he wants to speak to the shapeshifting ship’s captain. He wants to know about the Silence’s weakest link.

Using that information, he tracks down Gantok and challenges him to a game of live chess. The next move will kill Gantok, but the Doctor is willing to trade the victory for information. He wants to know why he has to die, and apparently Dorium Maldovar has the answer. Dorium was beheaded at Demon’s Run, but the Headless Monks have stored the leftovers in the Seventh Transept.

Dorium’s head is kept in a box, a luxury for the richest victims of the Monks. Gantok tries to kill the Doctor but instead falls into a trap with ravenous skulls. After the Doctor seals the trap, he addresses Dorium. The beheaded head explains that it was easier to create a fixed point in time to ensure that the Doctor would die without fail. If the Doctor lives, then…

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must be never, ever be answered.”

The Silence must fall when the question is asked. It is the first question, hidden in plain sight, but the Doctor doesn’t know it. Dorium asks if he wants to, and the Doctor nervously agrees. After he hears it, the Doctor takes Dorium’s head to the TARDIS and sets a course.

All of this is the tale that the Doctor tells Emperor Churchill. He talks to the emperor about it as they stroll through the Roman Senate. The emperor produces a revolver, claiming that the Soothsayer is dangerous company. The Doctor, noting a mark on his arm, agrees.

Back to the story, the Doctor continues his farewell tour. However, once he finds out that the Brigadier has died, he finally accepts that his time has come. He produces the invitations in the blue envelopes and asks the Teselecta to deliver them. He’d do it himself, except that it would mean crossing his own timestream.

He goes to Lake Silencio. He meets Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song. They drink a bottle of wine that Napoleon threw at him. The impossible astronaut rises from the lake. He goes to meet it after ordering his companions to stay back. This time we see that River Song is in the suit, unable to fight the plan in motion.

He explains that she won’t remember murdering him, but she will serve time for this crime that she can’t remember and committed against her will. He forgives her unconditionally and closes his eyes as his destiny arrives.

Except that it doesn’t. Instead of three blasts, there are five as River drains the suit’s power. The fixed point in time is subverted, resulting in the time track being derailed. In the future(?), Emperor Churchill and Doctor Soothsayer appear to be defending themselves with the revolver and a spear. While they can’t remember the Silence, they are surrounded by them.

They are saved by Amelia Pond, now wearing an eyepatch and in command of a platoon of soldiers. She shoots the Doctor point-blank. Luckily, it was only a stun bolt, and when the Doctor awakens on a train, he finds that Amy is only playing along. She returns the Doctor’s suit to him and start to plan.

Thanks to the crack in time, Amy has memories of alternate timelines but cannot recall that Captain Williams is really her husband.  Amy wonders if things can stay like they are, but the Doctor tells her that this mess, currently confined to Earth, will spread into the universe until all of reality disintegrates. Through it all, the Doctor continues to age because he is the focal point.

The train arrives at Area 52, housed within the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Doctor is given an eyepatch – an Eye Drive to remember the Silence when spotted – and walk past tanks of Silents that are uncharacteristically fixated on the Doctor. They arrive in the King’s Chamber and meet River Song and a captive Madame Kovarian.

After a bit of taunting, the Doctor grabs River’s arm, forcing time to start moving forward again. They appear back on the shores of Lake Silencio, but it all vanishes again when River pulls away and orders the Doctor to be restrained.

This is the moment when the Silents spring their trap. They’ve been waiting for the Doctor to arrive so they could break free and kill him. Kovarian reveals that the Eye Drives are designed to kill their users, though the Silence turns on her as well. Rory stays to hold off the Silents while River, Amy, and the Doctor ascend the pyramid to see what River has built as a contingency plan. The Silents descend on Rory, taunting him until Amy remembers who he is and destroys the Silents with a machine gun.

Amy then reveals that she remembers what Kovarian did to her and her daughter Melody. She ensures that Kovarian’s Eye Drive is properly affixed, then leaves her to die.

At the top of the pyramid, River reveals a distress beacon that she built with her knowledge as a child of the TARDIS. The message – “The Doctor is dying. Please help.” – is being broadcast to the universe in the past, present, and the future. The universe has been replying, despite the Doctor’s desire to close himself off from all of it, offering to help because he has helped them so many times.

River wants the Doctor to survive more than anything else in the universe. The Doctor, realizing that there is only one way to pacify River, uses his bow tie to marry her in a rushed ceremony. He whispers a secret into his bride’s ear and tells her she must never tell anyone what he has just told her.

As she looks at him in wonder, the Doctor asks for her help. They kiss and time is reset. River shoots the Doctor three times on the shore of Lake Silencio, preventing his regeneration, and the alternate timeline vanishes.

Later, River joins Amy for a bottle of wine. River has just come from the Byzantium mission and Amy is in the relative present. Amy is wracked with guilt and would love to talk to the Doctor about it, but she cannot. River, however, reveals the Doctor’s final secret, which they also tell Rory when he arrives home. They dance with joy until Amy realizes one fundamental truth: She is now the Doctor’s mother-in-law.

In the Seventh Transept, a monk returns Dorium’s head (and box) to its proper pedestal. The monk reveals himself as the Doctor, having hidden himself in the Teselecta. That was the secret he told River. The Doctor realizes that he’s become too big and noisy, so it’s time to step back into the shadows. While River serves her days in Stormcage, the Doctor admits that her nights are between him and her.

Dorium will keep the Doctor’s secrets, but warns that Trenzalore still awaits him. As does the question.

The first question.

The question that must never be answered.

The question that the Doctor has been running from his entire life.

“Doctor who?”

So, it is possible to bypass a fixed point in time because they did it twice here.

I will say, though, that the idea was a clever way to tie all the various pieces together and, like Father’s Day, an avenue to explore the fragility of time. The solution is a literal deus ex machina and a bit of a cheat, exchanging one fixed point subversion for another. The second one is okay though, I guess, because it’s in the screenplay. Or the way things were supposed to roll out?

The very nature of this story demands callbacks, many of which have already been mentioned above. As if those weren’t enough, the alternate Amy’s drawings served as a moment of rapid-fire nods from her temporal travels to date. They included the Krafayis, the Weeping Angels, the Saturnyns, the Daleks, the Minotaur, the Cybermen, the Smilers, and a self-portrait of her time in pirate garb. The major callback, of course, Amy’s partial protection from temporal fluctuations based on her long-term exposure to the crack from last season.

The Question is a running gag in the franchise, recently highlighted in Silver Nemesis and The Girl in the Fireplace, and has been in play since An Unearthly Child. I feel like the big gag here defuses a bit of the victory by sticking its tongue out at the audience. Here we are, basking in the glow of a major win that sidestepped the Doctor’s death and the destruction of the universe, and our closing thought is a corny meta joke.

As we’ve seen before, the question works as the occasional gag, but making it a major fixture of the franchise’s mythology feels like a bit of shark-jumping. It’s easily fixed, too. The point is the Doctor’s real name, so instead of “Doctor who?”, how about “Who is the Last of the Time Lords?” or something similar?

One last note on the first funeral of two: The Doctor’s new hair takes some getting used to.

Finally, I really loved the farewell for Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and the actor who brought him to life, Nicholas Courtney, who died eight months before this tale originally aired. Part of the episode was set in Cairo, the city of Courtney’s birth. Eyepatches were prevalent all around, referring to a favorite anecdote of his from Inferno. The Doctor was told that the Brigadier died peacefully in his sleep, which was directly from the Seventh Doctor’s prophecy in Battlefield.

That last one was a tearjerker, particularly with the news that the Brig waited patiently for the Doctor’s return with a spare glass of brandy at the ready. They may have sparred quite a bit since the day that they met, but both characters had a deep respect for each other.

Goodbye, Brigadier.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #230: Closing Time

Doctor Who: Closing Time
(1 episode, s06e12, 2011)

Timestamp 230 Closing Time

Here to help!

At the Sanderson & Grainger store in Colchester, Kelly and Shona prepare to close up for the night. Kelly is late for a date, so Shona offers to take her duties. Shona is perturbed that a customer is still in the changing rooms and is not amused at the flickering lights throughout the store.

Elsewhere, Craig Owens escorts his wife out the door for a weekend getaway, intent on showing her (and everyone else) that he can handle things on his own while she’s gone. Sophie has called a few people to check in on Craig, but he calls them back and tells them not to worry. He hears a knock at the door and, believing that Sophie has come back, answers it. To his dismay, his guest is none other than the Doctor.

His guest doesn’t like the new decor. Or the inexplicable power surges.

When he investigates, he finds a baby. Sophie and Craig’s baby.

Shona, on the other hand, finds a Cyberman. Surprise!

Craig tells the Doctor that he really can’t handle the baby. Alas, there are no off switches, but the Doctor has a secret weapon: He speaks baby.

It turns out that Alfie, the baby boy, prefers to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Sophie is “Mum”, Craig is “Not-Mum”, the Doctor is “also-not-Mum”, and everyone else is merely “peasant”.

The Doctor says that Craig’s place is one more stop on his great farewell tour, of which he has spent a considerable amount of time waving at the Ponds through history. He sets out to visit the Alignment of Exodor, trying desperately to not notice the oddities around him. His curiosity gets the best of him, however, and he ends up as a toy salesman at Sanderson & Grainger. Nametag and all.

Craig is surprised to see the Doctor demonstrating a remote control helicopter. The Doctor explains that he’s living in the moment, even introducing Craig to Yappy the robot dog (which is nowhere near as fun as other robot dogs he knows). His attention is drawn to a silver blur, and when Craig asks, the Doctor alludes to several missing people and the ongoing power fluctuations. The Doctor ushers Craig out, but is convinced by Stormie to explain the teleporter. The teleporter in the elevator which soon whisks them away to wherever the Cybermen are hiding. The Doctor reverses it and starts searching, begging Craig to take Alfie and go, but Craig refuses. He believes in the Doctor.

The Doctor, Craig, and Stormie return to the store and investigate. The Doctor gets word of a “silver rat thing” from Val, the perfume saleswoman who thinks that he and Craig are a couple. Craig stalks the women’s department, completely missing the silver blur and getting in trouble with security. Craig gets bailed out by the Doctor (who is absolutely adored by the staff) and they both end up in the changing rooms where Shona was last seen.

Oh, and the silver rat is a Cybermat. Which makes these Mondasian Cybermen, not Cybus Cybermen.

Craig wanders off to change Alfie. In the meantime, the Doctor spots Amy and Rory. Amy has become a bit of a celebrity thanks to her perfume ads, and is surprised that a little girl wants her autograph. The Doctor beams with pride as he avoids being seen.

After closing, the Doctor, Craig, and Stormie go hunting for Cybermats. They find one, teeth and all, then follow screams to security guard George. A Cyberman knocks the Doctor out with an electrical charge and takes George’s body away. The Doctor is confused as to how the Cybermen repaired the teleport so fast.

The team regroups at Craig’s house. The Doctor whips up a science experiment and gives Alfie a pep talk, realizing that it is his old age talking. In the meantime, the Cybermat reactivates and attacks the adorable duo. Unfortunately, the Doctor locks himself and Alfie outside without the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor tries to warn Craig, but the Cybermat wreaks havoc. One broken back door and a recalibration of the sonic later, the Cybermat is disabled.

While dissecting the Cybermat with a normal screwdriver and a loupe, the Doctor laments his position. Tomorrow is the day that the prophecy – “Silence will fall when the question is asked”, even though he has no idea what the question is – descends upon him. Craig falls asleep and the Doctor goes back to the store to hunt with his new friend Bitey the Cybermat.

The Doctor finds what he’s looking for behind a mirror in the changing room, descending down a tunnel into the foundation of the store. Craig follows the Doctor, leaving Alfie with Val, as the Time Lord explores the cyber ship and is captured. The Cybermen don’t find the Doctor to be compatible, but start conversion of Craig into the new Cyber Controller. The Doctor pleads with Craig to think of Alfie as the helmet seals around his face.

Alfie’s cries across an open CCTV channel reawaken Craig’s emotions, breaking him free of the conversion and starting an emotional feedback loop in the Cybermen. Their heads literally explode and the ship blows up as Craig and the Doctor use the teleport to return to the elevator.

Oh, and Bitey? He didn’t make it.

The day saved and the “companion” miscommunication nearly resolved, the Doctor spirits away. He uses the TARDIS to help tidy up Craig’s house. He also reveals that Stormie prefers the name Alfie now, and also refers to Craig as “Dad”. The Doctor borrows some blue stationery and Craig offers him a Stetson.

Sophie returns, Alfie has a first word, and the Doctor moves on. He says hello to some kids, an event that is somehow chronicled in the records at Luna University in the 52nd century. There, River Song encounters Madame Kovarian while doing research. Kovarian and her Silence companions reveal that they have locked out part of her memories, relating the story of an impossible astronaut.

River is sedated against her will and dressed in a spacesuit. She awakens under Lake Silencio.

She’s destined to kill the Doctor.

On the one hand, this is a good dramatic break from the tension developed over the last four episodes. It does a decent job of connecting the dots leading into the finale, making it less of a filler story than its predecessor. On the other hand, the downsides here are pretty big.

First, James Corden isn’t particularly funny here, which acts as an anchor around this story’s neck. Second, and perhaps more damning, is how this story defangs the Cybermen. The Cybermen haven’t been a central figure in a story since the David Tennant era. The last time was The Next Doctor, but the last truly impactful stories were all the way back in Series Two with Army of Ghosts & Doomsday and Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel.

The Cybermen here are, frankly, on the same level as The Next Doctor without the humor, the heart, or even the absurdity. They only serve to assimilate random victims and get blown to kingdom come as a function of the formula. They aren’t menacing, and they certainly don’t march anywhere. They’re nothing more than a prop.

I do appreciate several moments in this story.

  • The Doctor’s telepathy makes a comeback as he quiets people with a simple command.
  • The “I don’t like it” review of redecoration is a fun running gag from The Three DoctorsThe Five Doctors, and Time Crash.
  • The concept of another farewell tour, this one spanning 200 years or so.
  • The acknowledgement that the Doctor always offers a choice to his enemies. In fact, some of the best stories present the enemy failure as their own undoing.

We also see how what Pond life is like without the Doctor. It seems they’re doing well enough. The use of petrichor was a nice touch.

But in the effort to set this series up for a home-stretch sprint, this light-hearted episode stumbles while rounding the curve.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death is the Only Answer


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.