The Moffatts Take Manhattan

Last month, my wife was really sick and quarantined in our bedroom. My natural response was to sleep on the couch and try to watch on all Doctor Who episodes aired since its revival in 2005. I was not successful in this endeavor. The Series 7 premiere was looming, and I skipped over about half of the Tennant years so I could watch all the Smith stuff.

If you don’t watch Doctor Who, you might as well quit reading now. If you do and haven’t watched it all, you definitely want to quit reading now!

[BEGIN GIANT SPOILERS]

OK, I’ve loved this show since I was a kid and will continue to watch it as long as they make more, but I’ve got some Doctor Who rage I need to get off my chest. I may well have overlooked or misunderstood some stuff. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments, but leave my eyebrows. I need them.

A couple nights ago, I watched “The Angels Take Manhattan“, in which the Ponds leave the show. They hyped the crap out of this episode. There was so much about how it was so brilliant and touching and how tears would be in our eyes.

I’m gonna be that guy now. The one who did not experience any of the things in the promotional hype packet. I hated that episode.

Why? Because I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I hate the way Steven Moffatt resolves big plotlines.

In both the series 5 and 6 finales, our protagonists find themselves in a strange and impossible scenario. In both, Moffatt pulls some arbitrary time-travel rule out of his ass and everybody treats it like it’s gospel.

In 5, I can buy the Pandorica’s universe-blueprinty light getting transmitted everywhere and deus ex machinaing everything back into being. I don’t understand how everybody was running around and existing and time travelling when the universe and time itself had effectively ended, but it was cool enough that I can handwave it and make it OK. That and having people erased from time, but if you’re a time traveler they’re not really erased makes me wish they’d pick a model for time travel and stick with it. Is there one timeline that can be changed? Are there multiple timelines and a new one can just fork from an existing one if you change one?

In 6, there was all sorts of weird hubbub about fixed points in time, and really bad things happen if you don’t let them happen. Like, for instance, having all of history happening simultaneously. Which makes for some neat visuals, but then having linear time happening (despite all the timepieces refusing to budge past 5:02pm) means we have yet another model for time travel, except this one just plain doesn’t make any sense. And then, people remember stuff that happened there despite some people being different people and it not ever really existing or maybe it existed at all points in time or maybe that existence never existed or I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL. Also, not resolving him going back to see the Ponds until the Christmas episode: not cool. Glad I didn’t wait months for that.

And now, we’ve got the weird Moffatty arbitrary rules-wagon rolling in a pivotal episode where we ditch a couple beloved characters. Apparently, if you find out what’s going to happen in the future, you can’t change it. Except, like, every other damned episode where you totally do that because you travel in time. I don’t get why Rory’s tombstone was still there if the timeline was altered, and I don’t get why his seeing it only changed the timeline back for him alone if it was a fixed point. And I didn’t really get why the Doctor could never go save Rory. Yeah, he can’t land the Tardis in 1938 because the Angels have taken a big time-dump what with warping everybody back there repeatedly. Could he go there in 1937, hang out a year and save him in 1938, and then TARDIS the hell out in 1939? Could he just drive to New Jersey and have that work OK? For a show that had a dude hang out for 1894 years to guard over his girlfriend (who was in literally the safest damn place in the universe), they gave up awful easy on poor Rory. And Amy’s message at the end, talking about how they “lived well”. Last I checked, they spent 60 years in a prison surrounded by monsters.

And, OK, last thing I swear: as interesting an idea as the Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel is, and as cool and shocking as that visual was…. REALLY? NOBODY IN MANHATTAN IS GOING TO SEE HER WALKING AROUND? DID YOU NOT SEE GHOSTBUSTERS 2? OK, I feel better now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually really do love this show. I just feel like Moffatt is just making shit up as he goes along sometimes, and doesn’t really care about continuity or consistency. Usually, I’m OK with leaving those behind for an episode, but not when you’re going to say goodbye to some characters you’ve come to love over several years. I dug the Ponds. I was a little weirded out by Amy being all “I have both of you” and then having a married couple on the Tardis, but it totally worked. They deserved better than what they got.

2 Responses to The Moffatts Take Manhattan

  1. I would have to agree with you that I was probably a bit underwhelmed with the episode. For some of the fixed point issues, time loops, and why some things happen the way they did, I would have to sit down and rewatch the episode, which I haven’t had a chance to do, so I am of no help to you there. The only thing I thought was really cool about the episode was the ending, where it turns out the Doctor comes back to Amy after she was waiting 12 years after first visiting her because Amy told him to go do it in the novel. But then again, that sort of odd circular reasoning that comes and goes fits in line with some of the issues and concerns you bring up.

  2. 1) Paradox happened because things didn’t happen exactly the way they were supposed to. Doesn’t mean the ending doesn’t happen the way it was stated. So Rory’s tombstone is still there. It didn’t change anything by it being there, it showed that the “end” never changed at all.

    2) To go back again and even ATTEMPT to save them would create that Paradox that would destroy Manhattan. Having nothing at all to do with what year he dropped down in to do so.

    If Rory had went “zomg tombstone” and run into the Tardis immediately, that might well have also created the “Big One” paradox, OR it might have just meant that they hadn’t caught him yet. They did state that if they created the paradox that they would ALWAYS be running to stay a step ahead of the angels. For the rest of his life he would always be running and nowhere would be safe. So at no point would “the end” where Rory’s tombstone wouldn’t be there happen unless he remained running and was never caught before he died in some other way… Which then of course could create that “Big One” paradox.

    Amy deciding to go WITH him is what created the fixed point in time. Forcing the issue meant that it was now written in stone. Literally. Her name was on the tombstone below Rory’s.

    Dr. Who has always operated on the single timeline theory I do believe. Which is also why he never goes back to a point in time he’s already been. Well… almost never. I think I remember an episode where that was mentioned and there were repercussions if he ever met himself. But I can’t remember for certain.

    That said, just because there’s a single timeline doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside of that timeline to another universe. Rose is in another universe entirely and during the pandorica thingy, they were whipping around outside of time and space (aka between universes or in another universe).

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