My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The sixth season finale of Doctor Who, while not as big and flashy as last season’s, did a remarkable job of addressing the conundrums raised this season, beginning with the who and why of the Doctor’s death shown in the season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut.” Steven Moffat had pretty much written himself into a corner over the course of the season, and it was somewhat of a miracle that this resolution made any kind of sense.
The prevalent theme this season has been the Doctor’s increasing belief that his powers are much more harmful than they are beneficial. Starting at the end of last season when the entire universe conspired to confine him in the Pandorica because they feared his power, it culminated in the Doctor issuing a post-hypnotic command to the entire human race instructing them to kill members of the Silence on sight in “Day of the Moon.” This act of ruthless genocide propelled the Doctor from relative obscurity to galactic infamy. Coupled with the Doctor’s realization in “The God Complex” that Amy’s faith in him was regularly exposing her to death, he determined he had to stop putting her and Rory in danger.
This theme was nicely turned on its head by River’s actions. Setting off a distress beacon to the universe through all of time, she shows that the Doctor is not the monster he has come to see himself as, but as the friend and benefactor to the universe. “You’ve touched so many lives, saved so many people. Did you really think when your time came, you’d really have to do more than just ask? You’ve decided that the universe is better off without you. But the universe doesn’t agree.”
So, after tricking the universe into thinking River had killed him, the Doctor has gone back into obscurity, at least for now. This little reset is undoubtedly well deserved. I don’t think the series could go on much longer if the Doctor had to continually contend with everyone wanting him dead. Nevertheless, we are still left with some major unanswered questions that have the potential to significantly up the ante.
This being Doctor Who, I don’t suppose we should think too hard about the logic of the story. For example, if time is stopped in the bubble universe why wouldn’t everything stop moving? Also, the writers built up the premise that the Doctor’s death was a fixed time point, but then cheated by having him surviving inside the Tesselecta. Superficially, this makes sense, but if the Doctor is alive, why did the time stream revert back to normal?
I enjoyed many of the small touches in this episode. Pterodactyls in the park, Winston Churchill as the Holy Roman Emperor, floating cars, and many other whimsical sights relieved some of the tension. Seeing Rory staying behind to defend everyone was a nice cap to his growth this season.
So the question remains as to when the Silence will figure out that the Doctor is still alive. Is Madame Kovarian really dead? Will Amy and Rory continue to be companions, or will the Doctor leave them to live their lives? Will we see some of the adventures of the Doctor and River as a married couple? And what is the oldest question, the question from the beginning of the universe, which has been hidden in plain sight?
As long as Matt Smith plays the Doctor with his intriguing combination of innocence and inner darkness, I’ll be watching.