I’ve only been watching Doctor Who since the Eccleston season, so forgive me if I’m just discovering a decades-old trend, but have you noticed that the Doctor only talks about taking his companions to exotic foreign worlds? They never actually get there. Instead, they content themselves to visit Earth-bound locales, like apartment buildings, hotels, maybe the White House. Or, if they do go to other planets, they’re confined to warehouse-like spaceships or endless generic hallways and corridors.
Obviously, it’s a cost-saving measure, and I do appreciate the fact that the writing is good enough to sustain the show, even when it’s confined to ordinary environs. Still, when the Doctor describes the amazing and fantastic worlds he wants to share with his companions, I can’t help but feel robbed when they open the doors of the TARDIS and find they’re in a sound stage again.
Ah well, there’s still a story to be told, even in a haunted hotel. The hotel, of course, isn’t actually haunted. No, it’s really a prison maze for a space Minotaur. Who put him there, and what crimes he committed are not revealed. His transgressions must have been pretty bad, though, for the state to deem it reasonable to beam in an endless supply of innocent victims for the prisoner to kill for all eternity. Doesn’t seem like an effective punishment, but the Minotaur confesses that it’s all gotten rather exhausting, so the Doctor tries to help him.
Helping people in the Who-niverse, we know, isn’t easy. Plus, the Doctor hasn’t exactly been on top of his game for a while now. Everything he touches feels tainted somehow. His grand gestures and usual bag of timey-wimey tricks seem to only result in catastrophe and tragic compromise. As his streak of bad luck continues, one thing becomes clear: he is a danger to the health of his companions.
But there’s something unclear, too. Who is this Doctor? He eats apples and solves Rubik’s cubes. Yet, in previous episodes, he proclaims an aversion to both. Is the Doctor changing? Evolving somehow? Going through a phase? Or is he not the Doctor? The Doctor said he knew Amy wasn’t Amy, back when the ganger had taken her place. But could the Doctor know he’s not the Doctor? Or can lack of continuity just be lack of continuity, and nothing more?
The bright and clever Rita would have made a nice companion, but the Doctor has already had a bright and clever med student in his care, so that seems unlikely. Plus, since she doesn’t survive the episode, he’d have to find her and collect her in a time prior to this episode. But I’m very glad she’s here, because she shares so many important thoughts. She even gets the titular line of the night when she tells the Doctor: “Why is it up to you to save us? That’s quite a God complex you have there.” And she’s right. The Doctor is a savior, or at least plays at it. And Amy worships him. She always has. She even kept the faith when he left her as a child. Why that faith could not sustain her in last week’s episode, I’m not sure.
When the Doctor leaves (or is left by) a companion, it’s usually pretty dramatic. This time, similar to Martha’s exit, it’s a little more quiet. He sets them up in a home, with a fancy car, providing for them in much the same way he took care of Donna. But does anyone really believe that’s the end of the Ponds?
We still have two more episodes to go in this season. We know next week is all about Craig, and the last episode is about River. So, it’s possible this is the last we’ll see of the Ponds this season, and yet it still feels very incomplete.
There’s still the matter of the Impossible Astronaut and the mystery of the Doctor’s death at the beginning of the season. So, I think we can expect to see Amy and Rory again, at least to bring some closure to that thread. In the meantime, if they’re feeling homesick for their adventures in time and space, I’m sure they can find an abandoned orphanage, warehouse or sound stage to chase each other around in.