Well, here it is. The last episode before the mid-season finale that will send the Ponds off on their way. Thus this episode felt like a filler story in which it had to set up Amy and Rory to be where they needed to be before their final episode so in a way this was ticking off boxes on a list (pun somewhat intended). That said, there were some lovely moments, a few interesting teases that were thrown out, and some old friends come to call.
Chris Chibnall (who also wrote Dinosaurs On A Spaceship) wrote this lovely ode to friendship and the unique relationship the Doctor has with his companions in general but these companions in particular. And while there was a lot of wheel-spinning in this episode there were some amazing moments like the Doctor saying that the Ponds were the first faces his eyes had seen (meaning his eyes as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor) was a pretty touching moment. In fact, with an overly emotional Doctor explaining his constant motion to see everything in the universe before it fades (as opposed to the lonely god and PTSD war victim we’ve seen so far in Nu-Who)and its invasion story with appearances by government officials, it felt more like a Russel T. Davies-era Who story than a Stephen Moffat-era one. (In fact you could easily recast this story for the tenth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, and Jackie Tyler in place of the 11th Doctor, Amy, Rory, and Brian Williams respectively and it would work.)
The notion of the cubes and the invasion were never really the thrust of the story; to use the classical film term, they are the McGuffin. This is really a story about patience; and in a callback to Amy (the girl who waited for The Doctor), and Rory (the centurion who waited for Amy), we have the Doctor having absolutely no patience for this invasion of the cubes. It was hilarious to see him paint the fence, have a kick-about with a soccer ball, and do some work on the car and the lawn all within an hour. Speaking of patience it was cute watching Brian “my middle name is Dilligence” Williams with his daily video log.
To be fair while the episode was light on plot, it was heavy on character bits and showed what life is like for the Ponds when the Doctor is away. It was hilarious to see them leave their anniversary party for seven weeks of their life but then come back to their party a few seconds later and no one noticed. Well, no one but Brian and it was an interesting having someone notice what happens when a companion disappears and how that changes them. But I was conflicted by Brian first questioning the Doctor to the fate of his companions to encouraging Amy and Rory to travel with him again.
The other great bit was the official return of U.N.I.T. headed up by Kate Stewart (née Lethbridge-Stewart). I love the idea that U.N.I.T. is now an army led by science and I really love the idea that The Brig’s daughter is now in charge (and as played by Jemma Redgrave, is just as droll in handling the Doctor as her father was, if having a little touch of the fangirl about her. I hope we see more of her, and the new U.N.I.T. again.
In the end, it was a lovely little Valentine to the Amy and Rory era, but it felt like the Doctor had this impending sense of doom about him. There’s been a theory floating around that the Doctor has already seen the end of the Ponds and is inserting himself back into their timeline for some last time with them before their fateful trip to New York where the weeping angels (and their daughter) await them.