There are a variety of causes of de@th for fictional TV characters. It’s necessary for the plot sometimes for them to perish. In other cases, characters die offscreen because production needs to make way for new faces. When actors are leaving a production, a dramatic de@th can be a fitting farewell. No of the motivation, character de@ths can be tricky to pull off convincingly.
It must be genuine and sincere, not forced or insincere, otherwise, the audience would be frustrated. The main character of Doctor Who, the Doctor, dies several times throughout the course of the series and then “regenerates” into a new body at the end of each season so that the show can continue indefinitely.
Even though character de@ths are a staple of the show, Doctor Who is responsible for giving some of its most beloved companions the most disappointing sendoffs in the history of television.
As a refresher, the “companions” of the Doctor are just regular people (often human and British) who get swept up in his escapades. They go on adventures with the Doctor for two seasons before being replaced.
They don’t die very often, though, and instead usually leave because a disaster stops them from continuing their travels with the Doctor, or, less frequently, because they decide to go.
The advantages of this are self-evident; by keeping former companions alive, Doctor Who opens the door for appearances by said companions at a later date, such as when Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) returned for an episode (Series 2, “School Reunion”) or when Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble returns in the 60th Anniversary specials this November.
However, there are times when Doctor Who decides to go out with a bang. Two of the longest-running and most adored companions from the new series—Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill)—met this end. It was terrible, I’m afraid to say.
‘Doctor Who’s’ Amy and Rory’s Departure Could Have Gone Either Way
The final episode of Amy and Rory, titled “The Angels Take Manhattan,” got off to a great start. Time travelers are safe from Weeping Angels because they don’t directly attack with time travel but instead feed off of their victims’ temporal potential. If you could just go back in time and pick them up, that problem would be solved.
However, this time around there is a catch; the Angels are using paradoxes to ensnare their prey. Someone is sent back in time, and once there, they are held captive in a hotel room until their younger selves come to visit. According to the guidelines set forth in the episode, if you find out something will happen in your future, it will.
The episode’s central theme is that the Ponds have no way to prevent what’s coming. Rory’s name appears on a headstone early in the episode, although no one notices it at the time.
To help the Doctor (then played by Matt Smith) and Amy get back to the 1930s, where she and Rory have become stuck, River Song (Alex Kingston) has written a book outlining the events of the episode. The last chapter of that book is titled “Amelia’s Farewell.” The laws of the show dictate that the Ponds must depart, or face dire consequences.
It doesn’t feel inevitable since the Ponds have fought fate before and triumphed. Once, Rory disappeared from the face of the earth, but he made a triumphant return. Amy’s younger self was stranded on a planet for 36 years, but they found a way to save her. Time’s inevitable march toward completion is an appropriate theme for their final journey.
The moment they resolve to continue fighting despite the Doctor’s assurances that they won’t succeed rings true to who they are as a group. By deciding to break time together one last time by jumping over the hotel’s roof, they ensure that Rory will never be brought back in time (thus preventing the contradiction that would destroy the angels). It’s gratifying because it was earned. If that had been the end of the program, it would have been satisfying.
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Unfortunately, ‘Doctor Who’ Failed to Make It
The Doctor and River Song are standing in front of the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Ponds walk in. They’re back where Amy and the Doctor left off in 2012, in a cemetery. There’s a brief moment of jubilation, but then Rory remembers the gravestone from the beginning of the show that bears his name.
A Weeping Angel that made it through the paradox attacks him and sends him back in time, but he can’t get back because his name is on the tombstone. Amy begs the Doctor to go and get him, but he refuses, saying that he would have to destroy New York City in the process.
Amy agrees to go with the Angel who abducted Rory so that she can be with him in the past. At the episode’s conclusion, the Doctor reads a farewell note written by Amy at the back of River’s book.
There are so many issues here that it’s difficult to know where to begin. The story’s emotional climax occurred when Amy and Rory resolved to kill themselves in order to stop the Angels. Their rooftop interaction is touching and fulfilling.
But in numerous ways, the show instantly undermines that. Adding a second tragic conclusion so soon after the first seems unnecessary and self-indulgent. The rooftop sacrifice becomes suspect due to Angel’s appearance at the cemetery.
If an angel still resides here, then the paradox failed, and the Angels continue to feast on the unfortunate guests they lure to their hotel. There shouldn’t be any more trouble getting to the 1930s in and around New York City if the paradox didn’t operate.
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From here on out, the logistical complications will only increase. If “the timelines are too scrambled,” as the Doctor puts it, he can’t take the T.A.R.D.I.S. back to 1930s New York City, but that doesn’t stop him from doing so in the 1940s and picking them up five to ten years later.
If they died and were buried there, as suggested by the tombstone, then why didn’t they just buy a tombstone and put it there themselves, eliminating the possibility of another paradox? Or, if they were going to die and be buried in New York City anyhow, what was the problem with continuing their adventures with the Doctor? More analysis reveals its inherent weakness.
There have been many cheesy and unsatisfactory deaths in television history, but the Ponds’ deaths may be the worst examples of this. Doctor Who was at the pinnacle of its revival, the episode’s premise was solid, and the performers gave solid performances. The story, however, relies on a tangled explanation of time travel that should have been more foolproof.
Doctor Who has always had a “wibbly wobbly, time-y wimey” stance on time travel, which allows for a great deal of charming high-concept nonsense. You need unbreakable time travel logic when your story is about discovering holes in it.
The intention of “The Angels Take Manhattan” was to give the Ponds a memorable sad ending, but the episode instead left viewers thinking, “Why didn’t they just do that instead?”
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