These are the kind of things we do well.
Taking an offhand remark or a salient moment from an episode of Doctor Who and then spin it out into a fan theory that is both engaging and convincing as well as over-eager and easily dismissed; and this one, from What Culture is a doozy: Did Doctor Who Series 7a happen in the wrong order?
Intrigued? Well, it all hinges on a moment during A Town Called Mercy, the Doctor and Rory mention an unseen adventure in which Rory left his phone charger in Henry VIII’s en suite. Now, this is fine, that adventure like many preceding it probably took place between Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and Mercy, but in the following episode, The Power of Three, fans are shown the adventure in question where Amy accidentally marries Henry VIII, as you do.
The problem then is obvious, how can we see an adventure taking place in the present episode that has already been described in the past tense in a previous episode?
Now you could just say: ‘Well, perhaps they were swapped around for transmission? Both episodes were shot in the same production block and they do work better in this order.’ Or, if you are more imaginative, you could take this small moment and use it as exhibit A to argue that perhaps the whole of Series 7 is out of order for the Doctor; that he originally started the events of Series 7 with the death of the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan and that every story preceding that, from our point of view, was a chance to spend more time with them before inevitably, there were no more moments in along their timeline together where he could intervene.
The evidence for this is obviously subjective: The awkward manner in which he greets them in The Power of Three and his ultimate decision to spend more time on Earth with them to ultimately let the pain of losing them go and remember why he loved them as companions – and his particularly evasive response to Brian’s concern for Amy and Rory, the moment in A Town Called Mercy where Amy warns him that he must not travel alone and his utterly crushed reaction, the Doctor apparently knowing Brian’s name without any on screen prompting from Rory in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – with Amy again telling the Doctor that it has been ten months since he has seen them, creating another fixed point that he cannot breach, and the divorce in Asylum of the Daleks which reminds him that these fixed points are beginning to cluster, meaning there are fewer moments where he can intercede in their time line (hence the smaller interactions such as the phone messages at the beginning of the episode – apparently the laws of time and space are lenient to the Time Lord equivalent of drunk dialling).
It’s those pesky Daleks that ultimately cost him the chance to spend more time with the Ponds but with Madge’s consent and time against him, he once again pays a visit at Christmas time in The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe; where they inform him that they hadn’t seen him since the events of The Wedding of River Song and thus, the timeline is now closed off – it’s here that The Eleventh Doctor finally allows himself to cry; knowing that this is one of those endings that he so dearly hates to confront.
It’s from here that the Doctor both closes some of the plot holes and loose ends from the previous series: he takes River to Darillium and fashions a new sonic for her, a forlorn figure, he watches the Towers sing in Last Night and then finally, he takes the decision to park his TARDIS on a cloud and see out the remainder of his days in this incarnation tinkering with the desktop theme.
Phew, well what do we think? Of course, there are issues with this theory; the most pertinent of which are the ones dealing with the audiences heartstrings. I can’t imagine anyone would want to build a series this way and not make it the focus of it. You would have to foreground this slow goodbye otherwise every episode would have this elephant in the room in every episode.
To an extent, this is River Song’s story – she dies when the Doctor first meets her and then ultimately the more we learn of her, the less time they have together and I just don’t think that works for the Ponds; we have already met them and developed a connection, unless their departure was a shock like the first time Clara dies (perhaps it was an attempt to right that mistake) then it doesn’t satisfy in the same way as a traditional, foreshadowed goodbye – even though I do like the symmetry of it and it does seem to be something right up Moffat’s street.
Could it have been abandoned? Was this Moffat’s folly? Does this make a mockery of statements like: Doctor Who is all about emotion when clearly if this was the case, plot has intervened and lessened the impact of the events of The Angels Take Manhattan? Does this explain with so many plates to spin, why everything felt rushed during that episode? Was the heart of Series 7a ultimately the thing that broke it? Which is better: Russell T Davies’ heart-on-sleeve, character-driven epic finales or the more cerebral, complex puzzles that have come to typify Moffat’s reign?
What do you think?