Friday 12 October 2012

Doctor Who - P.S.

People who have been following my Doctor Who reviews will know that my favourite new addition this year is the character of Brian Williams, Rory’s father. Although he was only in two episodes, he added an immense amount of humanity to the story of Amy and Rory, a story I’ve been very critical of. I still feel strongly that he is a character who should have been included in the show ages ago, but at least we got him towards the end of Amy and Rory’s time. After Amy and Rory’s departure in “The Angels Take Manhattan”, I was left somewhat disappointed that Brian had received no closure and isn’t even mentioned in the episode. However, the BBC have now released a short unfilmed scene titled simply “P.S.” It is a collection of story boards with some written narration and a voice-over by Arthur Darvill, who plays Rory. Written by Chris Chibnall, who wrote the two stories in which Brian appears, the scene provides that needed sense of closure for the character. For people who haven’t seen it, I’ve included the scene here so you can watch it before reading the rest of my response (although there’s not really much in the way of spoilers anyway).

Simply put, this would have been a beautiful scene, and I really wish it had been filmed. After “The Angels Take Manhattan”, I didn’t really expect to see any follow-up on Brian in the show. Although I really hoped that maybe some future episode would look in on him, it’s just not in the style of the series at the moment to follow up on secondary characters like this. The release of this scene in this format pretty much cements that Brian will never appear on the show again, but at least he has some closure now.
It’s unclear exactly when or why “P.S.” was written or for which episode. From Brian’s point of view, it takes place after “The Power of Three” (and the filmed part at the very beginning of the scene is from that episode), also by Chris Chibnall, but if it had been part of that story, it would have given away the ending of the next story. It’s possible it was intended as an epilogue to “The Angels Take Manhattan”, even though that episode was written by Steven Moffat, not Chibnall, and it was cut for some reason. Or it may have been written quite recently as a little hand-out to fans who have responded so positively to Brian, although the fact it has been storyboarded suggests it was intended for filming. It may also have been intended as a "webisode", a sort of epilogue to "Pond Life" that would have gone on-line after "The Angels Take Manhattan", but for some reason didn't work out.

Whatever the case, I wish “P.S.” had been the closing scene of “The Angels Take Manhattan”. It wouldn’t have made the nonsensical aspects of that story any better, but it might just have made them a little more palatable by showing the actual consequences of what has happened. In the last couple of years on Doctor Who, we have rarely gotten to see anymore the effect the Doctor has on the lives of people other than his companions: the people his companions leave behind when they choose to travel with him, or even the people they interact with along the way. Russel T Davies was great for showing this side of things, and I’ve really missed it since he left. If “P.S.” had closed “The Angels Take Manhattan”, we would have seen this effect, and I feel that Amy and Rory’s departure would have had far more impact. The fact that the Doctor can never see Amy and Rory again is unfortunate (if contrived), but Amy and Rory are, when it comes down to it, only two out of many, many companions. This doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be upset, but for the audience looking on, we know that he’ll find a new companion soon enough and he’ll be back to his old self. But Brian is a very different case. Brian can’t just get a substitute son and daughter-in-law. Brian is also someone the viewer can relate to far better than the Doctor. As such, Brian’s heartbreak hits much, much harder.

There is, of course, the matter of timing. Fitting another scene onto the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan” would require cutting something else, and this could be why “P.S.” was never filmed (if, indeed, it was ever intended to be part of that story). However, as I mentioned in my review of “Manhattan”, the pre-titles sequence, while atmospheric, ultimately serves no real purpose in the story. I don’t feel that removing that sequence would harm the episode in any way, and doing so would allow more than enough time to fit in “P.S.” Alas, that’s not the way things ended up.

P.S.” is also very similar to a scene in “Blink”, in which Sally receives a letter from her friend trapped in the past. Although “Blink” had nothing to do with Amy and Rory (being before the Doctor met them), it was the first story to feature the weeping angels. In that way, the fact that “P.S.” is mimicking this scene (I suspect quite deliberately) is thematically appropriate, and makes for a satisfying closed loop and nod to the earlier story that made “The Angels Take Manhattan” possible.

In short, “P.S.” is a truly beautiful scene that should have been in the actual show. It would have provided a tragic, but fitting, closure for one of the best characters seen on Doctor Who in several years. In doing so, it would have made Amy and Rory’s departure truly tragic.

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