While last week’s episode, “The Time of Angels,” was arguably River Song’s story, the second chapter of this big DOCTOR WHO tale, “Flesh and Stone,” was clearly all about Amy. Once again, we saw the Doctor refracted through the important women in his life: his current companion and his future…what, exactly?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Doctor came up with a cunning plan to get out of last week’s cliff-hanger (He maneuvered it so everyone was able to fall up to the Byzantium using the ship’s artificial gravity. Great. What really made this episode for me was the touching scene between the Doctor and Amy when he left her in the clearing so he and River could go find the primary flight deck.
As Amy lamented the Doctor’s tendency to leave her, he abruptly returned and begged – begged – her to trust him. But the Doctor was very different in this moment: While he left her in his shirtsleeves, he returned once again wearing his tweed jacket (which had been taken from him by an angel). He also seemed somewhat quieter – older? — but still intense as he gently took her hand:
“Amy, you need to start trusting me. It’s never been more important,” he whispered.
“But you don’t always tell me the truth,” she countered.
“If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t need you to trust me. Remember what I told you when you were 7?”
“What did you tell me?”
“No,” he replied, clearly anguished as he pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes, “See, that’s the point. You have to remember.” He puts his hand in her hair and kissed her tenderly on the forehead.
“Remember what?” she bleated.
This seemed to be a concerned, almost frantic Doctor. It is entirely possible that this was a version of the Doctor from later in the season, venturing back in time to give Amy the message about believing in him. Clearly, his relationship with her is more affectionate than it has appeared to be until now. He presses his forehead to hers in a tender gesture, and then gently kisses her on the head, noting, “You have to remember.” Whatever the explanation for the Doctor’s behavior, it is interesting to contemplate that this was the first story filmed for the season, meaning that Matt Smith and Karen Gillan barely knew each other when they shot these scenes of intimate friendship, trust and affection. Clearly, these are two extraordinary actors. Smith got another great moment to emote when he teared up as the Doctor realized that he had to let an angel snap Father Octavian’s neck. Smith also flashed the 11th Doctor’s temper again, when he railed at River for criticizing his plan: “What else have you got?” he roared. “Tell me!” Later, Gillan was given another big opportunity when Amy did her level best to seduce the Doctor. As she stripped off his braces he whined, “I’m 907 years old!” Still, after the slapstick, there was umbrella storyline to tend to, and the Doctor suddenly twigged to the significance of the date. “Amy Pond,” he recited. “Mad, impossible Amy Pond. I don’t know why, I have no idea, but quite possibly the single most important thing in the history of the universe is that I get you sorted out right now.”
For someone who looms so prominently in the Doctor’s future, River Song (Alex Kingston) seemed somewhat superfluous in this story. Sure, she was responsible for dragging the Doctor into events, but that was her only real contribution. She devoted the majority of her time to being a distraction and dropping cryptic hints about her impending relationship with him. It was strongly (and I mean strongly) implied that River killed the Doctor. Well, one of him, at least. In fact, she was incarcerated in Stormcage Prison for murder. “You can’t trust her, River Song. You think you know her, but you don’t. You don’t understand who or what she is,” Octavian warned. “She killed a man. A good man. A hero to many.” My natural reaction was, “No way Steven Moffat actually goes there. He’s too savvy for that.” But it sure would be interesting if he did. River Song almost certainly has to have killed the 11th incarnation, because I cannot imagine waiting until the endgame of the 12th persona to play out this gambit. The question is, Was/will it be a true death, or something else entirely? Perhaps the question of “What did she do?” has been planted by Moffat to distract from the bigger question: “Who is she?” My theories boil down to three possibilities: She’s the Doctor’s future wife (hence her motive for murder?); his daughter-in-law (and Susan’s mother); or Romana (who used a Chameleon Arch to become human).
We will certainly get more pieces of the puzzle soon, but will we get answers later this season? As she stood awaiting transport, River sighed to the Doctor, “You, me, handcuffs. Must it always end this way?” (Fans know it does: She will die with the 10th Doctor handcuffed helplessly nearby.) But for now, River promised that she would see the Doctor again “when the Pandorica opens.” The Doctor may end up wishing the Pandorica was just a fairy tale…