In my heart, I knew it couldn’t last. Steven Moffat had delivered three strong Doctor Who episodes in a row from The Wedding of River Song to Asylum of the Daleks. The episodes from other writers that followed the season opener were all solid, albeit none of them truly spectacular, and seemed to point to the best stretch of Doctor Who since 2007 – as long as Moffat could deliver the goods with this past weekend’s semi-season finale.
Sadly, the most distinctive thing about The Angels Take Manhattan was how underwhelming it was. Not only were the hard-boiled detective trappings used in the most boring way possible, the ending didn't even come close to being "sad" or " heartbreaking" or any of the other adjectives that were used in overselling this episode to fans.
While the device of the Doctor learning what happened to Amy and Rory through the last page of the book was set up nicely, what it revealed was actually quite disappointing. Learning that they lived well frankly undercuts any sense of sadness or tragedy and the Doctor's reaction to the revelation was ridiculous. One of the few constants in Doctor Who is that, while the Doctor may miss the friends who leave him, he always wants them to be happy in their lives that come after no matter what it means for him.
It's not like Steven Moffat doesn't understand this concept. He executed it brilliantly in the Doctor's monologue near the end of The Big Bang, as the Doctor said goodbye to Amelia Pond without knowing whether he’d see Amy Pond again. Two seasons later, Smith's Doctor who once exemplified the character's simultaneously ancient but youthful soul now comes across like a desperate high-schooler whose crush has gone off with someone else. When I think back to the way previous Doctors handled these kinds of losses - Pertwee's somber dignity when Jo Grant left or Eccleston's heartfelt request that Rose "have a fantastic life" - it's hard not to feel cheated.
This is especially true, because I know Moffat can do far better and that when he does Smith can more than deliver the goods. I can only hope he’s already started, because if he hasn’t Doctor Who’s 50th birthday could be a very long year.