Features Angels Take Manhattan 2

Published on August 8th, 2013 | by Andrew Reynolds

Why Can’t The Doctor Return for the Ponds?

‘The Washington Theory’ - it’s all a matter of geography.

Y’see, last year, Guardian writer and friend of Blogtor Who Dan Martin, sat down with Steven Moffat to discuss the Series 7a finale The Angels Take Manhattan – and more specifically, ‘the Washington Theory’.

Angels Take Manhattan Graveyard

He asked Moffat why could Amy and Rory not just travel to Washington (or anywhere for that matter) and meet the Doctor there.

Had Moffat left a useful plot thread dangling to bring the beloved companions back in a couple of years?

Apparently not, according to the man himself:

“New York would still burn. The point being, he can’t interfere. Here’s the ‘fan answer’ – this is not what you’d ever put out on BBC One, because most people watch the show and just think, ‘well there’s a gravestone so obviously he can’t visit them again’. But the ‘fan answer’ is, in normal circumstances he might have gone back and said, ‘look we’ll just put a headstone up and we’ll just write the book’. But there is so much scar tissue, and the number of paradoxes that have already been inflicted on that nexus of timelines, that it will rip apart if you try to do one more thing. He has to leave it alone. Normally he could perform some surgery, this time too much surgery has already been performed. But imagine saying that on BBC One.”

Moffat also spoke of the many drafts it took to find the right emphasis for the Ponds’ departure:

“To be honest they were all quite similar. There was a slightly more involved version which put River slightly more central. But I sort of realised I was trying to tell about four stories when two was quite enough. So I trimmed it down. Increasingly, the point of the story is the Doctor doesn’t really do anything for the second half except more or less complain and try to stop everything working. Obviously there was a point when he wasn’t like that, but I realised that that was the story.


Once he realises he can’t escape the fact she’s going to leave him, he becomes sort of useless, and that’s the drama. And the dramatic heart of Doctor Who is very rarely the Doctor himself because he’s the man who fixes everything. This time he’s the man to whom it happens and that makes him interesting in a different way – and an amazing performance from Matt Smith as well.”

Angels Take Manhattan 1

So is this really the last time we’ll see the Ponds and the Doctor together?

“You could never eliminate the possibility of dream sequences and flashbacks, but will the Doctor see them again? No. When I was first talking to Karen and Arthur about it, we said ‘let’s make it the proper ending’. Bringing back things just gives you sequel-itis. Just end it and get out. Heaven knows if they’ll appear in some form of flashback – I have no plans to do that, I have to say – but the story of Amy and The Doctor is definitively over.”

Is this Moffat playing his usual games with audiences’ expectations? Are you entirely convinced by the ‘scar tissue’ explanation? Do the means justify the end?

As usual, your opinions below.


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About the Author


Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.

30 Responses to Why Can’t The Doctor Return for the Ponds?

  1. avatar Al says:

    The show can’t always backtrack. Tom Baker never went back to Leela. Troughton left Dodo alone. McCoy never tried to check on Peri. Companions leave and the show moves on, as it should. Let the Ponds rest.

    • Ten went back and saw each and everyone before regenerating, so said Eleven!

  2. I’m sorry, Moffat, that answer is very wishy-washy. While watching the episode, I was like, this is a big plot hole, but it also feels like Moffat had a well explained reason for it, he just wasn’t able to get it across on TV in the time he had. And this confirms that, but then the explanation he gives is very vague. Come on, I know you’re better than that, Moff. Try again.

  3. Ok, so New York in 1938 is blocked, can’t go to Boston or Philly and pick them up, because N.Y.C. would still be destroyed.
    So, why not a few months later, say the 1939 Worlds Fair or any other time after? He went to 1974 with Clara, the Ponds are old but still “alive” then!
    Also, “now” , Amy is in New York and in London, with Churchill, BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! What kind of paradox is that, then?
    The point is ANYTHING in Who is possible, if the storyline is compelling enough to warrant it, and the writer is clever ! CANON can be rewritten! (Just see how they do after Capaldi’s successor!)

    • Because he knows they die there. They die in New York. He can’t go and pick them up again, because their lives are now fixed, that’s the tragedy.

      “Also, “now” , Amy is in New York and in London, with Churchill, BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! What kind of paradox is that, then?”

      Ha. Of all the paradoxes in DW history, that is the tamest of them all.

      • avatar M Miller says:

        hate to burst the bubble on the fact that amy was in NY and London at the same time, I would like to point out that the blitz in London did not occur until 1940/41 not ’38

        • You want to maybe think that through again?
          If she arrives in New York in 1938, and dies there at age 87; she was living in New York for those years as well! Therefore, there is an Amy in Times Square and an Amy in Churchills’ bunker both at the same time! Now, go look up the definition of paradox!

      • avatar hgergo says:

        but that fixed point does not exclude that the Doctor cant visit them again ,they death is fixed ,but the Doctors timeline isnt…
        we can say the Doctor is still able to go back meet them, or in the present days he may run into them, but for me, which fixes the ponds role in Doctor timeline, is not the gravestone, its amy’s book.
        the book is written, fixes the happenings in order, and finally the farewell lines on the last page, close their story, i suppose.

      • Their place of burial is fixed, not what happens in between! Even HE dies eventually, hence Trenzalore!

  4. avatar Colin says:

    For once, I think Moffat is being sincere here: no more Doctor and the Ponds. Here’s how I would explain it: Since season 5, it’s been Amy and the Doctor… and Rory. Amy’s story is not so much her adventures with The Doctor, but her coming to terms with the fact that she and Rory are “meant to be”–a fixed point, if you will. There’s a progression in their story where they seem to come closer together. Ironically, the separation at the beginning of Season 7 is the turning point. With that, and the events in Asylum of the Daleks, they realized what was effectually stated in The Angels Take Manhatten: they’d rather live out their lives alone together than with The Doctor. That’s Amy’s journey. And I think the Doctor realizes that–which is why he will never go back for them.

    That’s how I see it. :)

    • avatar Wings says:

      This is actually a far better explanation and response that Moffat’s.

    • avatar Erin C says:

      That is how I saw it as well. The Doctor is just letting them live their lives in peace.

  5. avatar Philip Bates says:

    Personally, I think he means that the whole situation is too much of a paradox to interfere with.

    Also, I think the Doctor actually realises that he needs to let go of them, as Colin says. They’ve outgrown him, and this seemed like the final straw, finally giving him a reason to let them go.

    • avatar kmichaelprince says:

      I agree with that last statement. Leading up to this episode we see the Ponds/Williams’ getting tired of growing older faster than their friends and The Doctor being tired of having to travel without them. I wonder if there’s a bit of “If I had just left them alone long ago, they’d still be here. At least they’re alive. I’ve done enough damage so I’ll leave them alone now.” Just my thoughts.

  6. avatar Iris Gray says:

    While anything is possible in the Whoniverse, I think that the Doctor and the Ponds would find it too emotionally wrenching to keep seeing each other. They were already having trouble trying to live “normal” lives without accepting the Doctor’s invitations every time he showed up, and it would be too tempting for them to just whiz off with him again, yet they would hate to hurt his feelings by refusing. Perhaps the Doctor’s saying that there is no way he can go back and find them is simply his self-rationalization for not doing it.

  7. avatar Kristin says:

    If he were to find them, the Doctor knows it would be to say goodbye and the Doctor doesn’t like goodbyes.

  8. avatar Henry says:

    I loved the Ponds, but they left in a fantastic fashion. To that I thank Moffat and I will miss them forever. I don’t care why he can’t go back. They needed to leave because they were there for bit too long.

    May be we will revisit the Pond’s during an anniversary like we are doing with Rose. XD

  9. avatar The Schaef says:

    Fixed point in time. I am so, so sorry.

  10. It’s been well explained that the Doctor cannot go to see or pick up the Ponds. It’s been accepted that includes River being unable to go back by reason of her presence when they were sent back to their final time stream. Okay, We can be cool with that. But the option does remain of another (not counting The Master) who could go to or land in that time period in that location and interact with them and perhaps even transport them or word from them to a more current time and place where they could meet up with the current regeneration of the Doctor. The good Doctor does after all have, effectively, a Daughter.

  11. avatar Jacob Kuntzman says:

    A simple matter of geography? More like a simple matter of time. Okay, so that year in the 1930s is inaccessible to the Doctor. Fine. Wait a year. Or two. Or three. Let the Ponds age a few years (as their actors will in the meantime as well), and then have the Doctor realize there’s nothing stopping him from going back to, say, going to the 1940s to pick up Amy and Rory for one last romp through time.

  12. avatar Daniel says:

    This is why I think he can’t see them again: he read in the book, “Amelia’s last farewell.” reading something makes it a fixed point (hence his reaction when he read the chapter name). In the graveyard, he tried to imagine that time had been rewritten, but as soon as he saw that the angel had taken Rory, I think he knew it was a lost cause. But, even still, he wouldn’t let go without a fight. Once she was gone, he knew that it was her last farewell.

  13. avatar Jim Ramberg says:

    The doctor does go back and check on companions: that is a major plot point for #10′s regeneration . If you also consider the SJA story Death of the Doctor: it is very clearly mentioned that the Doctor kept abreast with all the doings in the Jones family.
    Remember that the Angels feed off of some’s time potential. That is why people who are touched by Angels can’t return; even with the help of a Tardis. It was implied that River went back to visit Amy at least once to work on completing the book and get her final words to the Doctor. The reason the Doctor can’t go back is a combo of a few different things:
    1) He wants the Williams’ to have a quiet life together
    2) The paradox thing: presumably also dealing with the Doctor crossing over his own time stream.
    3) A desire to protect Amy and Rory from additional interactions with the angels.

    I personally wondered why River did not just use her VM to give a ride to Brian to go back and see his son. Maybe ignorance is bliss

    • I’d like to think River saw them… went on visits. :) Before she died of course.

  14. avatar Koth says:

    Fixed point, like Adrics death. However if they wanted to they could write around it. The Doctor and the Ponds relationship was becoming too unhealthy. The Doctor was too clingy. Three in a bed dont mix.

    • avatar Koth says:

      “Meet me ESB 12 June 1965!”

  15. avatar TonyS says:

    I am glad Mr Moff doesn’t keep bringing companions back like a Frank Sinatra positively-last-appearance. In the RTD years it got difficult to know whether a companion had actually left.

  16. avatar Mark Quested says:

    The genuine and utterly boring real life reason is Karen Gillan wanted a definite end to Amy Pond’s story; stating that she did not want to play Amy as a recurring character.

  17. avatar Dan Bishop says:

    I have a different reading of Moffat’s thoughts, and for me, his comments above do provide an adequate explanation. I believe the “scar tissue” due to the paradoxes relates not to New York City, but to the Ponds themselves: they are the scar tissue, they are the damage in time. The paradoxes are centered around *them*, not New York City per se: (dying/not dying when jumping off the roof, Rory living out his life in the hotel/or not; the Ponds dying separately/or living out their lives together, etc.) So that is why the Doctor can’t go back _to them_. It’s not as simple as going to Boston or D.C., because it isn’t about geography – it’s about the Ponds. So picking up the Ponds in another city still tears the now-thin fabric of spacetime. And, as another commenter notes, that could possibly bring back the Angels. Or, to reference back to “Father’s Day”, something like the Reapers. So, following this theory, you could have a 1940s era NYC story next season, and I think the theory holds, as long as he doesn’t interact with the Ponds. I also agree with many of the commenters above about giving a full break and leaving the Ponds alone. In relationships, sometimes you have to say, “I just can’t go back to that person” even though it hurts.

  18. avatar Scott says:

    Just watched “Angels take Manhattan”, and all I can think of is the grief that Rory’s father will go through not ever knowing what became of his son and daughter in law. Do you actually think that the Doctor visited Rory’s father and told him that his son was lost to him forever? Just the fact that there was an afterword by Amelia saying she and Rory lived a long life together doesn’t make a good closure. In all of the Doctor Who stories I have watched from the late 60′s, this is the first story line that ends in a real tragedy for a companions family. Shame on you Doctor, shame on you Moffat. The premise of Doctor Who has always been anything is possible, Just because. This is depressing.

    • You didn’t see this?


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