“PS” is a perfect example of the sort of little character moments at which Doctor Who excels.
Intended as a DVD extra, but not filmed due to time constraints, it’s an epilogue to “The Angels Take Manhattan”, written by Chris Chibnall and with a voice-over by Arthur Darvill. It’s a beautifully realised, incredibly moving little scene that gives us final closure on the Ponds and would have given Mark Williams the chance to knock it out of the park one last time as Brian, Rory’s dad. Here it is if you haven’t seen it yet . Have tissues ready.
I actually tear up a little just writing about it so if you’ve just seen that for the first time, take a moment before reading, okay? We’ll wait.
As several people, including my Blogger colleague the peerless John Cooper pointed out, there seems to be no real reason why this wasn’t filmed and put at the end of the episode let alone surface on the DVD. It’s a beautiful capstone to the Ponds’ time with the Doctor, a very definite happy ending for them and it gives Brian the closure he so desperately needs. This is the epilogue, the coda, a scene that doesn’t propel the plot along but still informs it. It would have been the perfect wrap up for this half of the season.
Or would it?
Look at the way the half-season did end. We saw the Doctor, heartsbroken, fly off with River and be told about the afterword. We heard Amy’s final words to him and finally, briefly, we returned to Leadworth and young Amy Pond, wearing the best welly boots in TV history, waiting for the Doctor to come back. It was a solid, moving, thematic final sequence. The end is the beginning is the end and the circle of Amy’s life with the Doctor finally closes.
But what about Brian? As the episode stands, we can assume that the Doctor, after travelling with River for a while no doubt, goes back to England and tells Brian the truth, assuring him that his son and daughter-in-law are well but that he can never see them again. Or to put it another way, your “hero” comes back to tell a friend that the family members he promised he’d look after are actually trapped in the past and long dead. There’s no way that can be anything other than cruel, no way you can show the Doctor as anything other than an abject failure and certainly no way to end the episode on any sort of upbeat note if you go down that road.
Superficially, this unfilmed scene is far fairer, giving Brian and us some closure. We get confirmation that the pair met up, that they were happy and along the way we get the most moving aspect of the scene; that Rory loves his Dad, misses him and is, in a very gentle, uniquely British way, becoming more like him. It’s not just a sign off, it’s a very affectionate, fitting tribute that’s completely in keeping with the character. Then, of course, there’s the hammer blow of Brian’s new, old Grandson. They didn’t just survive, they continued the family and the scene finishes, in a sense, with Brian getting his family back, just not a generation of it he ever expected to. The Ponds are reunited, even as back down the timestream, young Amy Pond and the Doctor meet again. The end is the beginning is the end.
So if it’s such a perfect scene, and it is, why wasn’t time made for it on the broadcast? Firstly, it’s very much Rory’s version of Amy’s goodbye to the Doctor and as a result would have felt odd coming hot on the heels of that, but more importantly, it paints the Doctor in a horrible light . With this scene on the end of the episode, he isn’t just erratic and uncomfortable with emotions, he’s a coward . Going home to tell Brian he failed will be unpleasant and difficult (And for the wags amongst you, would probably lead to Brian asking why he couldn’t just go a couple of years down the line from where they landed and pick them up), so the Doctor… doesn’t.
He swans off around the universe, having terribly important adventures while Brian Williams waits for news of his son and daughter-in-law and gradually realises the truth. It’s not just weak, it’s callous, and that’s the last thing this show in particular wants to portray its main character as. Plenty of previous companions have left under bad circumstances but this is one of the first times they’ve left behind family members waiting for them when they did. If you have the Doctor go back, he looks bad. If you have the letter from Rory and Amy arrive, the Doctor looks bad. Either way, it’s a sour note to end the half season on, especially considering the way the episode already ends.
So it makes perfect sense to make “PS” an optional extra. Without it, we can assume that the Doctor went back, told Brian and, because we don’t see the scene, the character’s standing remains intact with the audience. It’s not an easy, tidy situation, and not an easy or tidy solution, but it gives us the best of all possible worlds; the Doctor’s status as a hero protected, the season ending on the note they meant it to and one last goodbye from Rory. It’s not perfect, or neat, but few real goodbyes ever are, and I have to admit, I rather like it for that.