If you enjoyed last season's finale, then you'll love this too.
After all, it's the same finale.
It's set in an alternate present again, features Rory being forgotten and then impossibly remembered by Amy again, brings back a host of old unseen races again, threatens the universe with an accidental end again, and even features the Doctor supposedly dying again. And it ends with another wedding as well. Again. Did I mention the word again?
Oh, and the whole thing is also wall-to-wall fun. Again.
Author Steven Moffat may be rewriting the same story, but this time his telling holds together better, and had me riveted throughout. The setting of an Earth upon which time no longer exists is patently nonsensical, but he doesn't care, because it's only there for the laughs.
Pigeons have been replaced by pterodactyls. There's an interview on TV with the author of an upcoming Christmas Special - one Charles Dickens. Caesar is Winston Churchill.
Churchill: "Day or night, it's always two minutes past five in the afternoon!"
This is a pantomime, and everyone knows it.
The Doctor at last sets about attempting to avert his imminent murder, or at least understand it. As at the start of the season we find him wielding the TARDIS to do his bidding, rather than merely dealing with the situation that it has set him down in.
And then in the midst of it all, quite without any warning, the Brigadier dies.
It's a very well played moment. Sure it comes out of nowhere (we haven't seen the Doctor meet him since four lives back), but Lethbridge-Stewart's death does serve the story by breaking the Doctor's spirit. Suddenly Sarah seems a bit absent from The Impossible Astronaut too. It annoyed me that he hung up the phone without saying goodbye. Granted, TV characters do this a lot, but someone's died there.
As suggested above, I can't really say that this script contains many surprises. Steven Moffat has long hinted that the Doctor and River would marry, that she would kill him, and that she would go to prison for the crime. (although all three of these developments remain subjective)
Even the Doctor's survival of his on-screen death at the start of the series is a given, and his use of a proxy body a little hard to hide in a universe so saturated with doubles anyway. Still, I'm glad he selected the Teselecta to be his stand-in, because aside from the TARDIS, that's probably the coolest zombie the Doctor Who universe has.
That said, I concede that disguising the TARDIS as himself would have been a better twist, having the advantage of not requiring any giveaway foreshadowing, and also better resolving the unasked question of just where the 'dying Doctor' had left it parked.
I am pleased to see the Doctor at last returning to his original stance of remaining hidden from history. Ever since the ninth Doctor entered 10 Downing Street with a wave to the cameras in The Aliens Of London, his cavalier attitude to his identity's security has not sat well with me. Back in An Unearthly Child he fled the twentieth century sooner than be exposed, so I guess that's character development for you. Mind you, I'll be surprised if today's writers can be disciplined enough to honour this decision and appropriately steer clear of all exhibitionist tendencies, including appearances on telethons, at theatres, and chatting to the audience at the Proms.
All the same, like last season, this was another rip-roaring rollercoaster of a ride, and the final scenes are the sort of magic that longer-term viewers get rewarded by. When Amy and River sit down for a chat from different points in their established histories, although it doesn't amount to much, it is just the sort of encounter that shows featuring time-travel should be doing a lot more often.
At the end, I was surprised that he didn't take Dorium with him. A sarcastic wisecracking argumentative all-knowing head in a box would have made a cool companion, not to mention an easy-to-market toy line, and a much better future Face Of Boe...
And that final line. So bold. So shameless. So in-your-face.
Moffat may still not be the world's greatest plotter, but he's sure heading in the right direction.
Finally, like last year's finale, I enjoyed this so much that I watched it twice.
Now that's an idea that I like to see repeated each season. (ῧ)