There's gonna be spoilers here folks.
Don't say you haven't been warned.
There'll be tears before the end.
There'll be chuckles along the way.
And there WILL
Okay, so firstly you pull of that surprise with Oswin: companion to be, arriving early with a heartbreaking souffle.
We didn't see that coming.
The Pond-subplot for that one built nicely from a pre-series mini episode 'Pond Life' written by Chris Chibnall. We've criticised CC in the past - and actually currently as well, sadly all to often with good reasons. Here, in Asylum, his prequel was useful but not central to requirements. What Moff did was make it proper emotional.
Yes, I said it: Moff can do emotional. He doesn't do it like Rusty did, but he does pull the strings of heart.
"I didn't throw you out - I gave you up"
Sorry: I'm sobbing again.
We then went all Primeaval in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship with a dodgy sexist adventurer (what is it about Rupert Graves that gets him such roles?!) and Queen Nefertiti. It was fun - mostly for the brilliant Mark Williams as Brian Pond (oh if ONLY Chibs had insisted on that character much earlier in the Pond life cycle...) who despite all insistence to the contrary was never going to be 'Brian Williams'.
However, it was also getting to be clear even if you hadn't been spoilered that the Ponds weren't going to be travellers forever.
The episode also had a great villainous turn from David Bradley who must have really lapped up this hyper-nonsense! I could have done without the Silurian sub-plot (really Chibbers, we get that you like them!) but Bradley was monster enough to make up for the rather slight dinosaur threat --- the creatures were gorgeously realised on screen though!
The next move was into the West: with a vengeful cyborg being the 'good guy' as compared to his maker. It was a small tale of morality and moral dilemmas and all the more enjoyable for that.
But most importantly, what had been spotted by then?
The changing title sequence.
I'd squeed anyway when I saw on 'Asylum of the Daleks' that the sequence had been tweaked. Oooh it suddenly looked PROPER Doctor Who-ish with a retro/modern tone, dark and beautiful, ridding us of the Gavascon colouration of the earlier Moff series.
But then Frank Collins - one of my favourite reviewers - confirmed my suspicions.
Oh it was getting darker for sure.
Chibbers came back and amazingly didn't wreck the joint. He bought back the brilliant Brian Pond and although it was an oddly balanced episode (lots of threads got left hanging), it had a typically Rusty momentum ---- moreover, how could I hate an episode that made Kate Stewart TV cannon?
And Jemma Redgrave was lovely as the daughter of our beloved and late Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
And so we got to Manhattan.
It was hard to avoid that we would be losing the Ponds in an episode promised to be scary and heartbreaking.
Damn, damn, DAMN you Moff. You are cruel in the beauty of your story-telling.
It was noirish (Telegraph), and there was no punchline to rescue Rory - or Amy - this time around (Independent). For an early evening family entertainment, it was a breathtaking move to even consider presenting a suicide pact (Den of Geek), let alone that it may be 'the right thing to do'.
So when that wasn't the end of Rory and Amy, when that final Angel appeared and took him as he read the gravestone, and we realised Amy would join him and leave the Doctor - her raggedy-man - to be with her husband....
... well, it all tears, all the time.
It wasn't as if this was an episode that didn't tug at you all the way through: I particularly liked this passage from the TV.com review which included an exchange of lines I really choked at.
After River freed herself from an Angel by breaking her own wrist and then lying to the Doctor in an attempt to convince him that they'd changed the future foretold in the book, she clued us in to what marriage means in one of the most moving scenes of this series. Why did she lie about her wrist? "When one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a 12-year-old, one does one's best to hide the damage." "It must hurt." "Yes, the wrist is pretty bad too."Break my heart already Moff.
As the Guardian put it, 'love didn't save the day' --- but arguably, it DID save the days of Rory and Amy: they spent the days together, in love, happy.
And quite by chance, I went back in my mind to last Sunday, listening to 6Music when they had a Ben Folds focus to the Playlist show. I requested "The Luckiest", and although the age is 'wrong' in the lyrics (but heck even that gravestone doesn't seem right!) the final verse strikes me as very much suited to the end of Rory and Amy.
Next door there's an old manThank you Ponds. We've loved having you around,
Who lived to his 90s
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away.
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way
To tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am
UPDATE: Stuart does the most gorgeous and appropriate review of Angels. Just lovely,
And for those missing DW Confidential: