Doctor Who – The Angels Take Manhattan

theangelstakemanhatten

Series 7, Episode 5, Mid-Series Finale

CONTAINS SPOILERS

The last episode of Doctor Who until the Christmas Special, and the last episode ever with Amy and Rory, at least as full time companions. You never really know if something is a final appearance ever in a TV show, especially with a show like Doctor Who. But it was said in the promotional material for this episode that the departure of the Ponds is very final, and it does indeed feel that way.

Watching this episode knowing it is their last you start feeling a bit sad early on, even if the characters themselves are happy. The scene with the Doctor, Amy and Rory enjoying themselves having a picnic in Central Park in New York is an example of this. Amy teases the Doctor about reading a book out loud, Rory gets some comedy moments, and the three characters and actors work really well together. The strong bond and affection that they all hold for each other is obvious. Watching this knowing that this will no longer be part of the show you begin to have a melancholy feeling right away, and it becomes even sadder in hindsight knowing that this scene is the last time the Doctor, Amy and Rory just had fun together enjoying each other’s company.

With this episode being the last appearance of her parents, it obviously has to feature River Song, and here she is the best she’s been in ages. As we’ve seen her story unfold more or less in backwards order, it also shows her development as a character in reverse, and here River is the wiser and more mature version that was seen in series 4 and 5 as opposed to how damaged as a person she was in much of series 6 which told her traumatic origins. She’s fun and fiery, and the references to her marriage (such as it is) to the Doctor allow for some funny lines. She also calls Rory and Amy as “dad” and “mother” respectively on separate occasions. I’m not sure off the top of my head if this is the first time, but it is significant that she refers to them as her parents.

Moffat’s other well known creation to the Doctor Who mythos also feature strongly. The Weeping Angels are the main villains here, and like River they are also back to their best, having gone back to the methods of attack we saw in Blink by sending people back in time to feed off their energy rather than breaking necks in The Time Of Angels/Flesh And Stone. They are also the most creepy they have been since Blink. The episode is filled with scenes of them slowly surrounding characters getting closer with each flash of darkness. This is most effective when an Angel grabs River’s wrist, meaning she has to break her own wrist in order to free it.

Not only that, but the Weeping Angels have developed as well. This episode showed a very disturbing addition to them and just how sadistic and ruthless they can be. Rather than simply sending humans back through time to live out the rest of their lives in the past, here they create a battery farm for them to go to, imprisoning them in a room until they die of old age and feeding off their energy all that time. This horrific nature to their personality is not the only new aspect to the Weeping Angels revealed in this episode, as we have statues of cherubs as “baby angels”, and they have a very unsettling giggle. They provide one of the creepiest moments in the whole episode with Rory lighting matches in the darkness, and the cherubs slowly advancing on him until one blows the light of his match out. It also turns out the Angels have a celebrity member in their family, as the Statue Of Liberty appears as a giant Weeping Angel. This last thing is probably the weakest overall, as it makes the least sense other than “because it’d be cool”. Which it is, but still. It also gave my favourite funny line of the episode, once again by Rory; “I always wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty. I guess she got impatient”.

One of the most enjoyable things about this episode was the inclusion of a book, a pulp novel about a private detective called Melody Malone. It turned out that the book was actually written by River as a series of clues for the Doctor, so the characters ended up being in a book they were reading. They have a lot of fun with that idea. Simply reading ahead to see what happened to them would be too dangerous, as once time is ‘written’ and read, it is set, but they were able to get around it by being able to read “a page of handy hints, Preview, spoiler free”, that is chapter titles. There are of course obvious parallels here with people reading spoilers for the series itself and that it’s more interesting to figure out clues in the story than to just skip to the end so you know exactly what will happen. The most significant chapter titles were ‘The Roman In The Cellar’ telling them where Rory was. and ‘Amelia’s Last Farewell’ which upset the Doctor enough to be desperate to rewrite time.

Which brings us to the main thing about the episode. Amy and Rory’s exit. They have become trapped by the Weeping Angels, and figure out that a way out of the situation is to create a time paradox. Rory decides to sacrifice himself, as if he dies there at that age and at that time he cannot live to be part of the battery farm, and Amy chooses to go with him. This creates the paradox and it looks like all is well… but watching it, I just knew it wouldn’t be that easy. The happy ending is snatched away from us as Rory notices a gravestone with his name on (as a side note, nice touch that Rory’s middle name was Arthur, just like his actor Thomas Arthur Darvill).

Rory is abruptly sent back through time by a surviving Weeping Angel. This time there is no hope of him coming back, a paradox on top of a paradox would be too much. Then Amy makes a choice she’s made many times before, but this time it’s for good. She chooses a life with Rory over travelling with the Doctor and decides to allow the Weeping Angel to send her back in time to where Rory is, to live out the rest of their lives together. This also means they can never see the Doctor again. We know from their gravestones that both Amy and Rory live until they are in their 80s, but I can’t say this was a completely satisfying ending to the Ponds for me. Rory was short changed, and we don’t even get a mention of Brian in the whole episode. I’d also kind of hoped that considering Melody regenerated in New York in 1969 that the Ponds would be able to raise her, after all there isn’t really an explanation for how Mels was able to grow up with the Ponds as children in the ’90s otherwise. Of course this would mean that Let’s Kill Hitler would be even more crazy than it already was, but this is one loose plot thread that I always wanted resolving.

But the final scenes… as tear jerky and emotional as this episode was, I don’t usually cry at TV and was OK for most of it… but the ending… River says she’s going to write the book and send it to Amy to get it published, and she’ll tell Amy to leave an afterward for the Doctor. The Doctor finds it and reads what Amy wrote for him. She tells him that she and Rory lived a long, happy life, but still worry about the Doctor and hope he isn’t alone. She asks him to do her one last favour and go back to little Amelia waiting in the garden and as “she’s going to need a lot of hope” tell her all the amazing adventures she will have with the Doctor one day. Then the episode finishes with a flashback and eventually a still from The Eleventh Hour with Amy saying “this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends”. Yeah, that got me. It’s a great way of summing up Amy Pond’s era as a companion and the end returning to the beginning with a moment in The Eleventh Hour suddenly explained.

A very good episode overall, and as a fan I have to say thank you so much to Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill for all they bought to Doctor Who and for bringing to life the great companions that were Amy Pond and Rory Williams.

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