Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

Amy: “Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.”

Thus endeth the saga of Rory and Amy. A much better episode this week: in fact, this was my favourite of the season so far. My main gripe with 'A Town Called Mercy' was they wasted a perfectly good location shoot on a decidedly average story. Tonight the story was worthy of Manhattan. Yes, it was a lower key exit than we're used to (barring Martha's ultimately forgettable departure), and I didn't experience quite the same depths of despair as when we lost Rose or Donna, but it felt right that Amy should finally choose Rory over the Doctor. Like we ever doubted she would.

Karen Gillan apparently wanted an ending from which there was no coming back. I'm not sure that's exactly what she got. I'm not sure such a thing is even possible in Doctor Who. Time travel pretty much undoes any disaster; although they did try to nail the door shut with Amy's afterword in the Melody Malone novel. Evidently time can't be rewritten once you've read it. So what would have happened had River written page 43 differently, or provided a warning earlier in the book? Presumably everything would have somehow ended up the same. This is the sort of thing Doctor Who Confidential used to explain so well.

Could they have picked a better city for a story about Angels than Manhattan? Yes, they could – Los Angeles – but Manhattan made for an atmospheric alternative. I loved the typewritten segways and the detective film noir style narration. The Cherubim were also a nice addition to the existing Angel lore. If I've learned anything from TV, it's that babies are essentially evil (Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, Seed of Chucky, the dancing baby in &Ally McBeal, Stewie from Family Guy): so baby Weeping Angels pitter pattering around in the dark, giggling dementedly, were always going to work. Was the Statue of Liberty being an Angel a step too far? Did it remind anyone else of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters: except uglier, and not made from sugar? Or that bit in Ghostbusters 2 where they walked the Statue of Liberty through the city? Or that bit in Ghostbusters 3 which hasn't happened yet because people can't seem to get their arses into gear? No? Me neither.

Initially, I was a little surprised by Amy's reaction (or lack of) at seeing her daughter again. I'm not sure exactly where this episode sits in River's chronology – presumably after 'Flesh and Stone' – but it wasn't quite the heart rending reunion I was expecting. She didn't even say hello. Thankfully, as the episode progressed, their relationship warmed up – just in time for Amy to vanish into the past forever. With all the mystery surrounding River now over, I like her as an occasional character. Her relationship with the Doctor feels less awkward now. And if you can't use your regeneration energy to fix your wife's busted wrist, then what can you use it for? Lucky she didn't break it again twatting him across the face.

Suicide pacts are an awfully serious topic for so early in the evening, but the fact that it ended well – in the same way that suicide pacts never do – seemed to leech out some of the darkness. Great line from Rory about always coming back to life again. He even managed to live to the grand old age of 82 – which is good going for a man who used to die virtually every other week. So Moffat's tease that someone was going to die this episode turned out to be true. It just won't happen for another 50 odd years. Except it already did. (Timey wimey and all that.) So we got to have a death and yet not feel too morose about it.

I liked too that, even after the Doctor begged Amy to stay with him, she chose Rory. Early on in season five there was some confusion over the nature of Amy's relationship with the Doctor (and how it might impact on her feelings for Rory.) It wasn't that she didn't love Rory. She just had things she wanted to do before settling down. But when the time came to choose -- despite the Doctor's slightly selfish protestations -- there could only be one winner. Although Amy's final written words didn't exactly swamp us with detail, we at least learned they'd be happy. (Even if the coda did feel a little tacked on.) And presumably River will still be able to use her vortex manipulator to visit occasionally?

Great scenes atop the Winter Quay Hotel. Even the Doctor seemed unsure Rory's plan would work. It was also a nice reversal of expectation to see the Weeping Angels win for once. Yet, this really was a happy ending -- comparatively, at least. Yes, Amy jumping off the roof with Rory was incredibly moving, as were Amy's final moments with the Doctor and River in the cemetery, but nobody actually died. At least, not from anything other than old age. And those final minutes in Leadworth, back where it all began, was the perfect way to bookend the story. Knowing how their journey ends, I'm not sure what kind of experience rewatching the Pond years will be. I suspect 'The Eleventh Hour' will feel a lot more poignant in light of tonight's episode.

Generally, when a companion leaves, we get an essentially throwaway story, culminating in a sanity draining last ten minutes. Tonight's episode was far stronger in terms of story, but didn't quite reach the emotional heights of 'Doomsday' or 'Journey's End'. The reason for that, I suspect, is the nature of Rory and Amy's departure. Although sad, Rory and Amy's fate was to spend their lives together. Admittedly, in another time period -- but them's the breaks. There was no mind wipe, no estranged lovers trapped in parallel universes, and Amy's epilogue did bring a modicum of closure -- for us, if not for the Doctor. That's not to say there wasn't a lump in my throat... although that may have been from the biscuits I was chomping at the time.

So, farewell, dear Ponds! It was fun while it lasted.

Bits and Pieces:

– Well done Rory... for walking straight into a trap. No wonder you're always dying.

– Gold acting stars all around for Karen, Arthur and particularly Matt. A lot was asked of them tonight, and they totally delivered.

– Again, this episode felt a little short to me. If I'm honest, I'm struggling to come to terms with the mostly stand alone nature of this season. It's not what the show does best, but there's no point griping about it – that's just how it is.

– Nice Sherlock references – China 221 B.C. and 'The Dying Detective'. (Which I totally failed to notice – so, thanks Mark.)

– Fun fact (for me): I can't spell Manhattan. I always spell it Manhatten.

– Why was the Christmas episode trailer so hopelessly short? Yes, we know the Doctor and Oswin will be in it – but who else?

– River's 'one psychopath per TARDIS' rule felt terribly contrived. It felt like a clumsy set up for the Christmas episode -- which, of course, is exactly what it was.

– More occasionally inappropriate music from Murray Gold.

Quotes:

Amy: “He went to get coffee and turned up in a book? How does that work?”
Doctor: “I don't know, we're in New York.”

River: “Just you wait until my husband gets home.”

River: “Didn't you used to be somebody?”
Doctor: “Weren't you the women who killed the Doctor?”
River: “Doctor Who?”

Doctor: “Why did you lie to me?”
River: “When one's in love with an ageless god, who insists on the face of a twelve year old, one does one's best to hide the damage.”

River: “Never let him see the damage. And never let him see you age. He doesn't like endings.”

Amy: "You think you'll just come back to life?"
Rory: "When don't I?"

Rory: "To save you, I could do anything."

Doctor: “I hate endings.”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

24 comments:

Michal Dvorak said...

A good episode; the angels are always a welcome sight, although I don't think they'd ever again managed to be as creepily threatening as they were in the original Blink episode. I also liked that they gave the Ponds a more or less happy ending. (Thank God. I was worried they would kill at least one of them off.)

But there were a lot of things that didn't make sense to me in this episode. First of all, what was the point of the angel-owned house? They pushed someone to the past, gained energy from it, as usual, and then they would keep the person prisoner in the house for decades? Why? How did they benefit from this? If they wanted more energy from one person, they would need to keep displacing them in time, wouldn't they? Which they didn't do.

Second of all - this is more of a nitpick, but - the angel statue of liberty. How would it be even able to move? How often does it happen that absolutely no one is looking at the statue of liberty?

Third of all - I just don't see how Rory and Amy's tombstone would mean that the Doctor can't ever see them again. All it says is that they died at 82/87 sometime in the past. What's keeping him from going back and taking them on more adventures, as long as he returns them to the past in time for them to die at their designated age?

I know a lot of logic in Doctor Who falls apart if you look at it too closely, but these plot holes were really glaring this time. That's something I'm not used to in Moffat's episodes.

Billie Doux said...

Michal, you're absolutely right that there really isn't a lot of logic in Doctor Who. But I did like this one. It had emotional resonance and made me cry. It made me feel very sad about losing the Ponds, and bad for the Doctor, who was losing the Ponds. So I think, for me, it did what it was supposed to do. And hey, creepy baby angels!

Great review, Paul. Great kibbitzing, Mark. :)

The Dark Shape said...

"But there were a lot of things that didn't make sense to me in this episode. First of all, what was the point of the angel-owned house? They pushed someone to the past, gained energy from it, as usual, and then they would keep the person prisoner in the house for decades? Why? How did they benefit from this? If they wanted more energy from one person, they would need to keep displacing them in time, wouldn't they? Which they didn't do."

That's exactly what they did. They knock you back in time and keep you locked up while they feed on the time energy. When it runs out, they knock you back in time again. The Doctor explains this to Rory.

Juliette said...

A good ending for the Ponds, though I agree that there seems no logical reason the Doctor can't ever see them again. He can't land the TARDIS in New York - but as long as New York's been around, so have boats you know...

Even more problematic, since River and the Doctor are married and she's no longer in prison, there seems no reason whatsoever why she shouldn't be his permanent companion (other than 'Alex Kingston has other work to do'). Not much of a marriage, huh?! They should have given her some random planet of aliens to save with her leet timelordy skillz or something, some reason she *can't* be with the Doctor all the time.

Josie Kafka said...

I absolutely loved this episode, although it felt almost more like a send-off for River than for the Ponds because of the emphasis on temporal paradox and the "spoilers!" aspect of the Melody Malone book; River is linked to writing being mutable until read, and the transformative power of books, which are their own kind of "time-travel" for the dead to speak to the living.

But I suppose that makes sense: the Ponds are River's parents, and so her themes are also their themes, with a fun twist.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but I'll do it nonetheless: they probably filmed this in NY instead of LA because NY offers tax breaks for filming, and LA does not.

Poor horse.

Paul Kelly said...

>>Poor horse.

S'ok Josie, it's dead ;o)

Mark Greig said...

This is how I see it. By choosing to go back in time Amy creates a fixed timeline, one where she and Rory lived out the rest of their days in the past, never seeing the Doctor again. If he really wanted, the Doctor could easily go back and visit them and take them on adventures. But he won't. Because to do so would mean breaking a fixed point in time. And we all remember what happened the last time he did that. As much as he wants to, as much as he really wants to see he beloved Ponds again, he won't do it, he won't cross that line again. So the last of the Time Lords has to accept that what is done is done. His time with the Ponds has come to an end. He knew it would eventually, no matter how much he tried putting it off, but it still breaks both his hearts. Amy and Rory are now just two more people that he has lost. The latest additions to a long list that keeps getting longer and longer.

Trousers said...

The episode, while very good, didn't make me cry. This, on the other hand, very nearly did.

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/09/29/doctor-who-the-angels-take-manhattan-cut-down-confidential/

Morgan India said...

I spent all of yesterday curled up in the fetal position and crying to my cat because of this episode. Last time this happened, was the season 5 finale of Buffy.
I think Murray Gold's score also had a massive effect to my emotional trauma from yesterday; the score when Rory and Amy jumped had me wailing.

Although, after a good long sleep, I woke up and felt a lot better about the Pond's departure, and am really looking forward to more Jenna Louise Coleman. And she gets extra credit for dating Robb Stark.

And Paul, you owe me a bucket of chewy choc chip cookies and a bottle of vodka.

Mom2mykids said...

Great episode, and great review! I always figure that the reason we don't see more emotion between River and the Ponds is that she visits them when we're not paying attention. There was a little scene in "The Wedding of River Song" where River visit Amy & Rory that I think helps the viewer understand she sees them a lot more than we realize. River visits them after the events, for her, of "The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone," to tell them the Doctor isn't really dead. I enjoy that little scene, out of order for River, in order for viewers ...

The Statue of Liberty thing bugs me. It's copper, not stone. Unless the angels somehow switched it ... but it's a stretch, for me. Oh well. Otherwise, wonderful episode!

(Random Blogger gripe: I hate the "captcha" images. Seriously. Had to reload 3 times to get one I could actually READ! Grr.)

Nick said...

Great review - I think you pretty much hit on everything we liked about this episode (the Angels, the story) and everything we didn't like (the Statue of Liberty).

While you correctly pointed out that this wasn't quite as heart-rending as episodes like Doomsday, I do think it's a much more even episode than the companion finales RTD used to write. And while there will always be some timey-wimey wrangling going about just to make sure a companion can be written out, I think it's relatively covered here.

The Doctor can't take his Tardis back to old New York because of all the crossed timelines and such. Apparently River can, presumably because of her vortex manipulator. Theoretically the Doctor could still use the manipulator to go and see Amy, but I don't believe he can take either her or Rory out of that time permanently without causing another paradox (because they have to die there) and so they have to stay.

Ahh, if only Rory didn't choose to walk right into an obviously creepy scary hotel.

zob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

@zob: Interesting point, about the Doctor knowing they had a long and happy life. If the Doctor going back meant the possibility of bringing the Angel Hotel back, or an Adric-in-a-spaceship type of death, then it makes sense to not meddle.

When I saw the poster of the Statue of Liberty in the elevator, I kept thinking "the image of an Angel is itself an Angel". (If an Angel copied the likeness of a famous statue, would the pictures taken be images of the original statue, or of the Angel?)

Sooze said...

Paul, is this it until the Christmas episode?
I loved this send off to Rory and Amy.
Sad, yes, but not gut-wrenching.
I liked the continuity between "Melody Malone's" book, and not being able to read the future, and the blue book she kept and her "spoilers".
I like your theory Zob...the Doctor doing the unselfish thing.

Paul Kelly said...

Yes, Sooze, that's the lot until Christmas.

Sooze said...

Thanks Paul. I suppose if I hadn't turned off the On-Demand immediately after the ending I would have known that...I am trying to keep up with too many shows and was off to the next thing!!

Julia said...

Hey, y'all!
I didn't know just where to ask this so I'm asking here if that's okay. I guess you can delete nis "not-a-comment" later if you have to.
I've heard a lot about Doctor Who, and how it's a great series, and I've wanted to see it for quite some time now. But I couldn't find the first seasons in our video stores, only the 5th (I live in a very small russian town).
I only have limited access to internet now, so I can't even download it yet. So here's my question: if I watch the 5th season first, will I be able to understand what's what or would it be too confusing? And if I watch the first four seasons later, how much will watching the fifth one first spoil them for me? Should I just wait awhile 'till I can get a chance to see the whole series from the beginning (well, not the beginning, as I don't intend to watch classic eps, not just yet anyway). Or is it okay to start from the latest Doctor?
I'd really appreciate your help.

Paul Kelly said...

I'm not sure there is an answer to this one. Will starting at season five spoil anything? Only that the tenth Doctor and his companion don't make it through to season five. Storywise, the seasons are pretty much self contained, although there is some continuity between seasons five and six.

Season one of nu-Who does kind of set up the Doctor for a new audience, explaining who he is, what he is, where he's from, and what his telephone box is all about. But this is information you may already know, could look up online, or could even ask here.

If you are going to jump onboard anywhere, season five is probably the best place. Not only is there a new Doctor and companion, there's also a new showrunner, with a new vision and new ideas. So you don't have to worry too much about bumping into old characters.

With one notable exception: River Song. That's going to be confusing for you. So to answer your question: ideally start at the beginning, but if you do have to jump in half way through, season five is probably the best place – but there will be areas you may find confusing.

Julia said...

Thank you so much for taking time to answer. I think I'll start with season one as soon as I get the chance. As it turns out, they only have dubbed version in stores, no original sound, and that's a huge dealbreaker for me. Russian translation leaves much to be desired.
I'll just have to wait a little longer to see the series, but at least I'm absolutely sure it'll be worth it :)

Paul Kelly said...

Good luck, Julia.

Anonymous said...

Mark Greig's explanation of why Amy and Rory have to stay in the past makes far more sense than most of the explanations I've heard. But I try not to apply too much logic to Doctor Who anyways. The episode made me cry and made me look forward to seeing how The Doctor will recover from losing the Ponds, so I call it a success.

Mandy

Arie said...

I feel bad for Rory's Dad - he stayed in 2012 to water the plants and now he'll never see Rory and Amy again! I hope the Doctor popped back to tell him not to expect his son and daughter-in-law again, and to give his apologies. The Doctor lied when he told Rory's Dad Amy and Rory wouldn't die...

I almost liked River here, although I still don't buy Alex Kingston and Matt Smith as a couple, but not for their lack of trying!

I'll miss Amy and Rory a bit, although unlike other companions whose on-screen departures were shocks to the storyline (not to those who knew the actresses were departing the show!) - Rose disappearing into a parallel world, Martha leaving for a better life, poor Donna having her memory wiped - Rory's and Amy's had been winding down all season and it's a bit of a relief to finally let them go.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this episode! It completely broke my heart, the part in the graveyard where Eleven was begging Amy not to leave. It harkens back to the best parts of their relationship, when you get to see how deep their bond goes.

I do have one gripe, and it's only a problem from the perspective of the newest Christmas Special (I've lost track of seasons, or I would say which one, suffice it to stay the one that aired in 2016). It stated in this episode that he can never ever go back to New York, right? Unless I'm mistaken, doesn't the newest Christmas Special take place in New York. Does that mean he was just lying in this episode because he never wanted to come back? Did he find out he was wrong? Did I miss something?

Also, I think the logic is that they would have sent him back in time more than once. Send him back about thirty years at a time, and you get more energy each time.

Awesome review!

Mark Greig said...

Anonymous, if I recall correctly, the Doctor cannot take the TARDIS back to the past, New York of the 30s, which is where the Angel sent Amy and Rory, because of the paradox created by saving Rory. This doesn't stops him for going to modern day New York, and the latest special does kind of address this.