Doctor Who Review: “The Angels Take Manhattan” (SPOILERS)
by Kyle Anderson on September 30, 2012
How do you say goodbye to people you’ve spent your whole life with? Furthermore, how do we say goodbye to characters we’ve watched for two and a half years? Doctor Who is all about change, and as much as we might want to hold onto things as they are forever, periodic refreshing of the status quo keeps things from getting stagnant. Amy Williams (nee Pond) has become the longest-serving companion in the new series, and her husband Rory is the third-longest (Rose Tyler is still number two by virtue of all those Series 4 episodes she was in); they’ve been around a long while. It’s time to say goodbye, but how? Steven Moffat deemed to answer that with “The Angels Take Manhattan,” one of his most Moffatty stories in a good long while.
He’s brought back his signature monsters, the Weeping Angels, for a story that takes the timey wimey-ness of “Blink” and adds the menace and numbers of “The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone.” They continue to be very frightening in a way not many Who monsters ever have been. The Daleks certainly had a fair number of years where they weren’t scary at all, despite how we’re supposed to fear them. By their very nature, though, the Angels can’t have grand plans very often so Moffat’s choice to use them sparingly is a good one. It’s a pretty ingenious idea, this: the Angels set up a kind of live-in buffet of people who are forced to live out their lives alone in an apartment while the stone bastards feed on their temporal energy. It’s very smart, yet very simple. In the past, the Moff has opted for being too clever and complex for the sake of it, but here, he’s done it about as straightforward as he can, which I think is to the benefit of the episode and the character relationships at hand. The Angels remain the most consistently scary monster in the history of the show. Weeping Cherubs, also? Shit, man.
Didn’t care for Angel Liberty, though; especially because she didn’t do anything. Is there any point during the entire 24 hour cycle of the day in New York frigging City where someone ISN’T looking at the Statue of Liberty? That’s ridiculous. It was staring us right in the face, but come on.
After “The Power of Three,” we’ve learned that the Doctor will never give up the Ponds and they, in turn, will never give him up. (Begin Rick Roll now) What I like about “The Angels Take Manhattan” is that there’s never an instant where either Amy or Rory say, “Oh, we should have stayed home.” They chose their path and they live with it. They don’t blame the Doctor for the predicament they’re in nor do they complain about it, save on their way to coming up with a plan. This series has given them a great deal of excellent character development in only five episodes, and at no point was there some larger arc about copies or daughters or best friends we’ve never seen; it’s just the characters living and existing. It’s sad that it took them until their final hurrah to become fully realized, amazing people.
Before I get to the sad stuff, I’d like to talk about the return of River Song (aka Melody Pond, aka Melody Malone). I know some people who’ll be upset about the way River and the Doctor relate to each other in this episode. The question of the validity of River and Doctor’s marriage, being that it took place in an aborted timeline, is highly controversial. Some people will complain that this makes the Doctor demonstrably a husband and behave accordingly toward River. For all those who say “the Doctor is and should always be asexual,” calm down. I’ve never seen a more chaste exchange between supposed spouses in my life. Their “marriage” has nothing at all to do with physicality. He kisses her on the cheek, he touches her hand; it’s incredibly innocent. We’ve already established that the Eleventh Doctor loves people deeply and it’s never about sex. Casual flirting and playground stuff, sure. River herself essentially said they can’t fully be together so this is the Doctor’s way to be married. I see nothing wrong with it if it stays this way. The only part of this I didn’t like is how he used regeneration energy to fix River’s broken wrist. Really? Is it really that easy for him to harness, and furthermore to transfer? Could he, then, have regrown his hand in “The Christmas Invasion” regardless of if he’d still been in his regeneration cycle or not? Seems fishy. River was right to yell at him about it. How dare he do things that break the established rules?
Now for the big stuff: what every media outlet on the globe was talking about was the final adventure with the Ponds. How would Moffat get rid of them? Would he kill them off or would something else happen? He said it’d be very sad and Karen Gillan mentioned that her ending was pretty final. That could mean anything, though. How well was it handled? I think, very well. He had to make sure it was a life-or-death situation, one that they didn’t choose themselves, and one that the Doctor couldn’t just go pick them up from. This was all spoken about and made sense. It played with the notion of fixed points in time and if you know your own future, then it has to happen that way. Not totally sure if I buy that, but it fit the story.
I adored the scene in which Rory thinks about jumping off the roof to create the paradox. He never questions it. He’s a hero; he does what he must. The conversation between he and Amy is just lovely, especially when she asks if he’s going to just come back to life and he replies, “When have I not?” Just glorious. I also love the implication of their relationship: Amy wants to travel with the Doctor; she can’t live without Rory. Further, when the true departure happens in the graveyard (very fitting… very, very), she would rather never see the Doctor again than never see Rory again. So telling, and harkens back to what we learned all the way back in things like “Amy’s Choice.”
The question of whether or not the Williamses get a “happy” ending is, I think, left purposely ambiguous. Because of the paradox, the Doctor will not and cannot see them again (unless some bullshit Donna-esque re-writing goes on) and, as far as he knows, they lived a long and healthy life together, as per the afterward in the Melody Malone book. Now, I’m drawn to what River said to Amy, about never letting the Doctor see that you’re suffering. This may have darker implications on what happened to them in the Angel-induced past. They very well could have done exactly as Amy said, or the Angel may have sent her to a completely different time and she and Rory never saw each other again. Will we ever know for sure? I hope not. The Doctor believes them to be happy and that’s what matters, for now. I love Amy and Rory and do hope that they live a happy life in the ’30s or whenever, but, like the Doctor, if they didn’t, I don’t want to know.
So, onward and upward. The Doctor, we know, isn’t going to be alone for very long. In fact, this Christmas he’ll be joined by whatever character Jenna Louise Coleman will play, be it Oswin from “Asylum” (I really doubt it) or a new character entirely. It’s a new dawning for this version of the show, and, as always, I can’t wait to see what kind of insanity we’ll get. As a farewell to the Ponds, though, “The Angels Take Manhattan” was damn fine television.