“Doctor Who,” The Angels Take Manhattan — A Slice of SciFi Review

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Reviewed by Michael Hickerson (Slice of SciFi Editor)

I didn’t cry when Adric died.  Nor did I cry when Rose Tyler left (the first time).  (I was honestly a bit relieved since I’d wearied of her character and the multitudes who declared her the best companion ever…)

Sarah Jane Smith’s departure, while bittersweet, didn’t get me all misty-eyed.

I will admit that as the Ponds made their departure from Doctor Who this week, not only did I have a lump in my throat, but I was also fighting back tears like I did in the first ten or so minutes of Up.

Damn you, Steven Moffat.  You got me.

A change in companion is just part of the fundamental nature of Doctor Who, I kept telling myself as I headed into “The Angels Takes Manhattan.”

And yet for some reason, the bittersweet departure of Amy Ponds and Rory Williams hit me in such a place that I was emotionally moved to see them go.  I think a large part of that is the fact that Steven Moffat wrote their ending in such a way that there’s little or no chance we’ll see them crop up again.

Moffat spent the last four episodes not only laying the foundation for this story, but putting the rug in place so he could pull it out from under us.  During this five episode run, we’ve seen the couple torn between their life of adventure with the Doctor and his need to have companions and the desire to have an ordinary, normal life together, complete with jobs, friends and the mundane responsibilities of every day life.  Last week’s superlative installment showed Amy and Rory at their most mundane–and how that lifestyle drove the Doctor crazy after just a few minutes.

And yet when the choice comes, Amy and Rory elect that life, knowing they can never see the Doctor again and likely not hear about him since he’s gone to such elaborate lengths to remove himself from the universe.

Utterly heart-breaking, tragic and exactly the way their story can and should end.  Bittersweet.

The ending is helped by the fact that we had a pretty solid story leading up to it.  Moffat brings back the Weeping Angels for what I hope is the last time.  I like his creation and I think they were effectively returned to their creepiness  from “Blink.”   But I really feel like we’ve done just about all we can do with them.  That said, the Statue of Liberty as a huge angel was effective and extremely well rendered.

The story also has some interesting implications for the rest of series seven.  River states that the Doctor doesn’t like endings.  Which should make it interesting when he eventually meets Jenna Louise Coleman’s character in the Christmas special.  If the end of her story is a fixed point because the Doctor knows how her story ends, what will he do to either try to prevent it from happening.  Or if he will bend the rules to try and save her from her eventual fate and what the impact that could have to him and his travels in the future.

Give Moffat a ton of credit–he not only gave us a great ending to one story, but he’s effectively set up a great dilemma for the series moving forward.

Effective, moving, scary and over far too soon, “The Angels Take Manhattan” is the best episode of the season so far.  And we’ve got eight more episodes for Moffat to find a way to top himself.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Comments

  1. This was probably the most nonsensical episode of Doctor Who yet — and for this series, that’s really saying something. To add insult to injury, for all the foreshadowing in both the episode itself and recent episodes, the actual departure took place in what feels like a very brief, throwaway scene at the very end.

    Even worse, it happens in a way that has about a thousand easy ways out. Ok, so the Doctor can’t go to 1938 because the “timelines are scrambled”. Fine. Why doesn’t he go to 1940 and pick them up then? Or, heck, go back to late 1937 and kick it for a few months while waiting for them to show up? He’s virtually immortal, after all. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Even worse, immediately after this we’re told River is going to get the manuscript to Amy. How is she going to do that if time traveling back to them is impossible? And if River can, why can’t the Doctor?

    None of it makes any sense. It’s like the writers weren’t even trying.

    • Dan Vzare says:

      If he creates another paradox, then Manhattan would explode. So he could try and take Amy and Rory back, but apprently it’d create a big problem. I’m not going to disagree with you about the nonsensicalness, because as far as I can see, the angels made a paradox by sending amy back in time, because her name wasn’t originally on the tombstone. But even at that, the episode was still quite interesting to watch, and besides, it’s Doctor Who, you can’t ever stay mad at Doctor Who.

  2. Meh…the only standout episode this season for me was the first one with the Daleks. The rest have been rather boring including this one.

    As for me the episode just reaffirmed how tired I’d gotten of Amy and Rory as companions. The first season with them (the crack in the wall one) was probably the best season of the new Doctor Who’s I’ve seen…but afterwards it just continued down hill for me.

    And with River now pardoned it looks like it won’t be long before she meets up with David Tenant’s version of Who and we will no longer be seeing her either. I kinda go back and forth with liking her and not liking her but either way her companionship seems to have run its course as well. I’m looking forward to the new companion…maybe it’ll breath some new life into the show…after the last few episodes it needs it.

  3. tim callender says:

    I agree with Michael here. I think this is one of the most effective “Who” episodes yet. My daughter and I were clutching each other at the first appearance of an Angel, and then sobbing on each other’s shoulder at the passing of the Ponds. The payoff for their departure was apparently given to us during the extremely melodramatic rooftop scene, and when they wake up in the cemetery lawn, I thought that maybe they’d survive after all. And in one fell swoop Moffatt pulled that rug out from under us. The ultimate bittersweet thing (and one of the fascinating angles to the Angels) is that you know Rory and Amy lived out full, joyous lives together. The pain comes from knowing that all that was out of the Doctor’s control, and his anguish at not being able to control EVERYTHING.

    The key thing to me for Doctor Who is not that the stories hang together in a logical, causal manner. It is strictly about the characters, and how they respond to extraordinary situations. “The Angels Take Manhattan” delivered.

  4. My biggest problem is that Amy and Rory did not want to leave, they were just put in a position where they could (in theory) never meet the Doctor again. Sound familiar? Isn’t that exactly how Rose left? And didn’t she turn up 15 episodes later?
    Of course they can turn up again if the story demands it. And if 1936 Manhatten is out of bounds, then why not 1937? Or 1938? We know the damage to the continuum does not extend until Manhatten 1965 as he’s already been there!

  5. So why can’t River just get her hands on two more Vortex Manipulators, go back to 1936 give one each to Amy and Rory & whisk them both back to 2012? Unless – once you have been touched by a weeping angel & sent back in time, any alteration to that change in the timeline by trying to move FORWARD in time would cause a paradox so great it would destroy all matter. Even the 10th Doctor was only able to visit Rose in the alternate universe via a teleporting hologram and then only one time for a very limited visit.

  6. I didn’t mind the episode. I liked the style of it, struck me somewhat of having a Dirk Gently element to it with the ‘detective story’.

    However what I find more interesting is what has been set up. As mentioned earlier, we know the potential paradox the Dr will face with his new companion. Will he try to save her from the fate he knows awaits her. What damage will that cause. We know the Daleks don’t know him anymore. Saving Jenna would undo that as she’d never be there to do that, but then there’s a whole issue of how Asylum could be different in that situation. (Maybe even ending up back there with a different playing out of it all, or would that be too cheap). I can see the Dr driving himself made over the decisions he has to make though!

    Looking forward to the next 8!

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