Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan – Recap, Review, Farewell Ponds



By | Posted on 01 October 2012

Image courtesy BBC

Recap:

Image courtesy BBCThe episode opens like an old film noir detective story.  Set in 1930′s New York city with a voice-over by a Detective Garner.  We see Garner being hired by the wealthy Mr. Grayle to investigate an apartment building he claims is occupied by statues that move, but only when you’re not looking.   The detective goes to the building called Winter Quay which has some familiar looking angel statues adorning the front steps.  The front doors mysteriously open and Garner enters.  In the lobby he is met by the elevator which opens and takes him up several floors to be let out in a lone hallway where he notices an apartment with the name “S. Garner” labeled over the doorbell.  He enters and finds a wallet that has his private investigator’s license in it and an old man in the next room warns him that “they” are coming for him to send him back in time.  Just before he dies, the old man tells Garner “I’m you.”  Garner tries to leave, but is blocked at every turn by the Weeping Angels.  He runs out to the roof of the building and turns around to see the Statue of Liberty standing next to the building, apparently now one of the Weeping Angels.  His last words, “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” take us to the opening credits.

Image courtesy BBCThe Doctor, Amy and Rory are in modern-day Central Park where the Doctor is reading a pulp crime novel by Melody Malone.  Rory leaves to get coffee and as he’s walking back he hears what almost sounds like a child giggling.  We cut back to the Doctor about to read the novel out loud to Amy.  Before he begins, he tears out the last page and tosses it into a picnic basket saying he hates endings.  While reading, he gets to a line where a character, “the skinny guy,” says, “I just went to get coffees for the Doctor and Amy.  Hello, River.”  We then see Rory is now facing River Song, it’s night, and he’s in 1930s New York.  It turns out that River is Melody Malone and the book she wrote, or will write, depending on your point of view, is an accounting of the adventure everyone is having at the moment.

River and Rory are being taken at gun-point to see Mr. Grayle.  On the ride over, River says she knows Rory didn’t arrive in the TARDIS because the city is full of time distortions, but neither of them yet knows how he ended up back in time.  The Doctor is indeed unable to land the TARDIS in 1938 New York and it bounces back to 2012, landing in a graveyard.  He realizes the Weeping Angels are behind Rory’s sudden leap to the past and briefly explains to Amy how the angels live off time energy from the people they zap back in time.  Amy now has the novel, but the Doctor stops her from reading ahead because knowing their future would create a fixed point in time they can’t change.

Image courtesy BBCThe Doctor says that to land the TARDIS in 1938 he needs a signal to lock on to and comes up with a way to signal River based on information he read in her novel.  Mr. Grayle is a collector and he has several vases from the Qin dynasty so the Doctor goes back to China 221 BC and has a craftsman put the word “Yowzah” (An expression he used earlier while reading the novel.) on a vase for River to see.  When she sees this, River sends the word through her vortex manipulator for the TARDIS to lock on to allowing the Doctor to land at Grayle’s where Rory has been locked in a dark cellar with cherub-like angels and River’s arm is held in the grasp of an angel in Grayle’s study.  After reading that River’s wrist must be broken to free her from the angel and not wanting to read ahead for fear of fixing points in time, Amy suggests they only read the chapter titles as a “spoiler-free” guide.  The Doctor learns Rory is in the cellar from a chapter title, so Amy runs off to rescue him, but reading on he gets a shock from the last chapter’s title, “Amelia’s Last Farewell.”  Frustrated and enraged he tells River to get her wrist out of the angel’s grasp without breaking it in order to change the future.

The angels in the cellar zap Rory in space, but not in time.  He’s now at the mysterious, angel-infested Winter Quay apartments where the doors open for him just like the private detective in the opening segment.  River manages to free herself and the Doctor finds out she did have to break her wrist so he uses some of his regeneration energy to heal her.  They find Rory’s location and head to the spooky apartments where things are shaping up very much like they did for the detective.  Rory heads down the same dimly-lit hallway and enters an apartment just as the Doctor, Amy and River arrive.  Inside is an elderly version of Rory who dies while Amy is at his side.  The Doctor deduces the apartment is being used by the angels as a “farm” to keep humans whose time energy they can continue to feed on.

Rory asks why he couldn’t just run away and the Doctor says he can’t since his death has already happened.  River says if he could it would create a paradox that would not only undo everything that happened there, but possibly kill the angels, too.  Just like the detective before them, the only way they can run is to the roof where the Statue of Liberty is waiting for them.  Seemingly without escape, Rory gets the idea that if he jumps off the building and dies it will create the paradox they need to kill the angels, but he might survive since the events will be nullified.  Amy is unable to let Rory jump alone so they jump together successfully creating the paradox.

Image courtesy BBCThe couple find themselves back in present-day New York in the graveyard where the TARDIS landed after being unable to initially travel to 1938.  The Doctor tells them the paradox worked and they reset the timeline.  All seems well and they’re about to depart in the TARDIS when Rory walks over to a gravestone that has his name on it.  He calls Amy over to look at it and just as she’s looking up Rory vanishes from the touch of an angel standing right behind him.  Distraught over his being sent to the past Amy decides to let the angel do the same to her so she and Rory can be together.  She turns away from the angel, tells the Doctor goodbye and vanishes from the angel’s touch.  Now the gravestone has both Rory and Amy’s name on it.  Gone forever to a fixed point in time where the Doctor can never visit, they at least have each other.

Image courtesy BBCBack in the TARDIS River tells the Doctor she assumes she brought her book, the one she’s yet to write, to Amy to get published.  The Doctor affirms her assumption, so she says she’ll get Amy to write an afterword for him.  He remembers that he tore the last page and left it in the picnic basket so he runs to retrieve it.  In the message Amy tells the Doctor that she and Rory had a good life and that he should never be alone.  Her one request is he visit her younger self and tell her the stories of their adventures together.

The final scene is of the young Amelia Pond waiting in her garden, a smile grows on her face as she hears the sound of the TARDIS materializing.

Review:

Of the five episodes that have aired in series seven, this was easily the best.  The Weeping Angels are a wonderfully creepy enemy.  It was a welcome decision to use them instead of one of the “classic” bad guys and so much better than the almost throw-away threat of the Shakri from The Power of Three.  They fit perfectly with the dark tone of the nighttime New York settings and the pulp crime novel feel of the episode.

One thing that bugged me was the Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel.  No, not because it’s an icon or anything like that, but because it’s so damned big.  If the angels can’t move when they’re being looked at how in the world could something so huge possibly move throughout the city without being seen?  And if someone did spot it would they just think, “Oh, it’s just the Statue of Liberty standing next to an apartment building” and go on with their lives?  Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but having us believe a building-sized statue could walk through a crowded city, complete with Earth-shaking footsteps, and not be noticed is quite another.

The theme of finality and fixed points in time ran throughout this episode.  There was the Doctor tearing the last page out of River’s novel because he doesn’t like endings, the multiple mentions of 1930s New York being difficult to visit due to time disturbances, and the repeated references to reading about the future, or past, fixing those events in time.  The previous episodes specifically highlighted the importance of the relationship between Amy, Rory and the Doctor to build emotional tension for their impending departure.  Those episodes used that tension like a knife in our hearts while this episode twisted the blade with the absolute finality of it all.  It was hard to watch, but very well done.

Because this was Amy and Rory’s last episode it was one many people didn’t want to see coming.  The couple quickly became fan favorites even though the character of Rory always felt underused and underdeveloped.  It would’ve been interesting to see how Rory could have developed traveling alone with the Doctor.  Arthur Darvil did an excellent job with what little he was usually given and made a memorable character out of someone often relegated to the sidelines.

While it sounds like the couple have been written out of Doctor Who for good, there’s always a way to do the impossible, especially on this show.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll see one or both of them pop in for a cameo some time in the future, or past.  One can never tell when we are with Doctor Who.

Quotes:

Amy: “Shut and read me a story.  Just don’t go ‘Yowzah!’”

The Doctor: “I always rip out the last page of a book.  Then it doesn’t have to end.  I hate endings.”

Amy: “Beware the yowzah.  Do not, at this point, yowz.”

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

Amy: “What was that?”
The Doctor: “1938.  We just bounced off it.”

Rory: “Will someone please tell me what is going on?”
The Doctor: “I’m sorry, Rory.  But you just died.”

Amy: “You think you’ll just come back to life?”
Rory: “When don’t I?”

Amy: “Raggedy man, goodbye!” (Amy’s last words to the Doctor.)

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2012 Teaser Trailer

Featurette: The Last Days of the Ponds


Editor for Three If By Space. Tom first became interested in science fiction & science as a very young child thanks to his parents. His earliest memories of enjoying scifi were sitting with his dad watching first-run episodes of the original Star Trek. Although a rabid fan of nearly all forms of scripted television, some of Tom’s favorite shows are Firefly, Falling Skies, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, the X-Files and all versions of both Star Trek and Stargate. He also has a particular love for British television and dearly hopes to one day visit the UK.

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