Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan spoiler-free review

Review Simon Brew 26 Sep 2012 - 06:48

Doctor Who signs off until Christmas with The Angels Take Manhattan. Here's our spoiler-free review...

7.5 The Angels Take Manhattan

Appreciating that most of you know what's going to happen in this episode, given that it's a little secret Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are leaving Doctor Who, we're still going to be extra-cautious not to give anything away in this review. As such, plot discussion will be minimal.

What we can say is what's given away in the title. The Angels Take Manhattan sees the return of the Weeping Angels. It also sees the aforementioned departure of Amy and Rory. And while it's not a perfect episode, it does have a real emotional wallop to it. Steven Moffat, who is on writing duties here, takes real time to give two of his characters a good send-off, and there will be little doubt come the end credits that he's managed to do just that.

Furthermore, the style, look and feel of the episode is exquisite. This week's blockbuster theme is a good, detective film noir, and director Nick Hurran - along with the production designers - are clearly having a ball with it (as is Moffat with the script). The episode at its best looks amazing, and the New York location shoot is well used as well. Credit where credit's due: each week, Doctor Who has really tried to give us a distinctive looking standalone blockbuster, and The Angels Take Manhattan - whilst not quite as noisy as some of the others - looks glorious.

Let's get the grumbles out of the way. The Angels themselves, if anything, are the weak bit here. Inevitably, given that this is their third full story in Doctor Who, their scare factor has diluted the more they're exposed. Steven Moffat once again finds ways to evolve them and deepen them, but The Angels Take Manhattan does lack the sinister edge and the get-under-your-skin fright of the Angels of past. That's a by-product of us getting more familiar with them, but also there's something to do with the Angels near the start of the episode that doesn't quite work.

Also, the episode zips around an awful lot, and it requires some attention to follow the assorted threads. We've no problem with that - television that demands something of its audience is no bad thing - yet it's the stiller moments that are the most effective here. As much fun as Steven Moffat tries to pack into the episode, it's in the final third where it's very much at its strongest.

We're not going to say much more, because you really don't want this episode spoiled. So we'll come to the crux of it: did we love The Angels Take Manhattan? No, although we'd bet that many of you will. But it's nonetheless a good episode, that's excellent when its focus more overtly shifts to what we know is coming.

The ending in particular is strong, as much for the Doctor as for anything else. And Matt Smith is brilliant once more. It'd be remiss to say he gives one of his best performances in the role, because his central work in the show, particularly over what's been a bumpy-ish five episodes, has been uniformly tremendous. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are no slouches either, and The Angels Take Manhattan is a real reminder of the strength they've brought to Doctor Who over the best few years.

Our advice for Saturday night? Lower your expectations just a little, get some tissues ready, and prepare for a good, moving episode of Doctor Who. It's just a shame we won't get any more until Christmas...

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