Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan review

News Simon Brew 29 Sep 2012 - 20:05

Doctor Who series 7 episode 5: here's our spoiler-filled review of The Angels Take Manhattan...

This review contains spoilers. Our spoiler-free review is here.

7.5 The Angels Take Manhattan

"I always rip out the last page of a book. Then it doesn't have to end. I hate endings"

If it’s all the same with you, we’re going to start at the ending, whether the Doctor likes it or not. For Steven Moffat didn’t lie: he teased us some time ago that he was going to kill someone off in this episode, and as it turned out, he sent both Rory and Amy to their makers in The Angels Take Manhattan. Granted, he didn’t directly do so, as he gave them a good few decades together. But he seemingly slammed the door shut on them, tying up a story that began all the way back in The Eleventh Hour.

And a lovely tie up it was. The bringing back of the young Amelia Pond as a closing shot was a welcome touch, and it feels like it topped and tailed the story of Rory and Amy extremely well. Karen Gillan in particular has been strong in her assertion that she won’t be back in the show, even for guest appearances, and in the nicest sense, we hope she won’t be. It feels like the natural end of their journey, and if the temptation to bring her back can be resisted, then that’d be all the better in this case. Rory's dad is welcome back anytime, of course.

Not that Amy Pond won’t be missed. Amy and Rory had one final adventure here, and Steven Moffat’s script gave both Gillan and Arthur Darvill an awful lot of work to do. Confronted with their potential separation, there was humour, action and emotion, and the performances from Gillan and Darvill were both up to the job. We’ve said before that we’re particularly going to miss Arthur Darvill. His performance as Rory has evolved and impressed more and more as the episodes have rolled on.

Matt Smith, though, was also in tip top form, and the foreboding warning that his Doctor should never travel alone came through loud and clear here. It felt like quite a few things were being established for him to consider in the next run of episodes (River, after all, implies that he's gone too far erasing himself from history, basically the reversal of the problem he was up against before), and it'll be interesting to see how those threads develop. For now, not for the first time nor the last, The Doctor was faced with losing dear friends and companions (and just how special Amy was to him was explored in The Power Of Three), and Smith sold the heartbreak and loneliness of this tremendously well.

We also got the return of River Song here. It’s always good to see Alex Kingston in Doctor Who, and given that it was her parents who were going away, it was pretty much inevitable she’d be around for their farewell. We don't get vintage River, but her purpose here seems more to be to keep the Doctor, Amy and Rory in some kind of check. That, and she's also the author of the book that provides the spoiler-filled guide to the episode. She had her moments too, especially where she disguised breaking her wrist. And, of course, when she affirmed to her mother the way to get back to Rory at the end. The Doctor may have forgotten that it was her saying goodbye to her parents, but Kingston's performance certainly didn't.

Then there were the Angels. Along with the likes of The Silence, the Weeping Angels are one of the superb new monsters that Steven Moffat has introduced into the world of Doctor Who, but here, they felt a little diluted. The big Statue Of Liberty Angel, for instance, appeared not a million miles removed from the daft massive Cyberman in The Next Doctor, and there was very much a sense that the Angels were out of the shadows, and a little less effective as a result. In The Time Of Angels, for instance, Moffat managed to up the creep factor of them with a dose of Japanese horror. The closest he got here? The baby Angels were good, and opened up a way for them to go in the future. And the smiling Angel proved quite unsettling, too. Yet they didn’t feel anywhere near as scary this time around. In fact at one stage, when one Angel is said by River to be screaming, we're almost left feeling sorry for them. That's something of a change in the audience's relationship with them.

Just to temper all of that: while it does seem odd that the weakest part of The Angels Take Manhattan were the Angels themselves, they’re still welcome and impressive foes. To keep their level of impact, though, it might work best if they were kept off the regular monsters rota.

The Angels Take Manhattan did have many other elements that were strong. This week’s big movie genre of the week was a good, old fashioned detective film noir, and stylistically, this was a treat (and musically, too: Murray Gold's work this seris on Who has been superb). The production design once more delivered here, blending in with some New York location shooting, and the episode looked excellent.

That was established in a really atmospheric pre-credits opening, that teased the detective story - complete with obligatory typewriter - and also reintroduced the aforementioned Angels. It also introduced the particualr time travel element at work, with the older version of Garner meeting the younger one, providing a big clue for what lay ahead. It was a great opening sequence, too, with the Angels at their most sinister in the chase that ensued, only to then be softened by the big Statue Of Liberty Angel at the end of it. The layering of the typewriter over the action was a tremendous touch, though.

Now we've arrived at the start of the episode, though, we're going to end by going back to the finale. For, ultimately, The Angels Take Manhattan was about the exit of Amy and Rory (in an episode that they spend much of parted from each other), and the crater they leave behind in the Doctor's life. It was a suitably emotional farewell. We were left in little doubt that they actually did love each other come the end of their adventures, best demonstrated by the apparent suicide pact - and how dark was that for Saturday night family viewing? - that saw them seemingly leave the Doctor's life. The actual exit came a few minutes later, as the Doctor's joy at their seeming survival quickly turned when an Angel appeared in the graveyard, sending Rory back in time.

It was no surprise to all of us watching that the rug was about to be pulled (the days of surprise departures from Doctor Who seem long gone, not helped by the blanket publicity the show receives, something we're just as guilty of). That said, though, even though we knew their departure was coming, the Doctor begging Amy not to go back to Rory and basically to stay with him - an unusually selfish request - pulled at the heart strings. There was lots of good writing like tat, right throughout the episode.

So where does this leave Doctor Who? Reading around, few are citing the series 7 run thus far as the show firing on all cylinders, but then there's been ambition and variance to the stories Doctor Who has been trying to tell. The Angels Take Manhattan, for us, was a good, solid, really enjoyabe episode, with a big lift at the end. Christmas, though, promises a slightly broken Doctor, and a new traveller in the Tardis. We're rather looking forward to that already. We're going to miss Rory and Amy, though...

See also: where now for Doctor Who series 7?

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