Somehow we have stumbled to the final episode in the first half of the current series of Doctor Who and to Amy and Rory’s departure from the series. I wanted this episode to be better than all of the others this series because I love Amy and Rory, even if I don’t like how they are written most of the time and even if I don’t really believe all that time has passed. Still, oh so predictably, I really disliked “The Angels Take Manhattan” and found it to be one of the most problematic episodes yet.
My worst enemy the opening voiceover was of course back — rather than embracing the creepy silence of the angels as Moffat did in “Blink,” he felt the need to set up the episode with banal narration. Moffat episodes in the Smith era seem to have silence in all the wrong places and dialogue where there should be none. Also, sidenote: I’ve never been particularly keen on the old man prosthetics and much prefer when they just get another, similar looking actor in to play the older version because my disbelief in the prosthetics really takes me out of the story. Things I did like: the lift, the overhead angles looking down at the detective, the general lighting.
Back in the present and after some opening shots of Manhattan that reminded me rather a lot of Gossip Girl and Friends, Amy, Rory and the Doctor are reading in Central Park and Amy is sporting a rather nice pair of reading glasses. Cue Things That Made Rosianna Cross About This Episode Part 1: Aging. For some reason Moffat thought it appropriate to have Rory and the Doctor make comment (Rory tripping all over his words) on the age lines by Amy’s eyes (age lines invisible to the viewer of course.) It would have been a vastly different scenario if either a. Amy hadn’t been manic pixie dreamgirled already without having to abide by the expectations of being in a forever young, teenage state or b. Rory had been the one scrutinised. But it was so irrelevant and just felt like, as my flatmate Kayley just pointed out, another attempt to ease people into the end of Amy and Rory by assuring the audience that they’ve had a good long time with the Doctor. I don’t want to be eased into things, I want to be told a story and felt like that story wasn’t being told.
Rory goes to get coffee and the Doctor suddenly has a revelation that whatever he reads in the book will happen (so the book is a fixed point in time, I guess? Just like River’s diary) but only after we find out that the Doctor’s turned on noise is “Yowzah!” Awkward. Things That Made Rosianna Cross About This Episode Part 2: Yowzah.
Suddenly a wild River Song appears! Oh how I wish I had a strong enough Pokémon to defeat it. I can’t work out whether her presence in this episode was supposed to have some sort of relevance or she was just there to help the easing process. River plays exposition!girl, fulling embracing the opportunity to show off her supposedly superior knowledge, while the Doctor, trying to land in 1938, makes a lot of loud bangs and sparks happen in the TARDIS. Incidentally, have the warning messages on the TARDIS always been in English? I thought the messages on the console were in Gallifreyan but it seems the current series of Doctor Who favours 21st Century Earth English.
Rory and River are taken to a fancy house by mobsters and River analyses vases. Rory gets thrown in the cellar with baby angels, natch. For some reason I didn’t find these angel babies as creepy as I thought I would, but it was Rory’s response to them and the nature of the match (finite, prone to burning out suddenly, difficult to hold on to with any sense of security) that made this scene play out quite well. When Amy and the Doctor finally get there, Rory has vanished from the cellar and River has to break her own hand to set herself free from a Weeping Angel. So much annoying, forced and husband-wife dialogue passes between the Doctor and River that I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s at some point that River tells Amy to never let the Doctor see her age and this brings us back to Things That Made Rosianna Cross About This Episode Part 1: Aging. Because however you spin River saying “don’t let the Doctor see you age, he doesn’t like it” it always always comes to behaving unnaturally for a man’s sake. To denying the reality of time. Fair enough the Doctor is uncomfortable with that but for River to imply to her mother that she is doing something wrong by letting him see her age reduces Amy to a projection of whatever the Doctor wants to see. Any lessons learned from “The Girl Who Waited” have been quickly forgotten and aging is to be rejected.
Activity happens, angels happen, reunions happen and what should have been the coolest moment of the episode turns out to be thoroughly underwhelming, serving only a one-liner from Rory “I always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.” Really? You couldn’t build up to that a bit? Things That Made Rosianna Cross About This Episode Part 3: No Long Lasting Suspense. Every suspense-heavy moment lasted only a few minutes until the next problem was introduced and even when Amy and Rory threw themselves off a building to a really crap soundtrack, I didn’t feel that bittersweet relief of knowing they’d destroyed the Angels because I was annoyed about how that self-sacrifice played out, at the slow motion and at the fact that it even happened.
For that to then not work and for there to be a surviving angel that takes Rory was sloppy storytelling but did upset me, so I suppose half a point in Moff’s direction for that. Amy’s decision to join him was, at that point, an obvious one but the Doctor’s breakdown made it quite hard to bear. As the Doctor cried, I couldn’t help but think of why River wasn’t more broken about it, regardless of the blue sky idea of her parents living out their days together. The Doctor mentions it almost as an afterthought as River calmly operates the TARDIS. River assures him that she will pop in and out and see him regularly. Oh. Great. Brilliant.
The Doctor’s finding out that Amy wrote Melody Malone and River asked Amy to leave him a message in the Afterword was quite a nice visual realisation as he ran through the park and to the picnic basket. It recalled Ten at the end of the library episodes running to River’s diary and opening up the sonic screwdriver with that last flickering echo remaining. The wording of the Afterword felt all wrong, though and too obvious. I wanted mystery to be left in it, rather than an Afterword that spoke directly to the Doctor, so that it would be something you might stumble across as a reader and find peculiar–a person talking about their experience with a friend, meeting artists and whales–without ever using the word “Doctor.” But maybe I am too demanding a customer.
Honestly I finished this episode feeling bored and annoyed by the story and at the fact that Amy and Rory left in such a disappointing way that might have been so great. I truly feel this episode was a disservice to their characters, as this series has been. I’ll still watch at Christmas, but not with the urgency and excitement that I did every other year because I’m just setting myself up to be let down again.
What did you think of “The Angels Take Manhattan?”