Doctor Who: Series 7
“The Angels Take Manhattan”
Aired: September 29, 2012
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Nick Hurran
“This isn’t any old future, Amy, it’s ours. Once we know what’s coming, it’s fixed.”
– The Doctor
“The Angels Take Manhattan” wasn’t a perfect episode. There were a few glaring plotholes and questionable explanations used by Steven Moffat to tell the story he wanted to. But while it had it’s flaws, on an emotional level, I thought it was a worthy sendoff to the Ponds.
Although it took quite a bit of finagling to get there, that moment with Rory and Amy on the rooftoop was absolutely perfect. It was already an emotional gut punch seeing the elderly Rory get one last look at his beautiful wife before passing away. Watching young Rory climb onto the edge of the balcony and realizing his plan was to leap to his death in order to save humanity was heartbreaking. And the way it dragged on and you saw the fear he had just made it all the more agonizing.
Thematically, it was a perfect end for the character. Over the past three seasons, he’s become a hero in his own right, which has been a great evolution to witness. It’s also become a running joke that he is killed repeatedly and somehow finds a way to come back. So having him die twice in the finale (and having one of those deaths be another time when he had to wait years to see Amy again) was a nice thematic callback. Plus, Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan both played that scene perfectly. (As did Matt Smith, who was a wreck as he came out onto the roof and watched them both leap.)
As I’ve noted in previous recaps, the show has done a good job this season foreshadowing their deaths, which helped add tension to the scene as well. It was nice to see things culminate with that leap, even if their deaths were short lived. Plus there was such an ominous vibe to the proceedings that you knew the heartache wasn’t over yet. (Thanks to the novel, we had still been promised “Amelia’s Last Farewell.”)
I really liked the final scene in the graveyard as well because it made Amy choose once and for all between Rory and The Doctor. When she was introduced in season five, Amy ran away with The Doctor the night before her wedding. Much of that season was spent exploring her feelings for The Doctor versus her feelings for Rory. But over time, as things have evolved, she’s realized that she loves Rory and views The Doctor more as a crazy kid they take care of than a love interest.
In addition to the romantic angle, there was also the idea explored this season that The Doctor and his adventures were an escape the Ponds were using from their “real” life. Every time the mad man in the box shows up, they drop everything to run off with him. But as they’ve gotten older and grown up more, that’s become less appealing. Her final moment on the show was Amy making the ultimate choice to be with Rory instead of The Doctor (as was her leap with him off of the building).
And watching The Doctor rush off to retrieve the last page of the novel, as well as seeing young Amelia Pond waiting on top of her suitcase, was a fitting end as well. Emotionally, I thought Moffat nailed the whole episode.
Unfortunately, it took quite a bit of maneuvering to get there. The biggest thing we had to swallow for the episode to work was the explanation that New York City in the 1930s is overrun with time energy and is hard to get to, which is why The Doctor and River can’t simply go back and retrieve Rory and Amy again at the end.
Which I guess works, except there are two major plotholes in this explanation. One, we know that River was able to get to 1938 using a vortex manipulator, which means she could have gone back and fetched her parents. Two, even if that wasn’t the case, there’s no reason The Doctor couldn’t have fetched them both – or at least visited them again – 10 or 20 years down the line.
There were other little things as well, like the Angel grabbing River and trapping her wrist, but not being strong enough to send her back in time. Or the whole Statue of Liberty thing, which made for a really cool visual, but doesn’t make much sense if you stop to think about it. (When could the Statue of Liberty ever move without at least one set of eyes on it? How did no one notice it moving around the city? And how is it supposed to get back to its island in its original pose?)
Still, plotholes aside, it was nice to have the gang together for one last adventure. The episode made good use of the New York setting and the 30s noir angle was an inspired idea. River as Melody Malone was great. And I liked the copious use of the word “Yowza!”
Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff
The paradox Rory creates by jumping off the roof is a bizarre twist on the Grandfather Paradox, a concept first mentioned by science fiction writer René Barjavel in his 1943 book Le Voyageur Imprudent. Barjavel’s original concept was that a person couldn’t go back in time to kill their own grandfather because doing so would prevent them from ever being born. And if they weren’t born, they never could have traveled back in time to kill their grandfather.
Rory was supposed to end up an old man in that room at the Winter Quay. Jumping off the roof prevented that outcome from happening. But since he had already seen his elderly self, that created the paradox that tore the hotel apart and defeated the angels.
If you are a fan of this type of head trippy time travel shenanigans, I recommend checking out Looper, which centers around a hitman who is tasked with killing his future self. It’s really good.
And another thing …
- The Doctor’s “final checks” – in which he looked himself over and fixed his bow tie – before seeing River, killed me. A fun bit of writing by Moffat, played perfectly by Matt Smith.
- Nice to see the psychic paper being used again. It’s been a while since it has made an appearance.
- All in all, the Ponds didn’t get that bad of a farewell. Sure, they are trapped in the wrong decade, but that’s better than getting trapped in the wrong dimension or having every memory of The Doctor erased from your overtaxed mind.
- It’s been a pretty fun little five-episode run so far this season. It’s going to be a long, long wait to Christmas.
Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week
You’ll be missed, Amelia …
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.