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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Doctor Who: Angels Take Manhattan, BBC1

                                                                                Contributed by Matt Donnelly 
So it’s all been building up to this, after four quality episodes of Doctor Who we already have our mid-season break which coincides with the exit of Rory and Amy from the series. As Amy Pond, Karen Gillen has been part of the Tardis team ever since Matt Smith became The Doctor while Arthur Darvill’s Rory also appeared in Smith’s first full episode becoming a regular last year. It makes total sense that the couple both leave together as they have been built up as this unbreakable unit that have the canny ability to wait a long time to be with each other. If one left without the other it would negate the relationship cemented between the pair and it would also mean that The Doctor still wouldn’t be totally alone. The last four instalments suggested that Amy and Rory would eventually retreat to modern life leaving The Doctor behind however in last week’s episode they realised they couldn't give him up which allowed Amy to deliver that awfully cheesy ‘power of three’ line that I don’t think anybody particularly cared for.

Show-runner Steven Moffat seemed like the only person worthy to oversee the departures of these two much-loved characters and has indeed written The Angels Take Manhattan which reintroduces those incredibly creepy Weeping Angel statues that Moffat bought into the show back in the 2007 episode ‘Blink’.  The pre-credit opening sequence sets up the concept of the episode as we are plunged into New York of the 1930s as private detective Sam Garner (Rob David) narrates the story as if he were n a Philip Marlowe novel. We see him hired by crime boss Grayle (Mike McShane) who wants to learn about how he can defeat the statues, having bought some and later discovered their powers, however it seems a sceptical Garner is simply taking the job on for the money so is sent to an apartment block near Battery Park to begin his investigation.  Though he is unaware we can see that he is being stalked by the statues which are getting ever nearer as he approaches a room where he gets a real shock.

From there we return to New York of the modern day with The Doctor reading a detective novel aloud while Amy is having to use reading glasses to navigate her way through the paper. Amy’s use of these glasses, as well as the lines around her eyes, are used to insinuate that the couple are growing older however neither looks too much older than they did four episodes ago. As Rory goes off to get coffee he too is stalked by the angels who soon send him back to 1938 where he becomes part of the novel that The Doctor is reading whose author Melody Malone is discovered to be none other than River Song (Alex Kingston). As The Doctor and Amy realise what has happened to Rory they attempt to use the Tardis to get back to the 1930s however Rory’s current location is full of time distortions so they have to manoeuvre around an Ancient Chinese dynasty in order to finally get there. Meanwhile River Song has been captured by Grayle to use her knowledge of the weeping angels in order to dispose of them but at the same time he has tried to dispose of Rory. When River is reunited with The Doctor and Amy they then decide to use the chapter titles of Melody’s book in order to track down Rory though as we know this endeavor will lead to the departures of both he and his wife.

I’ll leave the nature of the departure out of this review and instead give my thoughts on the episode as a whole which in a way is sort of separated into two parts. Firstly the 1930s film noir pastiche that provides a very well-produced opening sequence as well as a reason for River Song to end up in trouble once again. I thought this was a wonderful starting point and New York an ideal setting for the angels to make their presence because, as The Doctor mentions, it is the city that never sleeps so the statues can move unnoticed through the city. In addition it is a city filled with architecture in which you can’t move without seeing a statue of some kind so it is a terrifying thought that they could somehow creep up on you. In one incredibly creepy scene The Statue of Liberty appears with the evil face of one of the angels and gradually approaches our heroes in a scene that could match any of the horrors that the Daleks have created over the years. I also thought the space of the dimly-lit apartment block, known as Winter Quay, was also well used as a place to introduce both a feeding ground for the angels and a place where their victims can be trapped.

The other part of the story is of course Amy and Rory’s departure something I thought would be fairly emotional seeing as the anticipation has been built well for this exit. I was surprised then that the shocking final scene for the couple seemed a little rushed with Rory especially not getting the send-off that I thought the character deserved while Amy at least got some time with her ‘raggedy man’ before she also left. While their ending is certainly shocking the incredibly fast-paced nature of it took the emotion out of what should’ve been a fairly touching scene while further communication between Amy and The Doctor, via his Melody Malone book, seems like it has been tagged on. On the other hand I did enjoy some of Amy’s speech to both The Doctor and her daughter River as well as the fact that Moffat bought the story full circle by revisiting the young Amelia Pond once again. Though I can’t say I’ve missed her that much it was a good idea to bring back River for the departure of her parents and also to explain why she can’t be a full time replacement for the Ponds.

Overall The Angels Take Manhattan was a good Doctor Who episode, certainly an improvement on last week’s offering, if not a particularly memorable exit for the two companions. All the performers involved did their best to make the whole departure feel like a definitive conclusion however I didn’t feel the script reflected that. Certainly I don’t feel Amy and Rory’s departures are up there with those of some of the other assistants but at the same time I got the feeling that they’ll leave a massive hole in The Doctor’s life. So both he and us will now have to wait until Christmas to see if the new companion can match up to the strong impression the couple have left over the last two years.


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