Sunday, 30 September 2012
The final farewell for Amy and Rory Pond, The Angels Take Manhattan was the culmination of two and half series of adventuring with the Doctor. I didn’t cry. Much.
Setting the tone for the bulk of the episode was a very noir pre-titles sequence following a 1930s private detective, trenchcoat and hat included, as he took a case from a shady pinstriped client and encountered moving stone Angels. Brilliantly eerie and shot in a fantastically terrorised version of the noir style, this rain-soaked opening was a perfect way to start off the episode. He was even called Sam.
Then our favourite time travelling trio, trying to have a relaxing picnic in Central Park, found themselves thrust into the same situation. Taking a wrong turn while off to get coffee, Rory ended up separated from Amy and the Doctor by 74 years. Poor guy. I sometimes mess up navigating big cities too. This led Team TARDIS into an adventure bringing them face to face with Professor River Song, Weeping Angels and their own deaths. In Rory’s case, three times in one episode. A new record.
But the third time, though we didn’t see it, was the one that counted. Banished to the past together, Amy and Rory were properly Angelled – fated to “live to death” without being able to se the Doctor again. The final page, a message from Amy to the Doctor, was a real tearjerker and one of the most emotional pieces of writing I’ve seen on television, and the Doctor breaking down after realising that he’s lost two of his closest friends forever was a masterfully heartbreaking performance from Matt Smith. Ending by tying the past few series together by returning to little Amelia in the garden... Sniff.
Unfortunately, this emotion didn’t fully manage to cloud how little sense the episode made. While the emotional side of my brain was wailing for the loss of the Ponds and the Doctor’s sad, lost, 1200 year old puppy dog face, the logical side of my brain was doing what it does best and compiling a list with the header 'Plot Holes'. How exactly did the Statue of Liberty stomp across half of New York without anyone seeing it? Surely there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of people with Liberty in their sight at any one time. How unlikely a coincidence was it that the Doctor decided to read the book in his pocket at the time of Rory’s failed coffee run? And if anyone cares to explain why the Doctor can’t go back to visit Amy and Rory in their past lives, please go ahead.
Another qualm is that, after getting Amy to 1938 via ancient China, the Doctor didn’t really do much. He just paced around angrily like a passive aggressive giraffe as the plot advanced around him, with Amy and Rory kicking off most of the major twists. I like it when the Doctor does clever things and it feels like a shame that he couldn’t have done more to facilitate their sort-of survival.
Putting all this aside, the story did have its strong points. Other than the beautiful ending discussed above, there was the fantastic New York City location shooting, which, combined with the film noir style and a nice little bit of Sting, gave the episode a distinct and vibrantly dark visual style. The Angels, stripped of most of the silly extra powers granted on them by series five and returned to their Blink modus operandi, fitted perfectly into this setting, making it a fantastically sci-fi noir with an edge of horror. This episode certainly lived up to Moffat’s ‘blockbuster in 45 minutes’ hype.
Though she wasn't the focus of this episode, it was nice to see River again, away from the complex timey-wimey timeline of hers which has pervaded her recent appearances. She had some nice interaction with the Doctor, now her husband, and hinted that she'll be seeing him again, which is cool - I wouldn't want her associated only with one set of companions, even if they are her parents, after she was set up to be someone who knows many of the Doctor's incarnations.
So it’s goodbye to the Ponds in a story that I did enjoy, but was hoping to enjoy more. The emotional punch, while certainly powerful, is not helped by the illogical plot. It’s a shame that their exit couldn’t be as strong as their entrance in the brilliant The Eleventh Hour, or as Moffat’s recent Asylum of the Daleks, but Manhattan was nevertheless an entertaining episode. Emotional Kieron Brain and Logical Kieron Brain will be in a heated argument about whether it was really any good for at least a year.
Amy and Rory have been an interesting take on the Doctor Who companion – the first time New Who has had two companions for an extended period of time, with a deeply explored relationship between the two. In ways they’ve been endearing, with character moments such as Asylum’s teleporter scene really making us care about their relationship, although there have been problems with their characterisation – the mess of series six’s story arc didn’t do them any good. Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following their developments as characters, from children to young engaged couple to experienced travellers, and feel that now was the right time for them to leave.
Farewell Ponds, come along soufflé girl!
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