7.5 – “The Angels Take Manhattan”
The Weeping Angels have infested New York in 1938 and taken over an apartment block so that they can send people back in time and then keep them there until they die, before luring them to the place where they die and sending them back in time and…are you following this?! Rory has been picked up by the Angels and taken back to 1938 so that they can lure him to the apartment block and so on and so on. The Doctor, River Song and Amy chase after him, but need a serious paradox to foil the Angel’s plan.
Leaving aside all the returning baddies from Classic Who, the Weeping Angels have to be New Who’s premier monster. “Blink” is constantly voted as one of the truly best episodes of New Who and I personally think that “The Time Of The Angels” is just as good – as Steven Moffat himself put it, it’s the Aliens to “Blink” being Alien. Mind you, if we follow that analogy, does that make “The Angels Take Manhattan” Alien 3? One hopes not.
Fortunately, it is not the failure that Alien 3 was, but it still struggles to make the impact of its predecessors. Which is a pity because, on reflection, this story lets us see the Angels in real action. In “Blink” we had a bunch of supposedly weak Angels trying to survive and generally being very scary in a timey-wimey mish mash story. In “The Time Of Angels” they were essentially a terrifying threat responsible for some serious running around (both done excellently, I might add). Here, they are seriously up to no good. The central idea, of them having a farm in New York, imprisoning and feeding off their victims for decades, is really quite horrific; it’s deviousness and sadism on a Dalek scale. Having their victims meet their older, just-about-to-die selves is really quite sick.
The Angels get a few great scenes – the statue of the mother and child waiting and waiting for their moment to attack Grayle’s house, the Cherubs in the basement and the sheer audacity of having the Statue of Liberty become a Weeping Angel. The problem is, this isn’t really a Weeping Angels story. It’s the grand farewell of the Ponds. Well, it’s the grand farewell of Amy Pond and her appendage, Rory. It pretty much overshadows everything else, as it has done for the first five episodes of Series 7. And with another liberal dose of “Amy loves Rory”, it’s rammed down our throats at every opportunity.
They have a picnic and Amy is wearing glasses and is starting to get wrinkles (nonsense, Karen Gillan will remain unblemished forever…but I digress); continuing reminders that The Doctor doesn’t like endings; how The Doctor can’t read ahead and learn what is going to happen. It’s as though the episode is banging a fist on the screen and shouting “HELLO?! You have been paying attention, right? You are aware that a BIG EVENT is coming?!!”
In some ways, it’s been the continuous over-emphasis of “Amy loves Rory” for the last two and a half series that spoils this story. Rory being sent back through time by the Angels with The Doctor, Amy and River in desperate pursuit is a good idea but we’ve seen Rory die, or nearly die, so many times now that this really has no impact.
We get a pretend end before a final, super-emotional encore. On top of a building, with the Statue of Liberty about to get Rory (if you’re going to get zapped into the past by a Weeping Angel, that is one hell of a Weeping Angel to get zapped by), Rory makes the ultimate sacrifice (again) and, of course, Amy has to join him while The Doctor screams in impotence. White-out, reset and back to normal. Ho hum.
So everything works out alright. OR DOES IT? Because in the present day at the graveyard, there’s a headstone with Rory’s name on it and a somehow-surviving Angel ready to get him. Arthur Darvill doesn’t get to make a final speech, he’s just gone. Karen Gillan gets the big scene and says her last “Goodbye, Raggedy Man.” For now, at least…wink.
That final page of the book assures us that Rory and Amy did live happily ever after (which sort of nullifies just how nasty them Angels are) and, despite my general sense of “Thank God they’re finally gone”, the last shot of Amy being a shot of the young Amy waiting to begin her adventures with The Doctor was still very, very sweet.
If only this had been a two-part thriller with the Angels’ evil plan as the driving force of the story, I’d have loved it to bits. Alas, the overwhelming last hurrah for the Ponds takes over and the old maxim of less is more gets forgotten. The Ponds most royally overstayed their welcome; I think they should have been allowed to live happily ever after when The Doctor dropped them off after “The God Complex”. Karen Gillan as Amy keeps us with it though (and not for the first time). Gillan can do emotional and fiery and not mushy. Smith, I feel, is not so well served – he’s just left to get angry about it all. I think the Moff was trying too hard here, there’s none of the sparks, no killer lines, none of the plain joy and excitement that the Eleventh Doctor is usually all about.
Oh Amy – all flaming red hair, saucy fury and oh so short skirts. I may have disliked a lot of what went on while she joined us in the TARDIS, but I never fell out of love with her. “This is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends.” I can only give this story 6/10 but Amelia Pond – she’s an Eleven, every time.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes