The Angels take Manhattan Review
Companion exit stories always end up being some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes. I imagine that’s because as a writer, I’m drawn to emotional and dramatic stories – and exit storylines are always emotional and they are always dramatic. They’re packed with those poignant, touching moments which fill me with passion and inspiration, reminding me of my own plots and my own stories. There was the tragedy of Rose at the end of series 2, Martha’s subtle but touching exit at the end of series 3 and then of course there was the ultimate heartbreak at the end of series 4 when the doctor faced saying goodbye to not only his dear friend Donna but also to all of his companions again in one big emotional episode. I was really looking forward then to Amy and Rory’s last episode and I wasn’t disappointed – well nearly not disappointed anyway.
I’ll start with some other details of the plot other than the actual departure. Let’s have a little chat about the Angels themselves. For me, they were more effective here than they were in series 5’s episodes “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.” No longer running around breaking people’s necks they’re now back to their old trick of sending people back in time – much more effective and much creepier – wise move Mr Moffat. However, in saying that they still weren’t as effective as they were in their debut episode “Blink” and sadly I feel that they never will be again. I had a couple of genuine jumpy moments because of them, particularly in the Winter Quay scenes – and the baby angels were freaky – but the scare factor just wasn’t there like it once was. Also the decision to make the Statue of Liberty one of them was a poor choice in my mind, it added little to the story, the thudding footsteps of its arrival made me think we were back on that dinosaur spaceship, and when we finally saw the lady herself she looked very terribly CGI. It took me out of the moment if I’m being honest, a singular, normal angel would have sufficed.
River was also back in this episode and I have to say I enjoyed her a lot more than the last time we clapped eyes on her. She seemed older, a bit wiser if that’s the word I’m looking for, a bit less of a shameless and slightly cringey flirt and a bit more of a mature “wife” – although I don’t personally like using that word to describe her. I liked her moments where she put the doctor in his place, questioning him about his (my opinion) stupid decision to wipe himself from history, scolding him for using his regeneration energy on her wrist ( a great plot device by the way,) and warning him not to travel alone. If she stays on being like this then I’m happy to see her again in the future, possibly for the fiftieth.
And now the big goodbye itself. Bittersweet is perhaps the best word I can use. Like all of the best goodbyes I’m left not knowing how to feel. Happy yes, that Amy and Rory do get to lead a full life together. But sad for the doctor that it had to end so suddenly and so finally – and sad for Amy and Rory that whilst they are together and technically happy they are still marooned in the past without family (poor Brian!) friends or colour tv. I guess in the end the crux of the heartbreak is, as it always is in Doctor Who, the end of a friendship. One which, in this case, started so very long ago with a little girl praying to Santa in her bedroom. Tears fell from my eyes at 3 parts – 1) When Amy and Rory fell to their apparent deaths, 2) When Amy said her goodbye in the graveyard “Raggedy Man! Goodbye!” – the final look Gillan gives the doctor at that moment says it all, and 3) When she asks him in her afterword to visit little Amelia in the garden. That was a very sweet, very sad, moment.
Before I conclude I must give huge credit to Murray Gold and his amazing musical talents. Epic versions of familiar themes were used superbly and the use of “A Lonely Decision” at the end of the episode was perfect. It’s a track I’ve loved since series 5 and I’m so pleased it was used prominently here.
To conclude, “The Angels Take Manhattan” works brilliantly as a farewell episode IF you don’t start looking too closely or asking too many questions. Like why can river get that book to Amy but the doctor can never see her again? And how does the doctor now visiting little Amy and telling her all about the adventures she’ll have fit in with established timelines? And how comes the angels didn’t move when she didn’t look, or he didn’t look, or she didn’t? There are plotholes aplenty if you choose to look. My advice would be to just not look. We could pull apart every episode of Doctor Who if we wanted to by saying “but surely…..?” If we did that though it would largely defeat the point. The point is that it was a great piece of television – it did it’s job. I’ve never been a huge Amy fan, but this episode had me crying for her by the end. That, in my eyes, is a success.