Near the beginning of this week’s Doctor Who, the last before the mid-season break, The Doctor rips out the page of the current detective novel he’s obsessed with as he doesn’t like endings which is an ironic statement to make as we all know this is the end of the road for companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
The last four episodes have been building up to The Angels Take Manhattan as we see The Doctor’s visits to the couple becoming less frequent and the insinuation being that eventually they’ll grow too old for him however last week we saw them decide to continue their travels through time and space rather than live normal lives. To put over the fact that they have aged somewhat Amy now has to wear reading glasses and also has lines round her eyes while Rory looks about the same. The trio are in New York relaxing however this mini-break doesn’t last for long when Rory goes for coffee and ends up encountering those Weeping Angels ending up in 1938 becoming part of the Melody Malone book that The Doctor was reading from of course if you were paying attention to the picture on the front cover then you’ll already sort of know where this is going.
The Angels Take Manhattan plays as an old school film noir with the 1930s theme established right at the beginning of the episode in a preface that is taken right of an old-fashioned detective novel. Here we meet Sam Garner a private eye who is hired by the crime boss Grayle, played by Mike McShane, to seek out the statues that can move a phenomenon he doesn’t believe in until he goes to a rather creepy apartment block near Battery Park. From the outset Steven Moffat presents New York as somewhere where the Angels can thrive as it is ‘the city that never sleeps’ and it is surrounded by statues including a rather famous one who dons a rather different expression during the episode. Back with Rory who instantly runs into Melody Malone herself and surprisingly it turns out to be River Song, who greets him with a rather creepy hello daddy, before they are both captured by Grayle’s men and while she is tasked with bringing down the angels he’s put in with ‘the baby’. Meanwhile The Doctor and Amy are desperate to get to 1938 but are being held off by various time distortions before finally arriving at their destination after some interfering with an ancient Chinese dynasty. From there the trio have to figure out how to get Rory back however reading the book to the end will mean that they can’t change anything but Amy comes up with the genius idea of using the chapter titles to help as they’re like spoiler-free previews.
And spoiler-free is also something I would like to apply to this review as I’m not going to tell you how Amy and Rory left but I’ll endeavour to explain how I felt about it. Personally I think the build to the exit has been fantastic slowly creating the wedge between these two humans and The Doctor before spoiling it last week with the cheesy ‘Power of Three’ line. Though there are some tender moments between The Doctor and Amy, as you would expect, to me nothing really matches there chat at the Thames last week or that fraught conversation they had in the Wild West and I think this has something to do with the pacing of the episode. There is also a double-bluff before we get to the final exit which I think lessens the impact in a way while the explanation of Rory’s exit, and the reason Amy has to leave as well, was a little weak in my opinion. I did like the fact though that they bought the story back to the start with Amy referring to The Doctor as ‘raggedy-man’ while in addition we got to see the young Amelia Pond once again which was a sweet little touch. Amy’s final words to The Doctor were also well thought out as was her final scene with her daughter as she tries to convince River to keep him company even though later she explains why she can’t.
While I didn’t feel the exit was as memorable as I thought it would be the episode as a whole was spectacular and the New York set was utilised to its fullest. From the very first frame I was utterly captivated by the 1930s noir feel with the old technique of having the brow-beaten private eye talk to camera to describe his next case. As I said before it makes perfect sense to place the moving statues in a city that is covered in them and the dark alleyways of New York are the ideal place for the statues to surround you without noticing. To me the Weeping Angels are one of the best Doctor Who villains of the new era as their movements go unseen and they always leave destruction wherever they go essentially not caring who they take with them. The structures of the New York apartment block also gets an entirely new use here both in the Sam Garner opening scene and later on with Rory these scenes provide the kind of shock value I look for when watching a programme such as Doctor Who. The costumes are also spot on with River Song looking spot on in a rain-covered mac while the 1930s characters are perfectly created especially Grayle the crime boss with the collecting fetish.
Though I don’t think Moffat put enough emphasis on the exit of the Ponds I think the language used in the 1930s scenes was apt while the flirty banter between The Doctor and River provided some much needed humour in what was a fairly serious episode. Karen Gillan did well in her final episode as she portrayed Amy getting older but somehow never let any of that inner-strength leave her as she makes a mighty sacrifice to be with her husband while Arthur Darvill also had his moment of glory earlier on in the episode when he too thinks he has a way to change things. Matt Smith was also convincing in the scenes after the Ponds had left him looking dejected that he was on his own once again although we know that won’t be for very long. I can’t say I’ve missed River Song that much, she was over-used in the last series, but it seems right that she should come back for the final episode featuring her storyline parents while Alex Kingston always seems to revel playing the character. Though there wasn’t room for much of a supporting cast Mike McShane, possibly best known for playing Friar Truck in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, made Grayle really feel like one of those smug crime lords from the 1930s films.
Overall a well-produced episode with some fine performances, attention to period detail and excellent use of the terrifying weeping angels. It’s a shame then that all of this is somewhat eclipsed by the fact that this will always be seen as Amy and Rory’s last episode and in that respect I feel that more time should’ve been allocated to this exit. It seemed to me to be very sudden and after all the build-up I was thinking we would get something more spectacular than what we ultimately did. Instead this was a very low-key send-off with a couple of nice touches though I thought I’d feel a lot more emotional than I actually did. I will miss the Ponds as Amy and Rory had a great chemistry with The Doctor and will always be associated with this incarnation of the character so now we’ll have to wait till Christmas to see if the new assistant can successfully replace them.