Sunday, 30 September 2012

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

Amy: 'Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.'

Thus endeth the saga of Rory and Amy. A much better episode this week—in fact, this was my favourite of the season so far. My main gripe with 'A Town Called Mercy' was that it wasted a perfectly good location shoot on a decidedly average story. Thankfully, tonight's story was worthy of Manhattan. Yes, it was a lower key exit than we're used to, and I didn't experience quite the same depths of despair as when we lost Rose or Donna, but it felt right that Amy should finally choose Rory over the Doctor. Like we ever doubted she would.

Karen Gillan apparently wanted an ending from which there was no coming back. I'm not sure that's exactly what she got. I'm not sure such a thing even is possible in Doctor Who. Time travel pretty much undoes any disaster, though they did try to nail the door shut with Amy's afterword in the Melody Malone novel. Evidently time can't be rewritten once you've read it. What would have happened had River written page 43 differently, or provided a warning earlier in the book? Presumably everything would have somehow ended up the same. This is the sort of thing Doctor Who Confidential used to explain so well.

Could they have picked a better city for a story about Angels than Manhattan? Yes, they could—Los Angeles—but Manhattan made for an atmospheric alternative. I loved the typewritten segways and the detective film noir style narration. The Cherubim were also a nice addition to the existing Angel lore. If I've learned anything from TV, it's that babies are essentially evil (Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, Seed of Chucky, the dancing baby in Ally McBeal, Stewie from Family Guy, etc.), so baby Weeping Angels pitter pattering around in the dark, giggling dementedly, were always going to work. Was the Statue of Liberty being an Angel a step too far? Did it remind anyone else of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, except uglier, and not made from sugar? Or that bit in Ghostbusters 2 where they walked the Statue of Liberty through the city? Or that bit in Ghostbusters 3 which hasn't happened yet because people can't seem to get their arses into gear?

Initially, I was a little surprised by Amy's reaction (or lack of) to seeing her daughter again. I'm not sure exactly where this episode sits in River's chronology—presumably after 'Flesh and Stone'—but it wasn't quite the heart rending reunion I was expecting. She didn't even say hello. Thankfully, as the episode progressed, their relationship did warm up—just in time for Amy to vanish into the past forever. With all the mystery surrounding River now over, I like her as an occasional character. Her relationship with the Doctor feels less awkward, and if you can't use your regeneration energy to fix your wife's busted wrist, then what can you use it for? He's lucky she didn't break it again twatting him across the face.

Suicide pacts are an awfully serious topic for so early in the evening, but the fact that it ended well—in the same way that suicide pacts almost never do—seemed to dilute some of the darkness. Great line from Rory about always coming back to life again. He even managed to live to the grand old age of 82—which is good going for a man who used to die virtually every other week. So Moffat's tease that someone was going to die turned out to be true—it just won't happen for another 50 odd years. Except it already did. (Timey wimey!) So we got to have our promised death, without having to feel too morose about it.

I also liked that, even after the Doctor begged Amy to stay with him, she chose Rory. Early on in season five there was some confusion over the nature of Amy's relationship with the Doctor (and how it might impact on her feelings for Rory.) It's not that she didn't love Rory, she just had things she wanted to do before settling down. But when the time came to choose—despite the Doctor's slightly selfish protestations—there could only be one winner. Although Amy's final written words didn't exactly swamp us with detail, they at least spoke of their happiness. (Even if the coda did feel a little tacked on.) And presumably River will still be able to use her vortex manipulator to visit occasionally.

Great scenes, too, atop the Winter Quay Hotel. Even the Doctor seemed unsure whether Rory's plan would work. It was also a nice reversal of expectation to see the Weeping Angels win for once. Yet, this really was a happy ending. Yes, Amy jumping off the roof with Rory was incredibly moving, as were Amy's final moments with the Doctor and River in the cemetery, but nobody actually died. At least, not from anything other than old age. And those final minutes in Leadworth, back where it all began, was the perfect way to bookend the story. Knowing how their journey ends, I'm not sure what kind of experience re-watching the Pond years will be. I suspect 'The Eleventh Hour' will feel a lot more poignant.

Generally, when a companion leaves, we get an essentially throwaway story, culminating in a sanity draining last ten minutes. Tonight's episode was far stronger in terms of story, but didn't quite reach the emotional heights of 'Doomsday' or 'Journey's End'. The reason for that, I suspect, is the nature of Rory and Amy's departure. Although sad, Rory and Amy's fate was to the rest of their lives together. Admittedly, in another time period, but them's the breaks. There was no mind wipe, no estranged lovers trapped in parallel universes, and Amy's epilogue did bring a modicum of closure—for us, if not for the Doctor. That's not to say there wasn't a lump in my throat... although that may have been from the biscuits I was chomping at the time.

So, farewell, dear Ponds! It was fun while it lasted.

Other Thoughts:

—Well done Rory... for walking straight into a trap. No wonder you're always dying.

—Gold acting stars all around for Karen, Arthur and particularly Matt. A lot was asked of them tonight, and they totally delivered.

—Again, this episode felt a little short to me. If I'm honest, I'm struggling to come to terms with the mostly stand alone nature of this season. It's not what the show does best, but there's no point griping about it—that's just how it is.

—Nice Sherlock references: China 221 B.C. and 'The Dying Detective'.

—Fun fact (for me): I can't spell Manhattan. I always spell it Manhatten.

—Why was the Christmas episode trailer so hopelessly short? Yes, we know the Doctor and Oswin will be in it—but who else?

—River's 'one psychopath per TARDIS' rule felt terribly contrived. It felt like a clumsy set up for the Christmas episode—which, of course, is exactly what it was.

—More occasionally inappropriate music from Murray Gold.


Amy: 'He went to get coffee and turned up in a book? How does that work?'
Doctor: 'I don't know, we're in New York.'

River: 'Just you wait until my husband gets home.'

River: 'Didn't you used to be somebody?'
Doctor: 'Weren't you the women who killed the Doctor?'
River: 'Doctor Who?'

Doctor: 'Why did you lie to me?'
River: 'When one's in love with an ageless god, who insists on the face of a twelve year old, one does one's best to hide the damage.'

River: 'Never let him see the damage. And never let him see you age. He doesn't like endings.'

Amy: 'You think you'll just come back to life?'
Rory: 'When don't I?'

Rory: 'To save you, I could do anything.'

Doctor: 'I hate endings.'

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