Doctor Who (7.5): It’s enough to make an Angel weep

I can’t tell you how glad am I to have my prediction for the Ponds proven wrong. The Angels Take Manhattan was heartbreaking as promised, but the ending was, to steal a phrase from the Pet Shop Boys, HappySad. The scenario I mooted last week was beyond sad and into bleak, Steven Moffat’s outcome was (unsurprisingly) much better.

Spoilers below the line…

This was one of the most atmospheric episodes in a very long time – helped along by beautiful acting, the scariest monsters in the Whoniverse, and our own sense of dread.

The potentially corny trope of the hard-boiled detective’s narrative being tapped out on a typewriter in sync with the action was not only neatly subverted, but built into the structure of the story.

There’s an awful lot of subtle deftness about this episode actually; the repeated images of Liberty that pass unnoticed first time around, so central is she to our whole idea of New York; the idea that marriage is changing the future; the Doctor unable to look at the aged and dying Rory at Winter Quay.

Which is all good, because it balances out the unsubtle bits (the author’s name being Melody, the Doctor’s declaration that he “hates endings”, and the “written in stone” line combined with the pan to a very worrying gravestone to name but three).

The Angels are scarier than ever here too, though the babies are, I think, even creepier than the Statue of Liberty – and that’s before they blow out Rory’s match in the cellar…

Countering their dark dynamic, providing the slightest of comic relief is the Doctor and River show – I’ve yet to tire of their playing with domestic cliche; the veneer of normality that tops their  utterly unique and mostly undomesticated relationship. Which in turn provides contrast to the Ponds’ relationship. I could never have foreseen that the Rory we met in The Eleventh Hour would become this man, the quiet hero beloved by Amy, the Doctor and we hapless, sofa-bound viewers. But I’m so glad he did.

And actually, the most shocking moments in this episode are provided by the people – River breaking her own wrist, Rory climbing onto the roof edge, Amy following him and insisting they jump together – all are much more visceral, terrible things than than what the Angels do.

There may be those who complain that there’s too much relying on love and running to save the day, but I’m not one of them. Love, sacrifice, guilt, anger, revenge, grief, death – all the big themes in life are played out in Doctor Who as in other stories. The added aliens, timey-wimey and running all just add spice to the mixture.

Besides, if Rory and Amy’s rooftop scene didn’t bring a tear to your eye your heart must be stonier than an Angel’s. And Amy’s goodbye scene in the graveyard was surely heartbreaking enough to make even a Lonely Assassin weep.

But as I said right back at the top of this page – this is a HappySad ending. So not only do we know that Rory and Amy get a Happily Ever After, we know that Amelia Pond wasn’t left waiting in her wellies for 12 years after all. The smile on her face as the sound of the Tardis engines fill the garden in Leadworth is a sight worth waiting two and a half years for.

Farewell then Ponds – I shall miss you. The new girl has some big shoes to fill at Christmas.

Posted by Jo the Hat

10 Comments

Filed under Dr Who

10 responses to “Doctor Who (7.5): It’s enough to make an Angel weep

  1. Tim

    Great review as ever, Jo.

    Only a couple of minor niggles, and so much to love. The film noir setting. (Murray Gold’s noirish score is beautiful too.) Liberty the Angel (although I still find the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scarier – and Ghostbusters ended on a NY rooftop too), Amy’s coda. And yes, the ‘babies’ were terrifying.

    The Melody Malone thing was a bit neon sign-ish, but I have to admit the “my lipstick was combat-ready” line had me laughing out loud. We all remember Let’s Kill Hitler, right? How could the Doc not have noticed the blatant clue?!?

    My one big niggle was the ending. The two most resourceful people in the universe shrug their shoulders and say “nope, can’t do anything about that”. Okay, they can’t fly the TARDIS back to 1938 NY because of the paradox. But how about travelling to, I don’t know, Washington and taking the train? To not try at all just felt wrong – the Doctor and River constantly delight in achieving the impossible.

    Anyhow, I loved this regardless. A few thoughts via the link below, if anyone’s interested:

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2012/09/29/doctor-who-season-7-episode-5-review-the-angels-take-manhattan/

    • Didn’t the Ghostbusters bring Liberty to life (through pink goo and the glorious Your Love is Lifting Me (Higher & Higher)) in the second film?
      I forgot to include this thought last night – the dangers of blogging late at night!

      • Tim

        Oh yes, you’re quite right, they did. I think I must have blotted the general awfulness of Ghostbusters II from my memory, By the way, ‘HappySad’ was spot on!

  2. Mia66

    Goodbye to the Ponds! ;( But it was good to have River back, and her and the Doctor’s relationship is so sad. I liked that the main focus was on Amy, Rory, the Doctor and River, rather than the scariest monsters – the Weeping Angels. It felt a bit rushed in parts, but the acting was amazing, especially Matt Smith and Alex Kingston.
    Great review 🙂

  3. holbylover819

    The Weeping Angels in this episode were much more like the ones in Blink, “the only assassins to kill you nicely” if I recall correctly, as opposed to the Angels in The Crash of The Byzantium which broke necks. I still think Blink was scarier but the main focus was Amy and Rory so it didn’t matter.
    I liked the ending for Amy and Rory, it wasn’t as tragic as say Rose’s or Donna’s departure but it was much more heartfelt. I agree with Tim that it does seem a bit odd that it’s so impossible that The Doctor couldn’t go back to 1938 New York.Maybe Rory and Amy created such a paradox, the TARDIS would reject them, much like Captain Jack?
    Great review, can’t wait till Christmas.

  4. WaterlooVamps

    I have literally watched series 7 of Doctor Who, the regeneration (10-11) and one Christmas episode EVER and even I am depressed.

  5. Brilliant review, brilliant episode.
    Can’t beat a bit of love and running!

  6. dogdrovenorth

    Yes, “set in stone”, rather than “written in stone” would not have stuck out like a sore thumb.

    Plot holes a-plenty this week. PIck ’em up in 1939 or get the train in from from Massachusetts.

  7. remotecontrolled (kopitron)

    I too thought the not being able to go to New York was reason he couldn’t rescue them, and thought that bit odd for same train reasons – but boyfriend informed me that it actually had something to do with them creating a fixed time period, something the Doctor can’t intervene with. I can’t say I completely understand how or why and maybe you all know this anyway and I am being a bit thick but apparently that is the case.

    Either way – loved the episode but am heartbroken to see them go. I loved the way the episode started especially, the piercing contrast of seeing everything so normal, happy and carefree, knowing it was the beginning of the end. Masterpiece, despite the little plot holes and un-subtleties! I just love Doctor and Amy’s little one on ones, it’s such genuine adoration and played so well.

    Love River episodes, hope she hangs around even though R& A gone as a little piece of their story remaining.

    Bring on Christmas!

  8. Peat

    Jo – love your writing – do more! Your writing intellect and vocabulary destroys my intellectual capacity every day..

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