Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan September 29, 2012

Steven Moffatt promised a moving and fitting farewell to Rory and Amy. I think he pulled it off in the end, although in many ways, the episode faces the problem that “The Caves of Androzani” faces: we knew when watching it that the Doctor would regenerate, and there were so many perilous moments that at the end, the feeling was more satisfaction of curiosity (“Oh, so that's what gets him”) rather than tragic surprise (“Oh my gosh, the Doctor regenerated!”). One can contrast “The End of Time” where we managed to believe briefly that the Doctor had managed to escape a fate that seemed inevitable. In “The Angels Take Manhattan,” there are several ways you could envisage things going during the course of the episode, but the course they actually do take seems to me to tie together a number of threads going way back in the story of Amy and Rory. SPOILERS AHEAD.

I love the use of New York as a backdrop to the story – although the idea of the Statue of Liberty ever having moments when no one is looking at it seems a bit too ridiculous even for Doctor Who. The interactions between the Doctor and River were excellent, as they finally are together with both of them knowing that they are husband and wife. I liked the continuity as she says she is now a professor, and we learn that she has been pardoned, and why, which connects with the theme running through this season of all record of the Doctor having been erased, seemingly from every data bank in the universe. But this time, from his reaction, the Doctor seems to be behind all of that, and not Oswin. Presumably there will be more exploration of this when Doctor Who returns at Christmas. I also liked the Doctor's “final checks” before leaving the TARDIS, and of course, River's reference to being in love with an “ageless god.”

I loved the ending – and the almost ending just before it. Rory and Amy, “together, or not at all.” They take matters into their own hands, to rewrite history and change the future – “it's called marriage.” But in the end, we revisit the terrain of “Amy's Choice,” and realize that she knows absolutely and without doubt where she belongs – at Rory's side, wherever and whenever that might be. And I liked that, even though the Doctor called them “the Ponds” in a manner that always gave Amy priority, after her choice we see her bearing the name Amy Williams.

It is sad to see Amy and Rory go. But I liked the direct addressing of the Doctor's dislike for endings. It is raised comically, as he tears out the last page of a book, saying that that way it never ends. But of course, whenever you stop reading, there is an ending, even if in theory you could read further. The show thus explores the Doctor's aversion to seeing those he comes to care about grow old and die, even though it would be fitting for him to attend thousands and thousands of funerals for his one-time companions. And so, when he needs to run to recover that last page he left behind, to conclude Amy's story, it is really poignant. Although if he took its message to heart, he would go talk to Brian, and presumably to Amy's parents too (see the fan-made art at the end of this post on that theme).

As has typically been the case with Doctor Who since it restarted, I found this episode to be emotionally powerful, even if one might quibble about some plot devices or other details.

What did you make of “The Angels Take Manhattan”?


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  • SPOILERS This was on less than an hour ago. If you missed it then check on BBCA at 11:00pm

  • Another theme that was emphasized in this episode – both Amy and River insist that the Doctor must not travel alone. Amy has mentioned this before, as when the Doctor was about to allow another alien doctor to be assassinated in A Town Called Mercy. There seems to be a suggestion that the Doctor loses humanity when he stops travelling with humans. As you say, River calls him an “ageless god”, but perhaps he is a god that humans somehow make in their own image.

  • Here’s another quibble.
    If River Song can use her wrist time-travel device to whiz back to 1938, write her novel, and pass it on to Amy. Why can’t she use it to bring Rory and Amy back to the present? Perhaps only one person at a time can use it, but surely there isn’t only one in the universe (isn’t it basically the same device that Captain Jack used as time agent?

    • Yes, that is something that ought to have been possible, and there’s no reason given why that would not have worked, other than that they had no way of knowing when exactly Rory had been sent back to. But maybe that is enough? Clearly River manages to meet up with them at some point, since she writes the book and gives it to Amy to publish. And maybe the Doctor knows that he won’t ever manage to find them again because he read that the final chapter in the book is “Amelia’s Final Farewell”?

      Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, here’s another option that was not considered but makes for comical effect – at least, if you’re from New York or its vicinity!

    • Stephen Harrop

      The Doctor DID say that, if Amy went back, a fixed point in time would be created. And as we know, when people try to screw with fixed points, Very Bad Things usually ensue (Father’s Day, The Waters of Mars).

      • I have to say I’m really glad I haven’t seen the time dragons come back. What a horrid episode!

    • Jotunheimm

      Actually,more than one passenger could use the time vortex manipulator!
      There’s no reason I could think of that your theory is not possible.

      … and also, the Ponds could just get out of New York and work our a signal to the Doctor like what they did in “Let’s Kill Hitler”. He will see the signal in one way or another.

  • I hope we get to see Brian again.