The Angels Take Manhattan
The Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves in a massive battery farm in Manhattan, a trap set by the Weeping Angels. The diabolical creatures who thrive off of stolen time energy, the Weeping Angels embody stone statues and have stymied the Doctor on several occasions. However, this time may be his most devastating encounter with his enemies.
While the Doctor and his companions enjoy a well earned rest in Central Park, a temporal crisis is occurring in 1938. The Doctor discovers that the seedy detective novel he has found in his coat pocket is actually a nest of clues from River Song who is also in the past investigating the Angels. By using cleverly hidden hints throughout the novel, the Doctor manages to find a way through the time storm and confronts the problem head on, only to find that it is far more deadly than he had anticipated.
After spending several years traveling with his companions Rory and Amy, it appears that their destiny is literally written, even if the Doctor refuses to read the last page.
I have many bones to pick with the new Doctor Who, but one of the biggest is the quality of the writing. With the first series, the plots contained several unbelievable ideas. In his second year, rather than write more cohesive plots, head writer Russell T Davies decided to write his scripts in such a way that they supported the absurdity and it became part of the new Doctor Who’s character. Additionally, his initial decision to present more importance on the companion became an equally important part of the series. I remember reading back in the day that when the BBC pitched their new Doctor Who to the American Sci-Fi network, the executives thought it must be a spoof rather than a continuation of the same program. Additionally, they suggested renaming it to Rose and the Doctor. Regardless of the truth of this story, both judgments hold some water in my view.
More recently, head writer Steven Moffat has shown a predilection for gimmicky stories that use narrative devices that split the story up in parts, often telling the tale out of order or holding back key elements until the conclusion. However, these elements are often jammed into place at the cost of the story’s quality. The cause of the crack in time and its resolution are equally absurd and involve ropy logic. The identity of the Impossible Astronaut who killed the Doctor is not only uninteresting but even the death of the Doctor is undone in the end… begging the question in each case, ‘what was the point of that?’
Moffat has taken Davies’ approach toward the companions to an even greater degree by making the past three years about Amy Pond (in the United States, the program received a new intro voice over by Karen Gillan proclaiming it ‘her story’). The Doctor himself has become an after thought and often is a complete fool when it comes to resolving problems or understanding them. Last year the Doctor was barely involved in the program until the finale. This year, he has crowded himself with other characters and repeatedly included Rory and Amy, despite the clear danger that he is putting them in (Rory’s dad made this painfully clear).
This particular story amps up the failures of Moffat’s approach in sharp detail. The plot (such that there is) is a recursive loop that serves no purpose other than writing out the Ponds. The Doctor is directed by the pulp novel to perform specific actions even though he angrily urges Amy to not rely on it as it contains far too much information and can cause problems. Later on, he insists on using the book to find Rory and ignores or fails to see that he will die by the chapter title ‘Death at Winter Quay.’
The set piece of Manhattan is clearly a massive gimmick. As soon as I had heard that the finale would include Manhattan and the Weeping Angels, I bemoaned the inevitable walking Statue of Liberty appearing as a monster. It’s a conceit that Moffat places into the story already rife with such things from the statues to the pulp novel, and even returning character River Song. Why River Song returns is not really clear aside from getting the gang back together for Moffat’s finale. She again uses technology that makes the Doctor’s time and space travels look common place and also serves no purpose that I could see. She does nothing to further the plot, fails to solve a single problem and her ‘witty banter’ got old two years ago.
The Weeping Angels themselves also seem like an afterthought and are now almost as abused as the Daleks earlier this year. At first they were scary and potent with danger (especially in their initial outing ‘Blink’), but now they are little more than monsters that move the plot along. I did think that a hotel in which characters are hurled back in time until they died was interesting, but it is suddenly cast aside for the focus to go back on the companions. Yes, twenty minutes into the episode and we finally get all the facts of what is going on but there’s no real interest in stopping the Angels or in finding out why they are attempting to make a temporal cage.
The ‘death’ of Amy and Rory again shows that the program flat out does not understand the concept of death. After realizing that a temporal paradox would unravel the Angels’ plot, Rory decides to sacrifice himself which is indeed tragic. Amy joins him which is romantic but not supported by the temporal conundrum. However, their ‘magic button’ sacrifice fails to resolve the problem (for some unclear reason) and a surviving Angel follows them to their actual graves and pulls them back in time to the anomaly…. which should no longer exist.
Rather than a ray gun or some other kind of death, the companions instead live a full life, albeit in a past that the Doctor cannot travel to because of the Angel’s manipulations. That’s hardly a tragedy as it is inevitable that Rory and Amy will age and die. What does it matter when this happens? I understand that River Song attempts to impart the notion that the Doctor is bothered by the process of aging in others, but… it just doesn’t qualify the dramatic moment when the pair are zapped back in time. If there was some dialog in which the Doctor lamented his fruitless goal of keeping them both alive forever, like a friendship that could never end, I’d let it go, but the script imp[lies that this is a heart-rending event.
Since its return in 2005, Doctor Who has had its ups and downs, but it has fallen flat on its face whenever the head writer twisted it into what he wanted it to be rather than what it is. The Angels Take Manhattan is the worst offender of being a self-serving tale. Neither about action, adventure, or the Doctor, this was all about the creations of Steven Moffat and his wild far-out ideas that are more at home in a parody of Doctor Who rather than a modern re-imagining of it.
Again, the cast was very strong and Matt Smith managed to hold his head high throughout the episode. I am not sad to to see the characters of Rory and Amy go, but Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvil will be missed. The longest lasting supporting cast members of the BBC Wales Doctor Who, they added a quality of drama and comedy to the series. Jenna-Louise Coleman has some big shoes to fill this December.
Doctor Who will return this Christmas and will resume in the Spring for part two of its seventh series and the 50th anniversary of the program that started back in 1963.
Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:
1. Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight) 8.3 million (final figure)
2. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.57 million (final figure)
3. A Town Called Mercy – 6.6 million (overnight) 8.42 million (final figure)
4. The Power of Three – 5.5 million (overnight) TBA (final figure)
5. The Angels Take Manhattan – 5.9 million (overnight) TBA (final figure)