Doctor Who – The Angels Take Manhattan

The Angels Take Manhattan

Written by Steven Moffat
Story 7.05
Transmitted 29 September, 2012

“Changing the future, it’s called marriage.”

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)


25 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Angels Take Manhattan

  1. I agree almost entirely. I would however say that Moffat’s ideas don’t count as “wild” or “far out” in this case, concepts that are potentially fascinating are instead illogical gimmicks that he lazily discards or ignores when he feels like it, they end up making no sense and that’s either bad writing or arrogance, then again even worse it may be both.
    Moffat is fortunate however in that he has many, many people who don’t care that he can’t be bothered to develop his concepts logically or consistently and instead allow him to basically make it up as he goes along as long as he can offer some clumsily obvious emotional manipulation. Your comments on his shameless driving of his characters into the ground (River Fricking Song) through overuse and the similar repetition of ideas is spot-on, and as for the gutlessness apparent in him “killing off Amy and Rory” but *not really*! It’s a pity he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions as a writer. Worse than that, worse than the paradox somehow (conveniently) leaving one angel around, worse than the Statue of Liberty walking unseen (!), worse than the dragging pace, worse than all that is the way he’s made the Doctor into an ineffectual moron subservient to tiresome River. He was responsible for what happened to Amy and Rory yet Moffat hammers on the point that he shouldn’t be alone. Huh? Does Moffat not realize that the Doctor now looks like a punk?! And what about Amy and Rory’s parents? Oh and as for the “explanation” why the Doctor can’t visit them – twaddle! Plus the Angel didn’t “kill” them they lived, as you say Moffat has created a Doctor Who where death is not understood. The bit where they jumped off the building was moving tho’. Pity this was all the infantile Moffat Doctor’s fault. Pshaw.


  2. Um, one more thing, Jameson, Angels Take Manhattan (terrible “kooky” and ill-fitting title, that) has pissed you off so much that you made two boo-boos that you can correct (and then delete this comment if you’re able) first you wrote “massive battery park”, I think you meant “battery *farm*, and you wrote “I did thing” instead of “I did think”. I blame Moffat! I hope you don’t think me a pedant, just think of me as an unpaid copy editor ;).


    • “thing” is probably a typo on his part…

      But I thought he said “battery park” on purpose… because of Battery Park… in Manhattan.. I kind of thought that was a semi-clever thing about the plot… perhaps the only semi-clever thing… the Angels having a battery farm in Battery Park.


  3. Where to even start?

    Rory dies because he saw himself die… and that is now a fixed point. Yeah, because we’ve never seen a person die on Doctor Who only to find out it wasn’t that person at all… Worse, Rory himself already died and came back (somehow) as an Auton and then was recreated again… so of all people to “fix” the death… Rory?

    The paradox… Did we not see last series where Amy was left for 40 years waiting to be rescued… then they had both her young and older self at the same time… With that paradox there was a choice… the older Amy, though seen by the younger Amy to be sure as they interacted, was rendered non-existent by rescuing the younger Amy anyway. So, no way to go back and get Rory before he gets old and dies? Really?

    Amy and Rory get sent back to live to death in the past… somehow the Doctor can’t visit them? Even if he can’t land in 1938 in Manhattan… could the Ponds not leave the island and come to somewhere that the Doctor can land? And if he needs to tell them how to meet him, can’t he mail them a letter in the past or something? I mean, clearly Manhattan wasn’t rendered cutoff or impassible or *that* would have really changed the past/future!

    Too many revisits of past problems that were already resolved in different ways!

    Ultimately… the only reason the Doctor “can’t” save the Ponds is because the writer decided this was their final story. You know, like how when Rose was “permanently cutoff” in that alternate reality EXCEPT when she came back a couple of times in later series? So, um… the Ponds could be back if the show called for them to be back.

    When I am critical of this show to the Moffatites, I used to get the “you just don’t get it” or “it is complicated but it is all there” dodges… but this time around I noticed I got the “this show is meant to be enjoyed, not criticized” which kind of tells me that a crack (not the series 5 crack) might be forming as people are less about defending the strength of the plot and more about turning a blind eye intentionally. That’s an interesting development to me.

    I’m left now, after having watched this series 5 episodes so far… and thinking… that if I missed them somehow… I’m not sure what I would have missed… except maybe the eventual tie-in for the new companion. Other than that, these episodes have been entirely forgettable. That’s a shame.

    Even within this episode, a rule is broken!

    The Doctor can’t save Rory or Amy because he “read it” in the book… but he also read about breaking River’s wrist, only he chose not to do that! And she broke it herself… so just because Amy writes that they never see the Doctor again doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It just means she writes it… maybe she lied… you know, like how the Doctor lies! 🙂

    Oh… and now the Doctor can heal people? Or maybe he can just heal River?

    Strong scripts have pieces that belong… where every bit serves a purpose… but sometimes you have some throwaway bits to connect things or segue or just for fun. But the new series has been increasingly filled with throwaway bits… only sometime containing a bit that serves a purpose. It’s like if you read a book on how to write a strong script and then did everything opposite.

    The show has never looked better… but has never felt worse.

    I’m reminded again of the quote from last series… where the Doctor would rise to his highest point and then fall just as far… only, we never got the preceding rise to the high point before the fall!


  4. SJV – Yep, I know Moffat put the Angel’s battery farm in Battery Park but the point wasn’t that the Doctor and Co. were lured into Battery Park but into the Angel’s “battery *farm*” trap situated *in* Battery Park so er calling the trap a battery *park* would uh still be incorrect so, ha, Nyer Nyer Nyer!
    You’re are totally right about the attitude to criticism of Moffat now from legions of people. What an infantile cop out, one can’t legitimately criticize the stories apparently no matter how senseless they are because uh criticism is verboten and we just wanna enjoy it without the naughty people pointing out the smug anything goes laziness! Is it a sin to want more?! It seems ridiculous to praise things as great when they are not, so much for free-thinking. Rarely has a writer being given as many free passes as Moffat and garlanded with as much overwrought praise. If he wins a Hugo for this stuff…


  5. Actually, any point in the review where I refer to it as a story could be deemed a typo. Before you dread the inevitable Hugo award, remember that Davies won a Dennis Potter award back in .2005. Moffat just received his a few days ago. That’s the Dennis Potter award for excellence in writing for television. Yes, Dennis Potter, who wrote Brimstone and Treakle, The Singing Detective, Pennies From Heaven and the proper Casanova TV mini-series.


    • “Actually, any point in the review where I refer to it as a story could be deemed a typo.”

      That may actually be the singularly most awesome thing you’ve said… Well done there.


  6. The worst part of all this for me was that after watching this episode I threw in a random classic DVD that I rarely watch… the Aztecs. And I knew true sorrow.

    I just got notification that Ambassadors… of DEATH is on its way which I also really like, despite the bizarre action army sequences. Only a few DVDs are remaining until the entire classic program to be finished (complete stories, anyhow).


  7. Yes! The Ambassadors of —(CRASH!) DEATH! I haven’t been able to buy Doctor Who dvds recently because of money problems but that is so tempting. I agree about how saddening it is that the original Doctor Who release schedule is almost exhausted (2Entertain did seem to burn some of them off for some reason). And, damn, you reminded about the Dennis Potter prize now I’m *really* disgusted. Now that is proof of a decline in artistic standards if anything is, that Britain is now so bereft of good writers that Davies and Moffat are considered top class and that’s *not* because they’ve worked in the SF/Fantasy genre I hasten to add. On top of everything else it seems the prizegivers are pandering to the mainstream but when there’s such a fallow field to choose from!
    Good call on the typo joke :).
    Walking along to the store I was thinking about your comments pace Moffat and it made me think that Moffat and Davies’s triumph with New Who at their worst is that the use of gimmicks and forced sentimentality means that they often don’t actually have to *tell a story*, they’re praised for the concept even if they don’t use it with any rigour while the soap operatics and illogicality are treated with ridiculous awe because hey Classic Who was just “silly”. Storytellers, my Ass! Crap, Jameson, your analysis has made me angrier with Moffat’s incontinent incoherent egotistical over-hyped nonsense! Quick review something good. Ha! Good work!


  8. The true irony in play here from some fans… When we question details and are told “the story is complicated and clever” and it is inferred we just aren’t smart enough to get it… then if we keep questioning the details that don’t make sense, the fallback position has become “don’t question and take it so seriously… it is meant to be enjoyed.”

    So… which is it… clever or fun fantasy that isn’t supposed to be clever?

    The New Who is the opposite of the Weeping Angels. You have to stare at them to keep them from moving… New Who is something that only makes sense IF you don’t look at it.


    • Wait… so you mean since I already didn’t enjoy it… IF I decide to watch it again and enjoy it I could create a paradox that would undo all the episodes and it would be like they never happened?



  9. Although if you watched it again and enjoyed it I would take that as evidence you’d gone insane, SJV! Then again if you watched it again and enjoyed it creating a paradox which led to the episodes never having existed, I wouldn’t be surprised if – in Moffatian fashion – a Weeping Angel would turn up for no logical reason and send you back to the beginning of New Who – which would somehow exist again, don’t ask how! – to watch it all over again, that Angel would have two faces, one would be Russell T. Davies’s, the other, Moffat’s, but instead of touching you it’d give you the finger instead! ;). (the Angel’s other hand would be employed by patting itself on the back. Ha)
    Had to comment again because I didn’t want to be left as Comment 14. Superstitious, Moi?
    Hey, SJV, without Doctor Who what have we got to comment on each weak and to make sarcastic comments and jokes about? Nooo! If anyone is interested in Cerebus and embarrassing trainwreck threads go over to the Comics Journal website (tcj) in particular there’s one commentator whose extreme fan worship of Dave Sim reminds me of how some people praise Moffat (tho’ Moffat doesn’t hold Sim’s more unpleasant nutso views to be fair!) even for the crap tho’ this guy *really* worships Sim.


    • You just unfortunately reminded me of another nitpick on this story I was trying to forget.

      The original Angels sent people back in time to use the energy… the next time we saw Angels, they just outright killed you AND talked through your larynx if they wanted… we were told that was because those earlier Angels were just scavengers… didn’t have much power… So now again, we have the sending back in time, only this time they are making a batter… so having lots of power… power enough that the Statue of Liberty is an angel… so, why aren’t they just killing Rory and Amy and such?

      I know, I’m trying to make too much sense out of the clever complicated story that is meant only to entertain 🙂


  10. Ssshhhh, SJV, a Moffatite might hear you. “What? You don’t like “FUN!”? You’re not so supposed to *think* about it – except when the Lord High Moffat and his Acolytes say you should – you’re just supposed to watch and praise it! What are you, an idiot?!” 😉


    • You realize what you’ve done now? You’ve given me an idea…

      Don’t Think.

      Don’t even think.

      Whatever you do… don’t think!



  11. Oh, no, SJV, what have I *done*?! I’ve sent you off the deep end! Don’t Think. If you *think* then Moffat’s Doctor Who might seem uhrm *less than good*, so don’t Think… Something something timey wimey baloney “fezzes are cool”, etc.


  12. Before I forget, I read a review today that brought up the whole “fairytale” thing again to “explain” the inconsistencies. That again, what a cop out! Never mind that the story was predicated on the very unfairytale concept of timeloops and paradoxes, or that fairytales *do* have their own logic. For instance, the witch didn’t come back to life after Hansel and Gretel burned her alive. They make a weird kind of sense, Moffat’s stuff on the other hand is smug incoherent gibberish! It annoys me that people let him get away with bad writing. Boo.


    • I hate to say it… but that is the *one* out they have left to play IF they wanted…

      With all the narration by Amy Pond and the focus on her since series 5… it is entirely possible to retcon ALL the inconsistencies of series 5 through now to say we have been watching the storied memories of Amy Pond and her time with the Doctor… which means she didn’t remember everything accurately, and all the stuff we don’t think makes sense probably didn’t really happen… but Amy just got it wrong in her memoirs.

      Sad… but actually a way out of the mess.


  13. Random thought of the day too… When Matt Smith first came onto the series… I found myself thinking maybe IF they hadn’t filmed a regeneration from Tennant to Smith… that they could have left it hanging and had stories that were time-nebulous so that we could wonder “what if” this was a prequel…

    In the back of my mind… I keep thinking, IF Hartnell was the first incarnation of the Doctor… there are a lot of stories to tell of a young Hartnell Doctor… and if done right, that could be quite interesting to see how he first went rogue, and how he came to be in that salvage yard.


  14. What about those stories narrated by others? A-ha! I don’t think even King Steven would try to pull that one. In his final episode as executive producer the camera might cut pan to show him standing watching the Doctor, he turns to the camera and starts making like Rod Serling *or* following a final scene with the Doctor regenerating (into Martin Freeman with my crappy luck!) the camera cuts to Moffat sitting by the fire like Roald Dahl in Tales of the Unexpected; he’s reading from a book or script, he closes it, we see the title – it’s Doctor Who by Steven Moffat. He smiles, gives us the finger and says “You thought *that* was *good* and made sense? What a bunch of chumps. Later, wankers!”. THE END. 😉
    If you’re interested in what might have happened in the Doctor’s past, Virgin’s New Adventures novels from the nineties had various ideas. Unfortunately, they can be hard to find. I always prefer the mystery, myself. I hope Moffat does not get any “ideas”!


  15. You are my salvation. People are blinded to Moffs terrible writing. I am struggling to understand the blatant fangirl-ism for something so poor. I think the BBC really do not give one iota abut this program, only the revenue it generates so they bang out any old nonsense just to satisfy fans who would lose interest, otherwise. It’s a crime what has happened to this once intelligent show, I still watch but it’s not with wonder anymore, it’s with complacence and dare I say it, hatred. No matter how much you try to point out the flaws, the Moffitites burn you alive. I prefer to call them Moff-heads myself. They are blinded to rubbish. Apparently if you can pick apart the naff plots you are too thick to get it. Plus all that genius Telletubby level dialogue is the best ever, apparently. I tried to point out that if Moff is such a genius, why doesn’t his lead character, a man with phenomenal intelligence, use more than two syllables words. What I got told was, it doesn’t need to use big words to be clever. Sometimes it drives me insane at the lessening standards of quality, apparent in this country, and the fact that people just accept it and praise mediocrity. I’m late to the party here, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one who can see how poor Who has gotten.


    • In the immortal words of John McClane (from the original Die Hard)…

      Welcome to the party pal!


      I was just on another site recently where all it takes for Moffat to dispute a criticism is to say “that’s not right”… Basically the conversation is something like:

      Critic: Something is wrong.
      Fans: Oh no!
      Moffat: That isn’t correct, nothing is wrong.
      Fans: Yay! The rumor has been debunked!


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