Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 5 - The Angels Take Manhattan
Published September 30, 2012
“I hate endings,” the Doctor declares, as he sits having a nice picnic with his two companions in New York City. Yet, we all know that this story is going to come to an end, and it’s going to do so in the next 40 minutes. The foreboding increases by the minute, as we head towards what was proclaimed as a heart-breaking farewell.
I didn’t feel at all right after watching the episode on Saturday night. I thought I’d missed something, or wasn’t understanding it, so there was a need to watch it a second time. Upon the subsequent viewing (along with 12 hours to ponder what I’d seen in between), things began to make sense. It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotion, but for me, not perhaps the one Moffat wanted.
I adored the time-play with the book. Reading along as things are happening, Amy looking ahead and setting things “in stone” and the Doctor’s final checks before leaving the TARDIS to greet his wife. River made her mark almost instantly, with what became an inevitable wrist-breaking incident. I don’t even know how you can break your own wrist, the mere idea is terrifying and awful. River’s attempts to hide what she had to do to soothe the Doctor’s frayed emotions was so beautiful, the unfathomable relationship between the pair is a joy to watch even in the toughest moments.
With all the relationship drama, we cannot forget the incredible Weeping Angels. They were just as creepy as they have ever been - more so, with the addition of beautiful and horrific little cherubs. I can still hear the pattering of those baby angel footsteps in my mind, and I’m turning lights on where previously I would have walked in the dark. These foes are a genius invention, and always up the ante of any story. The Angel of Liberty was a bit silly, but also awesome and completely forgivable. You can’t have the Angels in New York and not involve the most obvious statue of them all!
So far, so good, and then we get to the goodbyes. Rory stepping on to the edge of the roof was shocking but understandable. Amy’s reactions didn’t seem quite right to me. She would talk him down, she absolutely would, with firm belief in their love and in the Doctor. The number of times things have seemed bleak in the past and have worked out okay (the number of times Rory has died!), I can’t see why they would be so quick to give up the fight.
I get that there’s a limited amount of time to play with here, and that’s another failing of the desire to have five individual movies - for this much emotion to work, we need a two-parter. Cramming in the angel story alongside the companion’s goodbyes felt like too much. It’s a similar thing to my dissatisfaction with the last episode - crammed in story of Amy and Rory deciding they do want to travel with the Doctor after all. It might have been fairer to combine the two - they could have been picnicking in New York without having decided they want to spend their lives with the Doctor, and it might even have made things more emotional at the end.
It feels like we lost a lot of the understanding of Amy and Rory this series. It’s easy to forget that they started in the first episode on the brink of divorce. The last episode had them celebrating ten years of travelling in the TARDIS - ten years of which we have clearly missed a lot. We never get to see everything, I’m happy with that, but these two seem like completely different people to the ones we started with, and I can’t quite work out how we got here. There’s a sudden distance and loss of connection between me as a viewer and them as protagonists, and so I felt like I wasn’t 100% on board.
When we get to the graveyard for the final time, there’s a moment of celebration and then we’re back to “heart-break” once again. Except, I don’t think it is. This time, it makes perfect sense that Amy would follow her husband - she’s not going to her death, she’s going to be with the absolute love of her life, and here I can believe that she would follow him anywhere. She jumped off a roof with him, for goodness sake. What she’s doing is saying goodbye to the Doctor, which is, of course, sad but if the last few episodes have taught us anything, it’s that she was practically ready to do that anyway.
This gets a bit specific, but for me, the focus is on the wrong person here. It’s the Doctor who has the loss, and yet we are looking at Amy’s tears. She has to keep eye contact with the Angel and is front and centre. Here, I find part of the emotion is lost, because they cannot make eye contact. Where we have previously seen Doctor Ten and Rose part opposite each other on a blustery beach, or Doctor Ten and Wilf separated by a piece of glass, it is the connection between the two that builds the tension. Here, there was none because she had to wait for the very last moment to look at him. It’s easier to say goodbye to someone that you can’t see.
We say farewell to Amy and Rory here, and as I didn’t find it sad, the emotion can only be happy. They get to live to old age, together, perhaps not in ideal circumstances, but a million times better than how things could have ended for them. The Doctor is upset, for now, but we know he’ll rally round and there will be a new adventure on the cards for him at Christmas. This episode didn’t do it for me, it didn’t bring out the emotions I think that Moffat would have wanted, but on second viewing, it was better than I thought it was. Our showrunner has more genius in one eyelash than I can even begin to comprehend, and even though the last few episodes haven’t been my favourite, I still can’t wait to see what is in store.