"Doctor Who" — "The Angels Take Manhattan”; Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Blinking Masses
It has been a couple days, my Whovian friends. I trust that was plenty of time for your eyes to dry. Right, Cindy? Yes, in case you missed the news, after postingthis attack on the Ponds, our own Cindy Davis bawled over the ending of "The Angels Take Manhattan."
While spending a leisurely day at Central Park in Manhattan, Amy, Rory, and The Doctor suddenly are thrust into a pulp detective novel come to life. Alternatively, depending on how you like to interpret your timey-wimey chicken-or-egg conundrums, it's their paradoxical lives put into that novel, authored by one Melody Malone, a nom de plume for the only other Melody we know on Doctor Who: River Song. Rory is kicked back to 1938 from 2012 by some Central Park cherub Angels, and The Doctor and Amy set off to find him using the book's chapter titles as a guide, so as to avoid too much foreknowledge of their own futures, which creates those troublesome "fixed points" that can flummox even a meddling Time Lord.
What makes this detective story special is that it features the return of Moffat's villain at which everyone loves to stare unwaveringly, the Weeping Angels. Fortunately, this is the variety of Angel that zaps you backward through time in lieu of breaking your neck. Unfortunately, these Angels are still doing a good job of making people's existences miserable. Having commandeered a New York apartment building called the Winter Quay, they feed off the time energy of hurling people backward through time and keeping them prisoner within the building while those people grow old and die. (Aside: I can't be the only one who had never heard the word "quay" spoken aloud with that "key" pronunciation and just learned it as a result. If you're wondering, "kwey" is a valid alternate.)
Employing that cute messaging across time method that River and The Doctor have developed into an art (in this case via an ancient Chinese vase), The Doctor and Amy find River and Rory held prisoner by a 1938 gangster-type who is collecting Weeping Angels for fun. Yes, that is about as safe as it sounds, and, yes, this guy receives the appropriate comeuppance. Rory is left in the basement with the collection's baby Angels and is transported across space but not time to the Winter Quay. The baby-Angels-in-the-basement scene -- complete with dwindling matches and tittering and pitter-pattering-of-little-feet in the dark -- achieves all the creepiness that you expect in a Weeping Angels episode.
The Doctor, Amy, and River find Rory at the apartment building, and the four of them discover a dying old Rory in a bed. This implies that the Angels have trapped him there for the rest of his life, and the capture just hasn't happened yet. That's no problem for our TARDIS crew; they'll just create a paradox and undo this unholy victimization of the Big Apple by the Weeping Angels altogether. Paradoxes are old hat for them by now, although they do still require the standard Doctor Who prerequisite of running. This particular paradox culminates in a very sweet moment in which Rory and Amy throw themselves off a building together in order to contradict Rory's earlier (and later) death.
The paradox is completed, the Angels' deathtrap disappears in a flash of white light, and all seems fine. The Doctor and the Pond family are transported back to 2012 in a graveyard that has an eerie significance: Rory's gravestone is there. Before anyone can process what this means, a straggler Angel touches him and sends him back to an indeterminate time. Manhattan at this point is a mess of time-space manipulation, so The Doctor has no more paradoxes up his sleeve, lest they accidentally destroy Manhattan and/or unravel the universe. Amy bids The Doctor and her daughter farewell before she allows that Angel to touch her as well. This is the only way that she and Rory can live out their lives together, a fate confirmed by the gravestone when her name appears under Rory's name. The Doctor is devastated that his time with his friends is over.
River resolves to complete the time loop by writing the book and arranging for Amy of the past to receive it for publishing. She also tells The Doctor that she will encourage Amy to write an afterword for the book that serves as a letter for him. The Doctor - never fond of endings and having ripped out the last page of the book - chases down that page and reads her final note to him, a message of love, a hope that The Doctor will not travel alone, and a request that he go back to young Amelia Pond and encourage her to be patient during those years that first earned her the title of "the girl who waited."
Overall, this was a good episode. With all the hype about the departure of Amy and Rory, I did not find their actual exit as affecting as the simpler testaments to the bond of friendship between The Doctor and his TARDIS crew. Living out their lives happily together and dying of old age is not a sad fate in itself. (However, I do think they would have been happier living out their lives in their own time with Brian and their family and friends. Poor Brian.) Yet all good times must come to an end, and that mere fact is bittersweet enough. After such a fantastic "meet cute" way back in "The Eleventh Hour" between The Doctor and little Amelia, coming back to that full circle also resonated with me.
I did find some of "The Angels Take Manhattan" a little cheesy in presentation -- namely the use of slow-motion and the Statue of Liberty Angel. That Statue of Liberty is logistically questionable as well with all the tromping around a city that never sleeps. You would think there would be plenty of potential eyes upon it at all times and movement might be noticed and mentioned.
Still, the Angels were scary, and the rapport between all the characters was satisfying. With a strong five-episode stretch to begin this season, the prospects for Doctor Who are looking good.
A couple minor tangents: my wife was disappointed that Amy took Rory's last name after all. I theorized that their destination in the past might have required her to conform to the mores of the time. It also occurs to me that someone could still write a host of fan fiction about the adventures of Rory and Amy in the past. How long did it take to find each other? Did they go back to the exact same time initially? Did Amy outlive Rory by five years, as the gravestone indicates? Did she arrive five years early? How did they make their living? Given enough time, could Amy build another sonic "probe" of her own?
Also, did anyone else notice that poster of the Statue of Liberty in the elevator? I kept expecting it to come to life, given that we learned previously that the image of an Angel is an Angel. It occurs to me that perhaps the poster is what manifested outside the building with less distance to cover, but there was still a lot of loud stomping outside for much fewer necessary steps. Perhaps that was for show.
I shall see you all back at Christmas, when Jenna-Louise Coleman makes her official debut as the new companion. I of course am very eager to see how Oswin from "Asylum of the Daleks" connects to her new character, if at all.
"Just a moment. Final checks."
The Doctor preens.
"Didn't you used to be somebody?"
"Weren't you the woman who killed The Doctor?"
"That was a stupid waste of regeneration energy. Nothing is gained by you being a sentimental idiot."
"No, you embarrass me!"
"It would be almost impossible."
"Loving the 'almost.'"
"Rory, stop it, you'll die."
"Yeah, twice in the same building on the same night. Who else could do that?"
"You think you'll just come back to life?"
"When don't I?"
"There is a little girl waiting in a garden. She is going to wait a long while, so she is going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she is patient, the days are coming that she'll never forget. Tell her she'll go to sea and fight pirates. She'll fall in love with a man who'll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she'll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived and save a whale in outer space. Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends."
Classic Doctor Who Bonus:
This week, in honor of sad companion departures, I revisited "Earthshock" (1982). The Doctor (Peter Davison), Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric engage in a desperate fight against the Cybermen, who are intent on executing a terrorist attack on the Earth that will obliterate an intergalactic conference there convened to battle the Cybermen. I'll spare you the explicit spoilers. Highlights include the usual verbal duels between The Doctor and his second most popular classic enemy, a memorable and rare physical altercation on the bridge of the TARDIS in the adventure's climax, reminders that The Doctor doesn't always know best and that the companions in the old days functioned as a crew of equals to him in some capacities, and a very nifty time loop that explains the Alvarez hypothesis.
Thinking about the old days of watching Doctor Who, I'm reminded of a time when buzz and the Internet didn't let us know every single thing that was going to happen on television ahead of time. Perhaps had I lived in the U.K. and been watching the show as it was broadcast in 1982, I might have been aware that a companion was moving on in this episode. Instead, I was a kid watching a syndicated broadcast in the U.S. a few years later, and I knew nothing about when companions' runs were going to end or even the endpoints for seasons. I just showed up every Saturday night to watch this underappreciated niche show, and I clearly recall being shaken by the conclusion of "Earthshock" around midnight on one of those nights.
Perhaps years from now some kid with a love for science-fiction will jump on the Doctor Who bandwagon out of curiosity without any foreknowledge of the story behind these reruns that he found either on cable or in the catalog of an Internet service, and those final touches from a Weeping Angel will shake him too.
C. Robert Dimitri did his part when he visited New York and kept an eye on the Statue of Liberty for a few minutes.