TV Episode Review: “Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan” (07.05, 2012)

“The Angels Take Manhattan” (07.05, 2012)

Written by Steven Moffat (Past Episodes: “The Empty Child,” “The Doctor Dances,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” “Forest of the Dead,” “The Eleventh Hour,” “The Beast Below,” “The Time of Angels,” “Flesh and Stone,” “The Pandorica Opens,” “The Big Bang,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” “Day of the Moon,” “A Good Man Goes to War,” “Let’s Kill Hitler,” The Wedding of River Song,” “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” “Asylum of the Daleks”)

Directed by Nick Hurran (Past Episodes: “The Girl Who Waited,” “The God Complex,” “Asylum of the Daleks”)

The finale of the Ponds of course brings together two of the most popular and most enduring Steven Moffat creations: the Weeping Angels and River Song. It’s an appropriate episode, concluding the Ponds’ never-ending love story and allowing them to live out there lives happily together. However, that same quality also makes the episode unsurprising and over-serious.

There is very little fun to be had in this episode. River Song used to be such a rich source of fun as the sexy-and-incredible-but-unpredictable-future-wife-and-murderer-of-the-Doctor, but she’s now become the wise future figure trying to be motherly over the childish Doctor and helping her parents through their trials and tribulations with him. The change makes at least a certain amount of sense, and Alex Kingston definitely played the character as more self-possessed and less insane in her earliest appearances that should be closer to the same age River Song is now, but the flirty, over-the-top fun is gone and I for one miss it.

Similarly, The Weeping Angels have lost a portion of their charm. They are terrifying figures and were mesmerizing in their incredible debut in “Blink” (03.10, 2007), but their sudden gaining of powers in “The Time of the Angels” (05.04, 2010) goes further here: While their power to turn whatever sees them into angels seems to have disappeared, they are now able to turn all statues into angels seemingly at will. That increased power of the angels changes them from a terrifying and amazing villain into something so powerful that it’s frankly unbelievable that they could be defeated. Using a paradox as a sort of poison in the time energy on which they feed makes a certain amount of sense, but it feels like a cop-out at this point to cover up the fact that the Angels are now too powerful to be interesting.

Amy and Rory, the most devoted couple the universe could ever know, jump off a roof together to save time—it’s a perfect encapsulation of their relationship. Then, in a stunning lack of attention by the Doctor, Rory gets touched by an angel. Amy is again left with the choice between the Doctor and Rory, and again chooses Rory, though this time the Doctor lets his emotions about it show. It’s the logical ending to their odd triangle, and most of it is satisfying enough. It’s a shame that the plot to get there is so contrived and un-fun, and the ending is melodramatic and silly, but it’s not too troubling.

As is often the case for departure episodes, this one is a bit over-serious and rather sad. The problem is accentuated by the drawn-out discussion between first River and the Doctor and then Amy and the Doctor about how the Doctor shouldn’t travel alone—a lesson it would seem that the Ninth Doctor already learned and so shouldn’t need to be re-learned now.

My favorite new-Who companions are (1) Amy and (2) Rory. I loved Martha Jones as well, but even she wasn’t in the same league as those two (and Donna and Rose were well below Martha). I don’t look forward to the idea of Doctor Who without them.

That said, Steven Moffat seems to need a shakeup. Things aren’t working on the show right now, whether it’s because the team he’s working with has gotten stale, because he already used up all of his good ideas he had honed for the years he was working as an occasional writer instead of the show runner, or because he’s now overextended running two of the most successful shows BBC has (the other being Sherlock). Perhaps he will be rejuvenated by the change, and having Steven Moffat back to the guy who wrote “Blink,” “The Girl in the Fireplace” (02.04, 2006), and “The Eleventh Hour” (05.01, 2010) would do more good for the show than whatever harm a companion change could possible cause.

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