Doctor Who Recap: The Angels Take Manhattan

The Angels Take Manhattan
(Photo: Catherine Lawson)

What have the Weeping Angels got against the outer boroughs anyway? This mid-series/season Doctor Who Finale had a Manhattan-centric view of New York City.

The island was colonised and policed by a vengeful group of Weeping Angels who’d managed to not only remain in 1938 in perpetuity, but had also managed to turn the NYU dorms in the West Village into a time prison for anyone unlucky enough to catch their eye.

Freshers beware! Those eyes that look as if they’re following you around the room? That’s not just the Jäger-bombs taking effect … they are.

Now, obviously, let’s address the giant elephant in the room. This was the final outing for Amy and Rory. I interviewed Matt Smith and Karen Gillan the day after they’d had their first read-through of the script for this episode, and she said everyone was in floods of tears throughout.

Steven Moffat then promised me that the Ponds’/Williams’ exit would be heartbreaking. And it was. (But, he also said he wasn’t tweaking Doctor Who to make it more America-friendly, and now I’m not so sure I believe him.)

As for the rest of the episode, I’m torn. Yes, it’s always awesome to see my old home town featured so prominently, but it felt redundant. If having the action take place on an island was the most important bit of the plot then obviously it works better for the larger audience than using the Isles of Wight, Man or Sheppy, but still …

If Lady Liberty had been seen and not just heard stomping across the Hudson River to claim her victims it might have been more effective. But then again, it could also have come across as a low-budget Stay Puft Marshmallow Man moment.

Let’s face it: if Russell T. Davies was still running the show, this episode would have been filmed in Cardiff and the argh!-dive-behind-the-sofa! moment would have featured Ivor Novello. And personally, I think I would have preferred it.

It was great to see the always superb Alex Kingston back as River Song, and to have her relationship status confirmed with all the other TARDIS residents, but the Doctor healing the sick? Come on … I’m a Doctor Who fan, not a super-fan, so it’s entirely possible the Doctor has done it before, but it seemed to me that Moffat simply used this plot device as a way of not having Smith and Kingston snog each other’s faces off.

The insinuation that the Doctor only likes ’em young seemed a bit mean-spirited. Yes, we all know that the Doctor’s forever travelling with younger women but hey, that’s part of the schtick. (Frankly, no one’s going to watch his adventures with old women or other men, so get over it naysayers.) To now write the Doctor as a creepy old misogynist was like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to Moffat’s Who predecessors.

The Weeping Angels have long been in my pantheon of best Doctor Who villains, and I think their creepy putti progeny will be getting their own niche there in due course. However, there were so many dead ends and so much misdirection in this episode that even the introduction of these sinister toddlers was somehow lost in the mix.

  • Who was Grayle? And why was he feeding random people to the creepy Barbarella killer dolls in the basement?
  • Who were the statues watching Grayle’s house? His wife and child? Amy and a pint-sized Rory?
  • Just how did he capture a Weeping Angel in the first place?
  • Do basic Yale locks really work against intergalactic alien time vampires?
  • Why single out Rory when Central Park was packed with people, including a Time Lord?
  • Why on earth would Rory get into that creepy lift/elevator in the first place? (Is he really supposed to still be that stupid?)

There were also some nice touches.

  • Amy finally admitted to everyone that she loves Rory. Properly. At last: some loooong overdue payback for the aeons of time he stood outside the Pandorica.
  • I *think* that was the Calvary Cemetery in Queen’s (you know, the one you can see from the BQE on the way to and from JFK), so there was at least a nod to the outer boroughs. UPDATE: According to the “Doctor Who Official” production notes for the episode, all of Alex Kingston’s scenes were shot in Wales, not New York City, so I’m presumably wrong about the cemetery. Sorry, Queen’s residents. Maybe next time …
  • The TARDIS-washing made me smile. Yes, we’re an old married couple and we avoid snogging in front of the kids by washing like to wash the car TARDIS together of a weekend. (But, sidebar: have they gone and done a TARDIS equivalent of a loft conversion? Check out the spacious new interior.)

So now Doctor Who is on hiatus until the Christmas Special. To tide you over until then, here are some glimpses of what we can expect. Snow! Victorians! Withnail! Richard E. Grant! New companion Jenna-Louise Coleman!

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

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