TV Recap: Doctor Who - The Angels Take Manhattan

By Edwin Davies

October 1, 2012

I blame Mike Trout.

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Though the five-episode mini-season of Doctor Who that ends with "The Angels Take Manhattan" (but more importantly, will they take Berlin?) has had a few bright shining moments, it's largely felt like it was laying the groundwork for future stories rather than focusing on those being told in the present. Appropriate given the nature of the show, perhaps, but it hasn't made for the most satisfying run of episodes. After last season established that The Doctor was hitting the reset button on himself to counteract the way in which he had become "too big" - a criticism that could also have been levelled at the show itself - these episodes had to show what the ramifications of that might be. As River revealed in this episode, in addition to wiping The Daleks' memories of him from their collective database in "Asylum of The Daleks", The Doctor has been removing himself from every information source in the galaxy so that he will be able to operate under the radar again. It's that freedom that allows him to sit in Central Park with Amy and Rory, reading detective fiction and drinking coffee. Of course, trouble always finds The Doctor, and soon a Weeping Angel zaps Rory back to 1938.

Even as the show has been setting up its brave new universe for The Doctor, it's also spent much of the last four episodes wrapping up the story of Amy Pond. When Steven Moffat took over the show following the departure of Russell T. Davies, Amy acted as both the new companion and as a way of introducing a new version of the show, a version heavy on fairytale imagery and a grander meta-narrative indelibly tied into the story of a little girl waiting for a man in a blue box to come and take her away. That resolution reached its natural and welcome catharsis here, but the way in which everything worked so well in this episode highlighted just how problematic the ones leading up to it have been.

In retrospect, the build-up to The Ponds' exit was so minimal that it felt as if this episode could have been aired as the Christmas Special or a standalone television movie without losing anything of any real substance by dropping the others. Even though this was an immensely strong and effective finale for the characters, it didn't feel like a culmination of the episodes leading up to it so much as it felt like pay-off from "The Eleventh Hour", the episode that introduced them several years ago. This episode underlined just how little happened in the ones before it, and how unnecessary they were in order to give Amy and Rory a decent send-off. Everything that needed to be said could have been, and largely was said in this single episode, which makes the other four seem kind of flimsy, and a mere prelude to everything that happened in this episode. But that's enough of the big picture, let's zoom in a little bit.


Since they were introduced in All-Time Classic Episode "Blink", The Weeping Angels have proved to be one of the revived series' more unforgettable images. They've also suffered from a terrible case of diminishing returns as the show moved away from the iconic image of them as static, implacable monsters, even showing them moving around like a bunch of crappy mime artists at one point. In that respect, "The Angels Take Manhattan" marked a return to form by depicting them in creepy tableaux, chasing people by appearing and re-appearing every time someone blinks or the light fails, until they eventually catch their prey. Though the tricks employed were exactly the same as those used in "Blink", they're still effective and incredibly creepy, so any scene in which the Angels “chased” people worked very, very well.

As well as recalling the creepy side of "Blink" to great effect, Steven Moffat also brought back the emotional power of the Angels by showing how they 'kill' people: by sending them back in time, essentially dooming them to live out an existence outside of their original timeline. This was played for jump scares in the cold open, which showed a Private Detective discovering his old self in an empty hotel moments before he is caught by The Statue of Liberty, who was revealed to be a giant Angel, but it also formed the emotional core of the episode when Amy, having managed to track down her Rory in the 1930s, meets an elderly version of Rory who promptly dies.

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