Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan
This morning, over coffee and eggs, I watched the fall season finale of Doctor Who – The Angels Take Manhattan. For those that aren’t in the know, this episode was highly anticipated for us Who-fans, since it was the final episode for Amy Pond, the Doctor’s current companion, and possibly her husband, Rory Williams. Incredibly popular, Amy and Rory were expected to leave on an emotional high-note – though what that note would be has been in question.
I’ll start by completely avoiding all spoilers…
The Angels Take Manhattan has all the classic elements of my favorite D.Who episodes:
Highly Stylized – The episode takes on film noire, with a Doctor Who flair. River Song embraces the role of our hard boiled detective, using clipped speech, an amazing trench coat, and quick, deadpan observation. Of course, once the Doctor appears, the charade is blown to bits – yet the environment and character choices fall in line with this Sam Spade universe.
That Idiot Human – You know the one. It’s the character that wants to activate a dormant dalek. Or the one that falls in love with a spider queen alien. Or perhaps the one that collects weeping angels. Whatever the situation, it’s the man or woman who brings about the possible demise of a city, because of their personal obsession.
The Alien Villain – This was done particularly well, keeping with the noire theme, where the villain embodies widespread corruption, a cancer that’s eating away the pillars of society. In this episode, it’s the Weeping Angels – aliens that can either be very effective, or exceedingly overused. Here, the writers definitely played to the Weeping Angels strength as villains.
And now, in the memorable words of River Song,
Last week’s episode, The Power of Three, was a great, pre-farewell episode for Rory and Amy. We had the chance to see them out of the context of the Doctor, as individuals, and a couple. Additionally, this episode foreshadowed that the Ponds travels with the Doctor would end in death.
That’s a pretty tall order for beloved characters. Killing them off risks disillusioning the audience. But not killing them off, after this set up, or pulling the emotional punch of their death, does a disservice to the characters and the storyline. After the emotional impact of Donna Noble’s memory wipe, I expected something equally shattering if Amy and Rory really were to die.
They did die, but without the emotional impact I had hoped for. The angels threw Amy and Rory back in time, where the Doctor could no longer reach them. The couple lived out their lives together, with Amy leaving the Doctor a note that assured him they had lived happy, fulfilling lives.
So they died of old age.
They were basically friends that moved far away, that you lost contact with, and then found out years later they had passed away, quietly and peacefully.
I don’t fault the writers for this path. As I said, killing off characters must be a weighty decision – they’re characters the writers and fans both love. Killing them must be as hard on the writers as it is on the fans.
But one of the things I love about Doctor Who is that it gives you that punch. The writing often leaves you with a sense of ambiguity. What could the characters have done differently? Did they lead their lives right? What are the consequences of their choices and actions? Asking these questions causes us, the viewers, to reflect on our own lives and the consequences of our decisions.
In last week’s episode, Amy and Rory chose to forego the stable, non-Doctor life, where they could have that long and happy life together. In this week’s episode, their choice was negated. They simply lived it out in another time period.
I don’t normally support questioning a writer’s choices. As the viewer we’re left to ponder the story that is, not the story we’d like it to be. But, it’s a pet peeve of mine when a writer doesn’t put characters through the wringer they’ve been led to, because of sentimentality.
Honestly, the pros outweigh the cons in this episode, and it was one of my favorites this season. I will miss having Amy and Rory on the show – Rory has been one of my favorite characters in the new Doctor Who universe, and the relationship between the Doctor and Amy was sweet, and wonderful to watch blossom.
See you guys later.