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Cult Recap

'Doctor Who' - 'The Angels Take Manhattan' review

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Doctor Who S07E05 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan'

© BBC

Season 7, episode 5 | Aired Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 at 14:02 BST on BBC One

The end is here and the Ponds face the final curtain in the final regular Doctor Who episode of 2012 - we've been following the adventures of Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) since 'The Eleventh Hour' in 2010, but by the time 'The Angels Take Manhattan' had drawn to a close, were we crying tears of joy... or of happiness... or of frustration?

From the off, it's clear that the episode's much-vaunted location filming has paid off in spades - the New York visuals are impressive and lend an authenticity to proceedings that shooting in Cardiff in front of a green screen simply can't achieve - sorry 'Daleks in Manhattan'.

'Angels' explores the New York of several different times periods, each one convincingly realised, kicking off with a wonderfully noirish opening that ends with a fantastic visual sting in the tale - albeit one that was ruined by certain tabloids a while back.

Speaking of returning threat The Weeping Angels, as entertaining as their last major appearance was, 2010 two-parter 'The Time of Angels' / 'Flesh and Stone' robbed them of a little something as they were reduced to basic, brutal killers.

Doctor Who S07E05 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan': The Angels

© BBC



Their third outing restores them to their former glory by returning to their original, far creepier modus operandi - ageing people to death by transposing them in time, a trait which is crucial to Amy and Rory's eventual fate. Not only that, but Moffat's memorable monsters are given a new twist, as he employs the classic horror trait of 'spooky children' to make his already creepy creations even more unsettling.

River Song is this episode's other returnee, but as Steven Moffat implied back in July, this episode isn't really about her - it's only right to have River feature in the episode that sees her on-screen parents bid farewell and Alex Kingston is as fun and flirty as ever, but wisely 'Angels' doesn't concern itself too much with the Doctor and River's complex, timey-wimey relationship.

At this point, it should probably be made clear that 'The Angels Take Manhattan' does have its problems. They include both plotholes (if all the Weeping Angels were wiped out by the paradox, why does the Statue of Liberty still exist?) and slightly-too-convenient plot contrivances. In particular, there's the time distortion that prevents the TARDIS from rescuing the Ponds, but handily won't stop River from sending Amy the Melody Malone novel.

Doctor Who S07E05 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan': Amy Pond

© BBC



Then there's simply matters of preference. This writer's biggest quibble - Rory ends up rather short-changed. Instead of a heroic exit, the character leaves on a note of confusion. Admittedly the sudden nature of his departure is necessary for shock value, but when the Doctor doesn't even get to say goodbye, you can't help but feel a little cheated.

And what of poor Brian (Mark Williams), left watering the plants, doomed never to know what happened to his son or beloved daughter-in-law? Given how prominent the character's been of late, it seems odd that he doesn't even warrant a mention here.

Amy's exit, on the other hand, is executed in terrific fashion. She gets an emotional exit scene, a touching epilogue in the form of her novel's afterword and a full-circle return to her introduction in 'The Eleventh Hour' - this writer's initial instinct was that it might have been nice to actually see the Ponds reunited, but perhaps that might have been a saccharine step too far.

Doctor Who S07E05 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan': The Doctor (Matt Smith)

© BBC



That said, the build-up to Amy and Rory's exit is perhaps more successful than the departure itself. The Doctor's initial unease at his companions beginning to age while he remains the same - an "ageless god" - is well-handled and Matt Smith's fantastic as the Time Lord first learns of 'Amelia's final farewell', almost crumbling with impotent rage. And there's a real sense of unease that permeates the scenes following old Rory's demise, as the fate of Arthur Darvill's companion seems chillingly set in stone - no pun intended.

But while Amy saying a final farewell to her "raggedy man" is emotively played by Smith and Gillan, this writer actually found himself more involved in Amy and Rory's previous rooftop exchange. Over the past few years, Arthur Darvill has in many ways been this show's unsung hero and he's never been better than here - his performance is funny and moving all at once.

Doctor Who S07E05 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan': Rory and Amy

© BBC



Wrapping up a three-year character arc and writing out two much-loved actors at the same time is no easy task, and for the most part Steven Moffat pulls it off with style. And beyond script and performance, 'Angels' also boasts superb production design, another in a long series of enthralling Murray Gold musical scores and dynamic direction from Nick Hurran, who also handled the excellent 'Asylum of the Daleks'.

Doctor Who's final episode 'til the festive season is easily the equal of that hugely impressive opener. Is it perfect? Perhaps not - but it did leave us feeling both moved and almost entirely satisfied.

Moffat faced an uphill struggle here, and while it would be easy to split hairs based on individual preference, with all things considered, 'The Angels Take Manhattan' remains a great piece of work.

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