Sunday, 30 September 2012

Review - "The Angels Take Manhattan"

There are always milestones and momentous episodes in "Doctor Who" - stories which are described as "the one where Sarah-Jane leaves", "the one where Adric dies" etc.   It's taken a while for one of these types of stories to happen in the Eleventh Doctor era and they definitely pull out all the stops.  Let me ask a question.  Do you watch "The Hand of Fear" and pick at plot holes?  Of course not.  You watch it with emotion not logic and eat up all the scenes with Sarah-Jane and the Doctor, knowing it's their last ones.  It should be the same with "The Angels Take Manhattan".  You cannot watch this dispassionately.  You cannot deliberately turn off your emotions and watch this from a logical standpoint.  As Matt Smith said: "Never apply logic to Who".  This was the swansong of two beloved characters - the only family that Eleven has known - and it was glorious.

This wasn't a story cluttered with an incomprehensible plot or multiple, unnecessary characters. In fact, the plot itself was relatively straightforward but I'm not going to recap it because of two reasons: firstly. it's not hugely vital and secondly you need to watch this story yourselves.  Basically, it was a lovely, typically Moffat story where Time is important and full focus is given to those characters we've grown to know and love:  The Doctor, River, Amy and Rory.  The relationships between them came to the forefront - we'd seen the bond between the Doctor, Amy and Rory in "The Power of Three" and in "The Angels Take Manhattan" we saw the strength of the bonds between Amy and Rory, Amy and River, River and the Doctor and, of course, Amy and her "raggedy man".

It really was a beautiful end to the Pond era - and, whilst we were promised tragedy, we did slightly misunderstand what that meant.  We all took it to mean a tragic end for the Ponds...but was it?  Amy and Rory wanted and needed to be together - and that's what they got.  They grew old together - and if you cast your minds back to last year's "The Girl Who Waited", that's what Rory wanted more than anything and, in this story, that's what Amy chose.  Choices were important here - Rory chose to jump off the building and create a paradox.  Amy chose to join him - "together or not at all".  It was a truly superb scene that really highlighted the strength, love and connection that Amy and Rory have.  We had hope then - hope that was cruelly ripped away by the graveyard scene.  Another choice.  Amy chose to be with Rory.  Wherever Rory was, that was home to Amy.  Her "raggedy man" was her friend...but Rory was her life.  They were together - the tragedy would have been if they weren't.

It was the Doctor who fared worst here - this was a tragedy for him.  The Eleventh Doctor has just lost most of his family - he can't see them again and, you have to wonder whether this theory about the episodes being out of order from the Doctor's viewpoint is going to be picked up on in the future.  His actions in previous episodes have certainly seemed to suggest that the events in "The Angels Take Manhattan" happened in HIS past - and he's been going back and "clinging" to them as best he can.  Time will tell, no doubt, but this story pretty much tore him apart.  He hates endings - even tearing the final pages out of books so the story will never end - and we can see why.  He just can't cope with them and the Moff was right - he usually is - the Doctor WAS completely useless in this story once he read the chapter heading saying "Amelia's Last Farewell".  An ending was coming - and he became a bit of an emotional wreck.  Thank goodness, River was there for him.

How strong and fabulous was River Song, though?  The usual flirting was somewhat tempered - they're more of a married couple now.  Newly weds though with the way the Doctor checked out his appearance before exiting the Tardis.   And for any who doubt that River and the Doctor are actually married...then watch this story.  Whether it was legal or not is immaterial, whether it was an alternative timeline is immaterial.  The important thing is that River and the Doctor act as though they're married.  They believe in it - what gives anyone else the right to disagree?

River breaks her wrist escaping the clutches of the damaged Angel and then hides it from the Doctor - not just because of "when one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a 12 year old, one does one's best to hide the damage", but also because she wanted him to believe that the future COULD still be changed.  She wanted to give him hope, something to cling to - a sort of emotional lifebelt during the storm - after all, "it's called marriage, honey".  River was a pillar of strength in this story, not just for the Doctor - she was the one who confirmed for Amy that letting the Angel touch her was her best shot of being reunited with Rory, even though it meant she'd lose both of them.  The worrying thing though was the fact that she's now Professor River Song - and, as such, she's moving inexorably closer to the Singing Towers of Darillium and then the Library.

So, we had comedy ("only you could fancy someone in a book"), drama, emotion and incredible pathos.  There were lovely nods to various points in the Pond era such as on the rooftop when Amy says: "So you think you'll come back to life?" and Rory responds brilliantly with  "When don't I?" - a nice touch reflecting all the times he's died in the series.  There was the lovely reference to "The Eleventh Hour" with showing us why little Amelia looked up and smiled after she'd been sitting out in the garden all night, waiting for the Doctor.  Nicely done, Mr Moffat...nicely done.  I do wonder about Brian though - who tells him?  In my head, it's a similar scenario to "Blink".  Brian will get a letter from the past from Amy and Rory detailing all that's happened to them.  The letter will probably be delivered by a blonde woman from the "Melody Malone Detective Agency"...

Kudos, of course, to Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill - we fell in love with their characters and they both played it beautifully - never over the top, always spot on the money.  The love that Amy and Rory have for each other completely shone through - and it's a testament to the acting of Karen and Arthur that, whatever twists and turns happened along the way, you always had complete belief in their characters.  It's definitely the end of a very good and wonderful era.  

Alex Kingston was a delight - as ever.  She IS River Song and her devotion to the Doctor is unshakeable.  Personally, I loved that it was hinted near the end that River would indeed be back - how could she not be?  As long as Alex Kingston is happy to do it then we need our regular River appearances.  Bouquets must also go to Nick Hurran with his brilliant direction and, of course, the Moff for giving us another superbly written episode.

What can I say about Matt Smith?  It was the reaction of the Doctor in the graveyard that made that scene so powerful - that little sobbed "come along, Pond, please" would break anyone's heart and, as for the scene on the bench when the Doctor reads Amy's "afterword" you'd have to be an Angel yourself with a heart of stone if you didn't cry at that one.  I really can't stress enough how much of an incredible actor Matt Smith is.  Yes, he can do the physical stuff - throwing himself around with energetic aplomb - but when he has to show deep emotion...well, that's when he really shines.  We didn't need to see a cascade of tears from him - the expression on his face was more than enough.

Thanks for a great first half of the season, DW team - looking forward to the Christmas special and the next eight episodes.

Hello old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well, and we’re very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you, always. Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think, once we’re gone, you won’t be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor. And do one more thing for me. There’s a little girl waiting in a garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates. She’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived, and save a whale in outer space. Tell her, this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.

Episode Rating:  10/10 - as they say on tumblr, it got me "right in the feels".