Doctor Who S7.E05 “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Well, gang, I know it feels like we just started the season but now we’re off until the Christmas Special. There’s a lot to cover and several high emotional stakes so grab some Xanax and jammy dodgers and settle in.
7.4 “The Power of Three”
We see the exploding universe as Amy voice-overs: “Life with the Doctor was like this” and then we get a HIGH-OCTANE SUPERCUT of: Centurion Rory, Weeping Angels, explosions, astronauts, vampires, more explosions, starwhales, and explosions. I’m half expecting this to segue into an ad for a monster truck rally, but Amy juxtaposes the crazy by saying, “Real life? Was like this” and then we see the Ponds at home, catching up on old phone messages and cleaning the fridge after time away.
Amy and Rory acknowledge that their lives are split between “normal” and the Doctor, but aren’t ready to choose one life over the other. Amy’s narration continues to make just that point by saying the Doctor never slowed down to be part of their life, except once, during the year of the Slow Invasion <DRAMATIC PAUSE>.
(I mean to ask, what do y’all think of the new credits? Same great wormhole, new font and logos. I dig.)
Brian is back from the Burrow—hooray!—alerting Rory and Amy to Earth’s latest mystery. Overnight, millions of identical black cubes just…showed up. And on the heels of this global weirdness follows the Doctor, intrigued. Brian spouts off some great theories: are they bombs? Houses for tiny robot aliens? Messages? The scattered results of Space-Jenga? Who knows.
Time to experiment! While the Doctor and Amy fiddle around, we learn that Amy and Rory have been traveling with the Doctor for about ten years’ time, relative to them. The Doctor muses that they’re all grown up with a sappy grin, but their tender moment is interrupted by flanks of U.N.I.T soldiers. And who is heading it up? The Brigadier’s daughter, Kate. Fans of old Who are rightly jazzed at this shout out to the Brig.
The plan is to observe the cubes—that currently don’t do a flipping thing—and after four days the Doctor can’t stand the passage of normal human time and jaunts off. He asks the Ponds to join him, but they’re like, dude we have plans. Try creating a Facebook event next time so we can clear our calendars.
With the Doctor gone, Amy makes social commitments and Rory is tapped for a promotion. Brian keeps a daily video blog of his cube observations, and I’d like to make a formal request for the DW viral marketing team to post clips of it on YouTube. Nothing special seems to be happening, however, until Christmastime when an eerie girl with a glowing cube and her henchman kidnap a man from Rory’s hospital.
Aside from that, the cubes remain stacked in offices and homes and scattered in the street until June, when the UN classifies the cubes as safe and the Doctor shows up at Amy and Rory’s anniversary party. What starts out as a gift trip to the Savoy (in period costume, which is sadly underused on the show) turns into another adventure and another (Amy accidentally marries Henry VIII), until they wind up traveling for seven weeks’ time before getting dropped back off at their party.
Brian notices they’ve been gone and is Displeased. He takes the Doctor aside and asks him point-blank what happens to the people who travel with him, and the Doctor uncomfortably answers that some leave, some are left behind, and some die. “But never [Amy and Rory]” the Doctor assures Brian. Not sure if everyone saw it, but the word FORESHADOWING blinked across my screen a few times.
After almost a year of dormancy, the cubes start acting up simultaneously. Rory and Brian head the hospital and Amy and the Doctor head to U.N.I.T (beneath the Tower of London!) to investigate. During a heart-to-heart with Amy, the Doctor realizes that there’s a reason the cubes are doing what they’re doing: located all over the world and in close proximity to everyone, they’ve completely assessed earth and its inhabitants.
Worse, they all start an ominous countdown starting at the number seven. And if this happened in real life, I would probably strap on some Nikes and chug some cyanide punch because, well, the end is totally nigh.
Brian gets nabbed by the creepy alien orderlies we saw earlier, and Rory follows him through a portal to an spaceship hovering above earth. The Doctor takes a hands-on approach while examining the cubes, and then they spring open to reveal…nothing.
Nothing except electrical pulses that cause cardiac arrest, that is. People start dropping dead all over the planet and the Doctor’s hearts begin to fail. At the hospital, his hearts finally give out and Amy zaps him back with some good ol’ fashioned defibrillation, and they transport to the alien ship where Rory and Brian await.
So who or what is behind all this chaos? The Shakri, or “pest controllers of the universe.” They’ve decided that humans are to the universe what bedbugs are to an apartment complex: horrible gross ruiners of things that are impossible to contain. Or maybe they just refer to humanity as a plague. Regardless, they’ve decided that the human contagion must be stopped.
The Doctor delivers one of his grand “In Defense of Humans” speeches and is not about to give up easily. Luckily, the Shakri ship is mainly on autopilot, and the Doctor is able to sonic the controls and use the cubes to re-shock everyone’s hearts back into circulation, then causes the ship to destruct. They hop back through the portal in the nick of time (but wind up leaving the other human hostages aboard? Woops.) and with the crisis averted, dig into some Chinese food.
When it is time for the Doctor to go, he tells Amy and Rory that the should stay where they are and live their “beautiful, messy lives” but it is Brian who surprisingly gives his support and blessing for them to leave. “Go save every world you can find. Who else has that chance?” Brian says, and waves farewell as they board the TARDIS for another round of adventures. Because given the opportunity to travel all of space and time, even if it cost you your life, could you really say no?
What Was Totally Awesome?
On the whole, I really liked the idea and execution of the slow invasion. Pretty brilliant to drop millions of seemingly harmless cubes on a planet and let the species’ curiosity ultimately do them in. Loved the small details of the cubes, like how they were included in a challenge on a British reality show and how one cube wound up playing the Chicken Dance on an endless loop. Did this plotline remind anyone else of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ run? Seemed like the kind of storyline that was more common before Eleven.
The central conflict between Amy/Rory and the Doctor was excellent as well. Can they keep up this life of companionship with him? Do they even really want to anymore? Is the Doctor just running away from real life or running to explore it? It’s clear the Doctor cares deeply for them and can’t keep away, and they aren’t ready to, either. The bond between them, and particularly the Doctor’s attachment to Amy, is really genuine and totally believable. I’d forgotten what kind of anguish Ten went through before regenerating, and I can see how coming from that into his new form and meeting this lovely, charming young girl while feeling new himself would make Amy his anchor.
Best Character Moment
When the Doctor tells Amy that her face is seared on his hearts. Because awwwww. Also: “I’m running to you and Rory before you fade from me.”
What Could Have Used a Little More Sonic?
While the premise of the invasion was fun, the resolution was lacking. Granted, I didn’t really expect the episode to end with, like, a third of the Earth’s population dead in the street, but introducing the Shakri and having a few blips of the sonic fix everything was…meh. Considering that the Slow Invasion is truly secondary to the push and pull between the Doctor, Amy, and Rory, though, I’m not too bothered by it.
This gets a 5 for character development, but a 3 for busy/hasty alien plot wrap up. So it averages out to a 4.
What do you think? Is this the last we’ll see of the Shakri? What would you do if you woke up to hundreds of cubes outside your door tomorrow morning?
7.5 “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Oh lordy. The time has come. Grab some Kleenex and keep the lights on and whatever you do, don’t blink: the Weeping Angels are back! And they are in New York City!
We start out with a ’30s pulpy detective voiceover and a shot of someone typing a story on a typewriter (remember that for later). Instead of some hot dame hiring Detective Garner to, say, spy on her husband, see, a rich old dude named Mr. Grayle puts him on a case. Grayle’s talkin’ some nonsense about statues that move when you’re not looking. We all know he ain’t crazy, but Garner’s like, I’m no cadger on the grift you gotta pay me handsomely for this graft. Or something equally pulpy.
So he ends up at this spooky building, fully equipped with poor lighting and creaky elevator shafts. Look, the first rule to staying alive is that if the door opens in a mysterious way, DO NOT ENTER. DO NOT.
Well, he doesn’t heed the sage advice I’m flinging at the screen, and lets the elevator take him to the seventh floor. He wanders the hallway until he sees a room marked, “S. Garner.” Um, twist?
Once inside, he sees someone with the same ID as him. Can we guess all together now who he will find in the bedroom? If your answer was, “Who is the older version of himself, Alex,” you might win like $250 on Teen Jeopardy. Because you’d be right. He sees the old, aged version of himself, dodges Angels and runs to the roof where he’s confronted with the Statue of Liberty, Angelized.
Did that lift your spirits? No? Well get ready for them to plunge even lower.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are hanging out in Central Park like many gorgeous hip twentysomethings do. Amy and Rory have the PDA cranked up to the max and the Doctor is reading the aforementioned pulp novel aloud, trying to make “Yowza” happen but he’s no Regina George and Yowza ain’t no Fetch.
Rory goes off to get coffee (and probably shells out $4 for each cup of Stumptown he gets amirite?) but while doing so, gets zapped by an Angel and ends up in past New York with River. Ruh-roh.
Turns out the detective novel was written by Melody Malone, who is in fact our Melody Pond, or River Song as we first knew her. And I think I might consider adding her cleavage as a supporting character, because it’s truly a force of its own.
In the way that makes no sense but time travel sense, River had written the novel about what was going to happen next to simultaneously warn Amy and the Doctor AND propel things forward. Like I said, don’t stew on it.
So the Doctor and Amy are in present NYC while Rory is back in the ’30s with River and her boobs. Amy’s desperate to read ahead but the Doctor wont let her: if she knows what will happen, then she’ll act in a way to MAKE it happen, causing a fixed point in time or self-fulfilling prophecy or whatever you want to call it, but it’s Bad News.
The Doctor and Amy wind up in a graveyard while trying to get to Rory. Oh, could just be coincidental, I say. Maybe the TARDIS likes the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, I say. False, the Steven Moffat says, as the camera pans down to show a tombstone with Rory’s name on it.
Rory and River are taken to Grayle’s, and Rory is thrown in the basement with the “children” and River gets a one-on-one with Grayle. He’s a “crime boss with a collection fetish” and has a Weeping Angel chained up in his drawing room. River gets too close, Grayle shuts the lights, and boom: it’s got a death grip on her wrist. Meanwhile, Rory is stumbling about the basement with matches and some creepy stone cherubs. Angel-lites? They get closer and closer until they grab him.
The Doctor arrives, but isn’t able to undo much—River is stuck in the Angel’s grip, and Rory isn’t to be found. They can’t read too far ahead in the book for fear of finding out too much and fixing the future, but chapter titles afford enough clues, leading Amy to the basement, but they also read:
“Death at Wintery Quay” and “Amelia’s Last Farewell.” Matt Smith does a great job of letting fear paralyze him, then enrage him, and all the foreboding tones from earlier crest like a wave. This isn’t going to end well, y’all.
Rory’s been zapped over to Winter’s Quay and fool is WALKING INSIDE despite my earlier warnings that if a creepy door opens for you, you should go far in the opposite direction. The Quay isn’t too far away from Grayle’s house, and they are able to locate it and head over.
But when they do, they see a room marked “R. Williams.” Gasp! Old Rory is inside, and when he sees Amy, he’s overjoyed. Stab to my heart #1. They hold hands and he dies, and we find out what’s going in the Quay—the Angels have created a battery farm (in Battery Park! Wordplay!) where they transport people back but keep them locked up in a room, therefore allowing themselves to continually feed off of their lost time energy.
Neither Amy nor Rory will accept the fact that this is how it ends for Rory, and make a run for it. They end up on the roof with the Statue of Liberty glaring upon them. Amy watches while Rory surveys, then gets up on the ledge.
STAB TO MY HEART #2 as Amy asks, panicked, “Rory, what are you doing?” He’s ready to die again, before he dies of old age, to create a paradox to erase the Quay and the Angels. Amy won’t let him go alone, though, and gets up on the ledge with him. “Together or not at all,” she says, and the Doctor and River arrive just as they commit and jump.
I think my heart is now in shreds, but there you go, music peaking as they fall and the paradox kicks in. Aaaand they’re all back to the graveyard. For a moment I think that Amy and Rory don’t make it back from the jump, but they spring right up because they collapsed the earlier timeline. It’s all sunlight and quips and they’re off to a pub when Rory goes back to a grave and sees his name…
AND GETS NABBED BY A SURVIVING ANGEL. Just ripped out of there. Ugh. All the feels. The Doctor tries to talk Amy into coming back to the TARDIS, but she keeps advancing toward the Angel. It could send her back to be with Rory. “It’s my best shot, yeah?” she says, more distraught as the Doctor frantically tries to keep her away, telling her no.
River, in maybe the best thing she’s ever done, tells the Doctor to shut up. “Yes, yes it is” she tells Amy, and holds her hand. “I will never be able to see you again,” the Doctor says, and SERIOUSLY THIS HURTS SO MUCH.
“Raggedy man,” she says, turning, “Goodbye.” And with no one watching the Angel, it zaps Amy back in time as well, and her name appears on the gravestone next to Rory’s.
If you’re wondering, I’m taking a brief narrative pause to sip some wine to cope with all of this. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and River are ruined but saving face. The Doctor asks her to travel with him, and she says “Whenever, wherever you want. But not all the time” and he’s back to being the lonely, ancient wandering soul he’s been for some time now.
There’s the matter of the novel that has to be published, the novel that closes the loop. River says she’ll get it done, and will tell Amy to write an afterward for the Doctor. Realizing that is the last page he ripped out earlier, he runs back to their picnic spot in Central Park and reads Amy’s words to him.
Remember the typewriter from the beginning and throughout the episode? Yep, that was Amy typing away. She lets him know that she and Rory are happy together, and that they love him. But they worry about him, traveling alone.
The last thing Amy asks is for the Doctor to visit her younger self—Amelia Pond, the girl who waited in her garden for the Doctor to come back—and tell her about the future adventures she’ll go on. We see little Amelia look up to the sky and hear the familiar sounds of the TARDIS, then fade to credits.
Point/Counterpoint. I have been thinking about this episode a lot, y’all, and instead of doing what was awesome/lacking, I’m going to present a point/counterpoint for this episode, since it is such an important one. And I’m still figuring out how I feel about it.
Point: This was as solid of a sendoff as could be. Karen Gillan wanted a conclusive end to Amy’s time with the Doctor, and if there is one thing Amy would choose over him (and has) it’s Rory.
Counterpoint: Amy and Rory’s love and dedication has been established, yes, but we’ve seen variations of it before. Was this just a lot of emotional baiting?
Point: The Doctor wasn’t able to separate himself from the Ponds, and this way Amy and Rory are definitively out of his influence and able to live out the rest of their lives together, linearly, normally.
Counterpoint: Not to turn into Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, but the Winter’s Quay was the paradox, not Amy and Rory, so why can’t the Doctor just visit them in a time/place that isn’t 1930s NYC? Applying logic to Who is not my first priority, but when a crucial plot point relies on it I will.
Point: This departure has been nicely developed, both in showing the unwavering bond between Amy and Rory and by exploring the perils/potential end points for companions. Amy and Rory had the chance to stay behind in Power of Three but didn’t take it—they couldn’t fully say goodbye either.
Counterpoint: Maybe it’s because their departure had already gotten a fair amount of press, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly manipulated at the end. There were a lot of hard emotional sucker punches, sure, and I totally felt them in the moment. But given that it all happened in one episode, and all in the last fifteen minutes or so, I now feel a bit rushed and cheated.
Point: The Weeping Angels are totally rad! And they’re back! With creepy cherubim and most importantly, the Statue of freakin’ Liberty!!
Counterpoint: Ok, Statue of Liberty Angel is a really good idea. Because people are always looking at her! And she’s huge! And such a landmark! What if some massive blackout happened and then when power came back she was just GONE? And then she reappears somewhere else completely, covering her eyes Angel-style, and masses of people flock to her out of curiosity, and the danger is that once she collects a large enough food supply of humans, the lights go out again and she will transport everyone back in time en masse? Or something. But having her clomp around Battery Park to just snarl in the background for a few frames? Waste of potential. No way she gets anywhere in the city because there are ALWAYS PEOPLE AROUND EVERYWHERE.
Point: River Song was back in a strong way.
Counterpoint: Actually, I just have to agree with myself. I was not very happy with a lot of the River Song stuff from last season, but I liked her here.
I’m still so mixed up about it that all I can say is tears. Lots of tears and angst. And now an empty bottle of wine.
Thoughts? How will you suffer the Doctor Who void until Christmas? Was this the send-off Amy and Rory deserved? Is it time to suspiciously side-eye all statues you see for the next few weeks? Perhaps there is never a good way to write out companions. Hit me with your reactions below.
About the Contributor:
This post was written by Whovian extraordinaire Julie.