The episode begins in 1938 New York, and right away the montage of Gothic statues around the city lets you know exactly what’s going on, as if the title didn’t. A private investigator is paid to investigate these “angels that move”, although he’s skeptical, naturally. He is sent to the Winter Quay, a seemingly abandoned building in Battery Park. As he’s walking up the front steps we get the first glimpse of those magnificently creepy weeping angels, as one disappears, and the other wears its trademark evil smile. During his investigation, he finds his own wallet inside one of the rooms. He also finds an old man in the bed, who turns out to be his older self, who warns his younger self about his impending fate. The angels strike, and the show is off to a great start. Oh, and we find out the statue of liberty is a giant Weeping Angel!
Flash forward to modern day New York with the Doctor, Amy, and Rory. They’re lounging on the famous big rock in Central Park, and the Doctor is reading a crime novel called Melody Malone. As he rips out the last page of the book he tells Amy that he never reads last pages because he hates endings.
Rory is off to get some coffee, and right away he begins hearing nefarious chuckles, as creepy cherubs—a previously unseen form of weeping angel—are stalking him. We switch back to the Doctor reading from the novel, and he reads a line where Melody encounters Rory! Flash backward, and Melody Malone, actually River Song, greets her father, Rory, in 1938. It’s only fitting that Amy and Rory’s final journey is all timey-wimey, after all, their entire time on the show has been one big jumbled mess of wacky timelines.
The Doctor and Amy are off, following the clues given in the novel. Meanwhile, in the past, River explains to Rory that she used a vortex manipulator to arrive. She knows something is up as she tells him it would be impossible to land the TARDIS inside the city’s limits as the city is full of time distortions.
At this point we learn a fundamental law of time from the Doctor; time can’t be re-written once you’ve read it. Realizing the book is detailing their current adventure, the Doctor tells Amy to stop reading the book because she’s reading passed the point of their present. Got that? Good!
The Doctor’s solution to not being able to get to New York is to go back to ancient China and send a message to River on a vase, a mechanism we’ve seen the Doctor and River use before. River, seeing the message, sends a signal for the Doctor to lock on to with her vortex manipulator, and BAM, he and Amy arrive in the correct time and place.
Meanwhile, the episode’s pseudo-villain has captured an angel for his collection, and has enlisted the help of Melody Malone, who is known for investigating angels, to tell him everything she knows about them. Meanwhile, Rory has been “given to the babies”, a basement full of angel cherubs, with only a box of matches to keep him safe. In one of the best weeping angel scenes ever, a cherub blows out Rory’s lit match.
In a moment of canon advancement, River tells the Doctor that she’s been pardoned from her crime in the future, since the man she killed—the Doctor—never existed, as was his goal at the end of the last season. I have to admit that I don’t mind River in this episode. I think she was used far too much in the last two seasons, to the point of over-saturation, but for some reason she works well in this episode. Kudos to Steven Moffat for making a character I’d grown to hate enjoyable again.
In one of the most heart wrenching scenes ever, the Doctor accidentally sees the title for the last chapter of the Melody Malone novel, entitled, Amy’s Last Farewell. Knowing what we do about reading future events, the Doctor’s horrified reaction is understandable.
When Amy and the Doctor arrive in the basement where Rory was thrown they find only a gaggle of cherubs. It turns out that for some reason Rory wasn’t moved back in time, only in space, and is still somewhere in the city. In the next scene we see him walking into the Winter Quay.
The gang meets up in one of the Winter Quay’s rooms, where Amy finds an aged Rory in the bed. Rory looks on as his older self dies, having glimpsed his wife for the last time. In another bit of canon, we finally see “the man who dies and dies again” die for the last time. Just another beautiful touch to an eloquent penultimate Pond-centric episode.
The Doctor realizes that the building is a farm where the angels can bump people back in time repeatedly to feed on their time energy over and over again. He tells Amy and Rory that the angels are coming for him again, and will succeed. The only way to stop this might be to create a paradox that would poison the farm and stop the angels. Meanwhile, a loud boom is getting closer…
As Rory and Amy escape to the rooftop, with the Doctor and River following soon after, we find the statue of liberty peering at them menacingly.
In an amazingly beautiful scene, Rory and Amy stand on the ledge of the rooftop debating the necessity of Rory’s death to create a paradox that will erase the building from existence. He tells Amy that since he always comes back from the dead, he will this time as well. Amy won’t let him go it alone, and they jump together. It’s an oddly beautiful double suicide, as crazy at that sounds.
As the Doctor and River look on in horror as the Ponds jumps, the building starts to vanish as the paradox takes hold. The next scene shows the Ponds, River, and the Doctor popping up outside of the city, where everything began. The paradox worked! Except for a lone surviving angel that zaps Rory away. The Doctor tells Amy that there’s nothing he can do to save Rory, and so Amy lets the Angel take her so they can be together. No more Ponds!
What makes The Angels Take Manhattan so unique in the history of the show as a companion departure episode is that beforehand fans could reasonably surmise what might happen to the Ponds. The Weeping Angels have been a recurring monster for several years, and every Whovian knows what they do; feed on your remaining life energy, but rather than kill you, they send you hurtling backwards randomly in time to live out the rest of your life. It was easy to see, or at least presume, what Steven Moffat had planned for the Ponds. Well, leave it to the Grand Moff to play with that assumption and give us something completely expected, yet unexpected at the same time.
The Ponds got a happy ending, as they get to live out the rest of their lives together. The Doctor, however, is now alone, a state which Amy explicitly tells him to avoid on the final page of the book, which she wrote to let him know she and Rory lived full, happy lives. One last bit of timey-wimeyness adding a beautiful touch to the episode.
My only criticisms are aimed at the angel’s themselves. First off, the angel Statue of Liberty made no sense what so ever. It is inconceivable to think there’s even one second where nobody is at least looking in the direction of the statue, let alone while it’s walking through downtown New York. That just made no sense and served no point, and while it was a cool concept, it felt thrown in just for the heck of it. Also, the statue is made of metal, not stone… since when were there metal angels? The second instance was the angel that zapped Rory. When Rory turned his back the angel zapped him, but Amy, the Doctor, and River were all looking in the direction of the angel. It also happened when Amy let the angel take her, while the Doctor and River were watching. That was a huge breakdown in the very essence of the weeping angels. Alas, I guess there are just some things that need to be accepted for the sake of a good story, which this certainly was.
As has been the theme during NuWho, the companions are so much more than simply acquaintances for the Doctor to travel with. They become deeply embedded in the fabric of the Doctor’s life, often shaping his life in ways that would never have happened if not for their presence. Amy and Rory, as well as their daughter, River Song, have become a part of the Doctor’s narrative more so than any perhaps even Rose or Donna.
Change is a fundamental element of Doctor who. Whether it be one Doctor regenerating into the next, a companion leaving, or another being introduced, change is the most emotional and dramatic element of the show. Amy Pond, and her husband Rory, have been with us for three seasons. They’ve become a part of the fabric of the show, and are fundamental to how the show looks and feels.
Doctor Who will look and feel different now that the Ponds are gone. But I think their beautifully handled departure will allow us to move on with a sense of satisfied closure. It was a perfectly told tale, albeit a bit drawn out over three years, with a wonderful ending to an enduring era of Doctor Who. Now begins the long, agonizing wait until the Christmas episode, and the introduction of the Doctor’s next companion.
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