by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "The Angels Take Manhattan"

Posted 1870 days ago in by Catriona

Synopsis

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

What, you want a longer synopsis?

Well, all right, then.

We open with a noir prologue, in which private detective Sam Garner, hired by crime boss Mr Grayle, heads to Winter Quay to investigate rumours of “moving statues”. Instead, he finds his own aged, dying self, is chased onto the roof by weeping angels, and turns to find himself faced by the leering face of Lady Liberty.

Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are sitting around somewhere in present-day New York (somewhere grassy, let’s just say it’s Central Park), which seems like an odd place to go when you’ve got a machine that travels in space and time. I mean, you can get to New York by plane. (Which the Doctor and Ace did once in a piece of fan-fiction I read where the Doctor had to go up against the Joker, but that’s not really important right now, I suppose).

Either way, there they all in New York, with the Doctor reading a modern reprint of a ’30s pulp novel about ‘Melody Malone’, which he picked up because he liked the busty woman on the cover.

AMY: Where did you get this book?
DOCTOR: It was in my jacket.
AMY: How did it get there?
DOCTOR: How did anything get there? I’ve given up asking.

He’s reading bits of it out loud (after ripping out the last page, because he doesn’t like endings and watch out for that anvil!) and annoying Amy by saying, “Yowzah!” at the exciting bits. And Amy’s reading the newspaper and annoying the Doctor because she’s wearing reading glasses, which make her eyes look “liney.”

Nope, not the glasses: Amy’s just not quite as young as she used to be.

Rory manages to defuse this situation by being adorable, and heads off to get coffee, not realising that he’s going to be followed on his way back by creepy giggling noises. Amy asks the Doctor to read aloud from the book, omitting the yowzahs, and that’s how they discover Rory is now a character, confronting his daughter (no surprise who Melody Malone turns out to be) in 1938 New York.

River and Rory are snatched by Grayle’s men and taken to his ostentatious mansion, where Rory is thrown into the basement with a box of matches and a pile of baby weeping angels, while River is taken to Grayle’s study and asked about the weeping angels. Turns out, Grayle has one chained behind a curtain in his study, because he’s both a collector of rare objects and a total idiot. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Amy are trying to break through to 1938 in the TARDIS, but the whole area is temporally unstable. Luckily, Melody Malone’s book goes into detail about Grayle’s collection, so it’s a quick trip to China for a plot device ripped out of “City of Death”, and then River can set a signal for the Doctor to lock onto.

Which is fortunate, because Rory is running out of matches and River’s wrist is now held in an unbreakable grip by the weeping angel.

Realising that River wrote the Melody Malone book and that by looking at the table of contents, they can glean hints from it without actually fixing the future (and is that the first time paratextual material has been a significant plot device outside a Jasper Fforde novel?), Amy heads down to the cellar to rescue Rory, while the Doctor orders River to free herself without breaking her own wrist, even though Amy read that she would break her wrist.

But Rory is already gone and River has no choice but to break her own wrist, though she lies to the Doctor about it. Then he and River have a sad little chat about the difficulties of being in love with, as River says, “an ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve year old.” (The gender politics in that scene aren’t to my taste, by the way, but they’re plausible enough.)

River locates Rory at Winter Quay, which doesn’t sound promising. And, sure enough, Rory, when they find him, has wandered into a room where, just like Sam Garner before him, he finds his own aged, dying self. This, the Doctor says, is inevitable. There’s nothing they can do to avoid it—except Rory has a stroppy wife and a stroppy daughter, and neither of them are as convinced of inevitability as the Doctor is. If Rory can only get out of the hotel, he can cause a paradox that brings the whole edifice—the whole battery farm, as the Doctor calls it—down.

But, like Sam before him (or after him? Sometime in 1938, anyway), Rory is herded up to the roof where he finds the Statue of Liberty looming over him.

RORY: I always wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty. I guess she got impatient.

With the Statue of Liberty behind them and the staircase choked with angels, there’s only one way to break the paradox: jump off the roof. Rory is convinced that he’ll come back to life (“When don’t I?”), but Amy isn’t willing to let him take the chance unless she takes it, too.

So they leap off the building, wrapped together, and they wake up in a graveyard. All’s well and good: Rory’s death has broken the paradox, and the angels have all been destroyed in the backlash.

Well, except for that one who was hiding behind Rory and who has just zapped him back into the past again.

I might let the dialogue speak for the next bit of the episode:

AMY: That gravestone, Rory’s, there’s room for one more name, isn’t there?
The Doctor: What are you talking about? Back away from the Angel. Come back to the TARDIS. We’ll figure something out.
AMY: The Angel – would it send me back to the same time, to him?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. Nobody knows.
AMY: But it’s my best shot, yeah?
DOCTOR: No!
RIVER: Doctor, shut up! Yes! Yes, it is!
DOCTOR: Amy…
AMY: Well, then. I just have to blink, right?
DOCTOR: No!
AMY: It’ll be fine. I know it will. I’ll- I’ll- I’ll be with him, like I should be. Me and Rory together. Melody?
DOCTOR: Stop it! Just- Just stop it!
AMY: You look after him, and you be a good girl, and you look after him.
DOCTOR: You are creating fixed time. I will never be able to see you again!
AMY: I’ll be fine. I’ll be with him.
DOCTOR: Amy, please, just come back into the TARDIS. Come along, Pond, please.
AMY: Raggedy man, goodbye!

And Amy vanishes, but her name appears below Rory’s on the tombstone next to the Doctor and River.

Back in the TARDIS, River tells the Doctor not to travel on his own, and the Doctor asks her to travel with him: she says she’ll go anywhere he likes whenever he likes, but not all the time (“One psychopath per TARDIS”). But when she sends the Melody Malone MS to Amy for publication, she’ll ask her to write an afterword.

That would be the page that the Doctor ripped out of the novel in the beginning, of course. Fortunately, it’s a low-wind day in New York, so it’s still resting in the abandoned picnic basket.

But you’ll have to re-watch the episode if you want a transcription of that, because I seem to have something in my eye …

What worked for me in this episode

I’m going to cheat here, because it’s been a long week and I’m trying to find time to make a dolly for my tiny baby niece for Christmas. So, in short, everything worked for me in this episode.

Okay, not everything. I’ve griped about a couple of things below. But, really: I’ve seen many and many leaving-companions stories, and this one satisfied me. And I’m quite tricky to satisfy when it comes to the new series of Doctor Who, especially now we’ve been so busily rewatching the old series. (Speaking of which, I have a treat for you all in that respect, come November.)

But I’ll pick out one thing: I loved the slow-motion fall from the top storey of Winter Quay, with Amy and Rory embracing desperately and Amy’s hair flying above them. It reminded me of both Amy floating outside the TARDIS in “The Beast Below” and Scooti’s body floating away into the black hole in “The Impossible Planet”—for me, it was a moment that recalled both beginnings and endings, as well as being beautiful to boot.

What didn’t work for me in this episode
I realise that the argument about whether the new series of Doctor Who works best through logical consistency or through emotional catharsis is a fraught one, and I’m not touching it. But if a strongly emotional focus for an episode doesn’t satisfy you as a viewer, then this episode isn’t going to work for you.

It worked for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, more than (though in much the same way) as I enjoyed “Asylum of the Daleks”—actually, in much the same way as I enjoyed “Vincent and the Doctor”. But this one had fewer logical fallacies to my eyes than “Asylum of the Daleks”: I didn’t have to worry about whether the nano-cloud actually made any sense and why they’d chosen the tired old route of breaking Amy and Rory up only to reconcile them at the end.

That said, we did have two questions. Neither was sufficient to ruin our enjoyment of the episode, but they were there.

Nick was wondering why Amy and Rory didn’t just leave New York in the 1930s (or earlier: wherever they ended up in the end) and travel to somewhere more temporally stable. Admittedly, the Doctor addressed this with his argument that Amy was creating a “fixed point in time”, but I don’t want “fixed point in time” to become this season’s perception filter.

My only real concern, though, was the Statue of Liberty. As soon as we first saw her, in the opening shots, I thought, “If she becomes a weeping angel, I will hate this episode for the rest of my life.” I wouldn’t say I ended up going that far, but I so wish she hadn’t been an angel: after all, is there really any way she could walk across to the building without someone in New York seeing her?

Oh, wait: I remembered one more thing that didn’t work for me about this episode: it’s the last episode until Christmas.

I mean, come one: we’re not made of stone here!

(See what I did there?)

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Seventy-Six

Posted 1870 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Stuffing dollies is so tricky. How do you know when it’s enough stuffing?
NICK: You ask the impossible, madam!
ME: Stop pretending to be Adam Adamant.
NICK: But it’s such fun.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Seventy-Five

Posted 1873 days ago in by Catriona

NICK: If you’d said you’d wanted dinner at 7pm, I’d have moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
ME: I’ve been saying I would like dinner at 7pm for the last twelve years.
NICK: But I thought you meant you wanted dinner at 7pm in the abstract.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Seventy-Four

Posted 1873 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Your desperate need to contradict me has rather gotten away from you this time. You don’t need to contradict me all the time.
NICK: (mumble)
ME: Pardon?
NICK: I was going to say ‘I don’t’, but that would be contradicting you.

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