Friday, 5 October 2012

"The Angels Take Manhattan"

The tale opens in a a kind of East-coast pastiche of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler- the excellent teaser has Sam Garner, the hard-boiled detective being given his assignment, his confident and florid voice-over on the soundtrack. However, his mission, though innocuous to him, will have far more significance to the viewer- Manhattan has been overrun with the most iconic monsters of the 21st century iteration of the series and Garner is walking into a trap. The Weeping Angels are as terrifying as they have ever been and Moffat explores new levels of their malevolence with the 'battery farm' they have built in Winter Quay. The baby angels are a chilling addition with their light-hearted, yet gleefully sadistic cackling. As "Blink" was the story to give us the phrase 'timey-wimey', it is fitting that Moffat manages to find new levels to take timey-wimeyness- too much of it and the effect on time travellers is like an erupting Icelandic volcano. For Moffat, as a writer, the idea of using a book to forge the timelines would have been irresistable, including a retort to the statement 'Time can be re-written'. Again, the story seems chaotic and yet it manages to work brilliantly. Of course, this is aided by the realisation of the story is first rate, with Nick Hurran again putting in outstanding work in the director's chair- his construction of the scenes with the Angels moving in for the kill are sublime and the little touches that only work on a second viewing- when Garner is approaching the house, he sees an old woman, a woman in her late thirties and a young girl looking out of the window. It becomes obvious only later, that they are the same person. The shooting in New York is refreshingly free of cliché, except for the greatest one of all, which is wickedly subverted- although the Statue of Liberty being an Angel doesn't make much sense (if there is one statue in the world that is constantly under at least one person's gaze, it's Lady Liberty) but it is such a fantastic image that I, for one, can forgive it.

Memorable as all this is, "The Angels Take Manhattan" is the Ponds' swan-song and it is this which drives the action and gives the story its heart and soul. The Doctor should not be alone. There have been many reasons given for this, all of which are valid. However, most of his companions have been human and, devoted as he is to them and vice versa, the time of parting is inevitable. There are palliatives, as River takes (literal) pains to demonstrate, but no cure. It is time, now, for the Ponds to bid farewell. We have followed the story of Rory and Amy like no other relationship in the history of the programme. Amy might have tried to seduce the Doctor, they might have been on the verge of divorce, but their love has remained nevertheless. They have had the Doctor in their lives since childhood and that has impacted them greatly- it is Rory who comes up with the solution and it is their courage and love that they share that defeats the Angels. When, in the midst of victory, Rory is cruelly snatched away, Amy knows instantly whom to choose. Rose will abandon her family for the Doctor, but Amy has always loved Rory more. Time cannot be re-written if it is read, and nothing sets the future in stone better than an epitaph. Whatever happens, Rory Williams and his wife Amelia will die in New York. The emotional ups and downs are brilliantly conveyed by Moffat, with outstanding performances by the regulars. Gillan and Darvill put in their best performances ever and Matt Smith's restrained sorrow with occasional bursts of anger and anguish is wonderful. Alex Kingston is as wonderful as ever as River, the psychopath, who, nevertheless performs yet another series of selfless acts.

As with Madame de Pompadour and Kathy Nightingale their last words are in writing, giving a bitter-sweet, yet satisfying ending to the story. The Doctor always rips out the last page as he doesn't like endings (bubbling under the emotion of the stories were thoughts of one of Tony Hancock's finest Half Hours!) but Moffat and Hurran leave us with a final memory that is a happy one- young Amelia hearing the sound she has most wanted to hear. "The Angels Take Manhattan" is wonderfully entertaining, genuinely moving and a great send-off to a pair of genuinely beloved characters.

NEXT: "The Snowmen"