Sunday, 30 September 2012

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan (Episode Review)

So. The ending for the Amy and Rory, two of the most beloved to fans since the series was restarted in 2008. Their final end. It should have been a two parter. Yes, I know, it’s been said repeatedly about so many stories in this series but if there was ever one episode which deserved it, it was this one.
We all knew what was coming, we all understood the fact everything was coming to a close and it’s been foreshadowed for weeks now but the end result just could have been so much more.
Whenever one of these reviews looks on an episode and criticises it, none of it is out of malice or even dislike. It’s usually disappointment; with me thinking “you could be so much more than this. You could be so much better and deliver upon the brilliant ideas you’ve got.” And really that’s this episode all over. It could have, should have, been so much better than it was.

If you’ve not guessed it from the title this episode is set in Manhattan and features the weeping angels for the first time in this series. As the Doctor and co. visit the big city in the present, an investigator is going through it in the past; searching a building complex at the behest of a powerful man terrified by statues. It is not long before he finds what he is looking for. The angels are present in force, lurking in the city throughout time and they have a new target to feed their hunger. One who traverses the time streams in search of adventure…

Already you might be able to see where the episode begins to go wrong. It’s introducing the weeping angels into the story in a big way and as we’ve seen in just the last episode big villains can easily domineer over smaller character driven stories. That doesn’t quite happen here, especially as they are directly involved with the companions, but it squashes things down to a smaller size. The other thing is that it just keeps including elements which diminish the story further and creates a rushed second act. Either not explaining them because it doesn’t have the time or introducing them because Steven Moffat wants to.

Perhaps the biggest of these is the presence of River Song who, as usual, is presented getting the better of absolutely everyone. Yes, I know people like here and I’ll be the first to say Moffat has gotten much better at writing her since she was first introduced, but he always feels compelled to devote as much time to her as possible when she’s involved. She’s an obvious creator’s pet and is visibly skirting or outright crossing the Mary Sue line damn near constantly, so throwing her into a story where she’s only present as a plot device and dragging more attention away for the departing couple was a big mistake. It especially doesn’t help that in an episode which needed somber emotional consistency throughout its running time, or at least from act to act, she’s frequently used to inject humour into the script. That and repeatedly say “Ha-ha! Look at how much better an adventuring time traveler I am than the Doctor!!!” There is perhaps one moment which does justify the presence of River besides her role as a plot device and that is to help highlight the choice Amy makes in the finale.

Speaking of Amy and Rory I will credit the episode that when they do leave it has considerable emotional impact. It’s not as overblown as David Tennant’s infamous regeneration scene but nor is it as quietly powerful as Jo Grant’s choice to stop travelling with the Doctor. It comes instead as a punch to the gut, something which snatches them back at the last moment and just when it looks like they’ve escaped this week’s monster one last time they fall. The way it is delivered makes it truly sad and when it is given some real focus in the last act it shows just how good of an episode this could have been if all the other pointless elements hadn’t been thrown into it. The acting is fantastic all around, the foreshadowing never comes across as heavy handed; it’s just that it’s all shoved aside for one cut down portion of the running time.

There isn’t really much which can actually be said about this besides this is good in parts but it is horrendously flawed. It’s clunky, carrying so much additional baggage and really the best bits come right at the beginning and right at the end. This review can’t even end with “you should avoid this as…” because just about every fan will go and watch it anyway due to the departure. When you do go to watch it though, just be prepared to sit through some very big flaws and a few stupid moments to get to the good stuff.

Like how some angels remain stone still even though no one is looking at them.


Doctor Who and all related characters and media are owned by the BBC.

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