Doctor Who – Angels Take Manhattan

by deerinthexenonarclights

I’ve been a little iffy about this short season of Doctor Who; the pieces all seemed to be on the board but no-one was playing a game with them that I was all that interested in watching, let along getting invested in. There has been no grand mythos, no forgrounded mature beats to temper the sillyness and no ideas so stunning that they could only work in this sci-fi context; it’s been a season of checkers after Moffat had taught us all chess. It couldn’t then win me back with one single episode, not unless it was one that managed to twist or tie together all of the past adventures into something new – ala Bad Wolf – or magically mixed together all of the shows perfect pieces into one whole: combining the series’s strongest villains the Angels, with their most strongest episode structure the farewell with a rollicking fantasy adventure in a city I love, which is just what they did.

Normally these farewell finales begin exciting, bore me through the middle before ending big. Angels mimicked that structure closely, but by setting the show in that most photogenic of cities Manhattan it managed to make even the middle section stunning. The way that the shot New York was wonderfully realized if at times a little over idealized; that they also captured so much of the cities culture and cultural impact just added cherries on top of cherries. I mean the scenery, re staging the Ghostbusters 2 finale, the old-school gangster nods,and such were all great, but honestly they had me at dressing Amy up as Annie Hall.

New York is also the perfect city for an Angels episode. Sure there is all that timey-wimey pseudoscience nonsense about it having insane ‘time energy’ because it is a city that never sleeps but more than that it is the gothic architecture that made them fit right in. Some sections of Manhattan, like the older streets of London, have that foggy, cobblestone feel about it and what they lack in ancient history they more than make up for in good old American overcompensation: in the US you don’t simply build a statue, you ring your building with them one per metre, and so the creature designs here are many; the traditional Angels appearing alongside some new, scarier faces.

All of that though is secondary to the character material, specifically that of the companions. Amy, and to a lesser extent Rory’s, place in the plot was primary and this too worked really well for me. Not knowing that it was their end would have been nice, but the scenes still evoked all of the requisite emotions and were handled with a fitting cleverness that hasn’t been on full display thus far in the season. This really felt like the only ending that the characters could have gotten, in many ways it also feels like it was the plan from the very beginning; sad but supremely satisfying, as all the great Who departures are.

So now the Doctor is alone again and much less happy about it than he ever has been in the past; this wasn’t his plan, he didn’t get to say goodbye, to be the one to break it off, Amy dumped him for once and that has left him in a little bit of shock. Where he goes from here I don’t know, but I can’t help thinking that it is to Mercy, or the Dinosaur ship; these episodes have all seemed a little wonky to me and the best way of making sense of them is if they occur after this one, with the Doctor going back and splitting the spare seconds between fixed events into as many adventures as he can; a time traveler living less-literally in the past, desperate not to let go. Though perhaps that’s not the case and come Christmas he will simply move on. What ever the case, thanks to these Angels in America I’m rejuvenated to see it.