The Angels Take Manhattan Advance Review

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Reviewed by Benjamin Tavener (Creator & Editor of Geographybase).

Warning! While I have not included any large plot twists in my review, spoilerphobes should read ahead at their own risk!

The Doctor’s quote, ‘I hate endings’ speaks for us all as we finally reach ”the fall of the Ponds’ and the episode we’ve all been dreading, “The Angels Take Manhattan”. This is a truly heartfelt adventure and is one not to be watched without a box of tissues to hand. However, it’s not all gloom and doom as it also contains many moments of comic relief that won’t fail to raise your spirits, however briefly. If you want to read my advance verdict on “The Angels Take Manhattan” then please read on. Oh, and by the way, don’t blink!

“The Angels Take Manhattan” begins in the gloomy depths of 1930’s Downtown New York with a cinematic style narration, by a character called Sam Garner (Rob David). Garner is summoned by a sleazy old businessman, Grayle and is sent on a mission to investigate an abandoned apartment block, Winter Quays, in the depths of Manhattan. However, there is a catch: In the spooky old apartment block he stumbles upon a dying old man of the same name and is also confronted by a sinister statue. Immediately following the opening credits, we find ourselves in modern day New York chilling with the Doctor, Amy and Rory in Central Park. The Doctor has a new found passion for reading and his book of choice concerns a certain private detective, Melody Malone. This peaceful, relaxing scene, emphasises the closeness of the three and is most definitely a moment of calm before the storm.

Bored of the unusual lack of activity from his fellow companions, Rory volunteers to go and get some coffee for Amy and the Doctor. It is on his way back, and following an encounter with a creepy, giggling stone cherub that the adventure really takes off at quite a pace. Without giving too much away, Rory is transported back in time to 1938, where he meets someone very familiar to him. The Doctor and Amy, then race across space and time in an attempt to save the lone centurion. This emotional story climaxes when the Doctor finds out that he must say his final farewell to Amelia Pond…

The acting in this episode is simply indescribable. Matt Smith shows us that he truly owns the role of the Doctor and in a short space of time visits every facet of the great Time Lord’s character. In his usual inimitable way, Smith successfully portrays the emotions of happiness, anger, amusement and sadness. This vast array of emotions is a credit to this great actor as well as his brilliant character. Karen Gillan too is on the top of her game this week for her emotionally charged finale.  She manages to portray so much of the love and courage in Amy’s character this week, that we soon forget about the ‘evil’ Amy portrayed in “Asylum of the Daleks”. However, the ironic thing is that Karen Gillan makes us want to find out even more about Amy Pond, which I am sure will make many people scream at the TV come the end of this story. As for Arthur Darvill, he shows us a sensitive, much deeper Rory who is so much more than just funny or stupid. His love and devotion to Amy is touching and his revelation that he cannot live a life without her is truly moving.

Returning this week is Alex Kingston, who, of course, plays the Doctor’s wife, Professor River Song. It is clear that Kingston plays River with much more maturity and she is not too dissimilar to the River we see in “Forest of the Dead”. However, River also reveals the flirtatious side to her character in a few amusing scenes with the Doctor. The character of River is used very well in this episode and she is also given a well-deserved screen time of at least 30 minutes. Her character also shows that she knows more about the Doctor than himself as is evident in a scene where she says to the Doctor, “This is what is important: Don’t travel alone!”

The direction of “The Angels Take Manhattan” is superb. Every single shot oozes movie poster scale and appeal. The setting of New York is used well and is not a wasted opportunity. Even in scenes filmed in Cardiff, New York is still ever present through the magic of CGI. Nick Hurran does a great job of creating such a smooth transition from the dark atmosphere of an Alfred Hitchcock-style suspense movie for the 1930’s to the bright outdoor scenes set in modern day Central Park. One of the best aspects of Hurran’s direction which is really exceptional is his minute attention to detail. For example, in a scene where Rory enters the Winter Quay apartment blocks, a Weeping Angel is seen with its hands over its eyes. However, when Rory closes the door, the Angel is angry with its teeth showing. Details like this only add to the overall suspense and creepy tone.

On the subject of the Weeping Angels, they are used really well this time, fitting perfectly into the New York setting and equally as scary as they were in 2007’s “Blink”. Sinister giggling Cherubs are  a great addition to the Angel family and a new twist.

Murray Gold’s score for this episode is very good. The music is very much a part of this episode and many new tracks are used. For example, at thirty minutes into the episode, there is an amazing track that will send shivers down your spine. There is also a variation of “I am the Doctor”, which is used perfectly in a scene between The Doctor and River. The most notable track used in this episode, however is “A Lonely Decision”, which was also used sensitively at the end of last week’s, “The Power of Three”. This track was used in the best possible place and will surely draw tears from your eyes.

The opening title sequence change is a little more substantial this week. This time the TARDIS travels down a black vortex, possibly foreshadowing the sad fate of the Ponds. The Doctor Who logo then appears in a green colour, representing the angels. The main thematic focus of this episode is marriage. It is a continuous theme throughout the entire story and is seen most clearly when, at the end Amy chooses her married life with Rory over the life with a Madman in a Box.

In terms of foreshadowing, it is hinted that River will return at the end of the episode. Whether this will be for Series 7: Part 2 or the 50th anniversary special (s) is, however, still unknown. Just after the closing credits we are shown a 10-second short but sweet teaser trailer for the 2012 Christmas Special, which is definitely something which will whet the appetite of many Whovians.

In conclusion, this episode is the perfect send off for two of the best, most loyal companions that Doctor Who has ever known. I honestly cannot criticize this episode as it lives up to all the hype that has been surrounding it. This is without the doubt, the best episode of the Matt Smith era so far. Although I cannot reveal how Amy and Rory leave, I can tell you this. If you think you may have guessed how they are leaving, think again and be prepared for a few more twists and turns!

Best Quote:

River Song: “It turns out that the person I killed never existed in the first place. Apparently there’s no record of him. It’s almost as if someone’s gone round deleting himself from every database in the universe.”
The Doctor: “You said I got too big.”
River Song: “And now no one’s ever heard of you. Didn’t you used to be somebody?”
The Doctor: “Weren’t you the woman who killed the Doctor?”
River Song: “Doctor Who?”

Episode Rating:  11/10

Essential Info:

UK Airdate: 29 September 2012 (BBC One & BBC One HD)

Written by Steven Moffat   Directed by Nick Hurran

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Pond-Williams), Alex Kingston (River Song), Mike McShane (Grayle), Rob David (Sam Garner), Bentley Kalu (Hood), Ozzie Yue (Foreman), Burnell Tuckner (Old Garner), Zac Fox (Photoshoot PA)