The Angels Take Manhattan Review

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Clint Hassell gives his verdict on the fifth episode of Series 7.

I’m torn.

As an episode, “The Angels Take Manhattan” is horribly flawed, riddled with plot holes and numerous unanswered questions.  The exit of the Ponds is a cheat – literally “death by plot hole” – and unquestionably senseless.

However, the episode also contains moments not just done well, but done perfectly – brilliant moments that represent the best Doctor Who has to offer.

I’m of mixed opinions about the “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and not just “give-or-take,” but truly “love-and-HATE.”  So, what do I do?  If I write a negative article, you Moffat-lovers (“Moffateers”?) get cranky.  However, my glowing reviews somehow get even more complaints.

So, here’s my solution:  two reviews.  Everyone gets what they want – including my editor, which now has twice the material to run.  If you’d like to read my positive feelings on “The Angels Take Manhattan,” then please click here.  Otherwise . . . .

“Because Steven Moffat says so.”

Forget New York being ripped apart by paradoxes;  “The Angels Take Manhattan” is nearly destroyed by plot holes and unanswered questions.

While the concept of the Winter Quay apartments is terrifying – discover a room, marked with your own name, only to find your aged self dying inside – there were numerous problems with its presentation.  Who made the little name cards for the rooms?  The Angels?  Why bother?

The Quay had existed for at least 50 years – long enough for Detective Sam Garner to grow old, trapped in his room.  In all of that time, with nothing to do but stare out of the windows or sit in bed and wait to die, why had not one person committed suicide?  Rory and Amy’s Angel-destroying paradox should have occurred long before the Ponds jumped from the Winter Quay‘s roof.

Why was Detective Garner trapped the hallway?  The Angels at either end could see each other and, therefore, should have been frozen in place, allowing him to escape.  The same is true with the Angels in the stairwell, and the Angels who surround the Doctor and River in Rory’s room.  How does the graveyard Angel attack Rory while Amy’s looking at it?  How does it make Amy disappear when it’s in the sights of the Doctor and River?

Conversely, why does the Angel not kill River when it has her by the wrist, and she is not looking at it?  Why does the Statue of Liberty not attack Rory and Amy (or, later, the Doctor and River) when they were facing each other, on the roof of the Winter Quay?

Further, how is it even possible for the Statue of Liberty to be a Weeping Angel?  Not only is the Statue of Liberty even remotely stone-like in appearance (it is sheets of copper over a steel framework), it’s hollow, and people can famously walk around inside of its crown.  Most importantly, how would the Statue of Liberty crawl off its pedestal on Liberty Island, cross New York Harbor into Manhattan, and stomp down city streets with not one single person looking at it and quantum-locking it into place?

The TARDIS can tow Earth through space, in “The Journey’s End,” and restart the entire universe via a second Big Bang, but it’s not as adept at time travel as a vortex manipulator?  That’s just laughable, and insulting to the entire canon of Doctor Who.

Since when does knowing your future lock it into place?  The entire Series 6 arc was comprised of the Doctor knowing in advance the details of his death and, with that foreknowledge, taking steps to both assure that future came to pass and to avoid his fate in the process.  It was a neat trick that captivated our attention, but according to this episode, it could never have happened.

Most frustratingly, the episode never makes the point of why New York is nicknamed “the city that never sleeps.”  Why can New Yorkers not sleep?  They have to keep their eyes open – they cannot even blink – due to the Angel’s presence.

While extreme gaps in logic are to be expected from a Moffat-penned episode, it is the final seven minutes of the episode that are truly infuriating.  While Amy and Rory aren’t the first revived-era companions whose tenure has ended under tragic circumstances, they are the first to be killed by plot holes.

The Doctor claims that he will never be able to see Amy again.  Why?  River will see her when she takes Amy the finished Melody Malone manuscript.  Why can the Doctor not also use the vortex manipulator to visit the Ponds?  Since “The Sound of Drums” demonstrated that at least three people can travel through time via one vortex manipulator, why can’t the Doctor rescue Rory and Amy?

“The Time of Angels,” “The Pandorica Opens,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” and “Let’s Kill Hitler” all demonstrate that Amy and Rory, the Doctor, and River are quite adept at sending messages through time.  Heck, “The End of the World,” “The Long Game,” “The Sontaran Stratagem,” and Pond Life, are evidence that the Superphone can make calls across time and space, so verbal communication should even be possible.  Really, the Doctor and the Ponds being separated by a few years (and a paradox or two) shouldn’t be any more trouble than, say, having a friend move across the country.  Why is the Doctor so sad?  Why is he doing nothing to rescue the Ponds?

The reason:  Karen Gillan does not wish to ever return to Doctor Who, thus forcing Steven Moffat to find a permanent, though nonsensical, end for the Ponds’ story.  It happens again, minutes later, as River is finally invited to join the Doctor as a companion, and she declines.  Because Alex Kingston isn’t available to film an entire series, Moffat must write River turning down the Doctor’s offer – a completely out-of-character act for the woman who has wanted nothing more than to travel as the Doctor’s partner.

Ultimately, Amy and Rory’s exit makes me fearful for the next companion, who already seems doomed to become a Dalek (because the Doctor knows her future, so, according to this episode, now it’s unavoidable, right?  I’m predicting now:  that doesn’t stick).  While I am charmed by Jenna-Louise Coleman, the end of the Ponds has left me wary of becoming emotionally attached to future companions, and – since Steven Moffat’s stories often make little narrative sense, relying on the audience’s attachment to characters to engender big, emotional moments as payoff – that is exactly what Doctor Who cannot afford.