The Angels Take Manhattan
|230 – "The Angels Take Manhattan"|
|Doctor Who episode|
Official poster from the BBC website.
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||29 September 2012|
"The Angels Take Manhattan" is the fifth episode of the seventh series of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC One on 29 September 2012. It is the last in the first block of episodes in the seventh series, followed by the 2012 Christmas special "The Snowmen". The episode was written by head writer Steven Moffat and directed by Nick Hurran.
In the episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (Matt Smith) takes his companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) to Central Park in New York City. There, recurring monsters the Weeping Angels send Rory back to the 1930s, where he is reunited with River Song (Alex Kingston), Amy and Rory's daughter. Amy and the Doctor attempt to rescue Rory, but the Doctor becomes aware that their future is inevitable, and Amy and Rory are to leave him forever.
Amy's departure from the series was a compromise between Gillan and Moffat. Moffat wrote several endings and situations for the couple, eventually deciding to incorporate the Weeping Angels. Despite being Amy and Rory's last episode, it was not the last episode Gillan and Darvill filmed. Production took place in April 2012, with location filming in Wales and a small crew filming in the United States in Central Park. "The Angels Take Manhattan" was watched by 7.82 million viewers in the UK and received mostly positive reviews, though critics noted some plot holes and other logical issues.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2013)|
The cold open takes place in 1930s Manhattan, where private detective Sam Garner is hired by a Mr. Grayle to investigate moving statues at the Winter Quay apartments. Garner finds an elderly version of himself in an apartment dying in a bed and is chased by Weeping Angels to the rooftop, where he is confronted by a grimacing Statue of Liberty that looks like a weeping angel. In 2012, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory enjoy a picnic in Central Park. The Doctor is reading a pulp novel to Amy about a detective named Melody Malone when Rory leaves them to get coffee. The Doctor continues to read and tears out the last page in the book because he hates endings. As he's reading, the Doctor finds that Rory turns up in the novel. Meanwhile, Rory was sent back in time to the 1930s by a cherub Weeping Angel. When he arrives he meets River Song, and the two are immediately kidnapped by henchmen working for Mr. Grayle. River reveals that she is Melody Malone, and asks how Rory got to be there. Rory is unsure, and River tells him he could not have arrived by the TARDIS because New York is being subjected to unusual time distortions that prevent the TARDIS from landing. Amy begins to read ahead in the Melody Malone book until the Doctor stops her, warning her that anything she reads in the book is then destined to happen and cannot be changed. The Doctor and Amy then attempt to travel back to get Rory but the TARDIS encounters the distortions and returns them to a graveyard in 2012.
Mr. Grayle has Rory locked in his dark basement with cherub Angels and only a box of matches to protect him. River is taken to his office, where she sees that Grayle is keeping a weakened Weeping Angel. Using her vortex manipulator, River coordinates with The Doctor to set up a homing beacon allowing the Doctor to land the TARDIS. Grayle allows the Weeping Angel to grab River's wrist so he can interrogate her about the Angels. Deducing that River wrote the Melody Malone book, Amy identifies Rory's location using the chapter titles ("The Roman In The Cellar") and the Doctor sends her to rescue him. The Doctor sees that the only way to free River is to break her wrist, as foreshadowed in the book. The Doctor reads the chapter titles in the book and becomes frustrated when he sees one titled "Amelia's Last Farewell". Understanding that the future is fixed once it's read, the Doctor demands River find a way to free herself without breaking her wrist, thereby changing the future. A few minutes later River reappears, seemingly unharmed. The Doctor is elated, but minutes later discovers River broke her own wrist to escape. The Doctor takes River's wrist and uses regeneration energy (presumably leftover from her sacrifice in Let's Kill Hitler.) River then immediately slaps the Doctor for being overly sentimental.
The Doctor and River use River's vortex manipulator to discover Rory's whereabouts.
At Winter Quay, Rory is drawn to an apartment labelled with his name just as the Doctor, Amy, and River arrive. Inside, an elderly Rory is lying on a bed and calls Amy over before dying. The Doctor suggests that the Quay has been used by the Angels many times as a battery farm, leaving their victims to live out their lives in solitude while feeding on their energy. Rory and Amy refuse to accept their fate, insisting they can run from the Angels forever. Amy and Rory make it to the roof, where they encounter an angel in the form of the Statue of Liberty. Rory suggests another option: He plans to jump from the roof and die, creating a paradox that would destroy the building; if Rory dies on the roof it would be impossible for him to die in the room inside. He asks Amy to push him but she cannot bring herself to do so-- instead she chooses to jump with him, putting her faith in the paradox destroying the building, the Angels and the location itself, probably returning them to life. The paradox envelops the building and they all disappear.
The four find themselves back in the 2012 graveyard again. As they are about to leave, Rory spots a tombstone with his name on it. He stops to examine it and is touched by a surviving, though weak, Angel which makes him disappear into fifty years before he was born. A distraught Amy convinces herself that if she were touched by the same Angel, it would send her to the same time period as it sent Rory. The Doctor desperately tries to talk her out of it, warning her that she would be creating fixed points in time and that he would never be able to see them again. River encourages her to go to be with Rory, and Amy says goodbye and allows the Angel to touch her. The tombstone changes to reflect Amy's presence in the past with Rory, both having died in their 80s.
River and the Doctor discuss the Melody Malone book, and River figures that Amy would be the one to publish it. River tells him she will have Amy write him an afterword on the last page. The Doctor races back to their picnic spot and retrieves the page he tore out earlier. In it, Amy tells him that both she and Rory love him and assures him that they lived a good and happy life together. She also suggests that he pay a visit to her younger self to reassure her that he will come back for her to take her on amazing journeys. The episode ends with a young Amelia Pond sitting in her back garden, then looking up and smiling as the TARDIS engines are heard.
In December 2011, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat announced that Amy and Rory would leave in the seventh series in "heartbreaking" circumstances. Amy's exit was a mutual decision between Moffat and Gillan. Gillan stated that she wanted to go "on a high when the character was at her prime" and to "go with everything that she wants". She wanted her character to have a final ending, and ruled out returning to the show in the future as she felt it would take away from the impact of her final scene. Moffat stated he felt "tremendous pressure" writing Amy and Rory's ending. He later revealed that he "completely changed" the ending as he was writing it, feeling the emphasis was wrong. During rewrites Moffat went back and forth deciding whether or not Amy and Rory should live or die. He eventually decided that death would complement the storyline involving the "old, sentimental" and "dangerous" characterisation of the Doctor. At one point he considered making the story that involved the Daleks, but felt the Weeping Angels were a "better fit". Moffat was also interested in coming up with a new form for the Angels, and so he introduced the cherubs. He also said that since the Angels had debuted in "Blink", fans had suggested that the Statue of Liberty could be a Weeping Angel.
Gillan refused to read the script for a few weeks after she received it because she "didn't want to make it real". She said in an interview, "I literally couldn't read it without crying. It was the most highly-charged read-through I've ever experienced. But I couldn't have asked for a better exit. I don't think it'll be what people expect." A scene written by Chris Chibnall showing how Rory's father Brian (Mark Williams) became aware of Amy and Rory's fate did not make it into production. However, on 12 October 2012, the BBC released an animated storyboard entitled "P.S." that depicted the scene with narration by Darvill. It takes place one week later in Brian's timeline after "The Power of Three" when a man named Anthony delivers him a letter from Rory, telling him that they will never return and that Anthony is their son they adopted in 1946. The scene was written to be a DVD extra, and was not filmed due to time constraints.
The read-through for "The Angels Take Manhattan" took place in the Upper Boat Studios on 23 March 2012, alongside that for the episode "Asylum of the Daleks". The final episode Gillan and Darvill actually shot as Amy and Rory was actually the previous episode, "The Power of Three". Nevertheless, Gillan and Smith got very emotional filming the final graveyard scene. Amy and Rory's scene on the rooftop was filmed in a car park in Cardiff, Wales, with a greenscreen standing in for the New York skyline. To create the effect of the two plunging down, Gillan and Darvill were suspended upside-down by wires and raised and lowered. Much of the episode was filmed in Central Park in New York City in April 2012. The filming was attended by thousands of American fans, which surprised the cast and crew. Other scenes were shot at night in the city, as well as by the East River in front of the Brooklyn Bridge and in the Tudor City apartment complex. Moffat was in New York City when he came up with the story, and thought it was appropriate for the Weeping Angels. He described the city as "a different backdrop" to shoot a Doctor Who story in, and made use of its architecture. Fellow executive producer Caroline Skinner felt that the location "has such scale and romance" which "[gave] the episode a real atmosphere and a very different tone for Doctor Who". The week spent filming in the city was done by a "small unit by American standards" according to producer Marcus Wilson. They did not take any props of Angels or the TARDIS, which were instead added in post-production. Filming for the episode also occurred at a cemetery in Llanelli. During post-production, the New York skyline was inserted into the cemetery scenes. Gillan insisted on reading Amy's afterword to Smith when his reaction was filmed. They were not expecting it to be in front of a crowd in Central Park, and Smith said he had to "treat this like a play". Because the content was so secret, Gillan had to read very quietly and Smith could not hold the real page because a spectator might take a picture of it. Gillan found that she only had one page of the script, and had to improvise the rest.
The Doctor Who logo in the title sequence featured a texture showing the Statue of Liberty's crown, in keeping with the varied "blockbuster" themes for each of the opening five episodes of the series. The beginning of the episode features the song "Englishman in New York" by Sting. On 4 October 2012, BBC Books released the ebook The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery, a prequel to the story that the Doctor was reading in the episode.
Broadcast and reception
"The Angels Take Manhattan" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on 29 September 2012 on BBC One, and on the same date in the United States on BBC America. Overnight ratings showed that it was watched by 5.9 million viewers live, an increase of 400,000 from the previous week. The final consolidated rating rose to 7.82 million viewers, making it the thirteenth most-watched programme of the week on British television. The episode also received 0.92 million requests on BBC's online iPlayer, placing it seventh for the month on the site despite only being available for a few days. It also received an Appreciation Index of 88, the second highest of the series behind "Asylum of the Daleks" (89).
The episode received mostly positive reviews. Dan Martin of The Guardian gave a positive review, writing, "This was a fitting end to a golden era, and bravo to Steven Moffat for telling such an involving, emotional story with such style". He also praised the concept of the cherubs and the Angels in New York. However, he noted that he was "flummoxed" as to where in River's timeline the episode took place. The Daily Telegraph reviewer Gavin Fuller gave it five out of five stars, concluding "'The Angels Take Manhattan' brought this mini-run of the series to a close with easily the best episode of the five: a powerful, taut, compelling, filmic, emotionally punchy affair which re-established the Angels as one of the standout monsters of the series and gave Amy Pond a fine send off". While he praised the four actors he felt Gillan was the star, and noted that Rory did not "get any sort of send-off". Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club gave "The Angels Take Manhattan" a grade of A, attributing its success to "the way it does double duty as a twist adventure and a highly emotional story of farewells".
Sam Wollaston, also writing for The Guardian, wrote positively of the scare factor in the episode, as well as the sadness. Neela Debnath of The Independent described it as a "wonderful swansong to the duo" and particularly praised the "stylish" cinematography and sense of danger. However, she considered the "only flaw" to be "the rule that time cannot be changed if one knows what is going to happen ... though it is probably best not to question the timey wimey side of things and just accept it and enjoy the adventure". IGN's Matt Risley rated the episode 9 out of 10, writing that it "stood strong as a heartfelt, emotional end for the TARDIS' longest serving companions (since the show's noughties' return at least), and the best episode of the season thus far". Risley also praised the three leads, though he did admit the episode "left a few nitpicky questions".
Digital Spy reviewer Morgan Jeffery gave "The Angels Take Manhattan" five out of five stars, despite noting "plotholes ... and slightly-too-convenient plot contrivances" and that Rory did not get a heroic exit. Jeffery particularly praised the build-up to Amy and Rory's departure as well as the "superb production design". Dave Golder of SFX awarded the episode four out of five stars, believing that the "bittersweet exit" of the Ponds distracted the viewer from various narrative problems, such as the Statue of Liberty. He felt that Gillan and Darvill "were on top form" as well as Smith's "brilliant performance" and a "less over-the-top River", and also wrote positively about the noir theme and the Angels using the Winter Quay as a battery farm. The Huffington Post writer Maureen Ryan was more critical of the episode, worrying that the BBC's international promotion of the show was to the detriment of the quality of the writing. She felt that Amy deserved a better exit and "was crowded out by the distracting presence of River Song and by the fact that Rory was the one to make the essential choices first". She also personally disliked the "timey-wimey" devices, and commented that the "big and operatic tone the director was clearly going for clashed with the mood of film noir" and that the Angels "felt less menacing" and the "pace was a little too frantic".
The episode was nominated for the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), alongside "Asylum of the Daleks" and "The Snowmen".
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Eleventh Doctor|
- "The Angels Take Manhattan" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- The Angels Take Manhattan on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- "The Angels Take Manhattan" at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)