The Doctor’s heart-breaking farewell to Amy and Rory – a race against time through the streets of Manhattan, as New York’s statues come to life around them…
‘It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for.”‘- The Fourth Doctor, Logopolis
Well, last night saw the end of the road for the Ponds in their travels with their “Raggedy Man” and this episode gave a suitable farewell for Amy, Rory and The Doctor whilst allowing their daughter to tag along for the ride and writer and show-runner Steven Moffat gave his first two companions a suitable send off.
Following a nice opener that sets up the character of Sebastian Grayle (portrayed by Mike McShane) along with re-establishing the Angels’ modus operandi of feeding from the time energy of zapping people back in time, we are transported to a nice second opening scene with the Doctor, Amy and Rory in Central Park which not only establishes the first seeds of the Ponds’ departure with Rory going for coffee, the fact that Amy and Rory are getting older with Amy’s (later the Doctor’s) reading spectacles and the “Afterword” scene at the end of the story, which I’ll come to later.
The main setting for the story is New York in 1938 and Mr Moffat was clever not to give the Doctor the obvious easy solution as in the case of “Blink” of having the TARDIS simply go back in time to pick Rory up. Instead, due to the fact that the Angels are converting statues into Angels, including old “Lady Liberty” herself, you get the plot point that makes the journey more difficult due to the concentration of time distortion alongside an echo to the ending of the original “Blink” episode where any statue can be an Angel.
Whilst it’s easy to get distracted by mob bosses and cherubs (Note to Mr Moffat: Please bring the “babies” back. The giggling in the dark makes them a creepier villain than the Angels, if that’s possible), this section leads to the core plot points of this story – the relationship between the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River.
Firstly, the Doctor and River’s relationship. One of the questions doing the rounds following “The Wedding of River Song” was “Did the Doctor and River really marry each other?”
Although she, in fact, “married” the Tesselecta impersonating the Doctor, both River and the Doctor behave like a married couple – albeit one where both partners could say that they have trust issues with the other. It’s apparent that through Alex Kingston’s performance that River loves the man that Amy told her about when she was Melody prior to the events in “Let’s Kill Hitler” – you only need to see River’s reaction to the Doctor “wasting” his regenerative energy to heal her wrist to see what she feels for him alongside her monologue about falling in love with an ageless god. In addition to this, River reaffirms the belief of previous departing companions in the new incarnation of “Doctor Who” that he shouldn’t travel alone and she demonstrates that she is also somebody with her own version of the Doctor’s first rule (“The Doctor lies”).
It’s also apparent in Matt Smith’s performance that the Doctor, in some way, loves River. Beyond the “Yowzah”-ing, the “Honey” remarks and flirting, there is a core relationship from the Doctor’s perspective who genuinely cares for River. Whether it comes from guilt that River’s psychology was initially built by The Silence to act as his “bespoke psychopath”, the fact that he knows how her story is going to end in “Forest Of The Dead” or the fact that there is a genuine romantic love from his perspective… who knows? But Matt imbues the relationship with a tenderness which gives the audience a sense that there can be space in the Doctor’s hearts for love, maybe not romantic love as humans know it, but a deeper love for certain people.
I hope that Alex does keep making guest appearances in the series, as she has taken a “one off” character and made her a well loved semi-regular in the mould of the Brigadier or Captain Jack Harkness in that you want to see more of her.
‘”Courage isn’t just a matter of being frightened, you know.”
“What is it then?”
“It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway, just as you did”‘ – The Third Doctor and Codal, Planet Of The Daleks
After four episodes of examing and re-examining Amy and Rory’s relationship – through potential separation and divorce, to reconciliation and eventual thoughts of wanting to stop travelling with the Doctor, this episode really gets to grips with how they feel about each other. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill really do save the best for last by showing that Amy and Rory simply cannot be without each other – they genuinely do come as a pair as much as Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright when they travelled with the First Doctor or Ben and Polly when they travelled with the First and Second Doctors. Although this relationship is shown throughout “The Angels Take Manhattan”, I’d like to cue up two specific instances.
Firstly, the “roof scene”. Time and time again, we have seen Rory be the person who has been the reactor in the relationship in the “Big Moments” – waiting 2000 years to protect Amy in the Pandorica and gaining information from the Cybermen and travelling to Demon’s Run when Amy was kidnapped by The Silence, for example. This time, it’s Amy that’s having to take a leap of faith – figuratively and literally – for Rory. Although she doubts Rory’s assertion that him jumping from the rooftop will create a paradox sufficient to poison the Angels, she decides to follow him in the belief – maybe not in the way that Rory hoped by her pushing him off the roof, but in a case of them both jumping. (Another note to Mr Moffat: Please stop the roof obsession now.)
The second scene that I wanted to cue up is Amy’s scene in the graveyard at the end of the story and, again, she has to take a leap of faith because she can’t be without Rory. She says her goodbyes to the Doctor and River and then proceeds to be fearless enough to be zapped back in time using her pet nickname of “Raggedy Man” one last time.
Although all four regulars (including Alex Kingston) deliver strong performances in this episode, I am going to single out Matt’s performance as the big event for this episode. This is the story where Matt finally gets to become the whole package of the Doctor. The joy of the relationships of being with his friends, the anxiety when the Angels transport Rory away from 2012, the emotional devastation when Amy and Rory are taken away from him permanently and the renewed optimism when he reads Amelia’s afterword clearly shine through. I hope that Matt gets more of the “emotional stuff” going forward as the Doctor as he really has made this a signature of his performance. (Plus, I hope he keeps the reading glasses).
As for the afterword, we finally get an answer to what happened that afternoon when a nine year old Amelia Pond sat on her suitcase and the TARDIS arrived… not to take her away, but for the “Mad Man In A Box” to come and give her hope that she will take part in some fantastic adventures. Whilst we get this as a rounding off, it’s not a true rounding off in the sense that Rose got to stay with the Tylers, Martha returned to her family and got married to Mickey Smith and Donna was returned to her family, albeit with some memories missing. In last week’s episode, “The Power of Three”, the Doctor promises to Brian that he will keep Amy and Rory safe. Whilst this happened, from a certain perspective, Brian will never see his son and daughter-in-law again and I think that, perhaps a trick was missed to tie this up. (Or am I being too picky?)
‘And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make’- The Beatles, The End
So, after two and a half years, we say bye-bye to the Ponds and their real life alter egos, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. They have really had a story arc over their time in the TARDIS which has taken them from a couple who were sort of in love with each other, through to marriage, creating a new life and various trials and hardships along the way. Thank you both for joining the near fifty year history that is “Doctor Who” and for taking part in “The Trip of a Lifetime”… or lifetimes in Rory’s case.
Moving forward, we have a Christmas special with a new companion to introduce, eight more episodes of this season to look forward to in 2013 and the 50th anniversary. More ominously, in the long term, we have “The Fall of The Eleventh” at “The Fields of Trenzalore” with the first question being asked to look forward to…
I can’t wait.