Sunday, September 30, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 5: The Angels Take Manhattan

Well, it finally happened-- Amy and Rory have left the Doctor. For good this time, it seems. I was not looking forward to this episode, as I've grown to like the Ponds. It was nice to see the first ever married couple traveling with the Doctor, and I enjoyed watching Rory's transformation from bumbling oaf to bad-ass action hero. But if you don't like change, then Doctor Who is not the show for you.

The Plot: 
The Doctor, Amy and Rory are relaxing in Central Park in the present day. The Doctor is reading an old detective novel and suddenly notices that it's describing their every move. He soon discovers that the Weeping Angels are attempting to take over Manhattan. Rory disappears and the Doctor and Amy are joined by an old friend...


When I first heard the title of the Ponds last episode and read writer/showrunner Steven Moffat's quote that their exit would be "heartbreaking," I was sure I knew what was going to happen. I was convinced he was going to have Rory get zapped into the past by an Angel and live out his entire life without Amy, only to see her again seconds before he died. If that happened, especially after Rory waited 2000 freakin' years to be reunited with Amy a couple seasons ago, I vowed I would fly to Cardiff and punch Moffat right in the throat. And then I'd get mad!

And that's exactly what happened to Rory, although he and Amy managed to undo it. Well, sort of. As it turns out they BOTH got zapped into the past anyway. Whatever. As long as they weren't split up, I can live with it. And Moffat's throat remains safely unpunched.

This week the little kid who's been screwing with the color sliders on the opening credits turned them orangish for a bit and then a bright putrid green.

This week's font texture is... you got me. I think maybe it's supposed to be the image of the Statue of Liberty behind the text? If I squint I think I can sort of see the curve of her crown or tiara or whatever she's wearing on the right. Why didn't they just give the font a pitted gray stone texture like the Angels have?

• "Mr. Grayle," a wealthy collector of antiquities, hires a detective to investigate the Angels. "Grayle" is a pretty appropriate name for a collector!

• It was a very creepy moment when Detective Garner found his ancient future self dying in the hotel room.

• The Doctor says he always rips out the last page of a book because "he doesn't like endings." Did anyone think that wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass, especially after the very deliberate shot of him placing the page in the picnic basket? 

• Hey, River Song's back. What a surprise in a Steven Moffat-scripted episode. So River isn't in Stormcage prison anymore, because "the man she killed never existed." Once again we see the Doctor has seemingly been erased from all databases throughout space and time, presumably by Oswin the Friendly Dalek in the first episode of the season.

Ugh... they did the "Doctor who?" joke again. I'm really starting to hate it when they do that. It was funny once, maybe twice, but not 77 times.

OK, the Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel thing? That's going too far. It just raises so many questions. 

Did absolutely no one in the entire city of New York ever once look out their window and notice the Statue was gone? Or that it was walking through downtown Manhattan? Seems like at least one of the millions of people living in in the city would see it, causing it to freeze in its tracks.

And how the hell IS it a Weeping Angel anyway? I was under the impression that the Angels are living, organic beings with internal organs and such, who turn to stone only when observed. The Statue of Liberty is made of copper and it's hollow, filled with staircases and elevators. It was constructed, not born. How is it even moving in the first place? 

Did the Angels use some sort of alien technology on it to make it move? Are they inside its head, driving it like a Megazord? Or is it now alive and full of squishy internal organs? So many questions.

I don't think the Cherub should have been able to blow out a match. According to the Tenth Doctor himself on the subject of Weeping Angels:
The Lonely Assassins, that's what they used to be called. No one quite knows where they came from, but they're as old as the Universe, or very nearly. And they have survived this long because they have the most perfect defense system ever evolved. They are Quantum Locked. They don't exist when they are being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature they freeze into rock. No choice, it's a fact of their biology. In the sight of any living thing, they literally turn into stone. And you can't kill a stone. Of course, a stone can't kill you either, but then you turn your head away. Then you blink. Then, oh yes, it can. 
So whenever the Angels are being observed, they literally turn to inanimate stone. So how the heck did the Cherub manage to blow out Rory's match?

I think this is the first time we've ever seen the Doctor unable to land the TARDIS in a particular year. Supposedly the Angels were creating too much time distortion interference for him to land.

More new info-- the Doctor says that once you know of a future event, it creates a fixed point in Time and HAS to happen. He's mentioned fixed points many times before, but I believe this is the first time he's ever mentioned this rule about them.

• I'm a little fuzzy as to how the Angel's "farm" was supposed to work. When they zap a victim into the past, it creates "time energy" that they feed on. OK, I get that. But why are the Angels in this episode keeping their victims captive in the hotel rooms? Once they zap them and consume their time energy, why keep them around? Wouldn't they be useless once the energy was consumed? Or do their victims constantly emit time energy throughout their entire lives? If so, this is new (meaning retro-fitted) info.

Plus if they zapped Detective Garner and Rory years into the past and then kept them in their hotel rooms the entire time, that would indicate the Angels have controlled this building for many, many decades.

Maybe the Angels keep people prisoner in their rooms and zap them back in time just a little bit each day? So maybe Detective Garner and Rory have only been in their rooms for one day from our point of view but decades for them, so the Angels can constantly feed on them? My head's starting to hurt.

The Doctor pleads with Amy to not let the Angel take her, because "she'll create a fixed point in Time and he'll never be able to see her again. OK, so I get that he might not be able to visit the exact date at which she goes back, but what about after? Say she goes back to the year 1900. He can't go back to that date and get her. Fair enough. But why couldn't he just go back to 1901 and pick her up? Or 1905? I don't get why her entire future timeline should be closed off to him now.

Even if there's some technobabble rule saying he can't bring the Amy and Rory back to the present where they belong, what's stopping him from just visiting them at some point in the past? I'm just not understanding this whole thing.

• What about River's Vortex Manipulator? Earlier in the episode she said she could use it to cut through the time distortions that the TARDIS couldn't penetrate, because using it is like "driving a motorbike through heavy traffic." So why couldn't she use it to go pick up Amy and Rory? 

So how far back in time did the Angel send Amy and Rory? There's no way to know for sure, since their tombstone left off the date of their deaths (isn't that convenient?). They were supposedly back in the present day, 2012, when they both got zapped. I think earlier in the season Rory mentioned he was 30. The tombstone says he died at age 82. So he lived another 50 years after he was sent back. But how old is the tombstone? If it's a brand new one (and it did look fairly new) then they ended up in approximately 1962. It all depends on how long the tombstone has been sitting there though. They could have gone back much farther.

Many fans are convinced the Angel zapped them back to 1938, which I suppose makes sense, since the Doctor says he can never see them again and can never go back to that year due to the Angel's time distortions. If they did end up in 1938, that means they would have died around 1988.

• The worst part about this timey-whimey farewell is that it was absolutely unnecessary. The past few episodes have shown us that Amy and Rory have been quietly setting up a nice comfortable life for themselves in between adventures. Amy writes travel articles for magazines and Rory is a successful health care professional. 

Why couldn't they simply have sat the Doctor down and told him they were going to "retire" from adventuring? It's happened before. Martha Jones realized her love for the Doctor was unrequited and simply walked out the front door of the TARDIS. Sarah Jane and Tegan similarly just walked away. It seemed like they were setting up Amy and Rory for the same kind of departure. That would have been infinitely preferable to the convoluted and nonsensical parting that we got here.

I'm a little confused about the ending. In the afterward of the book Amy tells the Doctor to go back to when she was a child (in The Girl Who Waited) and tell her about all the incredible adventures she'll someday have with him. 

Remember the events way back in The Eleventh Hour? The newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor crash-lands the TARDIS in young Amy's back yard. She meets him and then he tells her he needs to take the TARDIS on a shakedown cruise and he'll be right back. Five minutes elapse from the Doctor's point of view, but TWELVE years go by for Amy.

Apparently Amy wants the Doctor to go back to some point during that twelve year gap and talk to her younger self. It's a nice little scene, but... it craps all over established events. Amy spent that twelve year period obsessing about the "Raggedy Man" (the Doctor) who abandoned her. His twelve year absence very definitely shaped her life. So what's going to happen if he visits her a week after he first disappeared, instead of twelve years later? Will she still obsess over him? Won't this substantially alter her history (and possibly her personality)? At the very least I'd think it should violate some kind of temporal law. 

I suppose Moffat was trying to say that by having the Doctor tell Amy about the adventures she'll have with him, it'll create fixed points in time that must happen. 

Next week: Well, there aint' no next week. The show won't be back until the Christmas Special, thanks to the BBC's bone headed decision to split the season in half.


  1. Other than the Tardis plot hole at the end, one of the most annoying things about this episode is that Moffat said it was going to be 'heartbreaking'! Spoilers, Moffat, you sonuvabitch!

    As for the Statue of Liberty angel idea, I thought it was stupid for the reasons you mentioned, and it was entirely pointless! It ony had about ten seconds onscreen, and we never even saw it 'move'!

    Also, having foreknowledge of future events DOESN'T create fixed points in time-Steven Moffat probabl y doesn't even bother to do his Doctor Who continuity research!

  2. Yeah, I was too busy counting plot holes to pay attention to how "heartbreaking" their departure was.

    And the more I think about it, the more I think the Statue of Liberty idea should have been left on the drawing board.

  3. I somehow got the idea that the Angels had created a sort of parallel pocket universe, populated mostly by angels, so that it wasn't the real NYC they'd taken over but just a version of NYC. Thus, the Statue of Liberty could be an angel in their NYC, but not in the real one. Not quite sure where in the script I got that idea, though.

    Maybe the cherubim aren't quite as locked in to the immobility thing as the adults? Kids are always more fidgety than grownups.

    I was a bit confused by the chronology as well (though trying to figure out chronology in Dr. Who is an endeavor bound to fail). Didn't they say at one point that the angels put you back 30 or 40 years in the past? Then since Amy and Rory lived to their 80s, and were about 30 when they got zapped, then they must have lived well past the present ie at least 10 years past they date at which they got zapped ... so that headstone had to have been from the future! (My head hurts.) But you're right -- if Rory and Amy are alive, say, last year (as old people), why can't the Doctor go and visit them?

    And when did the angels get time-travel powers anyway? I haven't seen their first appearance, in Blink, but I don't think it's mentioned in their other two appearances.

    I now have a Whovian headache. Thanks, Moffat!

  4. @Dr. OTR:

    Interesting thoughts. I didn't hear anyone say anything about the Angels creating a "pocket universe," but it would explain a lot, especially why 1938 New York seemed so devoid of people.

    About the Cherubim, again I have to defer to the 10th Doctor's description of the Angels in "Blink." He says when observed the Angels turn into solid rock. So I don't see how solid rock could blow on a match. Maybe Rory wasn't looking directly at that one, I don't know.

    In "Blink" it's stated that each Angel sends people back to a specific year. One sends Sally Sparrow's friend back to 1908 I believe, so that was about 100 years. The one that touched the Doctor and Martha sent them back to the 1960s. So each Angel is tied to a different year.

    I don't know if they said for sure how far back Rory and Amy went, hence the yearless tombstone. I think that was to help hide "when" they went. I still don't get why the Doctor can't visit them at some point during the 50 years they lived on. I don't see why their ENTIRE lives are now closed to him. I guess you'd have to ask Moffat that (if he even knows).

    "Blink" is well worth a watch-- one of the best of the revived series. In that episode the Angels were unique and genuinely scary. They're getting less so with each appearance. I think it might be time to retire them.


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