And so we’ve finally seen it, the end of the Doctor’s travels with Amy and Rory. For fans of the Doctor’s latest companions, “The Angels Take Manhattan” was a bittersweet and emotional farewell, an ending that, in true Doctor Who fashion, managed to be happy and tragic at the same time. It even worked in a nice bit of parallelism that tied back into “Blink”: Amy’s final message to the Doctor was a thematic echo of the Tenth Doctor using DVD Easter eggs to send a “message in a bottle” down through the years.
Now we begin the long wait until the Christmas episode and those that follow…and more importantly, the introduction of a new companion, who we may or may not have already met. Before we settle and start marking days off our calendars, let’s look back at the lessons and the questions of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” SPOILERS AHOY!
Don’t Look/Don’t Blink
The Weeping Angels are one of Doctor Who‘s most clever and unforgettable enemies, stone nightmares that play on our inherent fear of darkness, of unidentifiable flickers out of the corner of our eye. And while some would argue that they’ve been overused since their introduction in Steven Moffat’s brilliant, Hugo Award-winning episode “Blink,” they were used to greater effect here than in some of their previous appearances. Most of the episode hinges on the idea of time becoming “fixed,” that once you know – or observe – the particulars of your own future, that outcome becomes fixed. The Doctor is constantly trying to prevent this – refusing to let anyone read ahead in the book, imploring Amy and Rory not to look at anything when they entered the hotel room. The brilliance of introducing this notion of trying not to see things is that it’s contrasted against the Weeping Angels, who can only be defended against by constantly looking at them. It’s a clever bit of mirror logic that easily establishes “The Angels Take Manhattan” as the second best of their appearances, behind only “Blink.”
The Kobayashi Maru
One of the biggest themes of this episode – and of the five seventh-season episodes we’ve seen so far – is that of endings. It’s even laid out directly at several points, with people mentioning how much the Doctor hates endings. This is understandable because the Doctor himself has no ending. When mortally wounded, he regenerates, so why would endings have any meaning for him at all? The answer, of course, lies in his companions. He travels with mortals, and he continues to develop close bonds with those companions, but those relationships always have an expiration date attached. Maybe they’ll eventually “retire” and go back to their normal lives. Maybe they’ll die. Or maybe, as with Amy and Rory, they’ll simply go somewhere the Doctor can’t follow. With all the Doctor’s amazing abilities, the thought of some place he can’t reach must be enormously frustrating. Because, as much as the Doctor hate’s endings, he also hates to lose, and if this episode is about anything, it’s about the Doctor facing his own personal Kobayashi Maru – the no-win scenario. Because sometimes, for all his cleverness and power…sometimes the Doctor loses.
Once again, as it has in pretty much every episode of the season, we’re reminded of the Doctor’s attempts to erase his own legacy. As he says to River, “You said I got too big,” and she jokes back to him by asking him “Doctor Who?” It’s one of several times that characters have spoken out loud the phrase that has been the show’s title from the beginning. Given that “Doctor Who?” is supposedly the “question that must never be answered, we can expect it to be addressed in an even bigger way in the remaining episodes of the season. While the significance of that and what it will all mean remains to be seen, there are some possibilities that are presenting themselves at this point. The Doctor has erased his legacy, to the point where even the Daleks don’t remember him. (River also explains that she’s been pardoned for the crime of killing him, since there’s no evidence he ever existed. That must have driven the prison warden batty.) Up till this point, the Eleventh Doctor has been defined very much by his relationship with Amelia Pond…a relationship which is now over. Now the Doctor is left with the challenge of deciding – or discovering – who and what he is now. Doctor Who? Wait and see.
“Don’t travel alone.”
Time and time again this season, the Doctor has been warned not to travel alone. Amy and others have said that when he does so, he changes for the worse. Amongst other things, the Doctor’s companions stand between him and a huge gulf of loneness that comes from being an immortal. The Doctor’s personality is also shaped and altered by each new companion, and that means his next companion will perhaps be his most important companion ever. So far, the Eleventh Doctor has known and traveled with Amy Pond – with the odd break – since the beginning of this incarnation. As was pointed out in a previous episode, young Amy was the first face he saw after regenerating. Because of that, how much more painful will her loss be, and how much more crucial will it be that he find a companion soon and not travel alone?
While “The Angels Take Manhattan” brought the story of Amy and Rory to an end, we were still left with several questions which may or may not be answered at some point in the future. I was relieved that the Statue of Liberty was used sparingly, but I’m still not sure what its inclusion accomplished other than being a nifty visual. I mean, even when it cornered people on the roof it pretty much just glared at them. It also raises a pretty huge question: if the Angels can’t move while being observed, how the hell is the Statue of Liberty getting around? You want to tell me that a gigantic statue can make its way through New York – which, as is specifically mentioned, is known as “the city that never sleeps” – without at least one person seeing it? If nothing else, the sound of the damn thing stomping around should draw attention. Gonna have to call shenanigans on this one. If Moffat wasn’t going to use the statue for anything more than he did, he should have just left it out. Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings, Steve. There’s also the question of how the Angels are “taking over” statues. From their previous encounters I assumed that the angel was their natural form, yet this seems to suggest that they actually “inhabit” statues. Hopefully that will be clarified at some point.
And while we’re on the subject, will there be any repercussions for the Doctor using some of his regeneration energy to heal River’s broken arm? Beats me. All I know is, it’s gonna be a long wait till Christmas…