WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WATCHED DOCTOR WHO OR AT THE VERY LEAST HAVE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Deep breaths, everyone. It's Day 5 of the Countdown to Christmas series - over the halfway mark - but probably the saddest day out of all of them. Because this time, the episode being reviewed is "The Angels Take Manhattan," the Series 7 Part 1 finale (a.k.a. the Doctor Who Fall Season Finale, as it was advertised on BBC America). And even Matt Smith says (in the BBC America Inside Look) that if you don't have a lump in your throat by the end of this episode, you're an alien (to which he adds, in a typical Doctor tone, that if you are an alien, he's coming to get you).
Because if you ever cared for Amelia "Amy" (Pond) Williams and Rory Williams (a.k.a. "the Ponds"), even a little bit, you will be really sad once you watch this episode. I haven't even seen Series 5 and 6 yet, but I had gotten so fond of Amy that at the end of this I wanted to cry so bad, but I'm one of those people who can't just cry on command. My lip was trembling toward the end, though (though I don't know if it was from emotion or from how cold it is in my room right now), and I had to watch something happy right afterward. (Ironically, they followed this episode in its original airing with a sneak peek of the then-upcoming show Chef Race: UK vs. US, as if Doctor Who fans were actually going to still be watching TV after seeing that episode instead of wallowing in grief...cruel. Though I will say, I watched Chef Race: UK vs. US - which is basically a twist on cooking reality-competition shows like Bravo's Top Chef and the Food Network's Chopped and The Next Iron Chef, hosted by Food Network star Claire Robinson and Michelin star chef and London restauranteur Richard Corrigan - and it was pretty interesting, even if the two team captains were both jerks...but be careful saying that online. The UK team captain, Johnnie Mountain, has an active Twitter account, and he was following anything said on Twitter about the show while it aired, which resulted in me having a couple awkward Twitter conversations with him).
Ok...so let's get rolling.
Despite the sad parts of this episode, there were things I liked. The whole film noir vibe of the episode, starting from the cold open, was pretty cool. I've haven't seen a lot of film noir, but I'm familiar enough with it to recognize it when I see it, and I do really like detective stories. Plus, 1930's America - the Great Depression aside - is an era I have always had an interest in, though I couldn't tell you why. So it was cool to see that. I even was able to pinpoint the setting as 1930's before finding out the exact date. How? Well, in one shot after Rory is sent back to the '30's, the Empire State Building is visible, and that was completed in 1931 and is a testament to the art style of the period (as is the Chrysler Building). Not to mention the car he rides in with River is clearly a '20's or '30's-style car.
I was also delighted to hear the song that plays leading into the first scene after the title sequence. The song is by one of my favorite artists, Sting (who you might know primarily for his work as lead vocalist of The Police), and is called "Englishman in New York." The part that plays is the chorus: "I'm an alien/I'm a legal alien/I'm an Englishman in New York." And the funny thing is, seeing as the Doctor and the Ponds are in New York in that scene, the song totally fits -- because the Doctor is an alien - and, IRL, an Englishman - in New York. Cool, huh?
This episode was also the first time I got to see Alex Kingston truly in action as River Song. I'd only seen her before in the specials. And I can see why she's really popular in the fandom; River Song is freaking hilarious. She pretty much provides the comic relief in this episode - what little there is. River's chemistry with the Doctor is just great. Kingston and Matt Smith play off each other quite well, actually. Matt Smith's line "Sorry I'm late, honey. Traffic was hell" was easily the funniest line in this episode. I had forgotten the Doctor and River were married, though I had read it online before; they do kind of act like an old married couple. Still, River seems concerned for him -- she warns Amy:
Never let him see the damage. And never, ever let him see you age. He doesn't like endings.
Before that, when the Doctor learns she lied about her wrist not being broken, she says:
When one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve year old, one does one's best to hide the damage.
Also, I didn't notice this at first, but while Amy and the Doctor were on the bridge, she was playing "Pooh Sticks"! If you have no clue what that is...you're either way younger than me or you never watched Winnie the Pooh when you were a kid. This video explains it better than I can:
But on to more serious things. First off, the Weeping Angels are the villains in this episode. I knew about them from the specials, but again, this was the first time I'd seen them in an episode. They are easily the creepiest villains in this series. Sure, the Daleks are the Doctor's archenemies, but they are nowhere near as creepy as the Weeping Angels, those statues that move when you're not looking. In this episode, we learn they are more dangerous than we once thought - they can basically displace you in time, sending you back in time and forcing you to live out your natural life from whatever point you were sent back to, until you die. And that's exactly what they do in this episode, first to this detective named Sam Garner and later to Rory.
Once the Doctor, River, Amy, and Rory learn of Rory's fate (by Rory witnessing his own future), Rory decides he's going to defy that fate. The Doctor warns him that the Angels will continue to pursue him, but Rory insists, and Amy decides to join him after River reveals that Rory running from the Angels could cause a paradox that would destroy the Angels. Together, they make a break for it, while the Doctor and River hold off the Weeping Angels now converging on the couple.
But Amy and Rory find themselves trapped on the roof of the building, confronted by the Statue of Liberty, which is now somehow a gigantic Weeping Angel. (And I thought the bronze Statue of Liberty on the Other Side in Fringe was weird). While Amy keeps an eye on it, Rory looks for an escape route. Finding none, he decides the only way to truly defy his fate is to jump off the building. If he dies now, he figures, he won't be able to die later like they just saw. Amy of course tries to talk him out of it, but for once someone actually does not give Amy Pond what she wants. Rory reaffirms his love for her and reminds her he's come back to life multiple times (he's assuming his jumping off the building will cause the paradox, and due to this he will not really die). Then Amy does the crazy, courageous thing - instead of simply pushing Rory off like he asks her to, she GETS ON THE LEDGE WITH HIM.
The scene between them is great, as is the moment right after when the Doctor and River find them and the Doctor begs them not to jump:
Luckily, the paradox thing works and Amy and Rory come back to life, in the middle of the graveyard where the Doctor and Amy found themselves earlier in the episode. The Doctor seems happy (even while River is telling him he needs to give the TARDIS a paint job and possibly replace the bell), since the place the Angels were using to trap their victims in has been erased from time. Rory suggests they all go to a pub, and the Doctor agrees, calling it a "family outing" (which reminded me that River is Amy and Rory's daughter, which I also forgot). But then, Rory looks back and spots a gravestone with his name on it (I noticed, interestingly, that Rory's middle name is Arthur - and his actor's first name is Arthur. Coincidence?). He calls to Amy, pointing it out, but then, as he turns around...
RORY: To save you, I'd do anything.
(Amy gets up on the ledge next to Rory.)
AMY: Prove it.
RORY: No, I can't take you too.
AMY: You said we'd come back to life. Money where your mouth is time.
RORY: Amy, look.
AMY: Shut up. Together, or not at all.
(The Doctor and River arrive via the fire escape.)
DOCTOR: What the hell are you doing!
AMY: Changing the future. It's called marriage.
Whoops. Guess not ALL the Weeping Angels were destroyed. Rory gets sent back in time AGAIN. And, unfortunately, they can't just go back in time in the TARDIS this time and rescue him - there were already time distortions around New York to begin with (as pointed out by River earlier in the episode), making it impossible to land the TARDIS there even for River, but now time is even more unstable there due to the paradox Amy and Rory created, meaning the Doctor can never return to that point in time anyway. And then, the gravestone changes, showing that Rory died at age 82. The Doctor sees this and tells Amy he is so sorry. Amy insists they try to go back for Rory--create another paradox--but the Doctor says it's too dangerous and doing so would rip New York apart (similar to how reality was nearly ripped apart at the end of Series 6 when River refused to kill the Doctor).
Then comes the saddest scene in the whole episode. Amy faces the Angel head on, and makes a decision. (I also love that she calls River by her birth name, Melody, and that they have a nice mother-daughter moment here).
DOCTOR: Amy, what are you doing?The Doctor, naturally, is devastated:
AMY: That gravestone, Rory's, there's room for one more name, isn't there?
DOCTOR: What are you talking about? Back away from the Angel. Come back to the Tardis. We'll figure something out.
AMY: The Angel, would it send me back to the same time? To him?
DOCTOR: I don't know. Nobody knows.
AMY: But it's my best shot, yeah?
RIVER: Doctor, shut up. Yes. Yes, it is.
AMY: Well, then. I just have to blink, right?
AMY: It'll be fine. I know it will. I'll be with him, like I should be. Me and Rory together. Melody?
DOCTOR: Stop it. Just, just stop it!
(River takes Amy's hand and kisses it.)
AMY: You look after him. You be a good girl, and you look after him.
DOCTOR: You are creating fixed time. I will never be able to see you again.
AMY: I'll be fine. I'll be with him.
DOCTOR: Amy, please, just come back into the Tardis. Come along, Pond, please.
AMY: Raggedy man, goodbye!
(Amy turns her back on the Angel, and vanishes. Rory's gravestone gains more words - And His Loving Wife Amelia Williams aged 87.)
We then go back to the TARDIS, with River at the controls, where the Doctor is in that same inconsolable numb state he was in after losing Rose in "Doomsday." The Doctor apologizes, since Amy and Rory were River's parents after all (don't ask me how that works), but River doesn't seem to be grieving at all, at least not outwardly. (In retrospect, I think it's telling that River is wearing a black dress in the scene where her parents disappear - as if she knew what was going to happen ahead of time). She simply warns the Doctor not to travel alone (because we all know what happens when he does), and he offers her the chance to accompany him. She says she will - but not all the time, saying, somewhat jokingly, that there should only be "one psychopath per TARDIS." She then goes off to write the book that the Doctor has been reading from this whole episode, knowing that she will give it to Amy to be published, and says she will ask Amy to write an afterword to it, just for him, before she leaves.
The Doctor then jumps up, remembering he had torn the last page out of the book earlier - when he told Amy he always tears the last page out of books so that they never end. He runs back to Central Park (pretty fast for coming from Queens), where, surprisingly, his picnic basket is still sitting there, the last page still inside.
Donning Amy's reading glasses (which he took from her earlier), he reads the last page, which now has Amy's afterword on it:
Afterword, by Amelia Williams. Hello, old friend. And here we are, you and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well, and were very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you always. Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think once we're gone, you won't be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Don't be alone, Doctor.
Flashbacks of the seven-year-old Amy the Doctor first met back in the Series 5 premiere are shown, and Amy's voice-over continues:
And do one more thing for me. There's a little girl waiting in a garden. She's going to wait a long while, so she's going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she's patient, the days are coming that she'll never forget. Tell her she'll go to sea and fight pirates. She'll fall in love with a man who'll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she'll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived and save a whale in outer space. Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.
And that truly is how it ends. How the Ponds' story ends, and how the episode ends. It's a good ending, with closure for the Ponds, but still a sad ending. A very sad ending.
I'm going to go recover now. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post. Tomorrow I tackle the first of the two Christmas Special prequels, "The Great Detective," which was shown at the Children In Need event. Monday I tackle the other prequel, "Vastra Investigates." There is apparently a third prequel, "Songtarian Carols," but as it is only 50 seconds long and is really just a sing-along made as a Christmas joke, I don't think I'll cover it.
I have a bit of a confession to make. Any of my posts that are time-stamped "11:59 PM," like this post, are actually not posted at that time. They are posts I finished after midnight on the day after I started writing them, but which I changed the date and time on so they would post on the day I meant to post them on. Just wanted to come clean about that.
Episode quotes taken from The Doctor Who Transcripts. Screenshots are from Sonic Biro.