THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN,
And a look at Season 7.0
In Britain, most shows are now fortunate to have thirteen episodes. (We’re getting used to this pattern here with some cable series.)
However, largely due to economic concerns, the BBC only allowed for five episodes this fall, with a Christmas special to round things off to six. Technically, there will another eight shows to Season Seven airing in 2013, but it’s going to feel more like a new season— 7.5 if you will (as the DVD marketing practices seem to indicate), as some substantive changes will have taken place.
The season started off well enough with Asylum of the Daleks.
The next episode, Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, seemed pointless, as though it was made chiefly because the producers really liked the central conceit of dinosaurs on a space ship. There were little character moments that were nice, touches of comedy, but also what seemed like an unnecessary bit of anti-Semitic stereotyping for the profit-obsessed villain Solomon. There were plenty of nice effects, too bad there wasn’t a more compelling story to match the expense.
A Town Called Mercy was a fun idea, but the Western show (shot in Spain) seemed rushed, predictable, and forced —with the regulars seeming somewhat out of character, without much dramatic preparation or explanation. It was nice to see Farscape/Stargate SG-1’s Ben Browder in a DOCTOR WHO episode, and he did well in a under-written role.
The Power of Three gave us an unusual look at the lives of the Doctor’s companions, and some insight into the Time Lord’s lack of interest in living in linear time, full of what is for him life’s dull or just ordinary moments. It also added to our understanding of how much Amy and Rory mean to this incarnation of the Doctor.
This weekend’s The Angels Take Manhattan was a return to the emotional power that writer/producer Stephen Moffat can bring to the fore, and the skills of the actors. It also demonstrated one of his weaknesses; he admits he views the Doctor’s adventures as fairy tales, rather than science fiction. This leaves the door open to a lack of internal logic (when viewing the time-traveling series as a whole), and willingness to do silly, unbelievable things just because they look cool.
The Weeping Angels are back, and they’ve isolated a point in 1938 Manhattan. This draws the attention of the Doctor’s wife River Song (Alex Kingston), and soon draws in the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). This is done rather cleverly, via a book that the Doctor is reading, and the need not to read ahead or otherwise “cheat” points up the facts that the players are characters in a story. In the future, the time-traveling River will write the book. Reading the words actually makes the future happen, a predestination paradox. The rules of this concept are somewhat arbitrary; some make sense, while others simply do not.
Even the rules of the Angels seem to have been forgotten. Since the Angels take the form of statues that can only move when no one is looking at them (and now apparently can take the place and form of existing statues) one would think they would have to be quite stealthy. Shown previously to be unable to move even if looking at each other, they now seem to have no problem with this limitation.
Making even less sense, and doubtless because he couldn’t resist the image, the giant form of the Statue of Liberty is also an Angel, and we hear it stomping noisily around the City that never sleeps, apparently unseen by the eight million -strong populace of New York. So we see it turn up, looming over the apartment building the Angles had taken over — Twice. Once in the teaser and again later in the episode, ruining any surprise —as well as a nice, darkly humorous line.
The episode ends with the Doctor and his beloved companions separated permanently by a time distortion and “fixed point” in history; we must assume that Amy and Rory are sometime in NYC’s past (possibly 1938 to the point of their deaths), and the Doctor can NEVER see them again.
This would seem to fly in the face of the fact that the TARDIS travels in Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. One would think that the two marooned companions could perhaps drive to New Jersey (or further) and wait a year or so to be out of the range of the presumably localized anomaly, but apparently not. But this fairly obvious point is not addressed, not even with a line of double-talk. Are we to understand that the Doctor can never again go to New York for a period of forty or so years? Even though he’s been there in that time-frame in previous episodes?
Oh well, at least it’s a dramatic moment, and very well played by the cast. On an emotional level, it works quite nicely, and for that reason I’d call it a good episode. Possibly even very good.
But there are so few episodes this year and I wanted more good episodes. Two out of five —maybe three if generous— is simply not enough.
DOCTOR WHO: The Angels Take Manhattan
Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill , and Alex Kingston . With Mike McShane, Rob David, Ozzie Yue , Bentley Kalu, Burnell Tucker.
Directed by Nick Hurran, Written by Steven Moffat, Produced by Marcus Wilson, Executive producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinne.
A BBC production by BBC Wales.