‘Doctor Who’ Recap: The Angels Take Manhattan

Amy and Rory in The Angels Take Manhattan

Is it just me, or has it gone a bit noir in here all of a sudden? It’s all fingers on a typewriter (kids, that’s what people used to use for the Internet before wifi was invented), dark streetwise voice-over, rain, and the Manhattan skyline. Oh, and lots and lots of wet statues.

A private dick has been hired by Mr Big to investigate the possibility that these statues can move. As if to prove a point, we learn that one of them is tailing him. He goes to a specific address, gets in the lift, and visits a room with his own name on the door. It contains an old and dying man who turns out to be himself, from the past. This does not usually happen in films noir.

The old man tries to warn the private dick, who tries to run, but there are angel statues everywhere and the lights are flickering, which means they can advance. He runs up onto the roof, and is suddenly faced with a very grumpy looking Statue of Liberty.

(Which is odd, given that the Statue of Liberty is made of metal, not stone. But let’s let that go.)

Now it’s now. The Doctor is reading aloud from a noir-ish book, written by one Melody Malone, much to the irritation of Amy and Rory. And he suddenly notices that Amy is aging. Gallant Rory attempts to snog it all better while the Doctor borrows Amy’s glasses, then Rory nips off to get coffee. Then the Doctor tears the final page from the book. He hates endings.

But where’s Rory got to? He’s in the past! And he’s met River! She’s got a hat on and is being attacked by gangsters! River’s written this all up in the book the Doctor is reading! Now Amy’s reading it too, so that the Doctor can try and land in 1938 to rescue Rory. Turns out the city is full of time distortions, which means the TARDIS can’t land. River has a vortex manipulator though, so she got through OK. This might seem a significant detail, given what is about to happen, but it isn’t.

Anyway, Rory and River are off to see Mr Big, and while they travel, Amy reads ahead in the book, discovering that the Doctor has to break something. Trouble is, now they both know this is what will happen, that means it definitely has to happen. No more reading ahead. However, it does not bode well that there’s a gravestone in the cemetery the TARDIS has crashed in with Rory’s name on it.

In Mr Big’s house, River spots his vase collection and Rory is thrown in the cellar. It’s dark down there, so he’s given matches, an intermittent light source. That definitely won’t end badly.

The vase collection turns out to be key to letting the Doctor know where to land the TARDIS, and so he does, albeit crashily. But not before Mr Big has jiggled his light switch, allowing River to be grabbed by his prize trophy, a damaged angel. Not zapped back in time (she’s weak), just grabbed. Rory is less fortunate, having been swizzed off to the building the private dick ended up in earlier, by scary cherubs.

It seems River has been pardoned, since the Doctor erased himself from the Dalek database, and she’s a professor now, but this won’t help her get her hand out of the angel clutch. Wrists will have to be broken: that’s been made a fixed point in time thanks to Amy reading it in the book River will come to write about this entire adventure. But while the chapter headings are deemed safe enough to show Amy where Rory is (or was), they also reveal there’s a goodbye on the way. This enrages the Doctor (he hates endings), and he leaves River to sort herself out.

River finds out that Rory is nearby, having voluntarily entered the angel building, the one guarded by angels outside, and look! River got out with breaking her wrist! The future is unwritten! Everything is going to be alrig… oh wait, she did break her wrist after all. Dammit!

Luckily for River, the Doctor can use regeneration energy to fix her wrist. Unluckily for the Doctor, this enrages her because it’s proof of her own mortality, something she would rather he was not reminded of. So she slaps him.

Rory finds his room in the angel building, with his name on the door, closely followed by the Doctor, Amy and River. But who’s that in the bed? It’s old Rory. And he’s dying. This means bad stuff. It means the angel building is a holding pen for people to be zapped back in time whenever the Angels need a snack. And they can do this because they’ve taken over New York.

The Angels come for Rory, he’s doomed. Except, what if he got away? Wouldn’t the paradox of Rory’s escape destroy the Angels? Well, possibly not. But possibly. Worth a try, at any rate. Time to RUN!

Amy and Rory head for the roof, with River and the Doctor behind them. The Statue of Liberty is waiting, but Rory has a plan. What if he jumps? What if he dies? Wouldn’t that break the paradox? Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? Except he can’t do it, Amy has to help. Except she can’t. There’s only one way out. Only one chance. They go together.

And with a “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” from the Doctor, that’s what they do.

Suddenly there’s light everywhere, and the paradox takes over. Everyone is back in the graveyard in New York and they’re alive. The Doctor can’t ever go back to New York but that’s a small price to pay for having Amy and Rory alive again. Off to the pub!

Except Rory has noticed the gravestone with his name on it. He pauses to take a look and BOOM! the Angel behind him whisks him away. He’s gone, and this time there’s no fetching him back.

So, one final sacrifice. Amy and the Angel. She’s off to find Rory, and that means she’ll never see the Doctor again. It’s an ending: the Doctor hates those.

The Doctor and River discuss their future domestic arrangements, some travel, but no shared bank account. And as River is giving the transcript of the book to Amy to get published (using the vortex manipulator, presumably), Amy has the chance to write an afterword on the last page.

The last page which is still sitting in a picnic basket in Central Park! Quick! Run! Fetch it!

Aw. It’s a nice message, reminding the Doctor not to be alone, and to pop back and say hello to Young Amy, the first face that Doctor’s face ever saw.

Next: CHRISTMAS!

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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