Since the announcement in December 2011 that Doctor Who companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill respectively, would be leaving the show, there has been much anticipation of their final episode. Producer and writer Steven Moffat’s words that the exit would be ‘heartbreaking’ has only increased the speculation that the Ponds will be killed off rather than just deciding to stop travelling with the Doctor.
Such a suggestion was seemingly confirmed throughout the most recent season wherein every single episode contained rather heavy handed signs that Amy will die. I’ve already mentioned the symbolic carrying scene from the premiere, Asylum of the Daleks, but also in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship there was joke on Amy’s part that led to an ominous silence from the Doctor. In A Town called Mercy, Amy had a gun pointed at her head and in The Power of Three, the Doctor promises Rory’s father Brian, played by Mark Williams, that he won’t allow Amy and Rory to befall the same fatal outcomes as some of his previous companions. The death of a companion has been a recurring theme in this season as much as the pandorica and the cracks of Moffat’s first season and the Doctor’s death and the final question of the sixth season.
So then, isn’t it all just a bit too obvious? Moffat has admitted that his aim this season was to step back from arc writing and make the episodes slightly more standalone and grander on their own. While that has worked to a degree, it’s been a bit grating to see the Doctor pick up his companions each week like a strange carpool and it has done nothing to disguise that the constant hints that someone is going to die and it’s going to be heartbreaking. But Moffat never does anything the way that you might expect, such like the Doctor’s death last season. To the world, the Doctor is indeed dead but I don’t think any of the viewers believed for a second that Matt Smith’s Doctor would be killed off in his second season. That said, they did keep the appearance of Jenna -Louise Coleman in Asylum of the Daleks incredibly well covered up.
Once again Moffat manages to trick the audience into hoping that Amy and Rory will survive, even if this fated to be the last adventure for the pair. The last chapter of the book, Amelia’s last farewell, gives the viewers a little hope that perhaps Amy is just saying goodbye. The Doctor despairs a bit too much for that to be true but when she is forced to say goodbye and join Rory’s suicide attempt Moffat allows the audience to think, even just for second, that the pair might be alright.
However, Moffat takes away the hope almost as quickly as he doles it out. But the timing is precise. Just as the group heads to the TARDIS for the next outing, Rory sees his headstone and creates another fixed moment in time, certifying his death. It’s at this point the episode becomes a little frustrating. Firstly, it feels like Rory’s death invalidates the previous suicide and creation of the paradox that disrupted the Weeping Angel’s time farm. The paradox invokes a cheap method of time travel and an odd one at that. How was the TARDIS transported to 2012 when it was in a completely different building? What happened to all the other people being farmed, such as the detective seen at the start? The Doctor said that Rory would have to flee the angels for the rest of his life. Does that apply to the others in the building now that the building has been erased from existence? That said, I did enjoy Rory’s comedy about coming back to life yet again.
The second issue I have with Rory’s displacement at the hands of the rogue surviving angel is that Amy was extremely quick to follow suit. I guess that its meant to signify the depths of their love for one another, but remember that this is a couple who were on the brink of divorce in the first episode. Chronologically, there has only been a couple of years between Asylum of the Daleks and The Angels take Manhattan and she’s only dooming herself to a life in the 1930s, but it still seems like she jumped at the opportunity just a little too quickly. Perhaps the episode could have benefited from an extra five minutes on the run time. The best part about the paradox suicide was that Moffat gave it the time to have the emotional weight it needed. It was just Rory and Amy. Rory took control and made the decision. Then the show gave both Amy and the audience the time to let that decision sink in before Amy jumped up on the ledge and joined him. Having to see Amy die anyway after that? Frustrating really is the best word for it.
The afterword was just a little over sentimental too. The audience can empathise with the Doctor’s anguish over their deaths and his helplessness. The recap of their adventures and the picture of Amy as a child in sepia were a tad unnecessary. It was nowhere near as sentimental as Russell T. Davis departure episode and yet, in some ways, that episode is superior. The angels took a back seat in the departure of the Ponds, which is a shame because the angels are a great creation and are consistently a genuine threat. The End of Time was stronger in the sense that it allowed the Time Lords to appear as a major threat throughout and then send David Tennant on his way. The Angels were the cause of Amy and Rory’s deaths but during the episode I was constantly waiting for that event and that distracted from the threat of the angels themselves.
So, despite being aware that Amy and Rory would be exiting (pursued by an angel) for some time, the episode still held a great deal of suspense and emotional weight. Although, it may have faltered just a little at the end and slipped into sentimentality, on the whole The Angels Take Manhattan was a strong showing for the Ponds’ departure and left the Doctor primed for a new companion. How Jenna-Louise Coleman escapes the Daleks at Christmas to become that new companion is a whole other question.