“That was so damned good. I laughed. I cried. I was on the edge of my seat. I jumped out of my skin. That to me is perfect entertainment. Every piece of my emotional machinery was fully engaged. I’m now going to have to have a lie down and take a valium because I don’t think I can actually get through the rest of the day!
I don’t think about it often, because I’m so busy taking on life and its vicissitudes, but watching Doctor Who reminds me how absolutely joyous I am that I’ve been involved in that programme. What a treat! To watch this wonderful piece of modern television and be so proud that I was a part of it, all those years ago.”
– Katy Manning, “Jo Grant”
Doctor Who’s short season of 2012 comes to an end, and so does probably the finest era the series has enjoyed since the reboot – the team of the Doctor, Amy and Rory has been broken up at last. It was a given that such a monumentally important episode would have been written by the Grand Moff himself, and it’s a fine thing that it should feature the Weeping Angels, arguably the scariest monsters in the history of the series. Not so much that it should also feature River Sue, but given her relationship to “Mom and Dad” she certainly had to be part of the episode.
It was a very conscious decision to have this five-episode mini-season play as if it were five movies, and I think it’s paid strong dividends. I’ll say this for certain – The Angels Take Mahattan looked fantastic. The location shooting in New York really paid off, and the city (in both it’s 1938 and 2012 guises) played a starring role in the episode itself. And it’s build around a very grim and compelling premise – that the Angels have constructed a kind of holding pen called “Winter Quay”, a grim apartment block on the Lower East Side where they side the victims they’ve transported back in time to consume the temporal energy created. The Angels remain one of the creepiest monsters in sci-fi (especially cute l’il baby Angels, a brilliant conceit, and I especially enjoyed the very clever conceit about the ultimate Angel that might appear in New York.
Ultimately, though, the headline is the departure of Rory and Amy – long expected, and much speculated on. Did they get a fitting one? I would argue that they did – the ending was a sad one, but not maudlin. Rory proved once again that it’s he who’s the real expert at waiting, and Amy proved that just maybe, she loves him as much as he loves her after all. There might just be a message here that fate is fate and cannot be escaped, even for Time Lords and the people who love them. And as it always does, in the end the focus turns to the fate of the Doctor himself – one way or another the companions are always left behind, and the Doctor always soldiers on.
River continues to try my patience with every smug Alex Kingston line delivery, but she does get off one especially interesting piece of dialogue – “Don’t let him see you age. And never let him see the damage. He hates endings.” By spending some of his regeneration energy in healing River’s simple broken wrist, one can’t help but wonder if he’s feeling tired of it all, as if enough were finally enough. Endings are the only certainty in life, even for Time Lords – this fate, for certain, is one the Doctor can’t avoid. Perhaps he’s finally had enough of them. River urges him that he should never be alone, and even speaks to Amy through time to give him the message one last time, in the episode’s elegiac final sequence centered on the last page of a battered paperback. But I wonder if the Doctor – not ageless, but definitely aging – is determined to say goodbye to goodbyes. And if so, what would bring him back from the darkness.
I’ve always liked Amy’s character, and Rory’s even more. They’ve been good for The Doctor, and good for Doctor Who, and Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan are two of the strongest actors to feature as companions. What I especially liked was the degree of honesty in their relationship with the Doctor, and how it was steeped in not just love but mutual respect. Companions and Doctors can never be equals, but these two seemed to understand his quiet demons better than most. In a sense these two were more like true friends than almost any Assistants the Doctor has had, and I – like he – will be sad to see them go.