Doctor Who Recap: “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Beware: There are major spoilers ahead, so read no further if you’ve yet to see Doctor Who’s fall finale.
“The Angels Take Manhattan” is a bittersweet ode to love, both romantic and platonic, as Amy is forced to choose one last time between the Doctor and her husband.
Set against the backdrop of a noir novel in Manhattan, a 1930s private detective is hired by the mobster-esque Mr. Grayle to investigate statues moving under their own power. He is sent to the home of the statues–a Manhattan building known as the Winter Quay, in which the Weeping Angels trap their prey. He finds his much older, dying self therein.
In 2012, Amy, Rory, and the Doctor sit in Central Park, the Doctor reading a noir novel aloud. Amy and Rory tease the Doctor over his attraction to the main character, a female PI named Melody Malone. Rory kisses Amy goodbye, before departing to buy them coffee. The Doctor snags Amy’s new reading glasses–another sign of her unavoidable aging process–and continues to read to her, but not before tearing out the last page of the novel. After all, he says, he hates endings.
Suddenly, the Doctor realizes that the novel is a true story, taking place at that very moment. Rory has been transported in time by the Weeping Angels, where he meets up with Melody Malone–a.k.a., his daughter, River Song. They are kidnapped at gun point by Grayle’s men, and Rory is tossed in the basement with cherub statues–baby Weeping Angels.
The Doctor and Amy try to travel back to 1938 Manhattan, only to be blocked by an influx of time distortions around the city. The TARDIS is bounced back to a graveyard in 2012 New York, where Amy proceeds to read ahead, much to the Doctor’s dismay. Once she reads the story of their own future, their future becomes fixed. What is read aloud will happen, and not even the Doctor can stop it.
River discovers a Weeping Angel chained behind a curtain in Grayle’s study. She sends the Doctor a coded message, giving him a point to lock onto and bring the TARDIS. Before he lands–shaking the entire house and knocking out Mr. Grayle–the Angel grabs River’s wrist. It is too weak to send her back in time, but she remains trapped in its deadly embrace.
The passage Amy read in the graveyard comes to pass; the Doctor must break River’s wrist in order to set her free. The Doctor and Amy scan the list of chapter titles, and Amy scampers off to the basement to find Rory. Moments later, the Doctor notices the title of the final chapter: ‘Amelia’s Last Farewell.’ Devastated at the prospect of losing his beloved companion, he lashes out, demanding that River find another way out of the Angel’s hold; their only chance now is to change the future.
By the time Amy reaches the basement, Rory has been transported across town to the Winter Quay. River breaks free of the Angel’s grip, and momentarily tricks the Doctor into thinking she did so without breaking her wrist, giving him a surge of hope. When he realizes the truth, she admits she lied to him to protect him. In a tender moment, the Doctor uses some of his stored up regeneration energy to heal her wrist. River stalks out, accusing him of being a sentimental idiot for wasting his life energy.
Upon discovering Rory’s location, the trio race across town to find him. Moments after they are reunited, they discover an elderly Rory in a bed across the room. Old Rory dies, sealing his fate, and fixing it in time. The Angels are coming from him, and the only way to stop them once and for all is to cause a paradox, and keep Rory from their clutches.
Amy and Rory escape to the roof, only to encounter an Angel in Statue of Liberty form. Realizing that the only way out is to leap to his death, Rory begs Amy to push him. After all, he says, his deaths never stick, and, should the paradox come to pass, the timeline will be undone and he’ll return to life.
Unable to let him go, Amy climbs onto the ledge with them. Together, they leap to their deaths. The building crackles with energy, and the Angels are destroyed. Amy and Rory wake up in the 2012 New York graveyard, alive and well.
As they prepare to return to the TARDIS with the Doctor and River, Rory catches sight of his own grave. Moments later, he disappears, transported back to the past by a surviving Angel. Traveling back to retrieve him would create another paradox, and destroy New York. Though the Doctor begs her not to go, Amy makes her final choice–to be with her husband and live their lives out in the past, never to see the Doctor again.
Heartbroken, the Doctor returns to the TARDIS. River assures him that she’ll be there to travel with him–but not as a constant companion. With her Vortex Manipulator, she makes plans to return to the past to write her book…and to ask Amy to write an Afterward. The Doctor races back to the park to find the last page of the novel, where Amy has bid him a fond farewell. It is a bittersweet moment, where she reminds him not to travel alone, and tells him that she and Rory have lived a good life, and that they have loved him…always.