Sunday, 30 September 2012

New York City Blues - An Angels Review

Naturally - don't read until you've watched it. I really, really mean it...

The last adventure of Amy and Rory. Previous recent companions have left us at the end of big brash two-part series finales - Dalek / Cyberman / Toclafane / Master invasions of Earth. Rose, Martha and Donna even managed to all come back after they'd left - in many ways undermining their initial big emotional send-off's. It's never going to be like that for the Ponds. This one is final.
Unlike those previous departures, this was just a single, 45 minute episode - a dark, sombre, and doom-laden 45 minutes.
Everything was setting us up for death - and there was death of sorts. Emphasis on "of sorts". In 2012, Amy and Rory now lie together in a cemetery overlooking New York City - ever such a long way from quiet little Leadworth.
For some reason, early on in the episode, the TARDIS materialises in this very cemetery - so we know there's something significant about it. We're shown - unnoticed by the Doctor and Amy - the gravestone of one Rory Arthur Williams. This helps to add to the doom-laden atmosphere. As is the fact that once Rory is snatched back in time to 1938, everything happens at night. This story is dark visually as well as emotionally.

The tone is set right from the off with a night-time sequence in which rich Mr Grayle (Michael McShane) sends a private detective to investigate an apartment building called Winter Quay. Grayle knows that the statues of New York move when no-one is looking - even if no-one else has noticed. The PI finds a room which is inhabited by his much older self, dying in bed. The later reveal that the building is a form of larder for the Angels adds a new dimension of evil to the characters - no chance of a happy life lived in Hull or anywhere else. You're trapped in the building to live your life over and over again forever.
It looks as if this is to be Rory's fate.
Another new aspect added to the Weeping Angels is that which was hinted at in the closing moments of Blink - that all statues are potential Angels. The giggling cherubs are a particularly twisted idea. The "Angel-ised" Statue of Liberty, I must admit, provided a striking image but you did have to ask yourself (a) why bother? - the ordinary Angels were doing perfectly well by themselves, and (b) it's metal...

When Rory arrives in 1938, he meets daughter River Song, who's come here to investigate numerous time distortions. River will go on to write a pulp novel about these events - and it's that book which provides the background framing for the whole story. Everyone is bound inexorably to what has been written. Before he realises it's their story, the Doctor tears out the last page - he doesn't like endings. We get to see chapter headings such as "Death at Winter Quay" and "Amelia's Final Farewell". Again - all sign-posting potential tragedy.

There are three big stand-out moments in this story - and of course they're all about the Ponds. The first is the roof-top scene where Rory is prepared to kill himself to create the paradox that will release them from this trap. He's going to jump to his death, and he needs Amy to help him. Of course she's never going to let him - not without her.
The second is the later cemetery scene, where we think they've maybe just managed to get out of it. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have known this was going to Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan's last story - so this false ending would have had a much bigger shock. Once again, Amy won't ever leave Rory.
The third is, of course, the "last page" coda. Yes, they're now dead - but they lived a long and happy life together. It was a very brave way of doing things. Rory just disappears mid sentence. Amy has her hurried  farewell with the Doctor, but the Ponds go on to live, grow old, and die in their eighties off screen - absent apart from that final voice-over.

One thing I'm really not sure about at the moment - and it's all still sinking in, of course - is the reactions of the Doctor and River. Or lack of. Just too muted it seemed to me.
But let's end with thoughts on Amy and Rory. It's very much their story, and that story has now come to a close. It was a lovely touch to tie up that loose end from The Eleventh Hour - little Amelia seeing the TARDIS rematerialise that first morning after meeting the raggedy Doctor, even though that episode had implied that the Doctor didn't come back for many years.
Full circle.

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