‘Doctor Who’: ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ spoiler-free review

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There’s power in stories, and Steven Moffat knows it. It’s a theme that has flowed through his entire tenure as writer and showrunner – from adventures in library planets to childhood fairytales of a mad man in a box that have literally written the Doctor back into a rebooted universe. Lately the Doctor’s been doing everything he can to erase tales of his adventure, but now there’s a new story, a little-known novel found in his jacket pocket, and it’s one not even he can rewrite. Can he?

Right from the start and the clatter of a typewriter, it’s clear that The Angels Take Manhattan continues the storybook theme so prevalent through Series 5-6. A plot best described as ‘timey-wimey bookey-wookey’, there’s almost a metafictional quality to the episode – as Time is written as it is read and read as it is written – a notion as entertaining as it is typically Moffat. If you’re not a fan of the show’s love of playing hopscotch with causality, you’ll have to just hang on tight.

New York, the city that never sleeps but occasionally blinks, is riddled with Weeping Angels. Moving statues of cherubs, children, and ladies make it a place even Snake Plissken would have trouble escaping, so what chance would Rory Williams have?

With just one touch a race against time begins to save Mr Pond, resulting in a trip to 1930s New York and an encounter with River Song, displaying enough cleavage to make the Statue of Liberty blush. Of the story we’ll say no more – as the Doctor is all too keen to remind us, stories are meant to be lived, not read.

By now the Weeping Angels are more carnival ghost train monsters than the terrifying ‘granite with shock-tactics’ of Blink. Wisely, what makes the statuesque assassins most effective this time round isn’t their physical nature, but their unique method of murder, and just how crafty they can be applying it.

What you really want to know is whether this is a fitting goodbye to the Ponds and, by extension, a suitable end to a story which began two and a half series ago. The answer is a resounding yes. A two-parter may have been a grander farewell, but nothing feels crammed, and though the frenetic pace means that certain explanations are left to leaps of logic, the suspense never falters.

In fact it’s so relentless that you’re left feeling that Moffat has just perpetrated a hit and run on your heart as well as your mind. Smith, Gillan and Darvill deliver performances of such power that it not only creates a truly tearful end, but shows how far all three have come since we first met them on that pleasant Saturday evening in April 2010. Yes, you will need hankies ready. Goodbyes are no more easy for Time Lords than they are for us.

The Doctor doesn’t like endings but Steven Moffat certainly knows how to write them. This is a stunning swansong for Amy and Rory, but the Doctor’s story never ends. A new chapter begins with four thrilling Bond-esque words: The Doctor will return.

Is it time to put the tree up yet?

Airs at 7.20pm on Saturday 29th September 2012 on BBC One.

> Order Series 7 Part 1 on DVD on Amazon.

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