Monday, October 16, 2017

New York IX: Angels in America.

"New York, the city of a million stories. Half of them are true, the other half just haven't happened yet." 
Sam Garner:  The Angels Take Manhattan, Doctor Who
Did you know that Central Park isn't a natural phenomenon?  Until I took the Big Bus tour of Manhattan, I shared the popular impression that the Park was a little piece of wilderness that had been set aside as a common space during the growth of New York.

I was quite surprised to discover that, in fact, every tree, rock, pool and pathway in Central Park is deliberate, the result of the Greensward Plan which was drafted in 1856 by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux.*  Olmsted and Vaux treated the park as a blank canvas - their plan called for a complete reconstruction of the 843 acre location, creating a deliberately picturesque and pastoral oasis in the centre of Manhattan. 

Regardless of its origins, Central Park has a special place in the hearts of Doctor Who fans as the location of the poignant farewell to Doctor companions Amy and Rory in the Season 8 episode The Angels Take Manhattan, filmed on location in New York.**


It's always interesting to visit a filming location and see how the production version compares with real life - or real geography, in this case. For example, Rory certainly covers a lot of ground on his coffee run near the start of the episode: the trio are enjoying their picnic near the southeast corner of the park, and he encounters a Weeping Angel near Bethesda Terrace, which suggests that he must have gone to the Loeb Boathouse for coffee. That would be about a solid half mile of walking, depending on exactly where he started.  On the other hand, he's just escaped from a conversation about the signs of aging on his wife's face, so he may be deliberately taking his time.


Subsequent action takes place throughout the city, although I'm not sure about the location of the cemetery in which the Doctor says his final farewell to Amy (not counting her appearance for Matt Smith's final episode).  We were able to find the park bench where the Doctor reads Amy's final farewell to him, though.

"Hello, old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page."
"I should have worn a bow tie for this, bow ties are cool."
When Karli and I visited Bethesda Fountain during one of our strolls through Central Park, I was sharply reminded of the downside of the immobile Weeping Angel lifestyle, the one that never seems to come up on the show...

- Sid

* Okay, almost every.  The original plan did not include playgrounds, and the Zoo also was not part of the original plan, but was rather the result of informal donations of exotic animals to the Park, which led to the founding of an official home for the menagerie in 1864.

** Okay, mostly on location.  They did some additional greenscreen shooting in Cardiff when they got home.

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