This week we see the return of one of the best things to have come out of Season Two with the reappearance of the Gravity Globes, previously seen in ‘Impossible Planet’ and ‘Satan Pit’.
I for one was disappointed. Disappointed at the lack of merchandising opportunities, and disappointed that there was only a single new type of villain, instead of a range of plausibly primary-colour-coded ones.
This episode was rubbish, wasn’t it? All that build up and suspense. This wasn’t the Doctor Who I enjoy. Where was all the bad CGI? Almost nothing exploded. Nobody really got a chance to shoot anything. It was all about building character, and frankly, who wants that nonsense. No, it’s just too bad. I want more explosions. This episode needed at least 34 more, and it needed to be faster.
Where was Murray Gold? Was he out of the studio when the soundtrack was recorded? Too quiet this was, no brass bands at all. And it needed to cut around more. Drop all the talking, shoot something. Make River Song into a 100 foot robot of death, and make the Angels fly. And give them laser eyes, and an axe that’s also chainsaw, and the soldiers should have the Holy Grail and be super soldiers, who kill you with fire breath.
Now turn all this into a sugar rich energy drink and inject it into my eyeballs because it took too long for me to get to the end and then the only thing that got shot and blew up was a light that looked like a watermelon, and it looks like it won’t cover everything in napalm goo, just blue paint.*
Oh Doctor Who. Sometimes you can be so surprising. You’re a fickle show. One week you’re ‘Victory of the Daleks’. And the next you’re … well, ‘Time of Angels’.
Or more properly maybe, Oh Steven Moffat. Sometimes you can be so surprising. One week you’re ‘Beast Below’, the next you’re ‘Time of Angels’.
Thank God then that SM has decided he doesn’t have to be RTD. This was the first truly Moffat episode of the new series. It was shamelessly SM, with his tropes all lined and on display like so many trophy wives at a beauty pageant. Look at these, they scream, watch as I show you how good I can be.
We had the talking dead, the River Song School of Flirting AND things in the TV. This has to be one of the few shows which is so willing to use the TV set as a conduit for evil. There hasn’t been a season gone by where someone hasn’t communicated from within a TV screen or radio.
But we also had a far more self-assured episode than we’ve previously seen, and one that was far better for it. Whilst the three previous episodes have all felt like a ragtag bunch of RTD knock offs, written simply to reference previous stories, bridge the gap between the series and show RTD how it should have been done at the time (with varying degrees of success), this was the definitive NEW new Who. This was Matt Smith shaking off David Tennant’s performance, and SM shaking off the need to echo someone else’s work, and both trusting that their version is enough to sustain.
On this episode alone, and I await the second part avidly, they were right to think so.
It is without hyperbole that I can say this is probably the best opening to a two part episode of Doctor Who since ‘The Empty Child’. Indeed, that opening five minutes if one of my favourite openings to any Doctor Who episode ever.
It starts with an excellent reintroduction to River Song. River Song is currently a doctor, with some sort of mystery back story the Doctor doesn’t know about. She also reason changes colour at some point in the future. Maybe that will be a plot point in Flesh and Stone, but if it isn’t I want someone to explain to me how the woman we first saw turned into the much whiter version she is now. Maybe this is the new merchandising turn for the BBC, they’ll just alter the colour of someone or something in the show to sell more figures. Might work for Sonic Screwdrivers and Daleks, less likely to work for Alex Kingston.
Anyway, I digress. She jumps out of a spaceship and the TARDIS shows off the air shelf it grew a few weeks ago. Now, it’s even better, because the TARDIS doesn’t even have to be there for it to work. Instead, just set coordinates in it and by the time you appear you’re target will be at the door, ready to fall on you. It’s a good job the Doctor can turn up at the exact right time for her. Be rubbish if he turned up 12 years too late, only to find her frozen corpse floating in space. Especially as the TARDIS’s air shelf would have sucked that perfectly preserved corpse in before he had a chance to correct it, dumping her frozen cadaver onto him, immaculate hair unwaveringly stiff, high heels covered in a thin layer of ice.
She then shows that not only can she drive the Tardis, but the Doctor can’t, something that he covers up by pretending that he likes to drive it that way because he enjoyes the noises it makes. Yet more evidence that this Doctor should never be left alone with anyone or anything for fear of what his indifference might result in.
I digress again. Off we go to a planet where the first big question comes up. Are we capturing the Angel? If so, why? Steven Moffat spoke about the relationship between ‘Blink’ and this, comparing it to the step up from Alien to Aliens. Hey Stephen, why don’t they just “take off and nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” – Ellen Ripley? Why not drop a bomb down there? Blow it up. “Its how Dad did it, it’s how America does it, and it’s working out pretty well so far” – Tony Stark. Or, you know, whatever, send your twenty men down the hole against an enemy that outclasses and outmatches them, that they don’t understand and don’t know how to stop. This is why the church shouldn’t fight wars people. We don’t have a clue.
My assumption here was that this was going to be a bad episode. Not terribly bad, not ‘Pig Men of New York’, or whatever that Dalek episode was called. Not Chris Chibnall bad. But still, you know, a two part story involving River Song and Weeping Angels? Why bring back a bad guy that was so perfect in it’s one shot status? Why risk ruining it? I guess this is why, because this is how to make a perfect step up. The Angels were creepy, now they are full on terrifying. I actually physically jumped a number of times. Admittedly, I jump at Buffy reruns, but still. I loved this, I think it’s the strongest episode of the series, and one of the best episodes ever, an instant classic.
A lot then is riding on next week. Thank God that the Steven Moffat who used to write for Doctor Who is back**.
*To clarify, these are not my actual feelings about this episode.
**This line is shamelessly lifted from Peter Bell who made it sound a lot funnier than it does on paper.