Doctor Who – ‘Flesh and Stone’ – Review

He looks like a slimmed down Robbie Coltrane in Cracker, and talks like Mike Myers’ Shrek.

I never realised quite how Scottish Moffat actually is.

I watched Dr Who Confidential for the first time tonight. It is HILARIOUS! The first time he spoke, I thought it was a joke. He’s the most Scottish man I’ve ever heard. Even stereotypical Soctsmen have less Burr than that. Amy Pond’s accent is the sexy Scottish Edith Bowman style Scotland, the Scotland of Lochs and mist, and Edinburgh castle. Moffat, good Lord, he’s William Wallace and MacBeth. And the Loch Ness Monster, and Burns Night. Gosh. He’s so very Scottish.

If that threatens to overshadow this episode so be it, but I don’t think that it will. I can already imagine what will overshadow everything else here though. I can hear the screaming reaction to it. Right now, the Internet is ablaze with vitriolic fire. Fandom is tearing itself in two. Welcome, to Kissgate.

‘Flesh and Stone’ is destined to be overshadowed not by the end of the story, but by the end of the episode. After having saved the day, stopped the bad guys and wrapped up the plot Moffat introduces a vein of frission between Doctor and companion that is incredible in its audacity. Amy Pond and the Doctor kiss. At her initiation.

RTD was always careful, sometimes overly so, to play up the subtlety of the ‘romance’ side of the relationship between Doctor and companion. With Rose there was a clear attraction, but little hope. The “loss” of Rose was the driving force bhind the Doctor of Seasons 3 and 4. Martha may have pined after him, and gone so far as to tell every character they came across of her love for him, but she never crossed the line and made a move on him. Donna meanwhile served as more sidekick than love interest, and it was somewhat of a relief that by Season 4 there was a recognition that not every companion had to fall in love with the Doctor as a matter of course.

But both Rose and Martha were carefully drawn out. The attraction was sometimes more obvious than not, and for Rose and the Doctor there was a recognition that they loved one another but could never be together. But here we have something different. We have an ‘adult’ relationship explicitly referenced in the episode.

After the outrageously over the top outrageous wink-wink, nudge-nudge flirting of River Song it’s strange to think that this two parters real moment of romance occurred between a woman who knowingly accepts that she and the Doctor are not serious. I don’t want to go too deep on this or anything but it seems like the perfect representation of how much has changed, and the difference in tone.

Stick with me through the next sentence.

RTD had, has, a lightness of touch that Moffat doesn’t show here.

If you’re through that then breathe in. Let it out. Sit down. Make a cup of tea. Mull it over. Swirl the leaves around the bottom of the mug, little ships in the great brown eddy. Consider it. RTD could be subtle.

For all that was said of RTD and his ‘gay agenda’ there was nothing contained within that was terribly outrageous. That’s not to say that Moffat can’t be subtle. Or that RTD isn’t ridiculously overblown in almost any regard. RTD has probably been described as the UKs answer to Michael Bay (which makes you wonder what the question was), I know no greater praise than this; RTD was a man who knew how to make special effects explode. And he did this in EVERY episode.

Moffat has shown far more restraint in the use of overblown CGI (so far). What we have seen of it has been sparsely used (and poorly handled – see ‘Space Whale, the’). But the handling of the romance storyline has been … more unexpected.

I’m dancing around the issue here, so let me get straight to it. Amy Pond just propositioned the Doctor for sex. She seems clear that she doesn’t want a relationship. I’m genuinely kind of unsure how to take this. There’s a side of her character that is very obviously needy towards the Doctor, one which he doesn’t help at all, what with the disappearing and leaving her at any opportunity. Yet, I can’t help but feel strangely weirded out by the whole thing.

I’m in two minds as to it actually. One is telling me this is brilliant, that it means no Martha-like behaviour, that it’s up there with her asking the Daleks if they are evil, and I love that she just comes straight out with it. I’m equally certain that there will be far more people that hate this, that see it as Moffat over writing the Doctor with his younger, cooler sidekick. This is the Scottish Agenda again, isn’t it!

Seriously though, the whole scene is bizarre. It’s very … human. That’s the only word I can come up with. But it’s also, when you think about it, quite painful. That the lonely, lost girl is searching fro comfort anywhere, that she’s conflicted to the extent that she’ll throw herself at the Doctor like that.

Whatever, if I continue much longer I’ll end up in the territory of the Daily Mail and start bleating about protecting the children, and Ban this Filth. It just strikes me as an odd route to take is all.

Having spent all that time talking around and about a 5 minute sequence, what of the preceding episode? It’s kind of good really.

The idea and execution work well. Unfortunately it gets somewhat derailed halfway through by the ‘crack in the wall’ storyline, so we don’t actually get much in the way of Angels. What we do get is excellent though. From that opening chase lit by gunfire, to the standoff in the forest. The Bishops sign off to Amy’s plight, it’s all excellently done. And it’s nice to see that not everyone survives.

It’s been an interesting idea to have Angels vs the Church. The biblical army of God, against the militarised Church. I want to work in a joke about Angels and Deacons, but feel it would be superfluous. Although there was no real development around it it served as nice imagery.

The three leads are all excellent. I’ve really warmed to River, and though she doesn’t have much to do in this episode I’ve found her intriguing enough to look forward to her return at the end of the season. What I truly loved above all else however is the way that SM continues to use time travel/ the SCI of sci-fi so well. This is an episode which climaxed in a crack in time devouring energy and wiping things out of all existence. And out of that comes a startlingly obvious resolution. If they all disappeared there can’t be anything in Amy’s eye, because there was nothing there for her to see in the first place. Genius.

Two scenes, however, I felt failed. First, the get out of jail free clause of the Doctor being caught but the Angels getting distracted by the crack in time. It’s the same kind of lazy writing that neutered Daleks. If they have their hands on him then he should die (or at least get sent back in time). To have him escape from that simply tells me they are not that big a threat at all, there is no dramatic tension. Instead let them almost get him then get distracted. To actually catch and not finish it is a step too far for me.

Two, the Angels move as statues. This is the biggest misstep of the two episodes. At no point should we see the angels move. The whole point of them not moving when being watched was wonderfully meta. They didn’t move whilst we could see them, but then when we couldn’t see them they did. It wasn’t just about the characters not seeing them. We were involved. To remove that, to show them move as we watch them removes us from the action. It’s bonkers that no one saw this was a disaster for the ‘behind the sofa effect’. Furthermore, if they do move, the should not move as statures. They should move as whatever they naturally are. In that split second of darkness they should have transformed into something fleshy, moved, and frozen into stone again.

Overall though this was an episode that I really enjoyed throughout, but which derailed itself towards the end.

Oh. Also, this marks the second time we have heard a specific line. “The Doctor in the TARDIS …” was first mentioned by the variform (as Olivia Coleman) in the first episode, and now Angel Bob brings it up again. Both times it’s in the context of the cracks in time. Is this a hint about what the cracks relate to, or that the TARDIS is an important part of the riddle (ala, Bad Wolf resolution)? Or is it just a random line that Moffat likes?

One thought on “Doctor Who – ‘Flesh and Stone’ – Review

  1. Good review James – I think the Doctor mentioned that Amy's randiness might be connected to the cracks and her being messed up and stuff i.e. not remembering the Daleks and it looks like he's bringing her fiancee along in the next episode to sort things out so I'm willing to run with it for now.

    On the whole – good episode, the bit where the Angel had the Bishop in a headlock was great, the Doctor not leaving until he knows there's no way of freeing him.

    I'm glad you pointed out the Angels moving as it really let down the episode for me. It unravels the mechanic from 'Blink', which worked so well – the whole point was that if they are seen they are stone and trapped as stone. And you're so right that they should change back to their fleshy forms – I'd have loved to see them in their real guise, maybe even attempt flying.

    And they 'voided' them all at the end like the Daleks and every other enemy – why?!!! Such a brilliant foe and they did the 'kill them all' option at the end, if they'd escaped and hidden around the Galaxy/time it would be fantastic, maybe even the Doctor having to rescue people removed from the right time etc.

    No doubt they'll have a 'one survived' scenario, but that's getting really tired. We have the chance of getting a new series enemy that could be on par with the Daleks, why waste it?!!

    Keep up the good work!

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