Doctor Who: The Time of Angels

Amy: 'She's Mrs Doctor from the future, isn't she? Is she gonna be your wife one day?'

What a difference seven days makes, not to mention a change of writer. Tonight's story was a marked improvement over last week's: there were mysteries galore, dialogue to die for, and the characters actually felt real again. In short, nothing jarred, and all the main leads sparkled. After the blip that was 'Victory of the Daleks', Doctor Who feels well and truly back on track.

Resurrecting old foes/characters is a risky business, particularly when they're from stories generally considered fan favourites. 'Blink' was the dark horse of season three, with its creepy angels and intriguing female lead (sympathetically played by the Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan). Similarly, 'Silence in the Library' and 'Forest of the Dead' had much to recommend them, as both had great storylines, magnificent suspense, and, significantly, introduced us to River Song (the Doctor's wife/girlfriend/fellow Time Lord... delete as you see fit). So there was definitely scope for follow up stories—unfinished business, if ye will—but sandwiching them together and following them up simultaneously was a veritable master-stroke on Moffat's part.

All the TV rags this week were talking about the 'surprise return' of River Song. A surprise for the Doctor maybe—but not for us, as she was in last week's trailer, and her picture has been all over the press for days. So for the viewing public it was a complete non-surprise, but having Alex Kingston back on our screens is always good news (both for the show and for me). I've always had a soft spot for Dr. Corday, and they played upon Song's ambiguous relationship with the Doctor magnificently. The nature of their 'friendship' has been the subject of much speculation these past few years, and nobody can deny they act like an old married couple: with the non stop bickering and the unrelenting put downs. Even the constantly attempted one-upmanship felt freakishly familiar.

Yet we're still no further forwards in uncovering Song's true identity. Amy, to her credit, asked the Doctor outright 'Is Song your future wife?' and, at first, the Doctor seemed to answer in the affirmative. Except, of course, he was answering a completely different question, and thus answered sod all. Does the Doctor know who Song is? He must have an inkling. At the very least, he knows what calibre of person he'd reveal his true name to, but his reluctance to get drawn into Song's life (spoilers) conveniently prevented him from asking outright.

Amy, ostensibly, had more success. She did get some answers—they just didn't mean anything. At first Song seemed to imply that she wasn't the Doctor's wife ('Could it be anything that simple?') and then, conversely, seemed to hint that she was ('Oh, you're good'). So the answer so far seems to be yes, no, no and yes. Which leaves us back where we started—with a big fat 'I don't know'.

What we do know is that Song's a criminal of sorts, or has at least spent time behind bars. That's new. But why would the knowledge of who she is stop the Doctor from helping her? Is she up to something that the Doctor would disapprove of? Let's face it, those clerics felt decidedly dodgy. Or is she somehow playing the Doctor by making him think that she's someone she's not, in order to secure his trust? And what was that injection she gave Amy? Was it really a viro-stabiliser? We know that Song turns out to be a good guy in the end, and eventually dies for the Doctor ('Forest of the Dead'), but who is she now?

Expanding the Angel's mythology, I though, worked nicely. I was initially worried about Moffat bringing back the Weeping Angels. 'Blink' was such an unmitigated success, that it was hard to imagine a sequel being anywhere near as good. Maybe the Angels were destined to be one hit wonders. The Ood were effective in 'The Impossible Planet' but I grew sick of them in subsequent stories, proving that you can have too much of a good thing. But the Angels worked well as a returning foe. Having Amy locked up with one of them was as suspenseful as we could have hoped for, and once again Amy showed great ingenuity in extricating herself from certain, neck-snapping death. She hit the pause button during a break in the loop. Nice bit of deduction that—which the Doctor did acknowledge, before delegating the job of the congratulatory/consoling hug to Song.

So what's the story with Amy's eye? If eyes are not the windows to the soul, but doors, then what's she got herself into—or more correctly, what got into her? ? And why oh why, when Song asked whether she was okay, did Amy say 'fine'? Stone dust has just come out of your fucking eye, Amy! How can that possibly be fine—particularly after being specifically warned not to look into the Angel's eyes. If I were her, I'd have come clean, and then crossed my fingers that someone would know what to do. Just in case... oh, I don't know, I started turning into stone or something. Which of course she eventually did. Except that she didn't... but kind of did. Did Song know that Amy was lying? Did she know that Amy had somehow become infected/possessed and that was why she gave her the injection? All will be revealed next week, no doubt. Or it won't. It probably won't, will it? Bah!

And well done Amy for trying to blink one eye at a time (although that's less blinking, more winking). I remember watching 'Blink' for the first time and trying to do the exact same thing. It seemed like the most obvious solution to the problem. And it is possible—it's just horrendously unnatural. I liked Amy a lot this week. Last week she felt like a spare part, always stood in the background, never really doing anything—tonight, all the main players shone. Amy was useful, intelligent and humorous, and Matt Smith was completely hilarious. His impression of the TARDIS was an absolute hoot! The way (mid-impression) he looked at Amy for support—only to have her frown at him as though he'd gone completely mad, was both beautifully written and perfectly acted.

Other Thoughts:

—I must confess, I spent ages trying to work how River Song had managed to come back from the dead. Then I remembered that, despite being in the Doctor's future, they were actually in Song's past. As the Doctor said, they keep meeting in the wrong order. D'oh!

—Nice cameo from Mike Skinner (from The Streets). Dry your eyes, mate. Or maybe just wipe your mouth.

—How does Song know Old High Gallifreyan? And how does she know how to fly the TARDIS? If she didn't learn from the Doctor, then who is this 'the best' she's referring to?

—We learnt all sorts of TARDIS nonsense tonight. It has brakes. It has a blue stabiliser button. It can create and maintain an air corridor—which is presumably how Song managed to survive being blasted out into space.

—No cracks in the the skin of the universe this week. Phew!

—This was apparently the first episode of season five to be filmed. Which actually surprised me. I thought Matt and Karen were brilliant in it.

—What was an animated Graham Norton doing screwing up the climax of the episode? Talk about gay agenda ;o)

Quotes:

Doctor: 'There were days. There were many days, these words could burn stars, and raise up empires and topple Gods.'
Amy: 'What does it say?'
Doctor: 'Hello Sweetie.'

Doctor: 'Yeah, well its just boring now, isn't it. They're boring-ers. Just blue boring-ers.'
Amy: 'How comes you can fly the TARDIS?'
Doctor: 'Oh, I had lessons from the very best.'
Doctor: 'Well. Yeah.'
Song: 'It's a shame you were busy that day.'

Amy: 'Oh Doctor. You soniced her!'

Doctor: 'It's a long story and I don't know most of it.'

Amy: 'Oh, you are Mr Grumpy Face today.'

Amy: 'Is River Song your wife?'

River: 'Incredible builders, the Aplans.'
Doctor: 'I had dinner with their chief architects once. Two heads are better than one.'
Amy: 'What? You mean you helped them?'
Doctor: 'Er, no. I mean they had two heads.'

Doctor: 'Wonderful species the Aplans. We should visit them sometime.'
Amy: 'I thought they were all dead.'
Doctor: 'So is Virginia Wolfe. I'm on her bowling team.'

Amy: 'I don't need you to die for me Doctor. Do I look that clingy?'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

8 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Now that he’s got all that set up malarkey out of the way Steven Moffat has gone back to doing what he does best; writing really, really great Doctor Who stories that send children (and certain adults) behind the sofa. If part II manages to maintain the same high quality, and knowing the Moff’s track record it just might, this will easily go down as the first genuine classic of the Eleventh Doctor’s era. The Alien/Aliens comparison is being quickly overused by the press but is still a valid one. 'Blink' was literally a haunted house story with ghosts substituted for creepy stone statues. 'The Time of Angels', on the other hand, is a big budget action movie with our heroes besieged on all side by the enemy (“Angels, sir, thousands of ‘em” ;).

Take a quick moment now to gush about Matt and Karen, because I can never do enough gushing about Matt and Karen. Hard to believe this was their very first day, they both knocked it right out of the park, especially the brilliant Mr Smith. To think some people used to doubt this ‘kid’ could seriously play the Doctor. Hope they all choked on their humble pie.

River Song is certainly shaping up to be the Captain Jack of Moffat’s tenure. She’s mysterious, an extreme flirt, possess a devil may care attitude, a possible dark past, likes to show off and always looks good whatever the situation. Now that Torchwood US has failed she and Jack should met next season and have the flirt off of the century. Or have we sadly lost John Barrowman to Desperate Housewives for good.

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this episode. Everything was first rate, the acting, script, the amazing production values, Doctor Who has never felt this cinematic before. And just when you think it can’t get any better right at the very end, regardless of the unwanted cameo by an irritating cartoon Graham Norton, Matt Smith gets to deliver what is bound to become one of the absolute best “I’m the Doctor, don’t f**k with me” speeches. It worked great in all the trailers and works even better in context. Surprised you didn’t mention it, Paul.

Paul Kelly said...

I blame an embarrassment of riches, Mark. If I'd commented on all the things I'd liked I'd still be writing now. Nice comments though, bud.

Billie Doux said...

I am so looking forward to this one! I just posted the archived version of this review while trying my best not to actually read it. :)

shawnlunn2002 said...

Really loved this episode. The Doctor, Amy and River make for a great trio.

I don't think River is a Time Lord, the Doctor's wife etc but there's a deeper connection between the two of them that cannot be denied.

The Weeping Angels could've been a disaster but Steven Moffat has genuinely evolved them and they're become far nastier than before.

I actually thought this episode would end with Amy turned into a Weeping Angel so the actual ending really did surprise me.

Four episodes in and this season is defintely becoming stronger and stronger.

Adrianne Brennan said...

I can't wait until it's revealed that she actually killed the Doctor so all those silly rumors about them having a "significant" relationship are finally put to bed, and good riddance!

I haven't seen the episode yet, but I hear they actually tried to give River some depth so I might give it a whirl.

Joe said...

This two parter was Dr. Who at its best, dealing with so many unknowns, not having a clue what to do until he actually does it, identifying the most obscure things but missing the obvious. I'm surprised nobody picked up on the tag line "Time can be changed." Perhaps that is River's whole purpose? An opportunity to try to undo what she did, to erase her crime? It would certainly make sense as to why she was withholding so much from the Doctor.

Patryk said...

Finally the first two parter of a season can be called brilliant. After bad(season 1 and 3) or mediocre (season 2 and 4) stories. We got this. So i guess the second two parter will be the worst from all season to compensate, eh?

Kenneth Serenyi said...

I actually wasn't that fond of this episode. We have the weeping angels who kill people by sending them back in time becoming just another slasher-film villain/monster. The angels have gone from being a unique threat to becoming a tired cliche. Sure the acting and characters were good but this particular plot has been done to death. I have a bad feeling about part 2 being just as unsatisfying.