Review: The Time Of Angels/Flesh And Stone: Doctor Who Column: Reverse The Polarity With Darren Blackburn
Posted By: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
On: May 08, 2010 Updated: 2 years 16 weeks ago
On: May 08, 2010 Updated: 2 years 16 weeks ago
Doctor Who Column: Reverse The Polarity With Darren Blackburn
Review: "The Time of Angels/
Flesh and Stone"
"Spoilers!" Doctor River Song
And so, dear fans, we reach the first two-part story of the new series, and if any tale had so many expectations it was this because, well, how could you follow up what's regarded as one of the finest modern classic stories ever produced? “Blink.” Remember “Blink”? Timey-Wimey Stuff? Easter Eggs in DVD's and the Weeping Angels - statues of stone that move when you don't see them and move so fast in the blink of an eye -- one touch to get to relive your past while they feed on the temporal difference. The lonely assassins that kill you nicely. Yeah, good story, so that's why “Time of Angels” isn't “Blink.” It's a whole new ballgame.
Beginning with a sequence straight out of a James Bond movie, we're re-introduced to the mysterious River Song, last seen in “Silence in the Library,” aboard The Byzantium (note that) having found out that inside the ship's vault is the last Weeping Angel and it’s got to be contained. It is sending a "hello sweetie" message to the Doctor 12,000 years into the future while he and Amy are visiting the museum of the headless monks, River once again ensnares the Doctor into her life.
After a truly hilarious sequence in the Tardis where we get to hear Matt Smith do a Tardis impression and scowls that River landed the Tardis more quietly than he has ever done (“You always leave the brakes on,” she retorts to Amy), the trio find that The Byzantium has crashed (remember the note?) into a temple on the planet, a truly towering gothic structure that just happens to be the tomb of an entire race -- in their language, “a maze of the dead.”
River reveals that she's been hired by the Universal Church (sic) to neutralize the Weeping Angel and before you can shake a Bishop’s mitre, down teleports Star Trek style Father Octavian, played by that actor in the Resident Evil films, and a group of heavily armed Clerics. Comparing notes in her little blue diary to find out which Doctor she’s encountered -- still early days apparently -- Amy makes a nasty discovery that the Angel in the vault isn’t as inactive as everyone thinks. I won’t spoil here because this is a really good sequence; even so, you’ll quickly get the reference if you like Japanese horror films.
Matt Smith uses his soccer skills to shed some light as we enter the maze; excellent realization here by the FX team as they begin to move up through the catacombs to the hull of The Byzantium. Along the way Amy’s earlier encounter with an Angel starts to look very worrying for her. There’s something in her eye. She also tries to figure out what River’s exact relationship with the Doctor is -- not that it helps as they keep meeting in the wrong order. This part of “Time of the Angels” owes a lot to another famous SF movie; you’ll soon notice the familiar nuances except here a lesson in observation becomes a slap on the old forehead when everyone realizes something in plain sight makes the Doctor realize he’s committed a fatal error. And the truth of Cleric Bob’s voice over the radio, just like Proper Dave in “Silence” before him, adds a chill to the proceedings when you realize just how much brown stuff just hit the fan. And oh yes. blinking isn’t an effective way to stop the Angels from killing you anymore, not that it helps Amy, as you’ll see in part deux.
A fatal error really crops up as we near the episode’s cliff-hanger which I really hope you lot don’t suffer. Over 8,000 Brits, and I did a few myself, bombarded BBC complaints when an animated Graham Norton decided to walk over Matt’s face at a pivotal moment, spoiling the tension raised by the last 40 minutes. Hopefully the Graham Norton i-dent got exterminated by the Daleks, least making use of those multi-coloured monstrosities that we now have.
It’s an agonizing 7 days later as the first proper classic format/new Who story continues with a novel revelation of how important a jump can be and how lovely it is to get a nice shiny proper spaceship interior for once! No more Russel T Davies shot in a Cardiff steel works here but hey, isn’t that a novel way to realize the ship’s Oxygen Factory?
And then before even the Angels catch up with them, that ongoing arc involving that crack in time first seen in young Amy’s Leadworth bedroom suddenly rears its head too. And here the story moves momentum as Steven Moffat does what Davies never did before: we get some answers about the mysterious true nature of the Crack in Time even before we’re halfway through the series and all I’ll say here is that a reference to the Cyber-King stomping over Victorian London in the Next Doctor and remember Amy doesn’t recognize Daleks takes on more significance with real hints that the arc leading to the opening of the Pandorica has very subtle connections to several stories during Tennant’s tenure and maybe even beyond. I have a very nasty theory in the back of my head and if it just has a smidgen of truth then I’ll applaud Moffat as he’s potentially going to shake the very core of the Whoniverse like no other writer before him! It’s that cool.
With the Angels dealt with an equally novel but strangely familiar way Amy’s integral involvement comes to light more so back in 2010 with a kiss-me-quick scene directly leading into next week’s episode in Venice.
There is so much I could spoil for you here, perhaps I’ve written too much even now. But frankly the point is that you have to see these two episodes which are really great viewing probably spoiled by showing them in early spring when its bloody sunny outside taking away some of the story’s atmospheric tension and yes that Graham Norton cartoon graphic still gets on my pip when I see it. The thing is, this is a pivotal 90 minutes setting the scene for what’s to come and subtly explaining what’s already happened defining that this Doctor and Companion relationship is more complex and different that previous one. Even so I cringed for 10 seconds when we had a Rose moment at the end.
This story further enhances the mythos of the Weeping Angels that even a certain Lord President of Galifrey was fearful of although their new means of what they do to their victims here sadly dilutes their previous modus operandi. Even so, they remain truly terrifying monsters and I hope they come back even though Moffat hints that this is their lap of honour.
Full marks to Matt and Karen here for brilliant acting made more so that these were the first episodes they filmed and getting more insights into how radical this Doctor is from his predecessor -- calm one minute, sometimes bloody reckless the next, caring, sombre and downright angry so you can understand exactly what he meant when he told the Atraxi to just run. Alex Kingston also shines as River, her saucy quips and jibes are sheer joy keeping at bay a dreadful secret that Father Octavian knows also and that we think we know too where everything is leading to -- or is it from? That’s the beauty of River Song as a character and that’s the beauty of this two-parter because time can be changed, folks. So from here on in, the ride really begins!
Again two weeks before I do another column with hints about blood-suckers in 15th century Italy, Rory’s first trip in the Tardis, a Dream Lord pops in for a visit and the most horrific monsters yet face the Doctor: Old Timers! Oi! Get back with your Zimmer Frames, you lot!!