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Who Review – Episodes 4 and 5: Time Of The Angels & Flesh And Stone (Series 5)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wow. What an incredible two-part story. The kind of tale that we’ve come to expect from the pen of Steven Moffat. The kind of tale that makes me proud to be a Doctor Who fan.

In this two-parter we see the return of the Weeping Angels – arguably the scariest DW monsters ever. But we also see the return of River Song, she of the season 4 two-parter, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

After a jarring, Bond-like opener – jarring by design, of course – which has River Song (Alex Kingston) sending out a distress call that takes twelve thousand years to reach the Dcotor, then commandeering the TARDIS to follow a ship that has crashlanded on a planet full of weeping angels. A team of army-fatigued clerics arrive to help out, and into the deep, dark tunnels they delve. I actually had to read someone else’s plot synopsis to remind myself how they got to the planet as it all happened so quickly.

After only two appearances, the character of River Song is becoming one of the most important, and one of the most ingenious additions to the Who canon. She shares a non-linear relationship with the Doctor, popping up at different points in the Doctor’s timeline. The first time we see her she knows vast chunks of the Doctor’s history, while the Doctor is meeting her for the first time. In this episode, the Doctor is still a little clueless, but he now knows how it will end for River. It’s a wonderful story-telling device; there’s a deep sense of mystery surrounding her, and there’s always the hint of adventures yet to come. I absolutely expect her to return, if not in the season finale, then next season and beyond. It also helps that she is played with style and wit by Alex Kingston.

There is always the danger when bringing back a scary and successful baddie, that the more you show them, the less scary they become. Take the Borg in Star Trek, who, even by the end of TNG were becoming more humanized and less of a threat. But Moffat builds on the scares in Blink (the series 3 story that introduced the Angels), triples the number of Angels, and gives them new powers that make them even more frightening. Okay, so there may be some continuity changes from the Blink, but I’m sure they can all be explained in some timey-wimey way.

This is blockbuster DW. There are dark caves full of malevolent creatures, the good guys are quickly disappearing, and something terrible is happening to Amy. The tone of the episode is perfect, and it is crammed full of many wonderful ideas, and great snippets of back and forth banter. The season’s over-arching thread – the crack in time – is fleshed out to a greater degree, and leaves me drooling in anticipation as to where Moffat is going to go from here.

One of the things I really appreciated about these two episodes is how economical the story-telling is, both from a creative standpoint, and from an budgetary point of view. The bad guys never move (or at least we don’t see them move) and they don’t have cliché alien-type voices (instead they take on the voice of an unlucky human soldier, who has a decidedly un-bad guy type delivery – which is absolutely perfect). The rip in time is a just a white light, and its effects are all conveyed through dialogue. And I know it may sound weird to applaud a television episode for making wise budgetary decisions, but for me it demonstrates how truly great a writer Moffat is that he can write a blockbuster story about a destructive alien race, spaceships, and a giant rip in the fabric of space and time, and do it without becoming over-burdened with special effects or guys in rubber monster suits. I just hope that the rest of the season can sustain this level of awesomeness.

– the bit about the Doctor not knowing how to land the TARDIS properly is hilarious, and instantly turns one of the most famous sounds in TV history into an another example of why you shouldn’t give a man over the age of 90 his driver’s licence.

Next time: vampires, the dream lord, and the return of the siluriansohwrotcodllewopemearg

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