Timestamp #191: Blink

Doctor Who: Blink
(1 episode, s03e10, 2007)

 

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually – from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.”

Photography Sally Sparrow engages in a little light breaking and entering to capture images of fallen chandeliers and moss in fireplaces. The place is definitely run down and falling apart, but it holds a message written on the wall, shrouded by wallpaper: “Beware of the Weeping Angels.”

The message calls her by name and tells her to duck. When she does, a rock impacts the wall where her head once was. She only sees an angel statue outside the window, but the wall is signed: “Love from the Doctor, 1969.”

She returns to her friend Kathy Nightingale’s home to find numerous televisions all displaying a certain familiar man wearing glasses and warning people not to blink. Sally prepares a warm drink, meets Kathy’s brother Larry (who is nude), and tells Kathy about what she experienced.

Sparrow and Nightingale go back to the abandoned house the next morning to investigate. Sally notes that the Angel has moved. When the doorbell chimes, Sally finds a delivery man who calls her by name and hands her a letter addressed to her. Meanwhile, Kathy continues poking around, oblivious to the fact that the Angels are moving when she’s not looking. The deliveryman, Malcolm Wainwright, notes that the letter was sent by Katherine Wainwright, previously known as Kathy Nightingale, also known as the man’s grandmother. When a shocked Sally looks for Kathy, her friend has disappeared.

The Angel touched Kathy and transported her to 1920. The letter tells Sally the entire story, but she doesn’t believe it. She rushes upstairs to find a group of Angels, one of which is holding a key. She grabs the key and rushes after Malcolm, but the man has disappeared. Sally takes the letter to a local coffee shop and reads it with interest. After telling her life story, it directs her to a local DVD shop to talk with Larry.

Larry is watching the videos of the Doctor and Martha again. Sally tells him that Kathy has left town for a while and loves him, which throws Larry off a bit. They talk about the videos – an Easter egg or hidden extra on seventeen unrelated DVDs – and the mystery behind them. The video seems like half a conversation, and when Larry leaves the room for a moment, she actually fills in a couple of the blanks. Shaken, she gets the list of DVDs from Larry and takes the story to the police.

At the police station, she experiments by blinking around two Angels that are across the street. They vanish and reappear next to the window. She meets with DI Billy Shipton who shows her a collection of items related to the abandoned house, including several cars and a big blue locked police box. Billy asks her out for a drink and she gives him her phone number. When she leaves, Billy notices four Angels taking an interest in the TARDIS. He investigates and blinks.

Sally puts the pieces together about the key and the lock on the box, but when she returns both the TARDIS and Shipton have disappeared.

Shipton arrives in 1969 and meets the Doctor and Martha. The Doctor explains that the Angels feed on temporal energy generated by sending their targets back in time. He tracked Billy’s arrival using his makeshift timey-wimey detector – “It goes ding when there’s stuff.” – and gives him a mission to warn Sally Sparrow.

Billy calls Sally, summoning her to a hospital. She finds an elderly and dying man with a message from the Doctor: “Look at the list.” Billy gave up on being a police officer, instead getting into publication and then video publishing. He was the author of the DVD list and the developer of the Easter eggs. Sally stays with Billy until the rain stops, which is when the accidental time traveler dies.

Sally discovers that the list of DVDs is the exact contents of her personal video library. She summons Larry to the abandoned house with a DVD player and together they fill in the other half of the Doctor’s conversation.

Through the video, the Doctor tells Sally and Larry the story. Larry writes down the conversation as it happens, and that transcript is how the Doctor developed the video in the first place. He also explains who the Weeping Angels are – they are as old as the universe and quantum locked, frozen by the sight of any living creature – and that they have the phone box. Sally asks how to get the TARDIS back to the Doctor, but that’s where the transcript ends. The Doctor warns them not to blink.

But one has snuck up on them.

Sally and Larry work out a plan to escape the house, eventually finding that the basement is the only path open to them. The Angels have stored the TARDIS there, and Sally approaches the box with the key. The Angels cause the lights to flicker, gradually advancing on the pair as they work the lock. At the last moment, they get inside. A security hologram orders them to place the DVD in the TARDIS console as the Angels assault the time capsule. The TARDIS dematerializes around them, leaving the humans surrounded by the Angels, but since they are all staring at each other they are quantum locked.

Some time later, Sally and Larry are working at the DVD store. Sally has been documenting the experience and trying to figure out how the Doctor knew about the transcript. Larry goes on a grocery run as a car pulls up with the Doctor and Martha inside. Sally rushes outside, figuring out that this version is from an earlier point in his timeline, and delivers the information.

Hand in hand, Sally and Larry go back inside the shop – Sparrow and Nightingale’s – as we are treated to examples of just how many Weeping Angels surround us every day.

Don’t blink.

 

I’ll start with this being a fantastic episode. Spoilers for the end of this timestamp, but it earns the 5 in my book. It’s a suspenseful thriller with elements of the horror genre spread throughout. Even with it being an ontological paradox – the information travels in a causal loop with no defined beginning or end point – the time travel elements are believable. The enemies are a new threat and are also downright creepy: They don’t directly kill, but they do feed off of the victim’s temporal displacement, they are everywhere, and they are virtually unstoppable.

This episode’s position near the top of the charts is well deserved.

On the downside, we come to writer Steven Moffat. Many of the elements that will haunt the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who are in plain sight here, from the more juvenile antics of the Doctor – timey-wimey and devices that go ding – to the last-minute deus ex machina “clever” saves. Don’t get me wrong, those elements are fine in moderation (just like they were fine here), but as the Moffat era progressed, they became staples of the Doctor Who brand. There’s only so much of the same thing that is acceptable in a show inherently about change and evolution.

What I do know for certain is that the Weeping Angels were never better than in this story.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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