Timestamp #213: The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels
Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone
(2 episodes, s05e04-05, 2010)

Timestamp 213 Time of Angels Flesh and Stone

Not blinking just got a lot more complicated.

The Time of Angels

A uniformed man spins blindly in a field, his face graced by a lipstick kiss. When a man in an evening suit wipes the lipstick smear, he realizes that the man is hallucinating and River Song is on the starship. Sure enough, she’s fired up a torch and is burning a black box with it.

Twelve thousand years in the future, the Doctor and Amy are exploring the Delirium Archive, final resting place of the Headless Monks. He finds the message engraved on the box in Old High Gallifreyan – “Hello, Sweetie.” – and steals the box. Using the box, he tunes into where River is running from the guards just in time to head a set of coordinates. River blasts herself into space and the Doctor materializes the TARDIS in time to catch her.

She tells him to follow the Byzantium, the ship she just departed.

As the TARDIS gives chase, River suggests using the “blue stablizers”. The capsule stops shaking, the wheezing sound disappears (apparently, the Doctor leave the brakes on all the time), and the landing is soft. After a haphazard environment check, River steps outside to find that the target ship has crashed.

Amy wants to know what’s going on and pressures the Doctor to show her the planet. Reluctantly, he agrees, and Amy Pond meets Professor River Song. There’s also a thing in the crashed ship. A thing that can never die.

River glances through her diary to figure out where she and the Doctor are in their respective timelines as her associates, a group of four soldiers, materialize on the surface. As they enter the ship and nearby temple, she reveals that they’re facing the Weeping Angels.

The Doctor and River explain the Angels to Amy and Father Octavian, the leader of the soldiers. It turns out that he’s the bishop, his troops are clerics, and by the 51st century, the church has moved on. They spot one of the Angels on a security feed. The catacombs are flooded with radiation, a banquet to the Angels, and plans are made without Amy.

River offers the Doctor a book about the Angels, which he reads and declares to be wrong. Meanwhile, Amy keeps watching the clip of the Angel and notices that it keeps shifting positions. She tries to turn off the monitor, but it keeps turning back on again. As this happens, the Doctor reads the part about how an image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel, and he races to save Amy. Unfortunately, the room and monitor have deadlocked. She tries to disable the monitor again as the Doctor reads another part of the book: The eyes are the doorways to the soul. Amy spots a glitch in the clip and turns off the monitor in that moment, thus avoiding the image. The room is opened again, and while everything seems fine, Amy has a problem with her eye.

The deacons blow an entrance into the temple, revealing a vast area full of crumbling statues. It’s the perfect place to hide for an Angel. As the Doctor moves on, Octavian warns River to not let him figure out where they are in his timeline and why she’s imprisoned. Meanwhile, Clerics Christian and Angelo investigate a nearby exit from the chamber.

Amy keeps rubbing her eye, releasing a stream of gray dust. River catches up to her and they muse about the Doctor and his relationship with her. Amy is convinced that they are married.

Oh, and Clerics Christian and Angelo? They are soon killed by the Angel.

The Doctor, River, and Amy run to the sound of gunfire. They find a young cleric named Bob (a sacred name) and, even with Father Octavian berating the youth, the Doctor insists that his fear will keep him alert. They team moves into the maze, and the Doctor remembers the Aplans who built the crypt. He remembers dinner with the chief architect, then asks River about the last line in the book: It’s an ominous prophecy: “What happens when ideas have thoughts of their own? What happens when dreams no longer need dreamers? When these things have come to pass, the time will be upon us. The Time of Angels.”

River notes that something is wrong and the Doctor realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake. The Aplans have two heads, yet all of these statues have only one. The Doctor runs a quick experiment and reveals that every statue in the maze is a Weeping Angel. They’re slow due to a lack of energy to feed on, but they’re all coming for the team, and the radiation from the Byzantium is powering them up.

Cleric Bob, on the other hand, is already dead, having been called to his doom by the voices of his former squadmates. He tells the tale to Father Octavian over the radio, a puppet of the Angels who have reanimated a copy of his consciousness to communicate.

The team continues on to the Byzantium, but Amy is turning to stone. The Doctor tells her that it’s the Angels playing with her mind, which has been infiltrated by the Angel in the monitor, and when she won’t move he bites her hand. When the team reaches the crash site, their lights start failing and the Angels approach.

River reminds the Doctor that this kind of crunch time is when the Doctor works his best, and as Bob tries to anger the Doctor, he remarks that there’s one thing that they’ve failed to realize. There’s one thing that you never put in a trap.

The Doctor.

He borrows a gun from Octavian, warning them all to jump at his signal. He shoots the gravity globe above them, plunging everything into darkness.

Flesh and Stone

The Doctor tells everyone to look up as the lights come back up. When they jumped, they fell into the Byzantium‘s artificial gravity and landed on the ship’s hull. The Doctor opens an airlock and the team enters the ship. As the Doctor works on a solution further into the ship, the Angels pursue.

The Doctor tells them that he needs to turn off the lights for a moment, and Octavian asks River if she trusts the Time Lord. She does.

The lights go out and Octavian’s men light up the corridor with gunfire, keeping the Angels at bay as the doors slide open and give the team access to the rest of the ship. The Angels continue their pursuit, much to Octavian’s dismay, and the Doctor continues to work. He realizes that the ship’s mission required a sustainable oxygen supply, and he reveals a cybernetic forest onboard.

He’s also intrigued at the reason why Amy continues to count down from ten.

As the Clerics probe the forest, the Doctor has another conversation with Angel Bob. Bob reveals that the Angels are feasting and that they’ve inhabited Amy through her eyes. They’re making her count to scare the survivors. The Angels are laughing because the “Doctor in the TARDIS hasn’t noticed” the overarching threat. He turns to see the crack from Amy’s wall, now in the hull of the Byzantium. The Doctor scans the crack as the Angels infiltrate the room and everyone else leaves. Unfortunately, the Angels snag the Doctor by his jacket.

The Angels are distracted by the crack, which is pure time energy, allowing the Doctor time to escape. As he runs to catch up with the group, Amy counts to four and collapses. The Doctor runs through everything as Amy counts to three, realizing that there’s an Angel in her mind. The Quantum Lock that they use – freezing when spotted – is not only a defense mechanism but a means of reproduction. At zero, it will pop out of Amy’s head and kill her.

The Doctor has Amy close her eyes, which stops the countdown and stabilizes her. Amy can’t open her eyes, so the Doctor sets a course to help cure her. The Doctor, River, and Octavian leave Amy with the Clerics, and the Doctor asks her to trust him and remember what he told her when she was a little girl.

His appearance is slightly different here. There’s a significant jump in time for that one moment.

En route to the flight deck, the Doctor learns that River is in Octavian’s custody and that she’s a prison in the Stormcage Containment Facility. If this mission succeeds, she’ll earn credit toward a pardon. While River tries to open the door to the primary flight deck, the Doctor considers the anomalies he has recently noticed, from the duckless duck pond in Leadworth and Amy’s inability to remember the Dalek invasion of Earth to the lack of any mention of the CyberKing in Victorian London in the history books. River’s scanner reveals that a temporal explosion will occur on June 26, 2010 and cause the cracks. It will happen in Amy’s time.

Back at Amy’s location, the Angels start disrupting the lights by breaking the cybernetic trees, but a bright burst of light apparently scares the Angels away. Amy glances at the light and notes that it is the same shape as the crack in her wall. As the Clerics investigate the light, all memory of them is erased, and Amy notes this with Marco, the last remaining Cleric.

River opens the door, but Octavian waits for the Doctor to go through. Unfortunately, he’s immediately trapped by an Angel. Realizing that there’s no way out for him, Octavian reveals that River is in prison for murder and that the Doctor cannot trust her. The Doctor reluctantly leaves Father Octavian, hearing his neck snap as he ducks into the flight deck where River is working on a teleport.

Marco leaves Amy to scout the light and disappears from time. The Doctor makes contact with her and turns her communicator into a homing beacon tied to his sonic screwdriver. She has to move before the time energy in the crack catches up with her and erases her from existence. Step by step, she makes her way toward the Doctor, but she trips over a root and falls. The Angels, running from the crack, find Amy but do not attack because they think that she can see them. They realize that she’s effectively blind and converge on her, but River saves her in the nick of time with the teleport.

As the ships runs low on power, the door to the forest opens to reveal all of the Angels snarling at the survivors. The Angel Bob demands that that the Doctor throw himself into the crack in order to save them, but the Doctor has other plans. As the artificial gravity fails, the Angels fall backward into the crack, erasing the lot of them. The crack seals behind them.

Pretty much just like Doomsday.

Later on, the Doctor and Amy sit on a beach and muse about the crack and her newfound status as a time traveler. The Doctor discusses River’s prison sentence with her, but she won’t reveal who she killed. She promises, however, that he’ll see her again when the Pandorica opens. The Doctor dismisses it as a fairy tale, and as Amy bids her farewell, River is transported to the prison ship that has just arrived.

Once they’re back on the TARDIS, Amy requests that the Doctor take her home. Not to stop traveling, of course, but to show him what she’s running from. In her bedroom, five minutes after they first left, she tells the Doctor about her engagement to Rory. She also makes advances on the Doctor, but he vehemently refuses. He also realizes that everything wrong with the universe is tied to her.

The date of the temporal explosion is Amy’s wedding day.

The Doctor pushes Amy back into the TARDIS and takes off.


The last time that we saw River Song was at her death. All we knew was that the Doctor would come to trust her enough to tell her his true name. So, the Doctor’s adversarial attitude toward River is understandable, especially considering how she flaunts her knowledge of him, placing him at a severe disadvantage.

The development of the River/Doctor relationship and mythology is fun to watch, as is the interplay between Amy and River. Those two are peas in a pod. We also get some hints of the future with River being incarcerated for killing the best man that she knew and his future/her past meeting at the Pandorica.

Steven Moffat loves his foreshadowing.

One of the biggest mistakes in this story comes with the Weeping Angels. I love the creeping horror they bring to this story, and I do like the expansion of their powers from an image being an extension of their selves to being able to possess someone through the quantum lock defense.

The mistake comes from allowing them to move on camera. One of Blink‘s biggest selling points was using the camera’s point-of-view as an observer, and it held true here until that single moment in the forest with Amy. In that moment, the Angels lost their power with me. They became just another Doctor Who monster.

The second big mistake in this story is the treatment of Amy. From The Beast Below until now, she’s been a competent and intelligent companion. In the last few minutes of this story, however, her integrity plummeted as she pushed for sex with the Doctor. With her wedding dress hanging mere feet from her bed, she actually contemplated cheating on her fiancé.

It’s an unfortunate and anger-inducing development for her. Steven Moffat later walked it back, but the scene was a terrible idea from the start.

Now, there is some nice consistency across the franchise with this story, from the Doctor being miffed that someone else can drive the TARDIS better than him (The Ribos Operation) to the Doctor showing affection to his companions before leaving them for a few moments (The War Games/Colony in Space).

Overall, this is a really good suspense thriller that covers a lot of ground in the ongoing universe building. The thing that really knocks this from being fantastic is the downturn for Amy’s character.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice

cc-break

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.

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.