Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Review: Doctor Who 5.4-5: The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone

Scary dudes with wings, three o'clock.
Doctor Who - Season 31, Episodes Four and Five - The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone
Written between 27 October and 2nd November 2012


Sometimes Moffat does bad. More frequently than I'd like, really. But his single undisputed success is this two-parter. You'll find some people who don't like the Empty Child or The Doctor Dances, and even these insane people can find something to like here. The Weeping Angels, free of the smug sitcom characterisation surrounding them in Season 29's Blink, got a chance to really shine - as did Matt Smith in what was his chronologically first and, it would seem, best performance. Plus, it's the second appearance of the at-the-moment intriguing River Song, now a lot more confident in her characterisation.The way that the Angels two-parter is constructed, written, performed... it just gets everything right.
      While looking around an ancient museum, The Doctor and Amy discover a homing box that's been enscribed with Old High Gallifreyan, telling The Doctor that it's River Song and giving him the co-ordinates to pick her up at. She's just escaped from the Byzantium, a ship that then crashes on neaby Alpha Metraxis. When they land, River explains that the ship was carrying in its cargo a Weeping Angel, and that it's escaped amongst the ruins of an ancient statue-filled city. As they explore catacombs, they soon discover that members of the crew are going missing - killed not just by the initial Angel, but by the statues of the city which are themselves Angels. When trapped beneath the crashed ship, The Doctor reverses the gravity to allow them access. There, they find several control rooms and a large artificial forest that has at its heart a giant Crack of the sort seen across this series so far. Amy's mind has been infected by the image of an Angel, and so to prevent her death she must keep her eyes closed. As she stumbles through the forest, The Doctor stumbles closer to a solution, and manages to save the day by throwing all of the Angels into the crack, erasing them from existence. River gets carted back to Jail, as The Doctor is left wondering what her crime was.
     Matt Smith's Doctor in this pushed all my buttons, being both enthusiastic and nerdy and also direct to the point; a weird combination, as I believe Diamanda Hagan said, of the Second and Sixth Doctors. Of note were the conversations with Amy where he used less than human methods to keep her calm, and the moments where he doesn't quite know what's gonna happen. In my eyes Doctor Who is best when there's a consideration of doubt about The Doctor's success; this is true in greats like The Caves of Androzani and it's also slightly true here, at least until the story cleverly takes both the Weeping Angel and Crack threats and bashes them together. I'm a bit sad, really, that the two halves of Smith's quirky but dark persona both got emphasised to the point where his switches between them seem forced and odd. River Song is also much more confidently portrayed here than in her previous appearance; symptomatic of a younger, less tired character but also of Alex Kingston's experience in the role and comittment to future stories.
Awesome characterisations in this.
     And that's all I have to say, really. The Time of Angels two-parter is, in a sense, boringly brilliant. It's consistently enjoyable on every viewing, has a series of great characterisations working on a well-worked script. It is everything that I could really want from NuWho - and that's exactly why I have such little to actually say about it. No doubt there'll be more things to say about it in the future, but for now it's just a really good story that really stands out in Moffat's era.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The first time Toby Whithouse borrowed from The Curse of Fenric.
P.S. I didn't really enjoy writing this review. Not because of the episode, but simply because I haven't anything interesting to say about why this is such a great story. Sorry.

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