Tag Archives: Weeping Angels

Afterwards, afterwords and The Angels Take Manhattan (2012)

Doctor Who - Series 7

Hello, old friend. And here we are, you and me, on the last page. Well, not so much you. Because I’m the one who’s been abandoned in New York 1938. I’m on the last page, you’re stlll… well, who knows how many pages into your book. Probably somewhere in the middle.

Talking of books, how did you not realise that book you were suddenly so into was by River? It was written by someone called Melody, and if that wasn’t a big enough tip off, it had a picture of River on the cover. I mean, come on.

By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. But we’re not worried, because you can just come back and get us. I know you said all that stuff about not being able to change history, but that’s got to be a load of tosh, because you do that all the time, right? It’s all you ever talk about, with your “time can be rewritten” guff.

There is that problem about the TARDIS being unable to land in New York in 1938. Fair enough, so let’s do this. We’ll wait a year, then you can come and get us. Or we’ll go to Toronto, and you can pick us up from there. Or travel back to New York in 1937, park the TARDIS and come wait it out with us for a couple of years. Or travel back in time and mail us a vortex manipulator (because Rory tells me it’s like a motorbike through traffic). Or actually, just ask River to come back and get us. Anyway, point is, there are about a hundred ways to get us out of here, so just do it OK?

Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think once we’re gone, you won’t be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Because somehow, solitude has come to mean that you start to go bad and you get grumpy. It used to mean you just mucked around for a bit by yourself, but now it’s the end of the freakin’ cosmos.

Don’t be alone, Doctor. Maybe what you should do is go and find yourself a new companion. Make sure she’s a pretty girl (what am I saying? You’re the last person I need to remind of that.) Find one who embodies some enigma you need to solve. Find one who is feisty and flirtatious and keeps changing careers… oh hang on, that’s me. Just come back and get me. That’s the simplest thing to do.

And do one more thing for me. There’s a little girl waiting in a garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. But maybe on second thoughts don’t, because that will completely screw up my timeline, won’t it? Because if you go and talk to her, while she’s waiting in that garden, I’ll never become the girl who waited. And besides that, it’s just a bit insensitive. Because she’s actually waiting for you to come and take her away, so if you just come to chat with her for a bit, that will be deeply disappointing to her. Well, whatever. You can sort all that bit out. Time can be rewritten, etc.

Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates. Actually, don’t tell her that one. It was the fake gooey me who did that. And anyway, it’s rubbish.

She’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Though actually, he doesn’t really, does he? Because time gets rewritten and it never happens. Hint hint. Hurry up.

Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest whale who ever lived and save a painter in outer space. Wait, hang on a bit. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived and save a whale in outer space. Maybe don’t tell her she’ll be forced to give birth to a hitherto unknown baby in space hospital and then forced to give that baby up and be unable to conceive any more children. That might put her off the whole thing.

Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this how it ends. Except it can’t, can it? Because this ending’s nonsense and makes a mockery of everything you’ve said for the last few years for the sake of a contrived tearjerker of a farewell. I think she’ll feel really cheated by that. So just come back and rescue us and we’ll think of another way for it to end.

More fittingly, Rory and I would probably have just decided that our last encounter with the angels was just one close shave too many, and decided to stay at home, hanging up our travelling shoes forever. And that would be great, right? Because isn’t just utterly fairy tale? Don’t all the characters in fairy tales grow up eventually and live happily ever after? It can still be dramatic, a big gut-wrenching decision. Hey, you could even still have your tearjerker ending; you can watch us grow old together through the years, and feel the slow aching despair of watching your best friends take the slow path.

Or if we really are trapped in some temporal life sentence, tell you what… pilot the TARDIS back to somewhere (or somewhen) nearby, catch the train into New York and spend the rest of our lives with us here. We’ll get into all sorts of hijinks. I’m sure there are plenty of alien incursions into New York which need repelling. Think of it as a kind of spin-off from our regular adventures.

Plus Rory says that if he has to sit out a lifetime in the 20th century, he sees no reason why you shouldn’t as well. You floppy haired dingus.

LINK to Time-Flight: one mentions New York and the other’s set in it.

NEXT TIME… A party in the nineteen twenties, that’s more like it. We solve the puzzling case of The Unicorn and the Wasp.


The wife, the girlfriend and The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (2010).


Steel blue cool and looking a million bucks, The Time of Angels has a killer opening sequence. An elegant woman stalks the corridors of a space ship; black evening dress, red heels, dark glasses, mean little pistol in hand. She breaks into a vault and burns a message for the Doctor (Matt Smith) into a steel box. Then she outwits the guards, blows an airlock door and flies smack into the Doctor’s arms. She’s Doctor Who’s own femme fatale, River Song (Alex Kingston).

She’s as wild, witty and adventurous as the Doctor. She’s a spinoff series waiting to happen. Some people long for a female Doctor, but you might say we already have one in River. But there’s one way in which she differs from the Doctor – she clearly signals her interest in sex.

She’s a woman who stuns unwitting guards with a kiss. She makes no secret of her carnal interest in the Doctor. “You, me, handcuffs,” she says to the Doctor at one stage. “Must it always be this way?”. On another occasion, she’ll remark that “I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.” And she’s the first companion to refer to the Doctor, regularly, as “hot”.

She’s also a walking, talking plot device. Whenever she turns up, she’s a figure of mystery. The Time of Angels is only her second appearance, and as such, much time is devoted to speculation about who she is, why she was in prison, can she be trusted and so on. It’s one of those stories where the impact it has is reduced on rewatching because we now know the answers to all the questions it goes to such lengths to pose. Like River herself, we benefit from future knowledge. Spoilers, indeed.

The audience’s speculation about River is often given a mouthpiece. In Silence in the Library it was the Doctor who vocalised the questions about her, here it’s Amy (Karen Gillan). “Is she Mrs Doctor from the future?,” she asks the Doctor early on, and later on she’s made up her mind. “You’re so his wife,” she says to River. 

But then Amy has marriage on her mind.


Like a TARDIS squeezed into a modestly sized bedroom, there’s an unexpected closing sequence appended to Flesh and Stone.  Amy has asked to be taken home. So the Doctor obliges and lands smack in her bedroom. There Amy admits that she’s supposed to be getting married in the morning, and in an act of last minute wild oats sowing, takes the opportunity to try to seduce the Doctor. “Have you ever fancied someone you shouldn’t?” Amy asked a Dalek-made android with a Scottish accent and a bomb in its chest in the last story (and it’s not even the weirdest part of that story). Anyway, Amy clearly has and it’s the Doctor. He’s her alternative to marital tedium.

Which is all leading to the point that this story positions the Doctor firmly as an object of desire for his two companions. One sees him as her periodic lover, the other as her clandestine final fling. They join a long line of female companions who since 2005 have held romantic feelings for the Doctor, but they are the first to openly express a desire to take him to bed.

Since 1996, the Doctor has gradually become sexualised. No longer is he the chaste figure of years past. He rarely expresses sexual desire himself (a recent notable exception was in Nightmare in Silver, where he declared Clara to be “a riddle wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little bit too tight”.) And he quickly deflects Amy’s advances, so we’re left with River to remind us that beneath that alien exterior lies a red blooded man. The Doctor warms up over time. In The Time of Angels he still seems to gently resent River’s presence, but by the time we get to The Impossible Astronaut he’s openly flirting with her. By then, I think he’s quite comfortable, even proud of, his ability to attract women. (And it is exclusively women, and least to date)

It turns out that Amy is right, and River is indeed Mrs Doctor from the future (at least in one sense, although she actually married a lifesize replica of him, staffed by thousands of tiny people – and that’s not even the weirdest part of that story). It’s interesting that the Doctor’s long delayed sexual awakening needs to be couched in terms of marriage. Perhaps that makes it OK? And it does seem like a sexual attraction to River, whereas he seemed to have a more G-rated attraction to Rose. Amazing the difference a few little marriage vows can make. He’s an old-fashioned Time Lord at hearts.

River’s presence ends any speculation about whether the Doctor does it with girls. It even ends any sexual tension of the “will they ever get it on?” variety; she’s Mrs Doctor from the future, so they’ve already got it on. And we didn’t even notice.

It’s an example of how River and the Doctor’s sex life (really the same thing) are kept at a distance from us. She’s not a full-time companion, she comes and goes. So we never get to see what full time married life is like on board the TARDIS. Would they head off to bed after each adventure? Would there be squabbles about snoring and toilet seats left unclosed? It saddens me to say, probably. So while I’d love to see a run of Doctor/River stories, I’m also glad that domestic concerns remain out of view.


The Doctor’s sexual experiences are a recurring theme in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. It was Moffat who introduced dancing as a euphemism for sex in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. (And oops… How does that episode end? Is his relationship with Rose really so chaste?) And in his next story, The Girl in the Fireplace, Reinette takes the Doctor for a quick dance between scenes. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that with Moffat in charge, we’ve seen the Doctor increasing positioned as a sexual being.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does change the show. It does tie the Doctor a little more closely to those carnal human urges above which he’s always seemed to hover. And that Olympian detachment – in the company of many, many spunky ladies – appealed, I’d argue, to a lot of Doctor Who fans. To luckless teenage boys who couldn’t get a girl. To girls – and gays – who wanted to watch a hero who didn’t want to bed his leading lady.

All changed now. In The Time of Angels he has a wife and a girlfriend, the only female characters in the cast, and both want to do the timey-wimey with him. Watch out girls and too bad gays! This guy’s a stud.

In a bow tie.

LINK to: The Curse of Peladon. Three stories in a row, deadly statues.

NEXT TIME… Silly child, silly child! We take desperate measures against a powerful enemy in The Rescue.

Admiration, imitation and Blink (2007)


On my intro page, it says I’m not going to instantly assume that the stories everyone loves are automatically brilliant. And the example I chose was Blink, an episode consistently voted as one of the best, if not the best episode, of New Who. And while it might be diverting to argue that Blink is not the all-conquering classic its reputed to be, I couldn’t keep it up. Truth is, Blink is an outstanding example of Doctor Who. At the time of writing it has a rating of 9.8/10 on imdb.com, based on 10,582 votes. That’s a lot of 9s and 10s.

Radio Times readers recently voted it their favourite episode since the series’ return in 2005. Writer Steven Moffat was gracious about the honour:

You know, when I wrote it, I thought Blink was a perfectly serviceable script. Nothing special, did the job which, back then, was to have a Doctor Who story needing only two daysshooting from David Tennant… What made it a little bit magical was, of course, the work of othersSome days everything just works.

Moffat is right to point out that this was a team effort, but he downplays his own role in its success a little too modestly. His script is the tightest ever written for the series; there’s barely a word out of place. It’s not perfect of course – you have to accept the central paradox that no one wrote the Doctor’s half of his conversation with heroine Sally Sparrow for the story to work (the bootstrap paradox, recently tutorialised for us by Before the Flood) and Martha has no useful role to play, criminally underusing the terrific Freema Agyeman, and why would a Weeping Angel which can move like quicksilver need to disable its victim by bunging a rock at ’em? – but these are quibbles. Overall, it’s a beautifully crafted piece of work.

Each scene moves effortlessly, logically but never predictably into the next. The dialogue is smart and subtle and often poignant. The stakes are gradually raised throughout each act, till we reach a truly riveting finale, with the Angels stalking our heroes in order to gain access to the TARDIS. The resolution with the TARDIS departing leaving the Angels tricked into paralyzing each other, is novel and satisfying, and there’s a cute little postscript to wrap up the loose ends. Honestly, film schools will be using this as a set text.

As for “the work of others” as Moff puts it, foremost there’s director Hettie MacDonald, who not only tells the story with pace and endows it with slick, spooky style, she creates the visual grammar for the Weeping Angels – sudden cuts, unnerving shot choices, big close ups on those blank faces – which many after her have taken up. She’s recently returned for The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, and it’s a mystery why it’s taken so long. Ernie Vinzce’s photography is flawless, adding a noirish sheen to it all. Millennium FX’s designs for the Weeping Angels make them modern day Ray Cusicks. And in the middle of it all Carey Mulligan, five minutes away from superstardom, being beautiful and strong and holding our attention as well as any Doctor could.

No wonder then, that Doctor Who has never really recovered from Blink. Every episode since exists in its shadow.


Ah the heady days of 2007. As I mentioned when talking about Voyage of the Damned, Doctor Who was flying high that year. Two spin off shows, two companion factual show and Kylie Minogue for Christmas. But Steven Moffat’s expectations forBlink, that poor Doctor-lite, mid-season filler were not high. “I doubt Blink will top any polls, because of the simple fact that Doctor Who should do what it says on the tin,” said Moffat in DWM 383, “which is provide you with David Tennant popping out of his TARDIS and kicking the crap out of alien nasties,”

These days it’s a surprise when Blink doesn’t top a poll. When the Moff was presented with an award from DWM in 2014 for writing the most popular story of all time, he was challenged to predict which story earned him this honour. “Is it Blink? It’s always Blink,” he warily guessed. (Not on this occasion. Perhaps it was just the 50th anniversary afterglow talking, but this time it was The Day of the Doctor. Blink came second.) Even the Moff seems slightly worried that Blink is going to be the height of his Who career; years of showrunning and he’s never quite put that lightning back in the bottle.

But that’s not stopped him from trying. The Angels have made numerous reappearances, although it’s not those that feel so much like an attempt to recapture that old Blinky magic. I think it’s first noticeable in the creation of the Silence, monsters which, like the Angels, are tricksy when viewed. Then there’s Deep Breath, named like Blink after an reflexive bodily function which you have to suppress the urge to do to stay alive. And then there’s Listen, again named after something we all do, but which features a briefly features a ‘monster’ you mustn’t look at. (I look forward to Sneeze and less so to Fart. Featuring the Slitheen.) There’s also the tendency for things to happen to the Doctor out of order, as seem in many a tale – The Big Bang, The Impossible Astronaut and so on, but it starts here, in the timey wimey Blink.

This hero worship of a story has happened before. There’s 1960s thriller The Web of Fear, which spawned the near identical The Invasion and led to a whole string of stories with the military protecting the Earth from alien incursion. As late as Invasion of the Dinosaurs, there are still monsters lurking in the London Underground. Then there’s 1980s crash wallop Earthshock, which brought about no end of stories featuring returning monsters and downbeat endings. We might also add City of Death to that list, because its Parisian exteriors inspired later trips to Amsterdam, Lanzarote and Seville.

None of this is a bad thing. Doctor Who should seek to emulate its best episodes. Its producers would be mad not to. And if it feels like things are a little familiar from time to time, it’s hardly the worst crime. But here’s to the day when an even better episode than Blink comes along. That will truly be something to not take your eyes off.

LINK to The End of the World. Both feature characters communicating across time (Rose & Jackie and Sally & the Doctor).

NEXT TIME. It’s The Curse of Peladon and that’s a solid hairy fact.


Regeneration, resolution and The Time of the Doctor (2013)

time of the doctor

It starts with a mysterious signal emanating from an insignificant planet. The signal attracts an armada of alien spaceships piloted by a Who‘s what of monsters. But this isn’t The Pandorica Opens.

It’s the 2013 Christmas special (my random Who generator loves these; its chosen 3 out of 9 of the buggers) and Matt Smith’s farewell story. In the DWM preview for this story, showrunner Steven Moffat said of it: “It’s the greatest single performance ever given by anyone who has ever played the Doctor”. And as it happens, I spent my last post ruminating on when each Doctor gave their best performance. So was Moffat spouting promotional puffery or was he on the money?

Crafting a performance takes time. And that’s the one luxury Doctor Who has never afforded its actors. As many of the show’s actors have relayed in interviews, on old Who the low budget meant time was precious. So although there were days allocated for rehearsal, once on location it was get the scenes in the can and move on. Studio recording was even more brutal; get it done, effects and all by 10pm or the lights go out.

And on new Who, although there’s a bigger budget, the sheer amount of material to shoot means time is still of the essence. Both Smith and David Tennant have spoken about the daunting workload on the show; how during production it’s basically shoot all day, go home to learn lines and repeat for nine months of the year. It’s a crushing schedule; on The Name of the Doctor there were 15 days between the first draft script and the start of the shoot. What I’m saying is, be it old Who or new, it’s amazing we got/get anything half watchable, let alone the many fine performances it does offer.

With that in mind, let’s look at the acting challenges facing Smith in his final episode. He’s in nearly every scene. He’s being the Doctor at three different ages, under two heavy make ups (but this isn’t The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords). He has to create a relationship with an inanimate cyberhead (hmm, should it have been K9’s head?). He has to be seductive with Tasha Lem, fatherly with Barnable and man up with the monsters. And with Clara he’s performing in a screwball comedy duo, making us care about their relationship enough that it breaks our heart to see them parted at story’s end. And much of the scenery’s not actually there, because nearly everything’s on green screen. And on top of it all, this job which has consumed his life for the last four years is coming to an end, so emotions are high.

Smith does a terrific job at all this and more. But somehow this story doesn’t quite feel like the tour de force that Tennant had in Human Nature. Last entry, I talked about how a good story that pushes the Doctor in new directions helps makes a standout performance. And The Time of the Doctor is that, but it’s also the culmination of 4 years of hint dropping and mystery making by Moffat. So often the story seems to stop to pick up some loose end or other, be it ‘who blew up the TARDIS’ or ‘what was behind that door in The God Complex‘ or ‘has the Doctor run out of regenerations’? (Personally I’m still waiting to find out why the duck pond in The Eleventh Hour  had no ducks. We need to know.) Smith doesn’t get as clear a run at it as Tennant did with the uncluttered Human Nature.

For me, Smith’s best performance is to be found elsewhere. And I haven’t quite decided where it is. But I think it’s somewhere around the beginning of his second season. It’s here where there seems to be a definitive confidence in his characterization; an solidifying of that peculiar mix of gentle otherworldliness and childlike delight. Perhaps it’s when he’s playing at Christmas gift bringer in A Christmas Carol. Or perhaps its when he’s trying to piece together what’s happening to his life and his friends inThe Impossible Astronaut. Or perhaps – and this is where I’m leaning at the moment – it’s to be found in the highs and lows of meeting his own TARDIS in The Doctor’s Wife.

Still, there’s much of interest going on in The Time of the Doctor. Clara gets tricked into returning to Earth as a way of ensuring her safety (but this isn’t The Parting of the Ways). Then she piggy backs on the outer hull of the TARDIS through the vortex to rejoin the story (but this isn’t Utopia). The stop/start nature of her story might seem a little offputting, but it’s an elegant device for showing the passage of long periods of time. In a way, it’s a pity we (the audience) don’t stick with her throughout, distancing us from the Doctor’s story and making his increasing age and infirmity a more immediate shock.

But we need to see what’s happening on Trenzalore in the gaps, because the Doctor’s defence of the town of Christmas is the heart of the story; to prevent another Time War the restless wanderer will settle down and commit to a cause. And because this takes hundreds of years (in which time the town barely changes, but shush now), we see the youngest ever Doctor become the oldest. Surely this is Moffat both playing to Smith’s strengths (he has often claimed that Smith is best at portraying the Doctor’s great age) but also indulging in some delicious irony;  how else should the youngest Doctor die but through old age?

This leads to the episode’s neatest trick – the regeneration. It’s not so much that it delivers the Doctor a new lifecycle, though that does feel like a cumbersome burden gratefully abandoned. It’s that the regeneration is the resolution of the story, the first time that’s happened. It’s the way of solving the problem. As it carves through those Dalek ships, it brings the siege of Trenzalore to an end. Every other time the Doctor’s regenerated, that’s been the consequence of the Doctor’s role in the story – the price he’s paid for winning through. Here regeneration is the sweet dessert at the end of the meal, not the unwanted bill.

It ends with the young, handsome and funny Doctor restored pre-change, but this isn’t The End of Time. There’s no drawn out valedictory tour of past companions, just a short scene where the differences between Doctor and actor become hard to discern. “I will not forget one line of this”, says the Doctor, but that word ‘line’ seems to deliberately reference the lines which Matt Smith has spoken in the role. “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”; again it could be Matt speaking, not the Doctor. And thinking back, whether he was being mobbed by adoring children, or walking past walls plastered with fan’s artwork or even revealing his newly shaven head, this story has deliberately blurred the lines between actor and Doctor. And thus it acknowledges fictionally what the viewers already know in fact; it’s goodbye to both.

But then a whiplash crick of the neck, and the new man arrives. After an hour rich in sentiment, the show rolls on, with its trademark lack of sentimentality.

LINK to Human Nature/The Family of Blood: Both involve making the lead actor up to be aged greatly. (And these make up jobs are always brilliant, but, despite the best of efforts, are never 100% convincing are they? It’s something about the eyes which seem unageable; islands of youth in an ocean of wrinkly skin.)

NEXT TIME: Point the dog against the rock! We get big, green and rude with The Creature from the Pit.