Don’t Fear the Weeper

Following on from my previous review you might think that The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone would be an even greater recipe for disaster, containing as it does some of the same requisite elements of Victory of the Daleks – an old enemy, familiar faces (River Song rather than Winston Churchill this time), continuity with other stories – two in this case, and a likely set-up for future events. This two-parter doesn’t though, and while there may be more than one reason for this (the relative ‘newness’ of the returning characters, for example), I think the main credit must go to the creator of these parts and scriptwriter for this story, Steven Moffat. You have to admire his chutzpah too – claiming the new series first two-parter slot for such big hitters when past examples have proved so disappointing. He even has ‘Time’ in the title of one story!

As such, Victory‘s problem may well have been time – precious little for the number of balls it had to juggle. Angels/Flesh has the stretching space to fit those in, and it has to be said, its baubles are that much shinier for their newness and unfamiliarity. We know so little about River Song, and trust Moffat less to reveal much more about her. The Weeping Angels are another lesser-known commodity. There’s enough in those two to adequately tell a story in its own right, but Moffat adds more intriguing conceits – a distress call across time, an army of priests hunting for an angel, Amy’s closest brush with death to date, and of course the accursed Crack which undermines the story in episode two and claims the plot for itself.

Visually it’s a stunner, with Eleventh Hour‘s Adam Smith returning and proving to be an impressive find for the new series; not since Midnight has dread looked so beautiful. The initial cave sequence with a dispirited and edgy band of soldiers and a mobile HQ within a large cavern recalled for me not so much Aliens as George Romero’s Day of the Dead, similarly doom-laden, also carrying with it the additional threat to its heroes that their nominal adversaries have evolved. Amy’s sleep-gritty eye will have had a legion of younger viewers panicking as they rubbed their waking faces the following day, for sure, but here the in-built frights are less those of childhood and more of the deep-rooted ones. Silent, dark forests, deep pits and caves. Indeed, the latter is positively Proppian as the Doctor goes, not exiting said cave until he is well clear of the forest in the spaceship inside the caverns. It’s not just a cave of course, it’s a grotto, filled (naturally) with grotesques, malformed, corrupted and dying Angels. It’s been observed that their on-screen movement and breaking of Blink‘s rules (particulary their being able to look at each other and not suffer the quantum death their shielding hands guard against) are a cheat and diminish their menace. I’d argue that we do at least recover more than we lost – I’m not mad on their being able to talk so soon after similar scenes in River Song’s earlier story, but it’s an irresistable insidght into their personas. These Angels are no longer scavengers but evil and cruel killers, so the stakes are sufficiently raised.

And so to the return of River Song. Alex Kingston’s performance here is pointedly different from her introductory two-header. It’s the same character, but this time she’s more arch, more self-confident, with a swagger (is that the right word?) to her walk and demeanour that teases the audience as much as it does the Doctor. Much of this is down to Alex Kingston’s updated femme fatale take on the character, which some have singled out for straying a little too close to camp, but if there was ever a time for Song to be singing it’s now. She’s a woman with the Doctor’s future in her hands, seemingly, but protected by the Doctor’s knowledge of hers. Nevertheless that self same self-assuredness and the deliberately provocative scene -sharing can only recall Moffat’s first episodes for new Who. River Song is Captain Jack Harkness, for the time being at least. And just look at how Amy is drawn to her as much as Rose was to Jack, each a potential rival for the Doctor.

Curious elements remain – is it a continuity error that the Doctor loses his jacket mid-forest and reappears in it to comfort a dying Amy, or evidence of temporal chicanery? That’s a fantastic performance by Smith here, by the way – who’d have thought he’d nail the Doctor so instantly in his his first story? Adding to River’s back story with more mystery was pretty much a given – the tease about her crime surely shouldn’t be that obvious, even if speculation on it in another story review has scared me off the NZDWFC Message Board for a month at least. And what of the church – an interesting detail, or is this an area the show’s new foreman will dare to venture into?

Very good stuff indeed.


2 Responses to “Don’t Fear the Weeper”

  1. Thad Ritchards Says:

    Wow, powering through those reviews… and very good reviews too!

  2. Peter A Says:

    Cheers! It’s nice to at least be up to date with NZ screenings :)

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