“The Time of Angels” – Review: Redux

Doctor “The writing… the graffiti… Old High Gallifreyan. The lost language of the Timelords. There were days, there were many days, these words could burn stars, and raise up empires, and topple gods.”

Amy “What does this say?”

Doctor “Hello sweetie.”

Time of the Angels

Well, if the last ep’s return of the Daleks wasn’t quite the unmitigated success that everyone had hoped for, then this week’s offering saw two returns for the price of one but the question was, could they live up to the hype? The answer: a resounding “Yes” and the pre-credit sequence alone was worth the price of admission. First up, and making the most memorable of returns was Alex Kingston, clearly having a whale of a time reprising her role as the Doctor’s bickering future “love interest”, River Song. Not qualified as a professor yet, this version of Song was obviously younger than the one we saw at the end of her real-world life in The Forest of the Dead two years ago. Devising an ingenious escape from a starliner by etching some ancient Gallifreyan on the ship’s black box in the knowledge that it would be found in a museum at some point in the future and that the Doctor would return to save her, was almost the perfect illustration of Steven Moffat’s promise that there would be a bit more playing about with time in his version of Doctor Who. There was even time for a cameo from The Streets’ Mike Skinner. The cleverness of such a five-minute scene reassured us that we were in safe hands.

The relationship portrayed by Kingston and Matt Smith was so beautifully observed, that it was a little jarring to watch some clips from Silence in the Library during Doctor Who Confidential later on when you had almost forgotten that it was David Tennant in the role back then. Speaking of the much-missed DWC, it is probably worth mention that it really stepped up its game in its fifth year, proving itself to be a charming, if still slightly overlong companion to the main show. On the main programme, the cleverness of the writing continued to shine after the titles with an amusing little scene as the Doctor and River bickered back and forth over the controls of the TARDIS, with gags about the blue stabilisers and the hand brakes, being thrown about with abandon. As an aside, my assumption now is that River’s comments about being taught how to fly the ship “by the best” and that not being the Doctor, was just a gentle dig at him: at the time I thought it may be a hint that another Time Lord might yet appear.

Either way we were soon on the planet and assessing the damage to the Byzantium, along with the revelation that the cause of the crash (and the aforementioned “second return”) was the Weeping Angel (last seen in the award winning episode, “Blink”) that was being carried in the hold of the ship. It was at this point that everything became a little Alien-esque. After the Star Wars references of previous stories, we moved in to epic territory here albeit with a different movie reference at it’s source. Assisted by Bishop (you see!), leader of an ill-defined quasi-religeous/military organisation who were enlisted by River to help in the capture, a camp was set up, there was a bit of necessary yet still entertaining exposition for a minute or so before the next great scene is played out for us. Amy gets herself trapped inside and air-locked, dead-locked (for want of a better word) Portakabin, where an image of an angel becomes dangerously real. Again, Amy demonstrates ingenuity and common sense in the face of extreme adversity, even to the extent of employing the “dont-blink-but-wink” solution that those incredibly few critics of Blink (i.e. me) cited as a reason to dislike that, now classic, tale.

Throughout this the dialogue sparkles (to wit: The Doctor :“River, hug Amy!”, Amy: “Why?”, The Doctor: “Cos I’m busy”) and still we’re only twenty minutes in. We then find ourselves with The Maze Of The Dead, the perfect hiding place for a Weeping Angel being this cavern full of statues. The creepy factor kicks into overdrive at this point and mention needs to be made of Adam Smith, who has directed another cracking episode following the Eleventh Hour, although, in a real-life wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey way, this was actually filmed before that one. The lighting and varying effects shots looked sumptuous, especially in HD, which also happily avoided the unnecessary inconvenience of a second Norton Invasion, as Graham Norton once more inadvertently interrupted the Doctor on BBC1 (and not BBC HD), this time with one of those extraordinarily annoying digital “Coming Next” banners to advertise the BBC show that follows. Facebook groups, Twitter outrage and strongly worded emails from a number of the 6.8 million who tuned in soon elicited an apology from the Beeb.

There’s another little moment, in which River Song drops some hints about her true relationship with the Doctor when she says that it is too early in his time-stream for him to know who and what she is and that she does not want to go back to prison. Having seen what we assume is all the payoffs from the River Song timeline, actually adds a fair amount more depth to the story, and it is fascinating to see how meticulously it has been planned. As the group work their way through the maze, some of the soldier/clerics are bumped off by the Angel in a Star Trek redshirt way, although the use of Bob as the voice of the angel is another wonderful conceit, before which they suddenly realise that this is not a cavern full of statues but, in fact, a cavern full of Angels, hiding in plain sight like all the best movie twists. Then we arrive at the cliffhanger, the Angels trap is set,  the group surrounded and seemingly nowhere to run to. The Doctor grabs a gun gives a wonderful little speech and fires upwards.

Highlight: Finding new ways for the Weeping Angels to be brilliant

Lowlight: Graham Norton’s unexpected return

Talking Point: Do you love or loathe the River Song story?

Demon’s Run Rating: 17 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 24th April 2010

Marathon Status: 64 down, 38 to go

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