“Flesh and Stone” – Review: Redux

The Doctor “Well, we’ve got comfy chairs, did I mention?”
Bob “We have no need of comfy chairs.”
The Doctor “I made him say ‘comfy chairs’.”

Flesh and Stone

So, where were we again? Oh, yes, everybody jump. The art of the cliffhanger in new Doctor Who is always a challenge but Steven Moffat has had a couple of cracks at it already (cracks… geddit?!). Firstly, in 2005′s Empty Child and secondly in the “Silence In The Library”, so it was with some anticipation that I tried to work out what the gun-firing thing was all about as I looked forward to this evening’s “Flesh And Stone” rewatch. I have to admit the resolution was a really nice touch, even the little bit of technobabble about the updraft can be easily forgiven. It was the first of many nice touches in what could’ve become one of my favourite Who stories. It turned out that the escape from the cliffhanger was effectively the first of many cliffhanger escapes from the pursuing angels throughout the episode as The Doctor, River, Amy, Octavian and the four red shirts fled from the stone beasts. Turning the lights out in the tunnel, leaving through the oxygen farm and Eleven’s own escape from the clutches of the Angel in the control room were all built up wonderfully and executed to perfection.

One of my favourite elements was the inclusion of Angel Bob, his gently spoken and respectful Northern tones, contrasting wonderfully with the menace of his words. Clearly the angels have power way beyond what we have seen in any of three episodes to date, and wasn’t it cool when we finally go to see them moving? Apart from one cameo (in “The God Complex”), they’ve only returned one time since> I hope that’s not a sign that we’re running out of original stories for them already. This was another Amy-focussed episode, which is no bad thing in my book, and again, Karen Gillan was eminently watchable as she refused to take no for an answer from the start to the (very) end, but more on that later. Once the clever little countdown that the Angels forced her to make, for no better reason than it was “fun”, was coupled with the arrival of another “crack” meant that all the pieces of the puzzle were carefully in place and ready to be played.

And what fun it was when it played out. If there are any viewers still not convinced by the fairytale elements that have been promised to us, then look no further than Little Red Riding Hood lost in a forest. We even got a specific mention of fairytales in the final scene on the beach when River announced that she will see the Doctor next when the Pandorica opens. As arc stories go, following from Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr Saxon, et al, I think that the crack theme along with the associated mysteries are probably the most considered and well thought out and certainly seem to be forming a stronger part of the narrative than previously. Whether or not they also become to be well realised is still up for grabs though, but here the time energy released from the crack was integral to proceedings. The tumbling of the Angels into the “void” when the gravity was switched off was visually reminiscent of the “Doomsday” conclusion but somehow even this was a little more satisfying.

Another script masterclass was on show from The Moff with a barrage of one liners like these three … “That’s extremely very not good”“I got him to say ‘comfy chairs’”; and “If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t need you to trust me”, all becoming instantly quotable. It wasn’t all fun and games though as the script managed to flip-flop between tragedy, comedy, action, and mystery without missing a beat. In fact all the production values were incredibly noteworthy with Adam Smith’s direction, the SFX from The Mill, the lighting and cinematography and pretty much everything leading to an impressive overall look and feel to the episode, which contrasted well with part one. Murray Gold’s music, of which I am a big fan anyway, soared when it needed to and managed to blend perfectly with the scenes. It really is a golden age of Who at the moment – I am gushing, I know, but I make no apology.

There was lovely performance too from the actor playing Octavian, who, just as we thought he was going to survive with the rest of the gang, got caught by an Angel. The exchange between Matt Smith and Iain Glen was a small but beautiful moment as the futility of the situation was realised by both and brought a lump to the throat. This was explored in a little more detail during another excellent installment of Doctor Who Confidential, which included some great interviews with a plethora of new series writers singing the praises of the Moffat stories from the RTD era. The much missed show, certainly upped its game in this fifth full season, despite there being little to no classic coverage, nor in-depth analysis of themes but a great accompaniment to the main meal nonetheless… and they never turned up on DVD’s in their full length versions either.

There were a couple of noteworthy scenes: firstly, what we now know to be a future version of the Doctor visiting Amy from the end of the series, as she was lost in the forest and about to walk among the angels, ironically with her eyes closed. Secondly, there was the controversial scene in Amy’s bedroom at the end. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, I have to confess, but in the context of the kind of few days that Amy had just experienced with the Doctor it was perhaps not *too* out of character. Nothing wrong with being a little bit risque either: Doctor Who is all grown up now and a true show of the 21st century. It also added a new nuance and complexity to their burgeoning relationship that persuaded the Doctor to seek out Rory at the start of the next episode.

Highlight: The red riding hood scene in the forest

Lowlight: It’s another tale where I can’t find one

Talking Point: The bedroom scene at the end: right or wrong?

Demon’s Run Rating: 19 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 1st May 2010

Marathon Status: About to begin the difficult part of the marathon.

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