Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Adam Smith
Summoned by River Song, The Doctor and Amy must team with a group of Church soldiers to hunt down an escaped Weeping Angel.
I really like this episode. It hits the ground running and doesn’t ever stop. I’ll do my best to not gush over it.
We have the return of River Song, this time not a professor. We first met her in Silence in the Library, when we were journeying with The Tenth Doctor. I didn’t care for her then, and I didn’t much care for that story either (well, Forest of The Dead anyway). In her first appearance we discovered that she and The Doctor have had some kind of relationship (romantic was strongly implied) and that she was meeting The Doctor in reverse order. Thus, in Silence in the Library, it was River Song’s final meeting with The Doctor, while it was his first time to meet her. We have a similar dynamic here. The Doctor still doesn’t know exactly who River Song is (although from his behavior he seems to be speculating), and she enjoys teasing him about it just as much as Steven Moffat seems to enjoy teasing the viewers about it. Although, I think the viewers he enjoys teasing the most are the fans of the classic era. It is constantly hinted that River Song could be The Doctor’s wife at some point in the future, which would be a concept that would irritate fans of the classic series more than fans of the RTD era. Moffat knows exactly what he is doing with River Song, and I don’t fault him for it, even if I did have an initial dislike of the character for that very reason.
The scene between River and The Doctor on the TARDIS is extremely reminiscent of the interaction between The Doctor and Romana from the Tom Baker era. In both the companion knows more about how to fly The TARDIS than The Doctor, and this makes him quite petulant. The Doctor has always, even back to the Hartnell era, become extremely irritable when accused of not knowing how to fly The TARDIS. Glad to see this characterization holds.
What I especially love in this episode is that Amy and River do not start a rivalry. Amy loves that River irritates The Doctor, and River seems to accept Amy. Of course, River knows Amy from the future as well, but this aspect is not dwelt upon.
Has Steven Moffat changed the Weeping Angels? Yes. When we first met them in Blink, they had a distinctly different modus operandi. They would transport people to the past and live off the energy emitted by the altered timeline. It was an interesting and fun concept that allowed Moffat to create a chilling villain that technically didn’t kill. Here, The Angels kill. The Doctor mentions that the ones in Blink were “scavengers, barely surviving.” If anything, I would think the ones here are the barely surviving ones. The single Angel in the vault is weak and regaining power by absorbing radiation and temporal energy (we’ll see that in the next episode). Plus, being cornered as it is, I would think the desperation and weakness would drive it to kill. This makes more sense than claiming the ones from Blink were the weak ones. Regardless, The Angels have lost none of their frightening nature. Added to the normal fear of the dark is the video loop from the crashed ship’s security. Being creatures that are temporally active, The Angels seem to be able to exist on video as well as in reality. The Angel on the video loop is, therefore, just as alive and dangerous as the one in the ship’s wreckage, and the scene where Amy is trapped in the briefing pod (for lack of a better term) and The Angel is approaching her on the screen is genuinely chilling.
The journal about The Angels, the one written by the madman, is an interesting idea that I personally want more of. In fact, it is very Lovecraftian. It reminds me of the Mad Arab and The Necronomicon. Anytime Doctor Who flirts with Lovecraft, you will find me, happy. According to the journal about The Angels, anything that takes the image of an Angel becomes and Angel. Practically, this means The Angel in the video loop is an Angel, and the Angel reflected in Amy’s eye will also become an Angel. She continues to suffer to this effect.
Another example of world-building is the church of the 51st century. I’m genuinely intrigued to see more of this. I’m fascinated with church history and would love to know what Moffat is trying to say, whether it is either a religious comment or just the acknowledgment that even in the future the church will exist in some form. It wouldn’t be the first time soldiers were a part of the church. Or maybe it was the juxtaposition of the church fighting an angel. At first The Doctor and Amy are poke quite a bit of fun at Bishop Octavian. In the next episode, The Doctor will change his mind about the man.
As the episode draws to a close, we learn that the statues in the catacombs are actually Angels rather than representations of the dead. The Doctor, Amy, River, and the soldiers are surrounded. The Angels are feeding off the radiation from the crashed ship, a crash that was orchestrated by the Angel that was on-board. Three soldiers are killed, one of whom is Bob, aka Sacred Bob, aka Scared Bob. His cerebral cortex is ripped out by the Angels and used to communicate to The Doctor, which is a gruesome concept when you think about it. The only escape for the humans and The Doctor is through the wreckage of the ship, which is thirty feet above where they stand. No climbing equipment is available. Thus, cliffhanger.
The only thing I have left for this episode is to ponder the identity of River Song. She is still an enigma, although Moffat is now playing with the fan theory/nightmare that she is The Doctor’s future wife. This is the theory Amy holds. Part of me wonders if this is an indication that River Song is not The Doctor’s wife. The answer is too simple, and Steven Moffat is rubbing our faces in it. Perhaps it is somewhat more complex than this. I would like to think that River is a character we have met before, which would make the payoff amazing. But there is no guarantee of this. It may turn out that she is someone who has gotten under The Doctor’s skin in some way, but has no real intrinsic meaning. She may be a con artist in this way. She knows The Doctor, trusts him because she knows him, but also knows that since they only meet in reverse order, she can manipulate his opinion of her by pretending to be something she isn’t or even hinting she is something more than she is. Even more mind-bending would be if The Doctor himself created the illusion, fed her the information to get his “younger” self to do certain things. How awesome would that be, The Doctor manipulating himself through River Song.
Hopefully the revelation won’t prove to be less interesting than the payoff.