Good as Gold

It’s another one of them mini-episodes written by kids, this time for Blue Peter, but nevertheless following all the same basic rules: set on the TARDIS, one pre-existing monster and a basic cast. In this case, it’s the Doctor and Amy; god knows where Rory is, or where this fits into the timeline considering she’s not travelling in the TARDIS at this point.

It’s a topical tale, set at London 2012, which was only a couple of months away when this was broadcast. The Doctor interrupts the opening ceremony, with very little regard for how exactly this fits in with established events from Fear Her. The featured monster is a Weeping Angel, and it’s a little weird how quickly and easily The Doctor kills it. If all it took was a ten second blast with the sonic, I don’t think they’d be nearly as successful.

But then there’s a twist and a cliffhanger that reveals that it wasn’t so easy to get rid of after all, and fair play, that raised a smile. That was my one and only noticeable reaction to a sketch that, in all honesty, isn’t very good, but that’s not really the point. It’s fine.

RATING: 5

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The God Complex

Yep, it’s another one where I had absolutely no idea which episode this was in advance, and even after I’d ascertained that it was the one with the creepy hotel, I barely remembered a single detail from six years ago. If you’d have asked me prior to today whether David Walliams had been in Doctor Who, I’d have had to really wrack my brains, and then I’d have said that I didn’t think he had.

So I was excited at the prospect of uncovering another hidden gem, but it really wasn’t to be on this occasion. It’s clearly a good idea for an episode – escape from a creepy run-down travel tavern with someone’s personalised hell behind each door – but in practice it’s just a big mess. The idea of the hotel changing its layout is again good in theory, but it ends up being a real hindrance, with the inconsistent geography making it all vaguely incoherent whenever the monster emerged. It jolted from one freaky nightmare sequence to the next, which soon became tiresome and repetitive, leaving the plot aimless.

We never really care about the guest characters either. Walliams does a decent job at playing the amusing concept of an alien who is bred to surrender, but he’s just the comic relief. The Doctor quickly becomes infatuated with a young woman who becomes this story’s surrogate companion, and as Rory points out, that’s obviously going to end badly for her. But because the progression of the story is so confusing, I didn’t feel like I went on a journey with that character – it was more like I was just seeing fleeting glimpses of her journey – and so I didn’t really care when she snuffed it.

I ended up feeling a bit ripped off by the concept too, like they didn’t use it to its full potential. It was great to see the Weeping Angels make a cameo, but they were very quickly revealed to just be a projection. But given that the image of an Angel becomes an Angel, then surely they should have been there for real? And the most obvious question that you want the show to answer (ie. if everyone’s room contains their greatest fear, what’s in the Doctor’s room?) is skimmed over, with just an enigmatic “oh, it’s you” in reaction to someone or something that we’re not privy to seeing. What a swizz.

And if we’re being pedantic, how come only the Doctor could understand what the monster was saying? Where was the translation circuit? Because there’s a reason that the baddies usually speak English, and it’s to make them more interesting to the audience. I already had very little investment in the episode, and then it lost me completely when they started talking about faith being a form of energy. Sure it is, pal. And sure, the monster is a distant cousin of the Nimon. I can see the family resemblance – they’re both incredibly boring and they both star in tedious and barely coherent stories.

So I was already fairly down on this episode before the final scene. Maybe this is the reason I couldn’t remember this one – my brain has rejected it, because it refuses to accept that the Doctor would just dump Amy and Rory like that. Just as I was saying this is one of my favourite TARDIS dynamics of all time, it gets unceremoniously chucked away. I know they’re not actually leaving the show for some time yet, but things are never the same again from this point on.

I’m strongly against the idea – which has been the norm for the remainder of the show to date – of companions living separately from the Doctor. If you’re a companion, it should be all or nothing; lurching from one journey to the next, sharing every waking moment with this amazing madman, being as important to him as he is to you. Not getting picked up when he needs help and then dropped home in time for tea. Companions are our way in to the Doctor’s world, and they can’t do that for us if they’re not a full time part of it.

RATING: 5

The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone

* Bloody hell, it’s Mike Skinner. That has to rank as one of the most incongruous pieces of guest casting of all time. I seem to remember his star was already waning somewhat in 2010, but he was still a very recognisable face to choose for a part that lasts all of ten seconds. Later in the episode, Father Octavian is your man from Game of Thrones – I don’t even watch Game of Thrones properly, but his voice is always so distinctive in the few bits I’ve seen.

* So, does River know Amy’s her mum at this point? I’m genuinely not sure – I always assumed even though the whole River Song story was confusing while it was playing out, it would make sense to me by the time it was finished. But even now, I feel like I need a diagram, so I’m going to do my best to piece it all together properly on this rewatch. Thus far, her time-twisting, Bill & Ted-esque escape from the Byzantium is the first major example we’ve seen of why The Doctor will eventually come to love her.

* Doing a sequel to Blink is a tough job, so Moffat went down the route of taking the original monster and adding shitloads of them, a la Aliens. They also have a whole raft of new abilities – the image of an Angel becomes an Angel, they can use the voices of the dead to communicate, and they can even turn you into an Angel if you look them in the eye. Sally Sparrow’s lucky none of this shit happened to her.

* The speech about what not to put in a trap is a big moment for Smith, and he does it well. We’re starting to get a real grip of his persona now; he’s child-like and over-excitable to some extent – which is a trait that I recall was toned down over time – but he still commands enormous respect, and when he wants you to take him seriously, you totally do. Also, that scene is so much more dramatic on DVD, without an animated Graham Norton dancing all over it.

* After a more action-heavy first half, it becomes more like a horror movie again in the second, which must be partially due to the fact that the soldiers/priests are getting killed off so fast that it’s no longer a fair fight. The moment you realise that Amy is involuntarily counting down to zero is when the tension starts to ramp up, and by the time she’s walking through a crowd of angels with her eyes closed, because if she opens them for more than a second she’ll die… well, you daren’t blink.

* The fabled crack in time turns up in all its glory after only five episodes. Things seem to be moving a lot quicker these days, but it’s more that the series arc is becoming a bigger part of each episode – this isn’t an early culmination, it’s just that they’re taking the time to flesh the idea out more along the way to the actual culmination. If anything, it’s a bit of a shame that the Angels took a backseat when the crack starting eating people, scary and fun though that was. People forgetting other people existed mid-conversation will always make me think of Red Dwarf‘s Out of Time.

* This time round, I totally noticed that The Doctor suddenly had his jacket on when he came back to talk to Amy… but then I was looking out for it. Totally passed me by originally.

* Oh I say, I’d forgotten how racy that final scene is. I have very conflicting feelings about seeing Amy Pond acting in that way. Moffat said recently that he regrets the way that scene ended up, and on balance he’s right to do so, although it’s nearly all worth it for The Doctor offering to sort Amy right out.

RATING: 9

Blink

* I fear I have nothing to add that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over the last ten years, but yeah, that was amazing. Just like it was the dozen or so other times I’ve watched it. It’s the perfect episode of Doctor Who, so much so that you barely notice that The Doctor isn’t in it. As well as being so good as a piece of timey-wimey trickery that it coined the phrase “timey-wimey”, the video message was a great way of maintaining his presence with very little material.

* I still can’t believe that Sally Sparrow wasn’t the next companion after Martha. I remember being absolutely convinced that this was the plan all along – to introduce her as a one-off character and then have The Doctor run in to her again in the future. But no, Carey Mulligan had to go on to become a huge film star, and instead the same thing happened with a different, vastly inferior, one-off character.

* It’s kind of unfair to compare this to Love & Monsters, because one’s a fun romp for the kiddies and the other is a dark, twisty, horror story. I am fond of L&M, but Blink completely shows it up, especially when you consider the differences between Elton and Sally. She’s a protagonist that’s every bit as brave and extraordinary as any regular companion, while still feeling real and relatable. I would totally watch Sparrow & Nightingale. Come on, Big Finish.

* If you’re going to steal, steal from the best. And when you’re talking about complicated time travel stories masquerading as fun-filled family entertainment, the best is Back To The Future. I almost wish Kathy had been transported back to the Wild West, just to keep it themed.

* Ray Peacock/Ian Boldsworth! This is the first time I’ve seen this episode since Ian has become a bit of a cult figure among Red Dwarf fans, thanks to his role as the regular warm up man on audience recordings for the revived series. He’s not appeared on screen, yet he feels like one of the gang, so it’s lovely to see him in my other favourite show, playing a role that surely pushed his acting skills to the limit.

* For the second story in a row, we’re presented with a supposed romance between two characters that we don’t know, played out in barely minutes of screen time, and yet totally compelling and believable. In a script with a lot of competition, the initial car park scene contains two of my favourite bits of dialogue: Billy complaining about the windows being the wrong size on the TARDIS, and Sally accidentally pre-empting their eventual marriage. This little moment feels so real and human, which is what sells the sadness of the subsequent hospital scene. Just lovely.

* But the best scene overall has to be the full conversation between Sally in 2007 and The Doctor in 1969. The type of writing that’s above and beyond almost everything else on TV, and which cements Moffat’s place as one of Who‘s greatest ever writers. I literally have “The Angels Have The Phone Box” on a t-shirt. And, as we noted on my other site at the time, it’s a little bit Future Echoes, which can’t be a bad thing.

* Then it goes into full-blown horror, to such an extent that it gave someone I know, who was already a fully grown adult at the time, actual nightmares. Much has been said about the writing in this episode, and quite rightly so, but Hettie MacDonald’s Hitchcock-inspired direction deserves a special mention too. That very final sequence of statues and sinister music is there for the sole purpose of scaring the shit out of tiny children, which is to be applauded.

RATING: 10