(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
“It’s a long story and I don’t know most of it””
After the awful ‘Victory of the Daleks,’ I was apprehensive about ‘The Time of Angels.’ Sure, the Weeping Angels were Moffat’s own creation, so he couldn’t mercilessly murder them. Or could he? My fears were soon abated, even in the first five minutes of the episode. Moffat has given us another great episode with the first half of the two parter involving the Weeping Angels and the return of River Song…
I think the camerawork and direction in the new new Doctor Who is superb. It’s clever and subtle, with loaded symbolism inherent in every scene. For example, I was astonished at the scene in the museum. As The Doctor zigzagged in between each artefact, the camera followed him, zigzagging in the opposite direction. It perfectly matched The Doctor’s own zigzagged way of thinking, processing many things at once, and taking many directions to get to the same destination. There were the brilliant cut shots between The Doctor’s time and 12,000 years earlier, where River Song was inscribing something into a box. I thought that Adam Smith was someone who bragged about the Wealth of Nations, but apparently he’s a top-notch director as well! And along with the great direction came great visuals, expanding deep and clearly into the distance. Everything was crisp, detailed, and beautifully realised
Of course, none of this would matter without a good story. And Moffat gave us the goods. The first five minutes borrowed the ‘timey whimey’ aspect of Blink, switching between The Doctor’s time and River Song’s time, a 12,000 year difference linked by a ‘home box.’ Moffat’s shown he can innovate with the time travel aspect before, and managed to cleverly do it again this time. But with the time aspect out of the way, it was time for the real story. The ship the ‘Byzantium’ (mentioned in Moffat’s ‘Silence in the Library’ crash-lands on the planet Alfava Metraxis. Now, as this was Series 5/Amy Pond’s/The Eleventh Doctor’s first trip to another planet, quite a big deal was made out of it. Not only has River Song appeared, but there was a Weeping Angel on board that ship…
The eyes are not the windows of the soul, they are the doors. Beware what may enter them”
Even at this early stage, I must again comment on the chemistry between The Doctor and Amy. They’ve instantly hit it off. It contrasts well with the unknown relationship between River Song and The Doctor (well, unknown on The Doctor’s side). Matt Smith’s acting is still sublime, conveying the uncertainty about having River Song with him who knows his future. It causes him to dither, bluster, and lose his train of thought. He knows he’s lost everybody in his past (well, The Tenth Doctor’s past), and she is a past and future aspect of himself. Now, as The Doctor is a Timelord, not knowing his future is a relief and a burden. He knows the future of the universe, but not his own future. It’s unnerving to him and to the audience, especially when it’s revealed that River has a secret to hide. Amy has her own secret, which the audience know about; her impending marriage. But the only thing we know about River is how she dies.
The pacing of the episode itself was superb, without the usual ‘filler.’ Every scene had a purpose and emphasised the story without superfluous mumbo-jumbo. The cliffhanger was so different from any other Doctor Who cliffhanger that it’s difficult to assimilate, but The Doctor’s final speech blew me away: “There’s one thing you never put in a trap if you’re smart. If you value your continued existence. If you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there’s one thing you never ever put in a trap…Me.” The humour isn’t as blunt or pervasive as before. It’s comedy relief that doesn’t negate the pacing of the story; rather, it adds more to the effect. For example, after The Doctor finds River Song’s message to him, written in Old High Gallifreyen, he says “The writing… the graffiti: Old High Gallifreyan. The lost language of the Time Lords. There were days, many days, where these words could burn stars, raise up empires, and topple gods.” Amy asks what it actually says, and he says ‘Hello sweetie.” Worthy of a little giggle.
“A needle in a haystack”
And of course, where would a Doctor Who episode be without some juicy subtext? I thought there’d be a little commentary on the Iraq War, as these soldiers were dressed in desert camouflage. And they were going into unknown desert territory, facing an unknown but extremely dangerous enemy. You can’t blink, or even turn your back once you see this enemy. This subtext was reinforced by River’s aside to Bishop Octavian (the squad commander), who said that The Doctor mustn’t find out the real reason why they were there. I’m not too sure about politics, but I remember some link between lies and the Iraq War…The sexed-up dossier? 45 minutes? Blood for Oil?
There’s the possession of Amy, the youngest and most innocent person there, thus the most susceptible to possession. Terrorists usually take the young and innocent and inculcate their beliefs upon these poor people. And of course, there was the doubt about where the Weeping Angel was, amongst all those other statues. How can soldiers distinguish terrorists from civilians in Iraq? They can’t, just as these soldiers thought that there was only one Weeping Angel, but eventually found out that the Weeping Angels were all around them…
It was a simply fantastic episode, probably the best one thus far. Of course, it all hinges on how good the second part will be, but I have faith in Moffat. There’s also River’s secret to be revealed, Amy’s possession by the Weeping Angels, and the cliffhanger’s resolution. It was clever and subtle, with superb direction accompanied by a stellar script. Moffat has really come up with the goods in ‘The Time of Angels.’ Let’s hope he can continue it…
VERDICT: 9/10. The best episode of Series 5 so far, and a contender for one of the best episodes of Nu-Who thus far. Well done, Moffat!
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks)