Monday, May 24, 2010

Weep Me A River. Doctor Who Story 210: The Time of Angels Parts 1 & 2 (The Time of Angels/Flesh & Bone)

Author's Note: In keeping with my conviction of using one title per story, even two parters that have two separate titles, I have given this story the title of The Time of Angels and shall refer to this story as that as opposed to the more common The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone. It makes things easier for me.



STORY 210: THE TIME OF ANGELS 
(The Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone)

For reasons too long to explain, The Time of Angels Parts 1 & 2 (The Time of Angels/Flesh & Bone) is the first time I've encountered either The Weeping Angels or the mysterious River Song. (Here's a hint: I stopped watching Doctor Who after Love & Monsters, and didn't formally see another episode until The Eleventh Hour. Note the last episode I watched and perhaps you'll see why I hadn't seen either of these now-iconic characters until The Time of Angels).

Having said all that, is that a good thing or a bad thing? In short, can we just jump into this series and hope that whatever is known to other fans will be explained to us or will those not aware of what has gone on before in previous series be left in the dark? It's a mixture, because while I could figure out who was who in Stephen Moffat's scripts, I still felt a little left out of all the frantic activity.

We begin with one of the most packed opening sequences in Doctor Who: two stories, one with Dr. River Song (Alex Kingston) putting a message on a Home Box (akin to a black box on an aeroplane) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) and his Companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) in a museum where he almost seems to be looking for said box. Seeing the box has Old High Gallifryean with the message, "Hello Sweetie", he grabs it and then places the TARDIS in time to rescue River from being taken prisoner.

Together for the first time since Forest of the Dead (technically Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, but I still think Silence in the Library is a remarkably silly title--however, since I WORK in a library, perhaps I'm prejudiced), they go after the ship Byzantium which crashes on Alfalva Metraxis. River knows more about the TARDIS than even The Doctor, landing the ship without the traditional sounds by explaining that the noise occurs because he "always leaves the breaks on". (Side note: if Moffat thinks he's being clever by taking away one of the hallmarks of Doctor Who and dismissing it with a cheap joke, he's WILDLY misled. That "whooshing" sound is one of the distinct characteristics of the show, and I wonder if it will remain after The Time of Angels. We are not amused, and we're knocking down points for this misguided attempt at humor).

Now, inside the ship is a Weeping Angel, a monster that kills by taking the life energy of their victims (as much as I could make out, but don't hold me to that). The ship has crashed into a temple, and it's decided to go inside the temple. Leading the troops is Father Octavian, Bishop 2nd Class (Iain Glen) who has twenty clerics in his command (the Church having become more military-like in the future). Of course, Amy has issues of her own: having seen the Angel move and discovering "that which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel", she is trapped with a clip of the Angel that is slowly emerging from the screen.

Once inside the temple, which contains a Maze of the Dead (a series of catacombs with statues), the clerics are killed off, and The Doctor, Father Octavian, River and Amy (who thanks to her seeing the Angel now has one trying to emerge from her) realize that all the statues are an Angel Army. The Angels (communicating through the voice of Cleric Bob whom they've killed) now go after the group, but The Doctor finds a way to get to the Byzantium.


Flesh & Stone: having done something to affect the artificial gravity, The Doctor gets everyone with him aboard the ship, with the Angels in hot pursuit. They get to an oxygen factory--a forest--within the ship that help the Angels live. Inside the forest, The Doctor sees the same crack that he first encountered in The Eleventh Hour. This crack is far more dangerous than the Angels, which are still running around after everyone alive, for there is time energy itself escaping through this crack that could erase a being's very existence.

The Doctor gets the Angels to fall through the crack and they manage to escape back outside. River, who we learn through the program did all this to try to get a pardon for having committed murder (the murder of the best man she's ever known), is taken back to prison, though she hints she will see him again. The Doctor takes Amy back to the night before her wedding, and after Amy fails in her attempts to rape The Doctor he realizes that the code he saw aboard the Byzantium point to her wedding day: 26 06 2010 (June 6, 2010). With that, he sweeps her into the TARDIS and they leave.

Frankly, I didn't get much of what was going on. Granted, I'm not familiar with the guest star or the monsters, but that wasn't it. I still don't understand how The Doctor got everyone aboard the Byzantium at the beginning of Part 2.

I don't understand the bit with the crack (although I am so hoping that I won't see it again, though I suspect I will). I don't understand how River could float in space between escaping between the ship and the TARDIS without dying. There were some technical things I couldn't follow.

Moreover, what I wasn't pleased with was all the foreshadowing going on. River Song says that she can't tell The Doctor everything because it's too early in his time stream. I wondered if she meant too early in the 11th Doctor's time stream or in The Doctor's time stream in general. It must be the first, because after 11 incarnations I'd argue he's old enough to handle whatever she has to say.

She admits to committing murder, and there are strong suggestions that she will murder The Doctor in the future. Of course, there are also hints that she and The Doctor will marry. This mystery as to who River Song is is building and building to something epic, and while the show hasn't failed yet in delivering when giving us big hints (Big Wolf being a prime example), the fans better get something really jaw-dropping.

I digress to give my own ideas as to who she is: I suspect she may be a Time Lord herself. She could be The Rani. She could be Romana. She could be The Queen of the Angels for all I know. Could she really be the next Mrs. Doctor?

Given that from what I understand from The Shakespeare Code (again, haven't seen it yet), wouldn't that make The Doctor a bigamist (given he married Queen Elizabeth I)? My thinking of her being a Time Lord comes from the fact that the gun she used to carve her message made me think it was a sonic gun. The fact that she could operate the TARDIS easier than The Doctor himself also lends credence to the Time Lord theory.

Again, we don't know for certain that she murders The Doctor, because perhaps he isn't the best man she's ever met. I won't go in that direction.

One direction I wish Moffat and director Adam Smith hadn't gone was the last few minutes. Everything about Amy attempting rape is just wrong, wrong, wrong. I could forgive the idea of possibly having to explain to children why Amy is forcing kisses and trying to remove The Doctor's clothes, but I don't understand why she suddenly got this insane desire to break an unofficial rule of Doctor Who.

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) made a very interesting point: there is never a hint that anything sexual is going on between The Doctor and the Companions. Fondness, he said, is quite different from desire, going on to say The Doctor is totally asexual. It may be a reflection of the times, but I thought it was misguided and coming completely out of left field. I will be frank: this sexual assault on The Doctor by Amy will get points knocked off from this story.

Here is my private view, first impression, of The Angels: I wasn't as scared as I'd been led to believe I would be. The scene where the Angel emerges from the screen was well-done, and seeing how the statues were shifting into Angels were also effective. Overall, however, I wasn't overwhelmed with the Angels themselves. It may be that the build-up of the Angels from Blink (which I haven't seen) was simply too great for The Time of Angels.

Strange, that while Angels would be effective in frightening children seeing Amy try to force herself sexually on The Doctor wouldn't...at least in the production team's mind.



There were some wonderful things in The Time of Angels. Using the voice of Cleric Bob (David Atkins) to communicate with The Doctor was brilliant, and having Atkins' calm, young, honest voice speak words of doom to The Doctor made things both tragic and frightening. Bishop Octavian's final moments were also excellent: that mixing of the noble and the tragic works so well on Doctor Who. Some of the monologues, especially those of Bob and Octavian, are so beautiful.

I, however, can't get past some of the things I didn't like. Murray Gold's music, usually one of the better things in the show, reminded me of a 50s horror film. How Amy is made redundant in both parts: the first by being locked inside a ship with the Angel, the second time with her literally stumbling with her eyes closed (although I thought this was the most unique way of getting rid of a Companion) wasn't that convincing.

Even worse was when she tripped while having her eyes closed and dropping the communicator. It was so close to her hand that a simple sweep to her left would have found it, but it looked like she was deliberately trying to avoid it.

Finally, that attempted rape...I just can't get over it.

The Time of Angels wasn't bad, but I found two things to take issue with. Even for a two-part story, there was a lot going on. There was so much packed into it I confess (to my shame) to not quite following it all.

Also, that attempted rape. It wasn't an attempt at seduction. It was obvious The Doctor didn't want to knock boots with Amy, and her forceful manner was completely off-putting, especially on a show that many children gravitate to. I tried to make a leap of faith, but I fell short.

5/10

2 comments:

  1. It's too early in the The Doctor (in general, not just 11)'s time stream. Remember in "Silence in the Library" she asks "Crash of the Byzantium, have we done that yet?" And she says in this one that it's "early days" for the Doctor. So, it's early in the period-of-the-Doctor's-life-where-he-knows-River.

    There are absolutely no mentions of the Doctor marrying Elizabeth I in The Shakespeare Code. In fact, she spots him and shouts "my mortal enemy!"

    Evidence for River being "Mrs Doctor from the future" includes the fact that in Forest of the Dead, she knows the Doctor's name. Only a member of his family would know that. And all the Time Lords are timelocked, so her being one of them would be silly. Though yes, her skill with the TARDIS was quite reminiscent of Romana.

    And I can't believe you watched this before Blink! This was building on the creepiness of Blink's Angels. Bah, this backwardsness is going to ruin Blink for you.

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  2. Without going into too much detail, Love & Monsters all but KILLED my wish to follow Doctor Who, so every episode between that and The Waters of Mars went unwatched (save for Army of Ghosts/DOOMSDAY, and I had to force myself to watch just to show a friend the battle between Daleks & Cybermen).

    I stubbornly refuse to accept the end of Gallifrey or the Time Lords. Therefore, I still hope that more Time Lords managed to survive the Time War.

    I have hopes for Blink, seeing that I'm juggling THREE Doctors--The First, The Ninth, and The Eleventh. It will be a while before I get to Blink, so perhaps the memories of The Time of Angels will recede by then.

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