The Good: Good characterization of River Song, Decent exploration of the crack in the universe, Moments of performance
The Bad: Matt Smith's performance undermines the entire mood of the episode, Stretched concept
The Basics: Doctor Who makes an upside-down episode with "Flesh And Stone," which awkwardly resolves the threat of the Weeping Angels and explores the natures of River Song and the crack in the universe.
There are very few shows that I have encountered that belabor a two-part episode like Doctor Who. "Flesh And Stone" is the second part of a two-parter begun in "The Time Of Angels" (reviewed here!) and, as such, it is impossible to discuss the second part without some references to where the first part ended. When I write that Doctor Who belabors the two-part episodes, "The Time Of Angels" is actually an excellent example. Objectively viewed, "The Time Of Angels" stretched a number of plot points out in order to make it a two-parter with "Flesh And Stone." Indeed, a good portion of the episode is spent with The Doctor and River Song finally working up to the realization that everyone is surrounded by Weeping Angels.
"Flesh And Stone" picks up with the menace of a Maze Of Death filled with Weeping Angels and The Doctor, River Song, Amy Pond and the religious/military force led by Father Octavian fleeing them. Amy Pond is, essentially, infected by a Weeping Angel and the entire episode is a race through the downed ship that had been carrying the lone Weeping Angel.
Picking up seconds after The Doctor fired his gun, The Doctor, River, Amy and the surviving soldiers effectively make the leap onto the hull of the crashed ship. Stuck in a corridor in the ship's outer hull, the team finds themselves pursued by the Weeping Angels and The Doctor needs to power off the lights in order to divert power to the door. The Doctor, then River, notice that Amy has begun a countdown from ten, which does not appear to correspond to anything going on around them. The Doctor wants to make an escape through the ship's oxygen factory - which is a forest connected to ship's life support.
When the Weeping Angels make contact with The Doctor, he learns that there is a Weeping Angel in Amy's eye and the crack from Amy Pond's childhood bedroom has followed them to the crashed ship. The Doctor believes that the crack is a visualization of the end of the universe and barely escapes with his team into the forest. When The Doctor, Octavian and River have to head for the command center of the ship, Amy is left in the forest with the rest of Octavian's forces. Octavian reveals the truth of River Song's relationship to The Doctor, much to his chagrin. As the people defending Amy investigate the crack in the ship, they disappear and the surviving soldiers forget all about their comrades and the Weeping Angels descend upon The Doctor. Getting to the flight deck, the Doctor and River work to save Amy from the Weeping Angels!
"Flesh And Stone" continues to play The Doctor as somewhat ridiculous. Matt Smith's incarnation of The Doctor is a generally humorous iteration of the character and in "Flesh And Stone" the silliness and lack of professionalism plays poorly. The concept of the Weeping Angel reproducing through a live host like Amy is a pretty terrifying notion. Unfortunately, The Doctor combating the frightening Weeping Angels is a clown, which undermines the horror that is the Weeping Angels. Unlike "The Time Of Angels," which continued the frightening nature of the Weeping Angels from "Blink" (reviewed here!), "Flesh And Stone" undermines their menace. In "Flesh And Stone," the Weeping Angels are transformed from a specific time-feeding entity into a pretty generic killing machine monster.
What "Flesh And Stone" does well is continue the characterization of River Song. River Song in "Flesh And Stone" is revealed by Octavian to be his prisoner. River Song, as it turns out, is a prisoner in Storm Cage Prison in the native time of the episode. Song is currently paroled, which does not entirely jive with the events of "The Time Of Angels." Song is first seen on the ship (before it crashes); it is not at all clear within the two-parter why Octavian let Dr. Song loose on the ship without his supervision. Octavian and his people know there is a Weeping Angel on the ship and they enlist Dr. Song to help them get the angel, but when they seed her onto the ship (apparently about four days earlier than the events of "Flesh And Stone"), they don't go with her to get the Weeping Angel themselves?! It reeks of contrivance.
That said, the further characterization of River Song is well done. Dr. Song is presented as professional, smart, and brilliant - on par with The Doctor. As The Doctor hatches his plan, she figures things out with him. Alex Kingston plays River Song wonderfully.
Unfortunately, the portrayal of The Doctor makes for a very fractured episode in a lot of ways. Matt Smith plays The Doctor as silly and amid the menace of the time crack and Weeping Angels, that is a poor counterpoint for the mood of "Flesh And Stone." When Smith's Doctor has a temper tantrum, the episode seems suddenly banal and dull; the inconsistency is upsetting.
At the other end of the spectrum, "Flesh And Stone" does a decent job of continuing exploring the nature of the crack in the universe that is following Amy Pond around through time and space. The rupture is clearly linked to Amy Pond and The Doctor manages to use the crack to work to defeat the Weeping Angels. But, the episode's horror is undermined by a problematic rendition of The Doctor; he is hardly the hero of "Flesh And Stone" and it holds up poorly.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!
For other works with Karen Gillan, please check out my reviews of:
The Big Short
Guardians Of The Galaxy
For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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