Sunday, November 27, 2016

Two Favorites Return In "The Time Of Angels!"

The Good: Good performances, Interesting character moments, Mood, Effects
The Bad: Creature inconsistencies, Some predictable plot elements
The Basics: River Song and the Weeping Angels return for a tense, smart episode with "The Time Of Angels!"

When it comes to science fiction, when there are serialized elements, it is very tough for producers and storytellers to continue disparate elements of a narrative without weakening the initial thrill of the origin stories. In the case of Doctor Who, there were few creatures created by Steven Moffat that were as terrifying as the Weeping Angels in "Blink" (reviewed here!) and Moffat created one of the most intriguing lingering mysteries of the franchise with the embodiment of River Song in "Forest Of The Dead" (reviewed here!). There is something impressive and ambitious about returning both River Song and the Weeping Angels to the Doctor Who narrative at the same time. The episode in which they return is "The Time Of Angels."

"The Time Of Angels" is one of the rare episodes that lives up to the expectations one might have based on the quality of the episodes that introduced the elements it includes. As well, "The Time Of Angels" might well be the first Doctor Who episode since Matt Smith took over as The Doctor where The Doctor seems like the smart, clever, advanced character who is not sublimated to the ridiculous or the prioritization of the comic elements for the character. In "The Time Of Angels," The Doctor, River Song and Amy Pond all have interesting arcs which satisfactorily advance the first part of a story that is intriguing and freaky.

Opening with a guard, drugged by a lipstick hallucinogen, leading a chase for River Song through a ship, The Doctor and Amy Pond find themselves in an alien museum 12,000 years later. There, they find an artifact which is essentially a Gallifreyan black box, with a message for The Doctor. Stealing the artifact and hooking it up to the TARDIS computer, the pair witnesses River Song's escape from the ship, complete with her request for a rescue from The Doctor. Arriving at the right time and place, Dr. River Song enters the TARDIS and displays an ability to fly the TARDIS and bring it to a safe landing next to the ship from which she escaped.

The other ship crashed on an alien world, now terraformed by humans, atop a building. Dr. Song contacts another ship, in orbit, and the military religious leader of the ship teleports down. Father Octavian is leading a search team sent to recover an entity from the wreckage of the ship, using Dr. Song to get the Doctor on board. When River Song reconnects the downed ship's video record, The Doctor and Amy realize that Bishop Octavian's target is a Weeping Angel. While Amy begins to suffer the effects of watching the footage of the Weeping Angel, The Doctor, River Song, Octavian and his team enter the Maze Of The Dead to hunt the Weeping Angel . . . with the search quickly becoming lethal!

In order to make "The Time Of Angels" work, Steven Moffat seems to mix up his own creations and he is forced to rework the Weeping Angels in order to enhance the menace of the alien creatures. When River Song was introduced in "Silence In The Library" (reviewed here!), she and The Doctor encounter the Vashta Nerada, who use the technology of the day to communicate using the voices of dead people. The Weeping Angels from "Blink" had no such ability, yet in "The Time Of Angels" they suddenly have that ability. There is little evolutionary sense to creatures who cannot communicate with one another whenever they even attempt to look at each other developing a language. "The Time Of Angels" pays lip service to this concept by reworking the Weeping Angels to suddenly have the ability to absorb the cerebral cortex of their victims and then speaking through their voices, utilizing their memories. There is no logical mechanism for the ability or the technological leap needed to exploit the ability within "The Time Of Angels."

In a similar fashion, "The Time Of Angels" alters the nature of the Weeping Angels. In "Blink," the Weeping Angels displaced their prey in time and essentially fed on the potential energy of the life wasted by the displacement. In "The Time Of Angels," the Weeping Angels are flat-out killers, snapping the necks of their victims. The explanation within the episode is half-assed; the Weeping Angel needed a body (?!). That being the case, there would only be one Weeping Angel within the episode that needed a body, yet there are three casualties . . . Making the Weeping Angels physically dangerous makes the episode scarier, but it undermines the real terror of the enemy. In fact, within "The Time Of Angels," one of the scariest potential concepts would have allowed the Weeping Angels to seem both flawed and scary - the planet the episode takes place on was terraformed; if the Weeping Angels sent victims back in time, the humans would (presumably) die right away in agony from the inhospitable atmosphere! Come to think of it, a neat idea that would have allowed the Weeping Angels to exist undiminished would have been that after the first person was sent back and died fast, the Weeping Angels start sending people back only a few days, resulting in multiple versions of the characters working together to try to stop the Weeping Angels in the present!

But, alas, "The Time Of Angels" is not so clever in that regard and it sets up "Flesh And Stone" instead of remaining consistent to the creature design from "Blink." That said, "The Time Of Angels" works with the Weeping Angels because The Doctor and River Song are both very clever. The Weeping Angels are a fairly new race to Doctor Who and in "The Time Of Angels," the Doctor learns about them through exposition at virtually the same rate as the audience. That makes The Doctor's actions throughout the episode intuitive and smart in a way that Matt Smith's incarnation of The Doctor has not yet been allowed to be.

"The Time Of Angels" fleshes out River Song nicely and has Song and Amy Pond playing off one another well. Dr. Song is instantly cool and Alex Kingston plays her incredibly well. Iain Glen plays Octavian intriguingly so the occasionally monolithic character seem rounded and realistic.

Ultimately, "The Time Of Angels" is a tight set-up episode that brings two awesome elements of Doctor Who back together in a compelling way, living up to the potential of the episodes that introduced the Weeping Angels and River Song.

[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 Iain Glen, please visit my reviews of:
Game Of Thrones - Season 6
Game Of Thrones - Season 5
Game Of Thrones - Season 4
Game Of Thrones - Season 3
Game Of Thrones - Season 2
Game Of Thrones - Season 1
Kick-Ass 2


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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