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April 25, 2010

Doctor Who - Time of the Angels

"You lot, you're like rabbits! I'll never be done saving you." - The Doctor

Now that's more like it! After the really poor (and falling even more in my graces as I think about it) "Victory of the Daleks," producer Stephen Moffat brings us a brilliant story (at least so far) to make up for it. "Time of the Angels" has it all: awesome dialogue, great acting, creepy thrills, and a cliffhanger that doesn't feel forced. If Part 2 is anything like Part 1, this one is going to be considered one of the greats.

Professor River Song (Alex Kingston) is back! After an impromptu rescue by the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan), the TARDIS lands on a planet, the site of a ship crash that River Song and the Church soldiers are investigating. The cargo of the ship was apparently a Weeping Angel, stone statue-like beings full of malevolence, who can only move when you're not looking at them. If you do look, they appear like statutes. They are looking for the Angel, but they stumble upon more than they bargained for. The Catacombs of Death may be very well-named, as the Doctor realizes why the Byzantium really crashed, and what it could mean for him and his companions.

Moffat introduced River Song during David Tennant's era, in "The Silence in the Library", and she is truly an interesting character. She and the Doctor keep meeting but in different sections of their timeline. We've already seen River Song's fate in "Library," but it's now later in the Doctor's life and earlier in hers. It can all be very confusing, but Moffat makes the most of the confusion with some wonderfully classic dialogue as Amy tries to figure out just how River Song knows the Doctor, and just who she is.

Kingston gives a great performance, too, though the opening sequence left a little to be desired. I was hoping that it would improve, and thankfully it did.

Moffat once again shows he's the master of dialogue, as there are some brilliant lines in the episode. The quote at the beginning of this post is when the Doctor finds out just how many humans are out their in the universe, colonizing worlds and basically making pests of themselves.  There's also his pouting when River Song ends up flying the TARDIS better than he can. Amy's reaction to all of this is wonderful, also putting to rest my worries from the "Victory of the Daleks" review about the "unrequited love" that episode hinted at Amy having for the Doctor. In this episode, she has a lot of fun with the guessing games. "Is she Mrs. Doctor?" or " Aw, you're all Mr. Grumpy Face today." She doesn't act jealous in the slightest, which was a breath of fresh air.

While I'm going on about the acting, Smith and Gillan are phenomenal in this one, ironic since this is the first episode they filmed. There was not an off-note this week, unlike last week where the characters were almost ciphers. They did a great job with the light-hearted scenes, but when the terror starts, they do that well too. Amy being trapped in a ship with the Angel, fear pouring out of her eyes as the Doctor tries desperately to save her? The Doctor getting on the High Priest's nerves, stealing his radio to talk to one of the Priest's men? Wonderfully Doctorish.

Which brings me to the really scary stuff. "Blink," (the Moffat episode that introduced the Angels) was a totally claustrophobic scare-fest, all taking place in one house. This time, Moffat brings them back and makes the claustrophobia bigger by setting it all in a massive stone catacomb. In the dark, with flashlights flickering.

It's a wonderful atmosphere, and when things start going wrong, Moffat turns up the chills!  While Doctor Who has often scared the kiddies and made them run behind the couch, I've never really found it that nerve-wracking.  I guess it helps that I'm an adult, and I came to the show when I was in junior high school.  Yet the Angels, and the way they present them, just spook the shit out of me.

Finally, it was nice to see a cliffhanger that didn't seem forced.  Too many times during Russell T. Davies' era of the show, there were multiple cliffhangers involving all of the characters.  Granted, this time all of the characters are in the same place, but it still could have seemed contrived, and it didn't.  Instead of seeing the looming danger coming right before the credits roll, we see the Doctor beginning to execute his plan to escape and then it cuts to the credits without revealing what that plan does.

This is only Part 1, so the story could certainly go downhill from here.  But just like the High Priest says, I have faith in the Doctor.  And I have faith in Moffat.

More like this, please. I can't wait for Part 2!


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