ep: flesh and stone

There are loads of things I’d change, I’d change all my mistakes but that would be exhausting so let me just choose one mistake, I’ll choose one mistake because it just rankles me to this day that I got this wrong. There’s a scene at the end of a season five episode, called Flesh and Stone, where Amy comes on to the Doctor. It’s a very good idea for a scene, it’s a very good idea because she’s been through this traumatic experience and she doesn’t quite know who or what the Doctor is and she actually doesn’t quite know what his interest is and there’s a brilliant scene to be written there and I entirely avoided writing it. I played it for laughs and it was so wrong.
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Steven Moffat

Very interesting to have some sort of retrospective look on that scene seeing as it’s one that has always made me (and many other fans I know) fairly uncomfortable. Not sure I entirely agree with everything he says but it’s nice to see him acknowledge that it was a bad move to try and put it in a humourous context.

Flesh And Stone - Doctor Who blog

(SPOILER WARNING: The following is an in-depth critical analysis. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, you may want to before reading this review)

Oh bloody, buggering hell! It was all going so well until Moffat decided to get all clever-clever with it! Why can’t he ever just keep things simple?!

Flesh And Stone picks up immediately from where The Time Of Angels ended. The Doctor shoots the gravity globe at the same time the group jumps, causing a gravitational boost that propels them onto the ship, where its artificial gravity catches them (I’m not touching this scene with a barge pole. I’m just going to put it down to Doctor Who space logic and move on).

Now credit where its due, I thought the first third of Flesh And Stone was exceptionally good. Having done all the creepy, atmospheric setup in the previous episode, it’s all systems go here. The scene in the corridor was incredibly tense with the Weeping Angels slowly advancing on them in the deadliest game of Grandmother’s Footsteps ever played. And then it gets even more frightening when the Doctor needs to turn the lights off in order to open the door.

The Weeping Angels are presented as a powerful force to be reckoned with here. Despite magnetising the doors, the Angels are still strong enough to break through. Guns don’t work on them. The forest gives them plenty of places to hide (brief side note, I love the idea of the ‘oxygen factory’ being a forest on a spaceship), and to cap it all off the Angels are still playing mind games with Amy, forcing her to count down to her death. It’s immensely creepy.

But the undisputed star of the show has to be Matt Smith. He runs the whole gambit of emotions here. He’s funny and quirky, but at times often callous, like when he talks to Angel Bob and repeatedly makes puns about being alive. The scene where he leaves Octavian to die was really impactful. You can tell he doesn’t want to leave him, but he also knows he has no choice and that there’s no way to save him. The look of sorrow and guilt on his face really punched a gut. And he clearly cares a lot about Amy and her safety. There are a few points where he almost coldly dismisses her fears, but only because he’s thinking desperately of ways to help her, and his raw anger and distress when Amy is left alone in the forest was very powerful indeed.

All in all, this was shaping up to be a pretty awesome episode.

And then that fucking crack showed up!

With the possible exception of Bad Wolf in the first series, the series arcs in New Who have always been consistently rubbish, but at least RTD kept them in the background as Easter Eggs until the finale. The cracks in time seemed to be going the same way until this episode where they just barge into the story, wrestle the spotlight away from the much scarier and more interesting Weeping Angels and completely trash the creepy atmosphere. I’m not saying the idea of a crack in time that can erase people from existence isn’t interesting, but there’s a time and a place. Moffat might as well have just stuck his own butt crack into the episode. It would have had the same effect.

And if that’s not bad enough, Moffat then begins to reduce the threat of the Weeping Angels not just by putting them on the backseat, but also by changing the rules. The scene where Amy has to walk through the forest alone with her eyes shut should have been utterly terrifying, but it’s ruined by Moffat’s own idiotic handling of the Angels.

The Doctor tells Amy that it’s possible to trick the Angels into thinking she can see them. But… they already know she can’t see them. She has to keep her eyes shut otherwise she’ll die from the Angel in her mind that they implanted. So why would they be fooled by that? Also how the fuck are you supposed to trick somebody into thinking you can see them? A woman stumbling around in the woods with her eyes shut isn’t going to fool anybody. Then there’s the added issue that all of this implies that the Angels have control over their quantum locking abilities, and I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to work like that. They’re supposed to freeze whenever anybody looks at them, including each other. If they have the ability to just turn it on and off whenever they feel like it, why bother doing it at all? Why not just pounce on their victims and get it over with? And if they have control over it, how were they defeated in Blink?

And then Moffat commits the ultimate sin.

WE SEE THE ANGELS MOVE.

Apart from the fact that it completely robs them of what makes them so scary in the first place, it also completely contradicts what we already know about them. Think back to Blink. When Sally Sparrow was roaming around that house and found the TARDIS key, how come the Angels didn’t attack her? It was because we, the audience, were looking at them. This is demonstrated when Sally walks past an Angel, obscuring our view of it, and we see it change positions. This was a really clever idea and a great way of getting kids involved with the story. Up until now, The Time Of Angels and Flesh And Stone remained consistent with this too. We are, in a sense, protecting the characters from harm. So when Amy is surrounded by Angels in the forest, they should not be able to move because we’re still looking at them. But oh no. Moffat just wants us to forget about that now because it’s suddenly inconvenient to the plot. And that’s always been one of the biggest problems with Moffat’s writing. It’s hard to be invested in a story when the established rules can just randomly change whenever the writer feels like it.

In the end it suddenly becomes abundantly clear why the crack in time really showed up. It wasn’t to propel a series arc. It was merely to provide a convenient deus ex machina to vanquish the Angels without the characters having to lift a finger. In fact, with the Angels now erased from time, the story doesn’t even make sense anymore. If the Angels never existed, how did the spaceship crash? And how does River Song think this is going to earn her a pardon? Technically it never happened. Why aren’t there a bunch of soldiers standing around, scratching their heads, wondering what they’re doing there?

Oh yeah. I suppose I should talk about River Song’s bullshit mystery. So she’s in prison apparently for killing a man. A good man. A brave man. The best man she ever knew. A hero to many.

Originally posted by aetnajago

Well gee. I wonder who this could be referring to. I mean it could be anybody. No, but seriously. It’s definitely Rory. (Did you know people at the time actually, genuinely speculated that? Those fucking idiots).

And then… there’s the ending… Oh Jesus.

I don’t think there are words that have even been invented yet to express how fucking inappropriate this is, but sod it. I’m going to try anyway.

For starters, this is a family show. I don’t think kids should have to be subjected to the sight of Amy trying to get into the Doctor’s pants. Second, this has become a recurring problem in Moffat’s stories. He has often stated that his stories have a sexual undertone to them, most notably The Empty Child two parter with the Doctor and Captain Jack comparing sonic screwdriver sizes, and a lot of his female characters are often reduced to these kinds of one dimensional, dominatrix-y types, which is sexist as shit. And third, this scene just comes right the fuck out off nowhere. There’s no build-up to it whatsoever and it doesn’t actually serve a purpose. No. Yuck. Take it away.

Cut out all the pointless bullshit with River Song and Moffat’s crack (in time. Come on guys. Grow up), The Time Of Angels and Flesh And Stone could have been an excellent two parter and a worthy successor to Blink. Instead, while there are some good moments here and there, the whole thing just feels like a squandered opportunity.