fave (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)
The Time Of Angels sees the return of two Moffat creations. The Weeping Angels and…
Oh God. I forgot you were in this.
Yes the insufferable River Song is back. She was vaguely tolerable in her first appearance in the Silence In The Library two parter, but from The Time Of Angels onwards, her constant smugness really begins to grind on my nerves.
After an overly bombastic and convoluted opening involving River branding a spaceship’s ‘home box’ with Old High Gallifreyan to summon the Doctor for help from a crashing spaceship (why she can’t just phone him like a normal person, i don’t know), she then proceeds to out-Doctor the Doctor by flying the TARDIS perfectly and explaining why the TARDIS makes its famous noise. So the Doctor leaves the brakes on? Moffat, you do know every TARDIS in the history of the show makes the same noise, right? Are you saying every Time Lord leaves their brakes on? How about you stop trying to be clever and put some effort into writing a three dimensional character?
Considering how often I talk about wanting more strong female characters in stories, you’d think I’d be all in favour of River Song, but, as I’ve said numerous times in the past, River Song is not a strong female character. She’s a boring, one dimensional Mary Sue. You know when you used to play tag in school and there was always that one kid who would say something dumb like they have an everything-proof shield that protects them from tags? That’s basically River Song. It’s not enough to just have her be a future companion that has a Time Traveller’s Wife-esque relationship with the Doctor. No. She’s also got to be the Doctor’s wife, a Time Lord, the companions’ daughter, the person who kills the Doctor, an expert TARDIS pilot, a fluent Gallifreyan speaker, the only person in the entire universe who knows the Doctor’s name, and just the bestest, sexiest, most awesomest person ever who can kick arse and never makes a mistake. (Oh yeah. Um… spoilers if you haven’t seen Series 6. I probably should have led with that). There’s no depth or complexity to River Song. There’s nothing remotely interesting about her. She’s just boring. What makes a character strong is how they overcome obstacles and how they grow and evolve as a result, recognising their own weaknesses and limitations, and learning from them so that where they are at the end of the story is very different from where they were at the beginning. Name me one way River Song grows or evolves over the course of her story. Just one.
You can’t, can you? She doesn’t grow or evolve because she’s already perfect, and perfect isn’t interesting. We never fully explore her emotional development because she doesn’t have any. She has one emotion. Smug. And the reason she’s so smug is because she knows the Doctor will always save her. So if she’s never in any danger, why should I be scared for her safety?
But now I’m really get ahead of myself. We’ll address the continuing bullshit of River Song as they develop. For now, let’s stick to this episode.
So the spaceship crash lands on the surface of Alfava Metraxis, and the Doctor discovers that River Song and the Church (why the Church and not the regular army I don’t know. Also I’d just like to say for the record that I find the idea of any religion having their own private army utterly terrifying. Considering that religion has been responsible for most of the world’s conflicts throughout history to varying degrees, I don’t think giving the Church guns is a very good idea) are after a Weeping Angel. Now I absolutely adored Blink. In fact it’s one of the very few Moffat stories that I genuinely like. So I was kind of looking forward to this one, and do you know what? If you look past all the annoying River Song crap, The Time Of Angels is actually pretty good.
The episode itself is incredibly atmospheric. Adam Smith’s direction makes the dark catacombs of the Maze of the Dead very creepy and claustrophobic. I also like how Moffat expands on the Weeping Angels powers and abilities without tarnishing what made them so scary to begin with. The scene with Amy and the television was utter genius. When this was first broadcast in 2010, younger me actually ran out of the room when the Weeping Angel came out of the TV. We already know from Blink that the Angels have an awareness of the fourth wall. The idea that they could break through it and potentially threaten the audience utterly petrified me.
I also liked the Angel using Sacred Bob’s consciousness to taunt the Doctor. Giving the Angels a voice is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand it does rob them of some of their fear factor because they’re no longer these silent, deadly predators that can creep up behind you and get you without you even knowing, but on the other hand it does give us an insight into their personalities. They enjoy the hunt. They love toying with their prey and are clearly deriving perverse pleasure from goading the Doctor, using his own failures against him, and making his allies squirm. Amy’s ‘infection’ (for lack of a better word) plays into that too. Having accidentally looked into the eyes of an Angel, she’s now fallen victim to the Angels’ psychological manipulation and is now practically at their mercy. The scene where she thinks her arm is made of stone and that she can’t move was extremely tense, plus there’s the creepy image of her rubbing her eye and all this stone grit pouring out.
Oh and I LOVE the twist that the statues are all Angels too, dying from starvation until the radiation from the crashed ship revives them. It’s such a clever bit of misdirection. All this talk about the two headed Aplans, and it never occurred to me that the statues only have one head.
What’s great about this is that these aren’t just random gimmicks bolted onto the Angels in a desperate attempt to keep them relevant. All this new stuff feels like natural and logical extensions of things we already know about them. We know they’re creatures of the abstract, we know they’re acutely aware of the fourth wall and we know they like to play mind games with their victims. Moffat takes those concepts and carries them in new and exciting directions.
As I said, if you can ignore River Song and her annoying smugness, The Time Of Angels is a thoroughly entertaining episode. Let’s see what happens next in Part 2.