Anyway, so a much anticipated double episode, with Steven Moffat bringing back two of his own popular creations, River Song and the Weeping Angels.
Here’s the Doctor and River’s relationship has clearly progressed since Silence in the Library. It seems to be established now that they’re meeting each other in reverse order, (so River will gradually know the Doctor less and less with each appearance) however most interestingly, from the Doctor’s interactions with River, we can assume that Doctor #10 must’ve had at least one if not several off-screen adventures with River. This is a neat trick to allow the script to pick up the characters without having to worry about the Doctor dealing with having seen her death the last time they met.
We also see the Doctor’s distinct discomfort with River. He deeply dislikes meeting someone from his own future and you can’t help but feel its partly down to genuine concern about the time lines, but also a clever play on the Doctor’s arrogance. He’s used to being the smartest one in the room, and when he’s paired up with River, he’s constantly on the other foot, as she teases him about “spoilers”. This is summed up with the great scene where she perfectly lands the TARDIS (having been taught how to fly it by someone other than the Doctor, intriguingly – my personal reaction was to wonder if it was maybe Jack), admonishing him for always leaving the brakes on when he complains that it doesn’t make “the noise”. From a fanboy point of view though, while it didn’t make the signature “wheezing, groaning”, we did get the return of the landing chime commonly used throughout the 80s which was a nice touch.
We also get a couple of hints about River. That she’s already been there for the Pandoric opening (so we can expect to see her again in the finale), and that she’s in jail for murder. The hints seem to point to her killing the Doctor, but I wonder how that would play out. Perhaps in her first adventure she killed the Doctor, providing a nice symmetry to her dying the first time the Doctor meets her. Of course, I don’t believe that she’s actually killed the Doctor. I’d expect it to be just her believing that she did. On the other hand, it does seem pretty obvious that it could be the Doctor, which would make me wonder if that’s what Steven Moffat wants you to think, while he prepares something else entirely. There’s also the issue that a storyline like that would be so long term, its probably not practical. So I’m expecting more twists when we next meet River.
The Angels were I suppose an obvious monster for Moffat to bring back. Easily the most popular of the new monsters since Doctor Who returned, I had worried that bringing them back might detract from the superb Blink. I’d need not have worried though, as they’re superbly used here. The new wrinkles Moffat added just added to the terror, with the Angel emerging from the video recording, and culminating in the incredibly tense scene where Amy has to walk, with her eyes closed, through the forest of Angels, as they start to move when they realise she can’t see them. Creepy, creepy scenes, and you’ve got to admire Moffat for making such a successful monster based around such a huge limitation of them being statues.
I also loved (if that’s the right word) the personality Angel Bob showed. It was truely nasty and malevolent, getting Amy to count down for example, just for fun. A monster that straight out nasty is not something we’ve seen a lot of in Doctor Who.
Of course, we were also treated to another surprise in the form of the crack reappearing, but also being explained to some degree. It had been, up until this point, treated in the same way as the kind of teases we’d had in previous series (like Bad Wolf). With this episode, Steven Moffat brings the crack front and centre, making it a big part of events going forward. Its also intriguing to see that its causing time to be rewritten, but also more interestingly, the Doctor’s almost happy realisation of this.
From a plot point of view, Steven Moffat seems to be using the crack to clear the remaining decks, removing public knowledge of the various alien invasions and the like, to allow him to reset the Doctor’s world into something more like our own (albeit with UNIT presumably). I really hadn’t expected this, but it raises up interesting questions for future episodes. How much of what we’ve seen previously has been reset for example? Would this mean that certain elements (such as Harriet Jones, Prime Minister) could make a return? It certainly allows a degree of flexibility in continuity in the start of this new era.
Easily the strongest story since the Eleventh Hour (and possibly even stronger than that), what makes this story so amazing is that it was the first one filmed, yet you honestly couldn’t tell from watching it, with both Matt Smith’s Doctor and Karen Gillan’s Amy as confidently played as they have been from the start of this series.