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07 May 2010 @ 12:48 pm
Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone  
Following the very Davies-style presentation of The Eleventh Hour and the unevenness and pacing problems of The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks, this was the first story we've had in which Stephen Moffat appears to doing his own thing with real confidence.

Outside of the small world of Dr Who, Moffat's CV is more focused on ensemble contemporary drama and humour. I think it may have come of as much of a surprise to Moffat as to anyone else that, following The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, he suddenly became king of behind-the-sofa Dr Who. Some have argued that this then became a straight-jacket that RTD's sound-bite-ism continually forced him into. Davies wanted Moffat to deliver the "scary story" each year and so he did (for the purpose of argument I shall hand-wave The Girl in the Fireplace). So it's interesting that the first story of Moffat's Who which seems really comfortable with itself should, yet again, be the scary story.

Mostly this story delivered the kind of tale that Moffat's previous Who work would lead us to expect. Although it is recycled it's monsters and somewhat lessened them as a result, I would contend, it also threw in the new "don't look into their eyes" element which added a distinctive frisson. The pace kept going throughout, the plotting showed intelligence, and Moffat was having fun with the possibilities of time travel. I've always found his single episode stories (The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink) more satisfying than his two-parters and the same was true here. It didn't have the unity of a well-told short story that those two exhibited and although the crack in the wall wasn't a deus ex machina ending in the style of Davies, in that at least it was a part of the story and the series leading up to this point, it was also dramatically unsatisfying as a resolution to the Angels storyline. I felt it was just all a little convenient. That said Moffat does appear to be playing an is-this-a-plot-hole-or-am-I-leading-up-to-something game here (e.g. the two-headed aliens and single-headed statues and massive Internet speculation at the sudden reappearance of the Doctor's jacket in one scene) so I'm going to reserve judgement on quite how handy not only the crack's appearance, but also it's more aggressive behaviour really was in resolving the Angel problem.

This is clearly a story that fits into an arc, or possibly several since the story of Amy and the crack may prove to be separate to the story of the Doctor and River. Moffat is getting definite brownie points from me for attempting tighter links between his episodes than Davies' "drop in a word or phrase and explain at the end of the season" approach which was novel in the Eccleston season but had become dull by the end of Tennant's run. On the other hand I felt Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone suffered as a self-contained story because it was trying to link up to these other ones and, indeed, may prove to be primarily about moving forward arc plots than in telling it's own tale, for instance River Song was largely unnecessary to the story itself and her relationship with the Doctor didn't seem to be contributing much to it or its themes - on the other hand if this tale was in service to the story of the Doctor and River then things look rather different. In an odd way I think judging the success of the episode may be difficult until we have reached the end of the season (or even beyond in the case of the Doctor and River) and we see whether its disparate elements all drop neatly into place. I have hope, but I also have fear.

River Song, incidentally, irritated me in a way she didn't in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. In that story Alex Kingston sold her independence and resourcefulness, her absolute faith in the Doctor, the equality of her relationship with him and her teasing, flirtatious manner. Here she came across as smug and dependent by turns, neither of which I liked. I'm not sure what went wrong there, possibly just that neither actor was entirely confident about what underlying relationship they were supposed to be portraying. On the upside I thought this was the first week in which Smith's Doctor was really truly his own character, again perhaps a side-product of a script which was confidently getting on with doing what Moffat wanted to do. Amy Pond also continued to be great and the small, mystery scene in which the Doctor regains his jacket and comes back to comfort her and to urge her to remember what he said when she was seven, was a scene that seemed very true to those two characters but also something I couldn't imagine easily between another Doctor and companion. The attempted seduction at the end was a little too slapstick for my taste, but I accept that mileage may vary.

In the end I can't quite make up my mind about this story. It wasn't doing much wrong and was getting a great deal right, moreover the few irritants could very, very easily be entirely intentional moments of doubt that will be resolved later. Five years of Davies' scatter-gun approach to plot and theme resolution may have left me with less faith in arc plotting than I once had and that lingering anxiety may be preventing me from embracing this story. I find I'm looking forward to the rest of the series with an odd mixture of hope and anxiety.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/5431.html.
joereavesjoereaves on May 7th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
(for the purpose of argument I shall hand-wave The Girl in the Fireplace)

Yet again I'm apparently the only person on my entire flist who thinks that was the scariest episode of new Who.

I know the gas mask kid was creepy, I agree, and the angels were the kind of jump behind the sofa aliens I remember from my childhood, but I swear those clockwork, hiding under the bed, ticking, 18th century clothing, robots were the scariest things ever! Even if no one else agrees with me, lol.
bunn: Bunglesbunn on May 7th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
I too thought that was scary! The monster under the bed, what's scarier than that...?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 7th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
I don't know, I always find, well repetitious slightly surreal statements like "don't blink" or "are you my mummy?" a lot scarier. On one level they're a fairly cheap trick but something about it gets me every time.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 7th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Ah well! In that case my argument is water-tight!

I adored The Girl in the Fireplace but I have to confess it didn't find it terribly creepy.
Gabby: gabby/catgabcd86 on May 15th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
The joys of a VirginSomething box are permitting me catch-up. Low-volume catch-up.

Finally clicking with the new Doctor - I'm still feeling a bit of Tennant in his style of "planning", but he seems a lot more angry, somehow. I dunno, but he's definitely cool.

Agreed on River Song - was it the same wimmenz this time round? Barely remember the library.

I felt there were three really GOOD scenes in this, not counting Amy ones, which are by default good.

1) The bit in the trailer was the one that actually scared me. Added bonus of Amy.
2) The bit where the Bishop dude was about to die. Having that placid, blank statue next to the two in the charged dialogue was genius - that is what the Angels should be, not silly swarming armies (What the fuck was the bit where they MOVED?)
3) A compilation of the Doctor's moments. I thought the resolution was convenient, but clever - it had been set up somewhat, which is nice, and it was vaguely clever - sort of "Aha, shoulda seen that coming."

But I felt it lost its way somewhat during the 1st half of the 2nd episode. This might be because I couldn't hear much, but it felt like the free-running section in the Legend part I sent you - how many times can you do similar scenes?

Interested to see what the hell is meant by rewriting time (conveniently, the big monster bastards from the episode with Rose's Dad are forgotten...) and the implications of it, and suddenly, the crack is being less annoying. Was starting to look like Bad Wolf.

And Amy. I feel a new Abby coming on. There's something about the -y's eh? I could go into a long list of why she's awesome and why I love her, but I'll spare you the gushing.

*scurries off to find an Amy userpic*

*rushes back*

God she was gorgeous in that last scene, though.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 15th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
I like Amy. I never really got into Rose (or Abby) but I like Amy.

*wanders off stroking her chin and muttering about your birthday*
Gabbygabcd86 on May 16th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Can wimmenz stroke chins? Mind you, if I can, I suppose beardiness isn't a requirement.

I had a slight crush on Rose and Abby, but Amy's something else. And she's a lot more interesting too. Rory's a bit annoying though.