The Time of Angels

Doctor Time of Angels

You lot, you’re everywhere!  You’re like rabbits!  I’ll never get done saving you.

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

River Song recruits the Doctor to track down the last of the Weeping Angels, who caused the crash of the Byzantium starliner and has escaped into the Maze of the Dead on Alfava Metraxis.

Review

After the success of Blink, we get the return of the Weeping Angels in this fast-paced and gripping first part of the story.  We see an increase in the powers of the lonely assassins here and the new introductions work well alongside the established abilities from their prior story.  We also see the first reappearance of Alex Kingston as River Song, and I am a massive fan of her chemistry with Matt Smith, as well as establishing her as someone who killed ‘a good man’ – even at the time, it seemed blindingly obvious that this would turn out to be the Doctor!

The Weeping Angels established themselves as one of the best things to come out of the revived series, and this story cements them as one of the Doctor’s most intimidating foes.  The Time of Angels also demonstrates that, just with all the best enemies, one of them is more than enough of a threat.  The additions to the mythology only seem to increase their threat, with the image of an Angel itself becoming an Angel a simple yet well-executed idea that creates one of the most memorable scenes with Amy stuck in the dropship with the videotape of the Angel.  We also see a more sadistic and malevolent side to them here, with them breaking Angelo, Marco and Bob’s necks, and stripping out Bob’s vocal cortex to allow the Angels to taunt the Doctor.  The plot, to revive an army of Weeping Angels using leaking radiation from the Byzantium’s engines, leads to a fantastically tense climax with one of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.

The direction by Adam Smith is really superb as well, aided by a story that cruises along with an almost frenetic pace from the cold open.  Speaking of the cold open, it is one of my favourite scenes in the episode, feeling a bit like the opening sequence from a James Bond film, and I especially like how it cuts between River being chased by Alistair’s guards to the Doctor and Amy being chased by museum security.  Another highlight is the scene with Amy in the dropship, which, thanks to Smith’s direction feels really tense and scary.  I feel that the reveal that all the statues in the Maze of the Dead are degenerated Weeping Angels works as well as it does because we are only ever allowed really fleeting glimpses of them by Smith’s direction, which means that the majority of the audience come to the same conclusion as the characters at around the same time, which builds an impending sense of dread in the story.

Weeping Angels

I feel that it would be negligent to not give Steven Moffat’s writing a fair share of the credit in giving the story the breakneck pace that works to its benefit.  There are some cracking bits of dialogue as well, and I particularly enjoy the scene in the TARDIS with River flying the TARDIS, which he wrote in a hurry.  Although these scenes and River being able to fly the TARDIS were seen as being controversial at the time, they are great fun.  It should also be applauded that he didn’t rely on the same aspects of the Weeping Angels as in Blink, with them feeling more fleshed out in their second appearance, which in part is down to not relying on the same gimic as the prior story.  As can be expected in his stories, the dialogue really sparks and there are some fun bits of misdirection and evasion, especially when hinting at the nature of the relationship between the Doctor and River.

Are you all Mr Grumpy Face today?

A Weeping Angel, Amy, is the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent lifeform evolution has ever produced and right now one of them is trapped inside that wreckage, and I’m supposed to climb in after it with a screwdriver and a torch – and assuming I survive the radiation long enough and assuming the ship doesn’t blow up in my face – do something incredibly clever which I haven’t actually thought up yet.  That’s my day.  That’s what I’m up to. Any questions?

Is River Song your wife?  ‘Cause she’s someone from your future.  And the way she talks to you, I’ve never seen anyone do that.  She’s kind of like, you know “Heel boy.”  She’s Mrs Doctor from the future, isn’t she?  Is she going to be your wife one day?

Yes.  You’re right. I am definitely Mr. Grumpy Face today.

Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor

The relatively small cast here also produce superb performances, and the chemistry between the three main leads is superb. I really like the dynamic between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston as the Doctor and River Song respectively.  Smith has just the right level of awkwardness to pull off what the story demands of him and Kingston bosses her scenes – there are nice little moments like the fact that she hangs her heels on the TARDIS screen which really help her to feel in control.  Meanwhile, Karen Gillan is great at teasing the Doctor about the mysterious relationship with River and has a great relationship with her too.  The scene where Amy and River talk about the Doctor whilst he pretends not to listen is a fantastic example of this, highlighting the nice dynamic that this trio have.  Of the guest cast, Iain Glen stands out in particular as the leader of the Clerics, Father Octavian, giving this part the gravitas and authority that his rank deserves.  He really taps into the Doctor not having to deal with the consequences of his mistake when his men die, which is a really small part of this superb episode, but Glen gives it the right level of emphasis to make sure that these lines really resonate.

River Doctor Amy.jpg

Verdict:  The Time of Angels manages to live up to the high standard set by the Weeping Angels’ first appearance, thanks to a good plot and fantastic pacing.  10/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Alex Kingston (River Song), Iain Glen (Father Octavian), Simon Dutton (Alistair), Mike Skinner (Security Guard), Mark Springer (Christian), Troy Glasgow (Angelo), David Atkins (Bob), Darren Morfitt (Marco)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Adam Smith

Behind the Scenes

  • This episode ran short because of high tides at the beach location, with Steven Moffat writing a scene where River flies the TARDIS to make up for this lost time.
  • An animated graphic was played over the closing minute of a dancing Graham Norton, causing complaints to be filed with the BBC. This was the second time that Graham Norton had been seen to interrupt an episode of Doctor Who, with his voice bleeding into the opening moments of Rose.
  • The beach scenes were filmed on the same beach as Army of Ghosts/Doomsday and Journey’s End.
  • This episode was the first filmed of the fifth series and gives us both Smith and Gillan’s first performances.

Best Moment

The opening sequence, with River Song escaping the Byzantium and the Doctor and Amy in the museum.

Best Quote

Sorry, can I ask again? You mentioned a mistake we’d made.

A big big mistake. Really huge. Didn’t anyone ever tell you? There’s one thing you never put in a trap – if you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow – there’s one thing you never ever put in a trap.

And what would that be, sir?

Me.

Angel Bob and the Eleventh Doctor

Victory of the Daleks

dalek bracewell churchill doctor amy

Would you care for some tea?

“Ironside” Dalek

Synopsis

Responding to Winston Churchill’s call, the Doctor and Amy travel to World War Two where they find the Daleks. But why are they helping the Allied cause? Why don’t they recognise the Doctor? What are the Daleks planning?
Review

When I rewatched Victory of the Daleks for this blog, I realised that I still had vivid memories of watching it on it’s initial transmission in 2010. This may seem bizarre, as it is a divisive entry into Doctor Who canon, but thinking about it, I realised that this was the first Matt Smith story I watched live. I’d been away for the broadcast of the previous two, and having caught up and having been utterly convinced by this new Doctor, sat down excitedly for the next instalment of his adventures. This makes me sound like I was 8. I was actually 18, just about to take my A-Levels and probably in the midst of panicking about exams, university and life beyond. When I came to watch this episode nearly ten years later, my reaction to it was probably about the same as it was then. I’m not going to say that Victory is the best Dalek story that the new series or the original have produced, however, I feel it does get a rough ride. Matt Smith puts in a good performance as the Doctor, as does Karen Gillan as Amy, and the guest stars of Ian McNeice and Bill Paterson certainly help this story along. It is hindered by some poor direction in places by Andrew Gunn, and I really feel this story could have benefitted from being a two-parter.

Listen to me. Just listen. The Daleks have no conscience. No mercy. No pity. They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You can not trust them.

If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Eleventh Doctor and Winston Churchill

I’ll talk about the elements of the episode that I’m not so keen on first of all. This story definitely feels too short, and at forty minutes it feels as though something is definitely missing. There is potentially more to be done with the Daleks posing as Bracewell’s Ironsides, and in my mind, if this were a two-parter, perhaps either the Doctor’s “testimony” or the reveal of the New Dalek Paradigm would have been a good place for the end of the first part. Additionally, I’m not a fan of the direction of Andrew Gunn here, especially of the scene in which the Eleventh Doctor confronts the Daleks triggering his testimony. Equally the Cabinet War Rooms feel a bit too wide and open as opposed to claustrophobic and the Dalek ship, supposed to be ramshackle and damaged from the climax of Journey’s End feels extremely overlit. However, I do like the scene in which Churchill, Amy and the Doctor are discussing the Daleks and a sole Dalek wheels by. In Steven Moffat’s interview after his departure as showrunner, he did say that he felt that he had taken his eye off this block of episodes, and it does certainly show in some regards. The design of the new Dalek Paradigm did not bother me at the time and still to this day does not bother me too much and I really wish that we learnt what the purpose of an Eternal Dalek was (come on Big Finish!). Nick Briggs does modify his original Dalek voice to being slightly deeper and booming which makes them feel more menacing.

the new daleks

One of the more positive parts of this episode is the fact that it marks the end of a run of stories that see the Daleks as scavengers, a side effect of the Time War. This is the start of something that I like about the Moffat era in general is that there is a greater feeling of a wider universe. With this story depicting a rare and relative victory for the Daleks, it kickstarts a new Dalek empire and leads to the Alliance being set up at the end of the series. The stories since the Time War that have featured one last surviving Dalek are all very well and effective, but a regenerated race of Daleks to fight against a relatively newly regenerated Doctor is a potentially frightening prospect for the universe. I am not overly enamoured with the climax with the Bracewell bomb, although I do like Karen Gillan’s delivery of the line “Hey Paisley. Ever fancied someone you shouldn’t have?” and additionally, the Spitfires in space sequence is a bit silly but is a nice idea. The idea of the Daleks acting as servants to the British army is an obvious homage to Power of the Daleks, and part of me wishes that it did go on for a bit longer.

battlefield

The central and guest performances are strong in this story again. Matt Smith gives a particularly commendable performance as the Doctor, battling with his guilt when he realises that he is responsible for this new, shiny, multicoloured variety of Daleks. He is particularly good in the scene where the Supreme Dalek gives him the ultimatum – he can destroy the Dalek ship and condemn the Earth to destruction, or let the Daleks escape and potentially save the world. Of course, there is no doubt that the Doctor will save the world, but Smith’s performance makes you believe that this is really a choice that the Doctor is really grappling with. Karen Gillan is good here too, and the fact that she does not remember the Daleks works really well as it isolates the Doctor when he is warning of the threat. This also is the first story to demonstrate to Amy the dangers of travelling with the Doctor, as the fairytale feel of this series falls away with the arrival of the Dalek. Ian McNeice and Bill Patterson also put in good supporting performances, with small to medium size roles, making them feel really memorable.

Verdict: Victory of the Daleks does fluff it’s lines a little but allows us to see Matt Smith taking on the Doctor’s most famous adversary. 6/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Bill Paterson (Bracewell), Nina De Cosimo (Blanche), Tim Wallers (Childers), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek 1), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek 2), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Susanah Fielding (Lilian), James Albrecht (Todd), Colin Prockter (Air Raid Warden)
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Andrew Gunn

Behind the Scenes

  • As part of the Cracks in Space and Time arc, it is revealed that certain events in the show’s modern history have been retconned, such as the Dalek invasion of Earth in 2009.
  • The ‘New Paradigm’ Daleks were initially intended to replace the bronze Daleks reintroduced in Dalek, however, due to the mixed response the new design received, the bronze Daleks and the new design would appear side by side in their appearance in Series 7.

Best Moment

The scene in which the Supreme Dalek gives the Doctor his ultimatum.
Best Quote

You are everything I despise. The worst sin in all creation. I’ve defeated you time and time again. I’ve defeated you. I sent you back into the void. I’ve saved all of reality from you. I am the Doctor, and you are the Daleks!

Correct! Review testimony.

What are you talking about, testimony?

Transmitting testimony now.

Transmit what? Where?

The Eleventh Doctor and a Dalek

churchill and the dalek

The Beast Below

The_Beast_Below_6799

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Andrew Gunn

Cast: Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Sophie Okonedo (Liz 10), Terence Hardiman (Hawthorne), Hannah Sharp (Mandy), Alfie Field (Timmy), Christopher Good (Morgan), David Ajala (Peter), Catrin Richards (Poem Girl), Jonathan Battersby (Winder), Chris Porter (Voice of Smilers/Winder), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill)

In bed above we’re deep asleep, while greater love lies further deep. This dream must end, the world must know – we all depend on the beast below.

Amy Pond

Synopsis

The Doctor takes Amy to the 29th Century, where they find all of the UK’s citizens (apart from the Scottish) onboard Starship UK, searching for a new home after the Earth has been roasted by solar flares.

However, they find something amiss. The citizens are ignoring crying children and are afraid of sinister Smilers. As the Doctor and Amy investigate, it becomes increasingly clear that the Doctor will have to make an impossible decision. No matter what he chooses, death is the only outcome.
Behind the Scenes

Similarly to Series Three, this story follows immediately on from the end of The Eleventh Hour (via the minisode, Meanwhile in the TARDIS 1), and leads into the following story, Victory of the Daleks.

scream of the shalka 2

Sophie Okonedo previously played Alison Cheney, the companion of an alternative Ninth Doctor, known commonly as the Shalka Doctor and played by Richard E. Grant, in Scream of the Shalka, a webcast published on the Doctor Who website in 2003.

Liz X refers to the Doctor’s previous encounters with the British Royal Family, mentioning his encounter with Victoria in Tooth and Claw and alluding to his Tenth incarnation’s marriage to Elizabeth I, seen in The Day of the Doctor.

This episode also marks the first mention of the promise that the Doctor made to himself when choosing his name:

Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in.

Review

The Beast Below has a tough act to follow as it falls immediately after one of the strongest and most confident new Doctor debut episodes in the show’s history. It mostly manages to deliver a strong episode, however, does fall down when it comes to a rushed and anti-climactic conclusion, but has plenty of strong dialogue, creepy villains and great performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Sophie Okonedo. And despite the chameleon circuit having been broken for who knows how long, the TARDIS gets some scenery it doesn’t look out of place in!

Speaking of the central performances, I want to focus in on Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor. Here we see the differentiation between Smith and his predecessor, as Smith shows us a much more alien portrayal of the Doctor, as evidenced by a more evident disdain for elements of humanity, closer to Eccleston:

Nobody HUMAN has anything to say to me today!

His sudden outburst here really crosses a line from fury into something terrifying, and the way he goes back to almost speaking normally to He also demonstrates perfectly the enthusiasm of the Doctor when they first spot Starship UK, when he forgets about Amy dangling outside the TARDIS. Karen Gillan is very good here too, performing her role as a fish out of water well and her chemistry with Smith is great, and Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10 is great, aided by a script that features some great lines.

Liz 10

I’m the bloody Queen, mate, and basically I rule.

Liz 10

The episode hinges on the central conceit of people choosing to forget the secret behind Starship UK: that the occupants of Starship UK are complicit in the torture of an innocent creature for their own gain, with anyone who chooses to protest fed to the Star Whale. The Doctor takes great pleasure in stating that the system is essentially “democracy in action”. What we see here is essentially democratic dystopia, with the Queen’s government keeping the truth from the reigning monarch. I’d imagine this would be much easier to do currently than with the gun-toting Liz 10 we see here – perhaps losing Scotland drove her over the edge?

The Smilers are also quite creepy, although never really explained what their function is, except sending people down to the Beast for protesting. They don’t really ascend to the level of Weeping Angels or Vashta Nerada, despite how visually striking they look. The origin of them is not really explained, but their resurrection moment after Liz 10 shoots them is the spookiest thing they do. We are told that the populace of Starship UK are afraid of them, hence why their booths are so clean, however, we’re never really shown enough of them to convince us as to why.

beast_4.jpg

Additionally, the story does suffer towards the climax as the story doesn’t really have any consequences. The fact that the Star Whale doesn’t leave and the human race doesn’t suffer any ill effect from their mistreatment of the generous creature robs a story with interesting ideas of a meaningful conclusion and damages the episode as a whole. In addition, despite people being fed to the Beast, no one has died at the end of the story.

Verdict: A good story with intriguing ideas and strong central performances, however, the lack of a meaningful conclusion lets it down. 7/10

Best Moment: The part where the Doctor and Amy are talking in the TARDIS, then we realise the Doctor’s left to comfort the crying child, whilst Amy thinks she’s still talking to him.

Best Quote:

What if you were really old, and really kind and lonely, your whole race gone. What couldn’t you do then? If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind, you couldn’t just stand there and watch children cry.

Amy Pond