Doctor Who Goes From Fairy Tale To Ghost Story

Illustration for article titled Doctor Who Goes From Fairy Tale To Ghost Story

Doctor Who's fourth episode proves it: Terror and creepiness are Steven Moffat's comfort zone. "The Time Of Angels" is everything we'd hoped for when Moffat took over as showrunner of Britain's science-fiction institution. Spoilers ahead...

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So yes, "The Time Of Angels" borrowed liberally from Moffat's previous stories "Blink" and "Silence In The Library" — and not just by reintroducing the Weeping Angels and River Song. (We also got the squad of redshirts and the dead person speaking via a communicator, among other things.) But Moffat recombined these elements into something entirely new and thrilling.

Illustration for article titled Doctor Who Goes From Fairy Tale To Ghost Story

If the motif for Moffat's first year of Who has been "fairy tale," then the watchword for "The Time Of Angels" was "ghost story." And really, yay. Our crew ventures into a maze of the dead to look for a sepulchral stone statue that can either kill you or zap you back in time randomly. And there are ghosts everywhere — the Doctor's whole relationship with River Song seems to be haunted by a small army of ghosts from her past and his future. Meanwhile, Amy Pond is being haunted by something that neither she nor the Doctor is fully aware of yet.

Illustration for article titled Doctor Who Goes From Fairy Tale To Ghost Story

But meanwhile, this episode just crackled with ideas and creative energy — you could feel Moffat's brain working full-tilt to come up with cool set pieces that boost the characters instead of just being a cool set piece. (Not that there's anything wrong with a cool set piece.) The opening sequence, where River Song finds a unique way to communicate with the Doctor across 12,000 years and then throws herself out an airlock, just gets cooler when you watch it for the tenth time. (Honestly, if River Song had gotten such a cool intro the first time around, I think I would have taken to her a bit more.) The Doctor's final speech is genuinely brilliant. The episode is so full of cracking great dialogue, that the IMDB quotes list is chock full and still seems to be missing half the best lines. The writing is that good.

I'd worried that River Song, being apparently one of Moffat's favorite creations and someone who can go toe-to-toe with the Doctor, would throw Amy Pond into the shadows — but Karen Gillan is at her absolute best in this episode. You'd never believe this was the first episode she and Matt Smith filmed in the roles. She's completely assured and just bursting with personality. The way she teases the Doctor, the awesome delivery of the "Anybody need me? Anybody?" bit, and the brilliant "Ever try not blinking??" moment — she's almost like an anime character or something.

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Illustration for article titled Doctor Who Goes From Fairy Tale To Ghost Story

So yeah — awesome stuff, and despite bringing back some old ideas, it feels totally fresh and amazing. If I expressed any frustration with the first couple of outings of Steven Moffat's Doctor Who, it's only because I knew he was capable of this.

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DISCUSSION

mmoss-old
mmoss

I haven't read all comments everywhere, so maybe this is a rehash of what someone else has observed but...

Amy's origin story is a copy of The Girl in the Fireplace (one of my favorite episodes ever). The Doctor appears several times in a girl's life over the years even though it's not that long for him. Only Mme. de Pompadour never got to go traveling with the Doctor and Amy did. That episode was another Moffat one.

(SPOILER)

This week's Vampires in Venice with Rory tagging along really felt like Mickey tagging along with Rose and the Doctor in The Girl in the Fireplace.

Others have mentioned that Flesh and Stone and the Time of Angels are just a rehash of Blink and the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead episodes. Also Moffat episodes. Also all good episodes.

So Moffat has written some of my favorite episodes, but it does seem like this run so far does a lot of borrowing of concepts from his previous episodes. I'm not saying I haven't been entertained (and I think the casting of Amy Pond was spot on), but I'm just hoping I don't notice so many more borrowed concepts as the series goes on.

I'm also hoping to see a reappearance of the Doctor's daughter from The Doctor's Daughter, especially since her coming back to life was Moffat's idea.