One of Doctor Who‘s scariest monsters, the Weeping Angels made their terrifying return in the Matt Smith story, The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone. Having only previously appeared in the David Tennant adventure, Blink, the Angels were an instant hit with fans and would go on to enjoy many further appearances both on screen and in spin-off media. This is our brief history of the Weeping Angels…
Since their first appearance in 2007, the Weeping Angels have had something of a convoluted history, meeting many different incarnations of the Doctor, right up to the Thirteenth Doctor in the latest comic book series. They even appeared at the end of Class in 2016, teasing the show’s second series before it was cancelled. So let’s start right at the beginning.
In the Eighth Doctor audiobook, The Side of Angels, from Big Finish, we learnt that the Angels evolved at the dawn of time, implying that they were creatures who survived the destruction of the previous universe and the Big Bang, like the Daemons and the Racnoss. They also seemed to integrate themselves in Time Lord society, with the Fourth Doctor telling Sarah in the Titan Comics series, Gaze of the Gorgon, that he didn’t believe they existed.
However, during the Tenth Doctor’s swansong The End of Time, the Time Lords stood behind Rassilon seemed to be covering their eyes in the same way the Angels do and were called “like the Weeping Angels of old”. In the Class finale, we finally get to see the mysterious Board of Governors, who seem to be in the same pose. This has led some to speculate that the Weeping Angels are Time Lords at some point in their evolution or are related to the Time Lords in some way. I’ve always struggled with the idea that they are Gallifreyans, but with the recent revelations in The Timeless Child, maybe they followed the child-Doctor through the rift she came through?
The Fifth Doctor met the Angels in the Big Finish audio, Fallen Angels, which said that during the formation of Earth, three Angels were trapped in the rocks that eventually made up the planet, akin to the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride), which formed when gravity pulled the planet together. These Angels would go on to haunt Michelangelo when he was painting the Sistine Chapel.
Throughout history, the Weeping Angels have turned up in artwork from famous painters but the next major incident took place during World War I when the Tenth Doctor and his companion, Gabby Gonzalez, had to face the Angels in Mons, Belgium, who were starving and feeding off the locals. The Angels had been stalking soldiers from both sides of the war and led to them having a mythical status as real angels saving people from the horrors around them, when, in fact, they were sending them back through time and feeding off their energy. When the Doctor is surrounded on both sides, he decides another way to stave-off their advancement is to wink, therefore always keeping one side in sight at all times; it is certainly easier than trying to not blink.
When the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and Rory Williams take a trip to New York, they learn that the city is infested by Angels and, when Rory is sent back to the 1930s, the Doctor and Amy follow in the TARDIS and struggle to land thanks to all the paradoxes the Angels have caused.
Rory quickly meets up with River Song, this time using her alias as Melody Malone, private-detective. When they followed the Weeping Angels to their human battery-farm at Winter Quay, Amy and Rory caused a paradox large enough to kill the Angels by jumping from the roof, when they met an old version of Rory, who died to feed the Angels. (This is in contrast to the Jonathan Morris-penned novel, Touched By An Angel, in which a grieving Mark Whitaker is teased that he can still save Rebecca, his wife, who died in a car accident many years before; in this instance, the Angels – which we might gather are a different sect or subspecies – can feed off the time-energy created by a paradox.)
However, a lone survivor got revenge by sending Amy and Rory back through time before the Doctor or River could do anything to help. This separated the Doctor from his companions, and then-showrunner, Steven Moffat explained:
“New York would still burn [if the Doctor picked his companions up from elsewhere]. The point being, he can’t interfere. Here’s the ‘fan answer’ – this is not what you’d ever put out on BBC1, because most people watch the show and just think, ‘well there’s a gravestone so obviously he can’t visit them again’. But the ‘fan answer’ is, in normal circumstances he might have gone back and said, ‘look we’ll just put a headstone up and we’ll just write the book’. But there is so much scar tissue, and the number of paradoxes that have already been inflicted on that nexus of timelines, that it will rip apart if you try to do one more thing. He has to leave it alone. Normally he could perform some surgery, this time too much surgery has already been performed. But imagine saying that on BBC1!”
This wasn’t the last time that the Doctor faced the Angels in New York: the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka arrived to stop a partnership between the Angels and the Time Lords. The villains teamed up so that the Angels could power Time Lord technology while the Angels fed on humans using their potential-energies to power the Time Lords’ shields in the Time War. The Doctor and Liv followed the Eleven and stopped the Angels. The Meddling Monk was also involved and this led to the Angels sending him back through time, and they gained a huge amount of energy in the process.
For now, this seems to be the last historical incursion from the Angels; their remaining arrivals have been on contemporary Earth and in the future. In 2007, Sally Sparrow came across a cryptic message left for her from the Doctor when she broke into an abandoned house; the Angels were lying in wait.
It was in Blink that we learnt the one thing we mustn’t do when up against the Angels: Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. The Doctor and his companion, Martha Jones, had fallen foul of the Angels’ machinations and been sent back to 1969. The Angels also then held the TARDIS in their power, though they couldn’t get inside, with Sally taking the key from them.
Unfortunately for Sally, her taking the key led to the deaths of her friend, Kathy Nightingale and a police-officer, Billy Shipton. Kathy arrived in the 1920s and Billy in 1969, so his arrival meant that the Doctor could meet up with him and arrange for a number of messages to be left through DVD ‘Easter-Eggs’ for Sally. Sally and Larry Nightingale managed to gain access to the TARDIS and when the TARDIS dematerialised surrounded by Angels, the Angels were all looking at one another, thus meaning they’d never move again.
The Eleventh Doctor does something similar with the TARDIS in The Time of the Doctor, when the Angels surround him and Clara Oswald on the planet Trenzalore. The Angels were one of the many races responding to a message sent from the planet and waiting to destroy the Time Lords (who trying to return to our universe through the crack in time caused by the destruction of the TARDIS in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang).
The Angels were later one of the creatures who had managed to infiltrate the Matrix on Gallifrey, presumably throughthe Time War; alongside the Daleks and Cybermen, they were trapped forever there.
In the Class finale, The Lost, set in 2016, the Weeping Angels appeared and killed Coal Hill’s headmistress, Dorothy Ames, for her failure to stop the mysterious Cabinet of Souls from being opened and destroying the Shadow Kin. This appearance also seemed to imply that the Angels were in some kind of war – whether it was a war with another species or a civil war, we may never know. But they needed the powers of the Cabinet to use for themselves. The Angel also didn’t send Dorothy back through time, instead cruelly snapping her neck.
When the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond arrive on Alfava Metraxis, they find River Song and her prison guards investigating the ruins of the recently crashed ship, The Byzantium. Alfava Metraxis was home to the Aplans, a long-dead race, and when they are in the catacombs of the city, the Doctor realises that all the statues, are in fact Angles, and an entire army of them begin to awaken.
It is this story, The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone that we learn that even the image of an Angel has strange powers. When Amy watches some CCTV footage of a Weeping Angel attack, she blinks and the image changes. She manages to save herself by pausing the CCTV just as the footage repeats itself. But she’s already seen the Angel and it gets into her head, the image of the Angel hiding in her retina. Through this, and stripping the consciousness of a Cleric called Bob, the Angels appear to have the upper-hand, until the Doctor harnesses the powers of the crack in time, something the Angels are afraid off, to destroy them and save Amy and River.
The Weeping Angels have quickly become one of the Doctor’s most terrifying villains to date. They come from such a simple concept – Grandma’s Footsteps – the idea that, when you look away, they get closer. They move like lightning if you look away or blink. But they are still shrouded in mystery, despite having now faced five different incarnations of the Doctor. Recently, the Thirteenth Doctor faced up to them in a Titan Comic series, which sees her meeting the Tenth Doctor and Martha, presumably fresh from their last encounter with them in Blink.
With the origins of the Angels still not really having been revealed, despite some lines from Rassilon in The End of Time, that mystery adds to their terror – even the Doctor doesn’t really know where they came from. So perhaps it’s best that Class didn’t get that second series (despite the fact it deserved one) because they wouldn’t have stood a chance against these lonely assassins…