Before I get into this episode, I wanted to point out that going into it, we’re now in the second half the series/story. I was hoping that we would start getting more explanations and less “What the heck is that about?” stuff. Also, this is the big Weeping Angels episode. While the Angels are pretty beloved, beyond their first two stories, they’ve been kind of “eh..” Going into Village of the Angels, I was hoping we’d get more of them like their early stuff, and not the lesser appearances they became known for in their most recent appearances before this episode. Now, about the new one here…
“The Angel has the TARDIS….”
I thought that was a great way to leave off the episode before this. It was a great cliffhanger. In fact, most of the cliffhangers from this season have been great, but they haven’t always had great payoffs (like the payoff from The Halloween Apocalypse being mostly ignored in War of the Sontarans).
Starting off right away, I thought this had a good creepy atmosphere. It might have helped that I started watching it around midnight with no lights on and nobody awake in the house but me! As the various scenes with the Angels happened, I felt they were handled well. I think the overall Angel atmosphere was helped by the fact that the scenes were dark. Segun Akinola gave the Angels their own theme as such – and I really liked that. It popped up several times, and I thought fit the overall vibe. A dark setting, Weeping Angels, creepy music: it just all came together for the right atmosphere to make it work. I think the setting served the Angels better than some other settings they were placed in in the past (a hotel, New York City, etc).
I do like the fact that the story was circular, taking place in the past and the present. In the original Blink story, there was a part of it that took place in the past, but it was less in your face. This seemed more plot driven in the past — more “timey wimey” if you will. For example, stories in the past with Angels, the big fear is they zap you to the past, and the implication is you can live out your life there. But this time, the Angels were in the past where they were sending people to as well. So once you realised they were in the past as well, I thought “uh-oh, a new wrinkle — not safe there, either”. This played out in a big way when we got to the little girl who was being searched for twice: there as a little girl, and also 60+ years later at the same time. There was a scene where the 1901 and the 1967 versions of the same place were together at once. My wife picked up the old woman being the young girl early on; I did not. This was not a single straightforward story. But then Blink wasn’t either — and I loved that about that story, too. One of the new bits here was the “Flaming Angel” (my name). When it happened, it was a great “Oh cr*p, that’s new” moment that just worked.
As usual, the story looked amazing. Say what you will about the Chibnall/Whittaker era of Doctor Who, but it has never looked as good as it has now. A lot of this story was dark, but even that atmosphere looked good. But the lighter stuff had a great look to it. I was especially taken in by the visual effect of the town just “ending” in space.
The story has a bit of the old style feel of Doctor Who, i.e. the “base under siege” — the house belonging to Professor Jericho is the “base” here. He was conducting experiments on Claire, who was sent here from the Weeping Angel sequence back in the first episode. The Doctor, Claire, and Jericho are trapped in the basement of his house, trying to avoid being taken over by Weeping Angels. The Angels eventually took over and forced them out of the basement there. It resulted in a scene that I really enjoyed. The Doctor, Claire, and the professor were trying to escape down a tunnel with several Angels closing in on them. This scene was one of my favorites with Jodie Whittaker. Much as been made of her acting in Doctor Who, and I think this episode in particular (and that scene specifically) was some of her best stuff. I really loved what she did here.
Before I get to one of the big bits of the narrative here, I wanted to touch on a few smaller points that I jotted down when I watched the episode. Just small things I liked for one reason or another:
- The Psychic Paper makes a reappearance. Something I’m surprised wasn’t used more since its introduction with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.
- Loved the callbacks to some other Angel stories besides Blink. The “sand in the eye” that happened to Amy happened here, and the bit about “That which holds the image of an angel becomes itself an angel” was nicely used, too.
- Jericho was a well constructed character. We got a bit of background, he wasn’t a blank slate, and I loved how he wasn’t affected by all the weirdness going on around him. He has a great background (psychic investigation), a past that led to him being “loveless, childless, and hiding in academia for fear of the real world”. He also is quite emphatic in his beliefs. Could be a very strong character to be used in a future something — Torchwood rebooted, perhaps?
- We finally got to see Passenger do his thing. He was coupled with Azure in a scene where they capture a bunch of natives from the planet Puzano where Bel has landed to look for Vinder.
- Second Doctor throwback: Jodie’s Doctor saying “When I say run… RUN.”
- Third Doctor throwback: Jodie’s Doctor saying “when I reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”.
- The Three Doctors callback: the Thirteenth Doctor using “contact” as the action word to set off the mental link between her and Claire similar to what Doctors One, Two, and Three did.
- This was the first Doctor Who episode ever (that I can recall) that had a mid credit scene. I don’t think they’ve ever started the credits before, then stopped them and had another scene. That’s new.
- The actor who played Professor Eustacius Jericho, Kevin McNally, was in Doctor Who before. He was Hugo Lang in the Sixth Doctor’s first story, The Twin Dilemma.
Enough of that small stuff; on to the big part of the story. Some spoilers follow, in case you’ve not actually watched Village of the Angels yet.
A rogue Weeping Angel had embedded itself in Claire’s mind, and was hiding there. The Angel had summoned the Doctor via external forces, and needed her help. The Doctor found this via the psychic link she created between herself and Claire when she was able to talk to the Angel. The Weeping Angels in this episode are a tactical squad working for none other than the Division. The Division reminds me of what used to be called “The Celestial Intervention Agency” in classic Doctor Who — both of them akin to Star Trek‘s Section 31. The Angel tries to strike a deal with the Doctor, saying it can give the Doctor back all her memories that were taken. It’s something that definitely intrigues the Doctor but before they can complete the deal, the Doctor is brought out of the mind-link to deal with real world Angels. But the tantalizing spectre of information missing from the Doctor’s mind is a big juicy carrot; one I wonder if we’ll revisit. Surely it won’t be left in this one scene.
I have a theory about that. It might be controversial, but… When Chibnall did the Timeless Child reveal last year, it dug very heavily into the old fan myth of the “Morbius Doctors” existing before William Hartnell. I wonder if we’re moving towards another reveal like that. My working theory here is that all of this stuff from the past with Azure and Swarm, the Fugitive Doctor, etc., all happened in between Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. We got the War Doctor in between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston since we never saw them regenerate. Well, we never saw Troughton regenerate into Pertwee either. It wouldn’t shock me at all if all of this Division/Angel/Fugitive Doctor stuff would play into the old “Season 6B” theory that’s been floating around for ages. We’ve had a few hints about it (when Swarm mentions “you don’t remember any of this, do you?”), and it would explain a lot of the hints we’ve gotten already about the Fugitive Doctor and not remembering things. If the Time Lords took the Second Doctor into the Division, and then something happened that forced him to regenerate into the Fugitive Doctor, it could work. Especially if the Fugitive Doctor had to be forcibly regenerated into Pertwee and having the Doctor’s mind wiped of all the Season 6B stuff. Depending on how it’s pulled off, I could get behind that.
There are some other small bits I skipped over — like Bel’s and Vinder’s visit to the planet Puzano looking for each other — but this was a pretty minor part of the story, as was the appearance of Azure. Also Gerald and Jean, who were pretty much just there to be cannon fodder for the Angels.
But the ending of the episode? The Doctor turning into a Weeping Angel herself after being betrayed by Claire’s Angel? That scene was quite epic, and when I first reacted to it after the episode was over, I said, “Okay, that ending was bad@ss”.
I REALLY REALLY loved this episode. As much as I loved the Sontaran episode a few weeks ago, I enjoyed this far more. I didn’t see the change to an Angel for Whittaker coming, so when it started happening, I was like “oh boy, this will be fun!” Gallifrey One is coming up soon; I wonder how many Whittaker Angels we will see cosplayed!
A couple of minor nitpicks…
Did anyone else have difficulty hearing things? In the opening sequence when Claire was talking in a different language, I had a hard time understanding; I had to use subtitles. Same thing for the scene where the Doctor has to eject the Angel from the TARDIS by rebooting it. The sound mix felt off there, I had a very hard time understanding that.
Yaz and Dan were pretty sidelined. I mean they had some stuff to do — it’s not like they were twiddling their thumbs for the whole hour — but they were effectively replaced as companions for the Doctor by Claire and Jericho.
I freakin’ loved this episode. It looked great, it sounded great, I loved the acting, the atmosphere — just bloody all of it. The couple of minor plot problems didn’t affect me at all. I thought Jodie Whittaker’s acting was some of, if not the best she’s done in her entire time as Doctor Who. If we had been getting this level of story her first two series, she might not be leaving.
Absolute 10/10 here.