There’s not been a full Weeping Angels story since 2012’s The Angels Take Manhattan, so it’s about time the ever-popular stone statues returned. And this time, there’s a village full of ’em! Yes, this is Flux: Village of the Angels, the fourth episode of Doctor Who Series 13.
Joe Siegler rather enjoyed it, as he explained in his review:
“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.”
But what did the rest of the DWC think of the episode? We found a few contributors wandering around in the dark; we promised to get them all home safely if they told us what they thought of Village of the Angels. (Then we sacrificed them to the Angels. Life’s tough.)
Crazy Chris Chibnall must be getting tired of spinning all these plates, ladies and gentlemen, but he’s got two more episodes to go, so no rest for the wicked! But he’s sweating profusely, possibly thinking about delivering the pay off!
To the episode itself… Claire is an interesting character, as is the Professor in the basement, both performed beautifully. The ongoing saga of Bel and Vinder is fine, I suppose, AND BOY, IS THAT BABY IMPORTANT!
The whole Peggy here and there thing was fine. Dan and Yaz have been relegated to being superfluous again. The village on the edge of space, or vice-versa, was a nice touch.
But most of the episode was more run-of-the-mill Angel antics, albeit with nice direction and cinematography. The era really does bank on those elements because as we’ve seen so far this season, as long as there are lively, exciting visuals, it seems like you don’t have to give the fans that much story progression.
The Weeping Angels get a little bit more monotonous with each appearance, mostly because there’s only so much you can allegedly do with them. But Chibnall adds a couple of very interesting twists to them, which I appreciate.
Now, if an Angel sends you back in time, then comes at you again in that past year, you die. That’s an interesting addition. Much more interesting is that the Angels work for the Division. Evidently, many species, creatures, etc., work for the Division.
This brings us to the actual meat and potatoes of the episode: the cliffhanger. I’ve called out Chibnall on his sleight of hand, his distractions, plate spinning, all flash, no substance maneuvers this season because people tend to get sucked in by it. But the one bit Chris Chibnall has really excelled at this year, is the cliffhanger.
I don’t give much credit to the flashy distractions, because if he doesn’t stick the landing on the finale, all of that was really meaningless hot air.
But I have to give credit where credit’s due. The Angels working for the Division was one big shock, but the Doctor being captured by turning into an Angel was a blow-me-away moment. There have been a couple really good cliffhangers in NuWho, but is the award winner so far.
For the record, however this era goes down — in history or infamy — we can at least say that Chibnall came up with some great cliffhangers. (Unless of course this one was Maxine Alderton’s idea, then I’ll have to reassess.)
So, Monday, we’re driving past a field and I say ‘that sheep was definitely walking backwards.’ Hubby, driving, says ‘Maybe it saw a Weeping Angel. Was it blinking?’ Sunday, he’d concluded ‘Well, they threw everything at that, didn’t they? Fun!’ Yes, the Angels are scary again – and can only move when we can’t see them, unlike Flesh and Stone which ruined that fourth wall stuff for me.
Village of the Angels looked amazing. Never knowingly over-lit, even on a beach. The set design of the professor’s neat, ordered gentleman’s bathroom shelf (was that toothpaste tube authentic?) to the stuff-of-nightmares walls full of Angel limbs, the paper Angel reassembly, fire Angel, TV Angel jump scare, to that cliffhanger. Wow.
‘The end begins again.’ The theme tune merged with the original, back to ’67, when smashing a large screen TV like that would have been expensive. Back to 1967, when The Prisoner gave us that first Village, to which ex-employees of the Division were extracted. The Village of the Damned (the movie version of John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos) vibe was delicious, with the Angel a cuckoo in Claire’s head. While I was enjoying the Village of the Damned vibe, I noted the tape machine, and remembered that in that film the day is saved by an old professor with a tape machine. All these echoes are great for us oldies, but not likely to mean much to younger fans. The gramophone pointed to The Time Meddler – just before we see the village’s name – Meddleton! And while we’re on villages cut off from outside, Dan’s throwing a stick into the forcefield was a lovely nod to The Daemons. I much prefer these visual references to the spelled out ones. I can’t say I loved the very obvious ‘reverse the polarity’ but if she’d said NEURON not neutron after placing it on their heads, I’d be better disposed towards it. Greatest hits? Fan service? I don’t care; I love it.
‘You Don’t Know Me.’
I loved Kevin McNally too; a highlight of Chibnall’s whole run, let alone Village of the Angels. So much expression in his totally committed acting; not a hint of ‘good enough for Doctor Who.’ The Doctor respects his science, he asks good questions, is fascinated not frowny when he doesn’t understand, like Bill in The Pilot. He’s brave, polite, and chivalrous; little Peggy runs to him and throws her arms around him (childless and loveless my a*** – Angels know nothing). Yeah, I’m low-key in love with him.
Slightly overshadowed Claire and everyone else, but Annabel Scholey is excellent in her dual role, doing a lot of show-don’t-tell. But someone will have to spell out Claire’s timeline/loop for me, because I’m struggling. Would a rogue Angel make a good companion, like 7 of 9? But I digress.
Talking of companions, Team TARDIS is better split up – Jodie works better with the other characters and baddies; Yas is a police officer again, dealing with the public very professionally; Dan’s asking the right questions and acting serious, showing not telling the relationship with Yas when she moves to defend the Doctor’s defence. Sadly, she still seems to need defending: much better but not yet In Charge.
‘And the other only problem is…’ Not much wrong — 9/10 for me. Bel and Vinder’s love story/quest spoiled the pacing for me, especially their epilogue crashing the ’60s theme tune at the end, after that cliffhanger. Imagine if Blink had been constantly interrupted by the Doctor and Martha, who were part of the same story, or more accurately if Midnight had been interrupted by scenes from Torchwood. Bel’s encounter did further the plot, and introduce some serious cult leader stuff from Azure. An improvement, but she’s still not a patch on Swarm. The nearest we got to him was Jericho’s mention of his bees.
If the refugees on Pezano were really desperate to get on board, they would have shoved to the front, not stood around vaguely interested like the crowd in Life of Brian – ‘did she say blessed are the Greeks? Or the Meek?’ Not likely dear; they’ve all been gobbled up. Only the strong will be survivors of the Flux. This is good stuff; tune in next week.
DIVISION ENTRY EXAMINATION: PAPER ONE
Time allowed: 6 episodes. (A period of extra time will be allocated in the event that plot strands do not fully resolve themselves.)
Please answer all questions on a separate sheet. Use the black ink of an Andulasian octopus, or crayon.
There is no penalty for spelling or grammatical errors, but we will dock a ton of marks if you dare use the phrase ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’.
- Tanya is a Weeping Angel. She has been working with the Division for six months. List the pros and cons of trying to engage with Tanya on a Zoom call. (7 marks)
- Determine, to the nearest parameter, the probability that Bel is the Doctor’s mother. Calculate the ratio of disgruntlement within the fandom. (8 marks)
- The Flame Angel and Scribble Angel are two new derivatives that have recently been launched by the Creativity Department. Design a new type of Angel to complement them. Your drawing should include a comprehensive nomenclature, suggestions for marketing, and size notes for B&M. (12 marks)
- Examine the comparative influences of either: a) George Romero, or b) Peppa Pig upon this story. (6 marks)
- Boris is giving a speech at a conference. He loses his place for 36 seconds. Given that an unobserved Angel travels a distance of five and a half metres a second, what is the furthest distance an Angel could be standing away from Boris in order to zap him before he finds the right piece of paper? (3 marks)
- Count the number of times the Doctor called the Angels ‘Weeping Angels’ in the last episode. Discuss whether this was awkward and clumsy or just mildly irritating. (10 marks)
- List some of the reasons vicars never come out well in Doctor Who stories. (4 marks)
- Using your knowledge of space-time and temporal ripples, determine Ruth’s exact place within the Doctor’s timeline. Prove your hypothesis. You will find a TARDIS under your seat. (60 marks)
Bonus question: Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite, would you like a toasted te– THIS QUESTION HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR BREACH OF COPYRIGHT.
There is a scene in issue 2 of the 1983 comic book Love and Rockets (reprinted in the graphic novel Maggie the Mechanic) where the star of the comic, Maggie Chascarillo, hangs on for dear life to the side of a helicopter as the spaceship they have been repairing is sucked into the ground. Her friend, Penny Century, looks down in delight. “That’s the stuff comics are made of,” she sighs.
As a visual medium with an unlimited budget, there are spectacles that only comics can do without jolting the reader out of the story. It’s not surprising that the superhero genre sprang from the pages of comic books: what other medium could successfully depict people leaping tall buildings in a single bound? (Okay, animation — but that is a labour intensive medium, so the budgetary restrictions still hold).
We have seen over recent years technology catch up with the imaginations of comic artists. The success of the current crop of Marvel films is only possible because visual effects can now recreate those scenes from the original comics.
Which brings me to Village of the Angels. This was Doctor Who doing the stuff that comics are made of. This episode evoked memories of the Doctor Who comic strips from the mid-Eighties, principally those written by Steve Parkhouse and drawn by John Ridgway. The scenes in the quantum-locked village of 1901 where Dan, Yaz, and Peggy suddenly reach the end of the world, staring out into the expanse of space could have come straight from those pages. That those scenes can be done on television and work so well, demonstrates how far we have come with visual effects and the quality of the work being done by the production team. And the cliffhanger was straight out of a fan-pleasing comic book. A comic book doing things the TV show could only dream of. Watching the Doctor transform into a Weeping Angel felt like I was watching a Titan comic being brought to life before my eyes.
Truly, this was the stuff Doctor Who comics are made of and it would seem now it is the stuff Doctor Who television can be made of.
A huge success, it seems! What did you think, DWC readers?