Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set

Damn it, Mr Moffat, you're giving the younger viewers mixed signals with your Weeping Angels! First you tell 'em to keep watching - now you tell 'em that staring at a Weeping Angel on a telly screen is the worst thing they can do! There'll be interdenominational purges in the playground, I can just see it.

I think the new series has just about clicked for me now. The new theme arrangement started to feel right last week, and now we've got another good episode to follow it. Hopefully this is where the series finds its feet - it's generally taken the full first half of the run for any given series of New Who to get really good, the exception in my eyes being the 2006 series which had a pronounced slump in the second half instead. Fingers crossed for no slump this time round.

It's a provisional top-end 8 out of 10 for The Time of Angels, although as usual with two-parters I'll reserve final judgement until I've seen the other episode. It's a good 'un, but like the Silence in the Library two-parter it's coming on like Steven Moffat's Greatest Hits. No catchphrase cliffhanger, thank goodness. 51st century again, though, which means dead characters talking again. Obviously River Song vs Weeping Angels was going to happen sooner or later.

It's good that Moffat's trying out something new with the Weeping Angels, but it's equally good that he has the Doctor commenting on it, otherwise it'd look a bit odd next to their behaviour in Blink. They're clearly trying to manipulate the Doctor into doing something for them, but what? (They've shown an interest in the TARDIS before - hmm... And now it looks as though they might have an agent on the inside, so to speak - hmm...) Some interesting hints on their origins - ideas that took on a life of their own, you say?

Alex Kingston doesn't seem quite as zingy as River Song as she did the last time. Maybe she's just acting a more abrasive, less mature River, who knows? Something seems a bit off. Nice to see Moffat playing about with her story a bit - keeps things interesting. I did have a theory about her, but it doesn't sit too well with her criminal past. Presumably all will be revealed in the series finale.

The "blue stabilisers" scene deserves special discussion. It's a problematic little nugget of script. On the one hand, it's a great throwaway line, a hilarious gag at the Doctor's expense and a novel way of boosting the significance of River's character. On the other hand, it makes no sense. The TARDIS makes that noise because the Doctor leaves the brakes on? So hang on, every Time Lord seen in the show's long history - and they designed the damn things, let's not forget - has left the brakes on? When the Time Lords sent the Jon Pertwee Doctor the missing engine parts for his TARDIS, those parts had brakes and the Time Lords left them on? It'd be the perfect bit of dialogue for a charity skit, but as a canonical part of the show's mythology it's just stupid.

We might also wonder who taught River how to fly the TARDIS (and how to write in the Time Lord equivalent of Latin) if she's not joking about the Doctor being busy that day.

That's my only particular gripe about this story so far, and it's a gripe about a comedy scene, so overall things are looking good. Nice bit of James-Bond-in-space stuff at the start - we could use some of that more often. Although they haven't really come into their own as characters yet, some nice material around the Church's paramilitary wing. Nice teleport effect for their arrival. And the dead-character-talking stuff, for my money, was better than the dead-character-talking stuff in Silence in the Library. And the whole scene around the recording of the Weeping Angel was just great.

And oh look, a big crack in space and time - in the trailer at the end. Looks like it starts to get more serious next week.


Christopher Pittard said...

Hmm, I seem to be slightly at odds with the consensus on this one. Yes, it's good, but to me it doesn't feel thought through enough. So - an army of angels? Just stop and think about that - an army made up of beings who can't look at each other? Who, it therefore implies, become progressively weaker as their numbers increase? Too, too silly, and having them en masse tends to dilute their threat (at least, so it seemed in the second part). And maybe I missed a crucial fifteen seconds, but am I right in thinking that River Song has the big important book of Angel lore, but nobody's actually read it? And the business about "The image of an angel becomes an angel" is, I feel, a mistake. Firstly, because it takes so damn long for the Doctor to work out what it means (god help him if a later episode turns on him understanding a page of Derrida), but secondly because it stamps all over the fourth wall breakage in *Blink* that made that episode so effective and nu Who's only undisputed 10/10 so far. Yes, it gives us a nice scene (the wife, who hadn't seen *Blink*, was amusingly wide eyed with terror throughout), but I'm not convinced that it doesn't do more damage to what was already a perfectly good idea. I have more gripes about part two, but that's another story for another day. Low 7/10, I says.

John Toon said...

Interesting point about the army. I suppose the caverns were in darkness apart from our heroes' torches, but that raises a doubly awkward question - can the angels see in the dark (in which case they'd equally be stuffed), or not (in which case they'd have to fumble their way around). Blink does present a similar situation, when multiple angels are moving around in the dark. It's a conundrum.

Perhaps they use some sort of non-visual sense in the dark? Although there's then a question of whether non-visual modes of perception count - if they "quantum lock" when observed, is it just visual observation by large sentient beings that's a problem? At least, scientifically that would be a concern. Given the way Moffat's set it up so that the viewer never sees them move, and given his even more obvious scene with the screen in this episode, I'd suggest that as far as we're concerned they only "quantum lock" when we're watching them on the telly.

Hadn't given much consideration to the Bumper Pop-Up Book of Weeping Angels, but yes, there is a bunch of odd around that. Presumably the Bishop brought it with him as I didn't see her carrying it around earlier, and it looks too big for her handbag. Has the Bishop read it?

strabec said...

The viewer never sees the angels move huh? Wait 'til you see the next episode...
I enjoyed the story. Yes there were a few minor things. Like not noticing that the locals have two heads but hang on the statue only have one? The army of angels that must be wearing special blinkers so they don't look at each other...
Leaving the Tardis brakes on....hmmm... but as I recall (and I am happy to be corrected) in the Davidson era when the viewer was in the Tardis and the Tardis landed there was no wheezing noises. The wheezing noises were only heard if you happen to be outside the tardis.