Saturday, June 16, 2007

Doctor Who Season 3 - "Blink"

Continuing the tradition established in season 2 of Doctor Who, this episode is what's known to fans as the "Doctor-Lite" episode - we see less of the Doctor and his Companion in this episode. This is a decision made by the production team after the BBC asked for a Christmas Special after season 1 did well, meaning that they were actually making and needing to budget for 14 episodes instead of the 13 originally planned and budgeted for by the production team. The episode is filmed at the same time as at least one other (in a process known to the production team as "double-banking") and in addition to allowing 14 episodes to be filmed in the same time as 13 were in season 1, it also gives the leads a slightly less exhausting schedule. Last year's "Doctor-Lite" episode was "Love and Monsters", which I largely liked, apart from the ending (which spoils the rest of the episode for me). Steve Moffat's "Blink", on the other hand, is marvellous - although I failed to find it at all scary, which has baffled most of my Whovian friends !

Sally Sparrow goes to visit a house named Wester Drumlins - a rather dilapidated building that's not been lived in many years. Whilst she's there, taking photos, she spots a bit of wallpaper hanging down with some writing behind, and pulls it loose to find a message from the Doctor, dated 1969, that warns her to beware of the "Weeping Angels" and telling her to "Duck now!" She does, just a piece of pottery is thrown at her head. She goes back to the house the following day with her friend Cathy Nightingale, mainly to prove that she's not imagining the message. Whilst she and Cathy are looking around, someone rings the doorbell and a young man gives Sally a letter, telling her that he'd been told he could find her in the house at exactly this time. She opens the letter but when she asks who told him, he answers that it was his grandmother, who died 20 years ago, and her maiden name was Cathy Nightingale. Assuming that the young man is playing a prank, she rushes upstairs to discover that Cathy has disappeared. Moments later we see her in Hull in 1920 talking to a young man. Cathy has been sent back in time by one of the Weeping Angel statues that lurk around the house.

It turns out that the statues are actually psychopathic hunters with a unique method of dispatching their prey: with a single touch, they push their victims decades into the past (the number of years appears to be completely random), leaving the victims to live out their lives a generation or more before they were even born. The Angels then feed on the "potential energy" of the lives their victims would have lived in the present. They have the ability to move with blinding speed in order to catch their victims and they also have a unique, completely perfect defence mechanism. Whilst any living being is looking at them, they are reduced to the literal stone statues they resemble, a state which the Doctor describes as Quantum Locked, which prevents them from being killed (since you cannot kill a stone). This is the reason for their appearance of weeping - the same rule applies to others of their species, meaning that if one looks upon another, they would both be forever locked in stone. By virtue of their defence mechanism, the Angels can't be seen moving.

According to the Doctor, the Weeping Angels are a very old species who have existed since the dawn of the universe, and he describes them as "creatures of the abstract". He also notes that they are the kindest of killers, as their method of "killing" their prey doesn't actually kill, it just dispatches them into the past. A quartet of the Weeping Angels have stranded the Doctor and Martha in 1969 without the TARDIS, which they have kept in order to feed from its potential energy. The Doctor uses DVD "Easter Eggs" (the hidden extras that appear on some DVDs) to communicate with Sally and guide her to send the TARDIS back to him and Martha.

Cathy's letter to Sally asks her to tell her brother Laurence, whom Sally had briefly met at Cathy’s house the night before, that his sister is safe and that she loves him. After she delivers this message, she sees the Doctor talking on a DVD and Laurence explains about the Easter Eggs which only appear on 17 completely unrelated DVDs, a list of which he gives to Sally. She then goes to the police and talks to DI Billy Shipton, who tells her that many people have vanished from around Wester Drumlins without explanation, some even leaving their cars with the engine still running. He shows her an old Police Public Call Box that was also found near the house before he too vanishes, finding himself back in 1969 where he meets the Doctor and Martha. Sally gets a phone call on her mobile from a hospital and meets Billy who is now an old man and dying. He tells Sally what he can of his conversation with the Doctor before he dies. Sally then goes to see Laurence, having realised that the 17 DVDs do have one thing in common - they're all the DVDs she owns.

She and Laurence go back to Wester Drumlins and watch one of the DVD Easter Eggs where she has a "conversation" with the Doctor - he has a transcript of their conversation on his auto-cue - Laurence has made a copy of the things the Doctor says in the Easter Egg, then records Sally's responses to the Doctor's remarks, creating a transcript of their conversation which the Doctor tells Sally he picked up in the future. She and Laurance manage to get the TARDIS back to the Doctor despite being attacked by four of the Weeping Angels.

A year later, she sees the Doctor and Martha getting out a taxi outside the shop that she and Laurence now run, and she gives him her file of information relating to the case, including a transcript of both sides of the Easter Egg conversation, thus setting in motion the whole thing again in a continuous paradox.

Steve Moffat comes up trumps with this story, just as he did with his season 1 two-parter "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" (two of my favourite episodes of season 1) and his season 2 episode "The Girl in the Fireplace" (one of my favourite season 1 episodes). The story is based on a short story he wrote for the 2006 Doctor Who annual, which the BBC have made available on their website.


Unknown said...

Very interesting review Sass.

Michele said...

Cheers !

BlueBugg said...

I adore Steven Moffat's work, "Girl in the Fireplace" was my favourite episode from last season.

I thought this episode was brilliant, and much like you failed to be scared by the weeping angels! My husband on the other hand found them extremely frightening and was adequately freaked out by the episode.

I think for me its the fact that although your thrown back to a random point in time the weeping angels don't physically harm you...they mess with your life...but I secretly think it might be rather nice to be thrown back in time to live out the rest of your life...

I'm off to read the original short story now :)

Michele said...

Gosh ! You've reminded me that I was very remiss in NOT mentioning "The Girl in the Fireplace", which was one of my favourite episodes of Season 2 ! I'll got back and edit that review !