Last week’s fantastic opener to this two-parter brought us an even scarier interpretation of the Weeping Angels (if that’s possible!) and more layers of mystery to the story of River Song’s relationship with the Doctor. Who or WHAT is River Song? Can The Doctor trust her? How the heck will they escape from certain death trapped in the Maze of The Dead surrounded by Angels on all sides?
We open with a clever solution to the cliff-hanger and more quotable lines from the pen of Steven Moffat, “One good jump and up we fell!” as they all pick themselves up having fallen upwards towards the base of the Byzantium. This absurd phraseology really makes me think of Alice in Wonderland and, actually, now I think of it more, there seems to be a lot of Alice about Amy’s situation – a girl on the verge of some big changes running away to Wonderland and having adventures with the Mad Hatter. Anyway, I digress…
Amy starts unconsciously counting down. To what? And why does she not know she’s doing it? This is another spooky aspect of the story, the sense of losing oneâ€™s self with something else taking over, consuming you from within… After they discover the oxygen factory (essentially, a forested chamber) “Angel Bob” calls the Doctor on the communicator and says that thereâ€™s so much more power on board the ship than he realizes and taunts him, saying “The Doctor in the TARDIS hasn’t noticed.” Then the crack in time from Amyâ€™s bedroom wall in The Eleventh Hour appears in the wall. â€œWhat are you?â€ ponders the Doctor as he examines the crack…
The Angels then break through the door and if you look close enough at just the right moment you’ll see the Angel’s hand move to catch the Doctor’s jacket collar. I didn’t notice first time through, but on the second viewing this gave me the willies, as itâ€™s almost subliminal in its effect as we witness an Angel moving for the first time on screen.
When the Doctor rejoins the others in the forest he is almost brutal with his honesty to Amy, telling her she is dying. Thereâ€™s no point in lying, heâ€™s far too busy trying to save everyone and doesnâ€™t have time to spare on niceties. The Doctor now goes into overdrive thinking furiously as he figures out that Amy has an Angel in her mind on a “virtual screen” so tells her to shut her eyes to starve the Angel. Amy stabilises and stops counting down, but now has to keep her eyes shut or else she’ll die â€“ a nice subversion of the original â€œdonâ€™t blinkâ€ motif!
Before leaving Amy with the clerics, The Doctor tells her he’ll come back, “I always come back”. Notice at this point that The Doctor is without his jacket. He leaves and then immediately returns to tell Amy to remember what he told her when she was seven years old. However, this time HEâ€™S WEARING HIS JACKET… which we saw him leave with the Angels earlier. This could well be an incredibly significant plot point for the overall arc of the season… or it could be a continuity error.
This jacketed Doctor seems more emotional at this point, kissing Amy on the forehead. Is this a goodbye? Has the Doctor from later in this season crossed his own time line to come back to adjust events for a different conclusion?Â Is this another instance of The Doctor crossing time streams to fix events. Why does Amy not remember the Daleks?
As they reach the exit to the primary flight deck, River makes a comment about them running out of time and the Doctor realises that time could well be “running out” or “rewinding” as he puts it. “Time can be re-written,” he says. He gabbles on, pondering Amyâ€™s nature, referencing the duck pond with no ducks. These flashes of the Doctorâ€™s mind at work bring a new level to the character, an insight into the hyperactive chain of consciousness that defines his superior alien intellect.
Alone in the forest, Amy is left to weave her way through the fleeing Angels using a proximity detector. This is an incredibly scary position to be in â€“ knowing that if you open your eyes you will die but you are surrounded by creatures that will kill you if you even close your eyes for a split second to blinkâ€¦ Naturally, she falls over and the Angels start to realize that she canâ€™t see them after all. Having spent two and a half episodes (including S3â€™s Blink) learning that Angels canâ€™t move if you look at them we finally get to see them move â€“ and how unnerving it is to see these stone statues, these lonely assassins, turn their heads to look at the helpless Amy. After watching this my daughter added a new dimension to her Angel impressions, turning her head slowly. Kids across the country will spend many hours in this pursuit, no doubt!
The conclusion to the Angelâ€™s story is rather simplistic, the artificial gravity fails and the Angels fall to their doom and are consumed by The Crack. This episode certainly tops the preceding weekâ€™s Time of The Angels and zips along at a cracking pace. Moffatâ€™s script sparkles with witty dialogue interspersed with moments of poignancy, dripping with memorable quotes. I went into this two-parter telling friends that we would get answers to questions about the nature of the crack and Amyâ€™s role in events to come, but in fact, we probably have more questions than before!
Who did River Song murder? She said that it was the best man she had ever known. Of course, I assume she means the Doctor himself, but how can this be? Does this mean that when the Doctor first met her in The Library that she had already killed him? If not the Doctor, then who else could she possibly be describing?
Flesh and Stone has all the hallmarks of becoming one of tomorrowâ€™s all time classic stories â€“ memorable quotes and monsters, outstanding performances from regulars and supporting cast, introducing as many mysteries as it solves and adding substantially to the overall Whoniverse.
I think the standout performance has to be Iain Glenâ€™s Father Octavian, a noble soldier who makes the ultimate sacrifice, â€œI think, sir, you have known me at my best.â€
The epilogue to this weekâ€™s episode kicks the series arc up a gear. The Doctor realizes that the date of Amyâ€™s wedding matches the base code of the universe that River discovered earlier â€“ â€œ26 06 2010â€. This is also the transmission date of the series finale â€“ coincidence? We now see the full extent of the portentousness of this revelation – everything is about Amy and all the events surrounding the mysterious crack in time caused by an explosion in the future seem to point to her.
Simon Mills is the brain behind the Doctor Who and Torchwood News Service.