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Published on May 4th, 2010 | by Simon Mills

Flesh and Stone Review

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?

Doctor Who - Flesh and StoneWe 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 one’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 there’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 Amy’s bedroom wall in The Eleventh Hour appears in the wall. “What are you?” 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 it’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. There’s no point in lying, he’s far too busy trying to save everyone and doesn’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 – a nice subversion of the original “don’t blink” 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 HE’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?  Is this another instance of The Doctor crossing time streams to fix events. Why does Amy not remember the Daleks?

Doctor Who - Weeping Angels threaten the travellers in Flesh and Stone

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 Amy’s nature, referencing the duck pond with no ducks. These flashes of the Doctor’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 – 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 blink… Naturally, she falls over and the Angels start to realize that she can’t see them after all. Having spent two and a half episodes (including S3’s Blink) learning that Angels can’t move if you look at them we finally get to see them move – 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!

Doctor Who - Flesh and StoneThe conclusion to the Angel’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 week’s Time of The Angels and zips along at a cracking pace. Moffat’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 Amy’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 tomorrow’s all time classic stories – 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 Glen’s Father Octavian, a noble soldier who makes the ultimate sacrifice, “I think, sir, you have known me at my best.”

The epilogue to this week’s episode kicks the series arc up a gear. The Doctor realizes that the date of Amy’s wedding matches the base code of the universe that River discovered earlier – “26 06 2010”. This is also the transmission date of the series finale – 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.

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3 Responses to Flesh and Stone Review

  1. avatar Carn says:

    Tired of praising this story elsewhere so just wanna say goddamn I loved it. And the angels actually moving made them creepy to me for the first time ever (though some online friends said it ‘ruined their mystery’..whatever)

    And yeah the jacket bit has had me perplexed too. It could be an error but it seems like it would have been too obvious an error for them to miss especially when the story dictated he lose his jacket. It felt like it was for a reason and he does seem different in that scene, and his glance away from her to presumably where he had just left makes me wonder too. Also in the next scene he’s not shown catching up to River and Octavian, he’s already with them.

    I’m loving this run even more so than any of the previous modern Who series. Moffat, Smith and Gillan just seem like the perfect team for the show.

    And dammit Character Options when’s the Amy Pond figure out? :P

  2. avatar Rick714 says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t notice the jacket! Seems like an obvious plan and not a continuity error, since you’ve spelled it out. The way the camera went in close as to not see that much of the jacket in the first place—I wonder if we’ll see him hop through time later in the series to come back to that spot, much like when Tennant did the tie trick with Martha.

    This ep also, for me, showed me just how much Smith enjoyed Troughton’s Doctor when he was doing research. He’s incorporated some Troughton into his mannerisms which is wonderful. He’s also got a bit of Tennant in there, part of which I’m sure is the writers, who are very used to writing for Tennant for the past 4 years but I’ll bet we see a bit of evolution as the series goes on.


  3. Have to agree re the Troughton comparison. I’m just waiting for him to say, “When I say run…run!”

    I’d forgotten the tie trick with Martha. That’s a good comparison!

    –Simon.

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