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Angels Wept: The Maze of the Dead on Doctor Who

When it came time for Steven Moffat to revisit the Weeping Angels, I didn't know how he'd be able to top their jaw-droppingly creepy debut in Season Four's "Blink."

Yet, in this week's episode of Doctor Who ("The Time of Angels"), written by Steven Moffat and directed by Adam Smith, Moffat manages to not only make the terrifying "Blink" seem like child's play in comparison, but he creates a whole new level of dread and suspense involving these otherworldly creatures, taking Doctor Who's fairy tale ethos into a very dark place indeed.

Since their introduction in "Blink," The Weeping Angels have remained my favorite Who villains to date as their very horror stems from the fact that they're quantum locked: we can't see them move or about to pounce until it's too late for us. Look away, or even blink, and they'll consume the full potential of your life. While that was already a particularly unnerving proposition, Moffat has done himself proud with "The Time of Angels," an episode that finds the Doctor and Amy Pond joining up with a figure from the Doctor's future: River Song (Alex Kingston), who appears to be hiding a rather crucial secret from the man who could one day be her husband. Or will he be? Hmmm...

What did I think of "The Time of Angels"? Let's discuss.

Talk about an entrance: I thought that the reunion between the Doctor and River was handled with a mix of excitement, drama, and heart-stopping visuals as River not only carves a message in Old High Gallifreyan to the Doctor (so he'll find it at some point in the future) but then jettisons herself through a spaceship airlock knowing that he'll rescue her in the TARDIS. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, River Song is amazing.

Just who is she? She knows the ancient Gallifreyan language (enough at least to inscribe "Hello, Sweetie!" on the Byzantium's Home Box), she can pilot the TARDIS better than the Doctor himself, and she knows details about the Doctor that point to some future relationship between the two. (In her last appearance, Season Four's "The Forest of the Dead," also written by Moffat, River appears to know the Doctor's true name.)

But there's also something else going on here as well, something that River is keeping concealed from the Doctor. Octavian whispers something to River about the Doctor perhaps not helping her if he knew the truth... and the fact that she appears to be a released prisoner helping the church on this mission. What crime could she have committed? Hmmm...

And then there are the Angels themselves. While their appearance in "Blink" was haunting, here the Weeping Angels are even more powerful, able to transform themselves from an image of an Angel into an actual Angel, as poor Amy Pond discovers when she's trapped inside the surveillance center and is watching the Angel move, even though it's been filmed on a four-second timeloop. I thought that sequence was brilliantly shot and acted as Amy becomes aware of her predicament and is able to save herself without the Doctor's help. However, her belief that she has something in her eye makes me think that she's not out of the woods by a longshot. If an image of an Angel can become an Angel and the creature imprinted itself on her eye then it may have transmitted itself to her brain... where it begins to manifest inside Amy Pond.

This theory would seem to bare some weight given Amy's later belief that she's turning to stone as the Angel begins to control her mind and perception capabilities. Which would be bad enough if the team wasn't already surrounded by an army of Weeping Angels, the statues within the maze of the dead, and who had already killed off the majority of their military cleric team. The crash of the Byzantium wasn't an accident: it was a rescue mission. The Angel aboard that ship was looking to free its brethren trapped in the maze of the dead on Alfava Metraxis.

And now they've lured the Doctor, Amy, and River into a deadly trap. But, as the Doctor says, there's one thing you don't want to put in a trap: him. As he fires a gun (which must be a first for the Doctor), we're left to ponder just how they'll escape and seeming inescapable trap laid out for them by the army of Weeping Angels surrounding surrounding them and draining their lights...

Well, there is that matter of the gravity globe, after all. And, while they might be at the top of the maze, they're right underneath the Byzantium.

All in all, Moffat has delivered a fantastic episode that put the tenuous partnership between the Doctor and Amy in jeopardy, reintroduced both the Weeping Angels and River Song in sensational style, and left me anxious to see just what happens next. Full of atmosphere, tension, and gripping suspense, "The Time of Angels" ranks up there with the very best of Doctor Who, a consummate ghost story of terror, rage, and fear that I can't shake from my mind, days later.

What did you think of this week's episode? Is River Song who she claims to be? What did Octavian mean by his off-hand comment towards River? What's going on with Amy? Head to the comments section to discuss.

On the next episode of Doctor Who ("Flesh and Stone"), trapped among an army of Weeping Angels, the Doctor and his friends must try to escape through the wreckage of a crashed space liner, but in the forest vault, Amy Pond finds herself under a yet more deadly attack.

Comments

The CineManiac said…
Stupid Ethics and attorney brain keeping me from just downloading the episode illegally from one of the many torrent sites. I want to watch the next episode!!!!!

This episode was great and I loved the scene with Amy and the video, it was brilliant. Although I would love to have an appearance by Sally Sparrow!
Anonymous said…
I am not a River Song fan. I felt like she didn't fit with Tennant, and she really doesn't fit with Smith. But - she was far less annoying this go round. She may grow on me yet.
Did you call her "River Pond" on purpose because I fully intend on calling her that from now on.

As for the Angels I really loved this go round. They were terrifying. This was by far the best ep of the new season.
Unknown said…
Generally a great episode, but not as riveting as Blink, which is still one of my favs.

I'm probably missing something, but why is this Angel killing people? Their M.O. used to be to send their victims back in time. They killed Bob to rip out his cerebral cortex, fine, but why kill the other two?
I still haven't been able to sit through an episode with the new Dr. yet. It's lost a little bit of...something...for me that I can't explain. I like Amy fine, and Matt Smith is better than I thought he would be.
I started this episode (I LOVE the weeping angels) but didn't finish it.

I miss David Tennant and I'm not on board with the new writing yet. I'll keep trying though.
Hadley said…
Blink is still one of my favorite episodes of all time but this one was also thrilling and I was happy (or terrified?) to see more of the Weeping Angels as they certainly are one of the most creepy creations ever to grace the small screen. The scene with Amy and the video image of the Angel was definitely the most intense of the episode!
Oscar Gordon said…
I'm not a long enough fan to know the whole mythology of the Doctor, so this may not be possible, but I always had the feeling that River was in fact a later incarnation of the Doctor himself. It would explain how she knows his real name, and why she had a sonic screwdriver inthe Library.

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