Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Doctor Who - Blink

Blooming blinking brilliant! That was the verdict on this latest episode of Who. An absolutely cracking story, simple and yet really effective in all the right ways. Steven Moffat pulled out all the stops to present something scary and creepy, and the direction and acting combined to make it totally rivetting from beginning to end.

The opening is awesome. Sally Sparrow is exploring an old house called Wester Drumlins and sees a message written on the wall, behind the wallpaper, telling her to beware the weeping angel, and to duck! A rock thrown through the window narrowly misses her ... and she sees that the message is from the Doctor.

Aside from idly wondering who threw the rock! When the Angels are not creeping up on people at the speed of light, do they bung stones at people for a laugh? It's only in retrospect that this makes little sense. As does the idea of the Doctor knowing where to write his message, knowing that it will be seen by Sally at that moment ... it's all a little contrived. But it doesn't really matter as the episode is just so good.

Sally is intrigued and so gets her flatmate Kathy Nightingale to come with her back to the house. The Angels approach and Kathy abruptly finds herself transported from London 2007, to Hull 1920! What a brilliant concept: aliens who kill you simply by sending you back in time to die naturally! It's all so well handled too. Kathy's grandson delivering the letter from Kathy to Sally at the same time as Kathy vanishes. Sally goes looking for Kathy but just finds one of the stone statue Angels with a yale key in its hand, which she takes.

I loved with a passion the way the statue changed position behind her. The editing and direction of this episode is awesome, with tension ratchetting all the time, and the Angels a very sinister and creepy presence.

Sally now goes to see Kathy's brother, Larry, who works in a DVD store, and we find that the Doctor is an 'Easter Egg' extra on 17 different and apparently unrelated DVDs. He is apparently holding one side of a conversation, but the other side is unknown so it all seems a little meaningless. More clever ideas from Moffat here, and the idea of the Doctor being a hidden DVD extra is again fun and fitting.

Sally goes to the Police, and meets Billy, a young black copper who takes a shine to her and asks for her number. However the Police have a car park full of cars abandoned outside the old house ... and the TARDIS is there also. When Sally has gone, however, the Angels approach the box, and Billy is transported back to 1969 where he meets the Doctor and Martha. They get him to take a message to Sally in 2007 ... which he delivers to her on his death bed.

Sally asks Larry to bring the Doctor's message on the DVD to the old house where they play it, and Sally is able to have a conversation with the Doctor, which Larry records in a pad ... this is how the Doctor knows what to say, and what Sally is asking him ... my mind reels with all this, but it's just so neat and clever!

But then ... the Angels attack. The Doctor explains that they are quantum locked, which means that they can only move when unobserved. So you must not take your eyes off them or even blink as then they can get you. He tells Sally that she has to get the blue police box back to them, and she eventually finds it in the cellar, surrounded by the Angels. She and Larry hurry to use the key she has to get in, but the Angels make the light fail, and in the flashes of darkness, they close in.

Finalls, Sally and Larry get inside and are safe, but a hologram of the Doctor appears and asks them to place the DVD in the console to activate it. They do this, and the ship dematerialises from around them! They are surrounded by the Angels ... but are safe as the creatures are all now looking at each other and so will remain stone forever.

I loved the simplicity and cleverness of this solution. However I'm sure that someone will move the statues eventually and they will be able to escape somehow ...

Now we flash forward a year, and Sally has been unable to get over the events. She has all the information, transcript, photographs in a folder ... and suddenly she sees the Doctor and Martha outside the DVD shop which she now owns with Larry - they are just friends.

She talks to the Doctor, but in a genius stroke, the adventure has not happened to him yet. She gives him the file of information and he and Martha rush off to whatever adventure they are having ... This is lovely ... really lovely. But do you know what I would have loved. I would have adored there to have been a scene in, maybe The Lazarus Experiment, where, from Martha's point of view, we saw the Doctor talking to Sally, and not know what it was all about ...

The problem for me is that, as with Love & Monsters, we catch a glimpse of an adventure which is not 'real' in as much as we've not seen it on TV. Of course the business with arrows and reptiles might be in a future story, but I severely doubt whether we'll see the 10th Doctor and Rose battling the Hoix anytime soon ... It would just have been nice to have seen the exchange beforehand in an earlier story, and to have, at that point, been in exactly the same position as the Doctor and Martha and not know what on earth it was all about. A small missed opportunity I feel.

And then we end with a final collage of statues ... loads and loads of statues. Imlying that any and all of them could be Weeping Angels, and that they could come and get you if you so much as blink!

I'm sure several kids went to bed eyeing any statues around carefully that night. Blink was a brilliant slice of Saturday evening entertainment and did everything that Doctor Who does at its very best. Even the fact that the Doctor's not in it very much didn't seem to matter. Carey Mulligan, playing Sally, was brilliant, bringing warmth and humanity to the part. Her reactions were spot on, from the terror, to the confusion, to the loss of her friend, to the embarrasment at Billy's flirting with her. Larry was also well played, and even Kathy and Billy were excellent. Especial kudos to Louis Mahoney playing the old Billy. He's come a long way from playing a newscaster in 1973's Frontier in Space, and Ponti in 1975's Planet of Evil.

In fact the only thing that really ruined the episode for me, was the BBC squishing the end credits into a box the size of a postage stamp, and allowing Graham Norton to shout about his show on next ... very, VERY annoying indeed. All BBC channels have apparently adopted this approach for most shows, and I really feel it is something of an abomination. If you feel strongly then maybe consider making your voice heard, and phone the BBC complaints line on 08700 100 222. I did, and who knows, maybe if enough people contact them to say that they like watching the end credits, and being able to read them, and that it spoils the mood of drama programs to have this happen at the end, and that the people involved in making the shows deserve for their names to be seen and to be readable on screen ...

Anyway ... next week we have the end of the Universe (again), Derek Jacobi, Captain Jack, and some pointy-toothed individuals in what looks like it could be a remake of The Savages ... time will tell.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree! Three great episodes in a row, and what's even more wonderful is just how different BLINK is from HN/TFoB. Can't really compare the two as they're so different, but they're so good. What a great show is DOCTOR WHO that it can be so different from week to week but still be great.


Anonymous said...

Hiya I just came across your site for the first time in ages. I've got aload of your books, great works! I've been a fan of dr who for ages and i'm glad there is someone who gives a real balanced review of the new series. Sorry it juts seems all the staff on the new series and DWM are too busy back slapping eachother on what a great job they've done they don't notice any faults. That a different story though, just wanted to say keep up the good work! Thanks!

Juby! said...

Yeah, the rock-through-the-window thing bothered me at first until I got to thinking about it. The whole point of the episode was to show how contorted and, at times, self-dependent the Doctor's personal timeline is (which comes back again in "The Sound of Drums").

My theory on it is that it was just some random hoodlum chucking a rock through an abandoned house. Because it was the first event in Sally's encounter with the Doctor, you can be sure she'd include it in her notes that she gives him later on. He writes the note, she reads it, ducks, rinse, repeat.

Steve DeGroof said...

I just last night had a chance to see this episode. Loved it. Watched it twice. It's got everything: scary monsters, time paradox, hidden messages and the visceral "don't close your eyes" nightmare.

I'll never look at a game of "Statues" the same way again.

As far as how the angels could escape: All they need to do is wait for darkness. That's assuming they can't see in the dark, of course.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if it's merely the angel's touch that causes the person to go back in time so they can consume the potential energy. If that is the case, they're stuck if they can see in the dark, and if they can't, they risk touching each other if they move, right? Just a thought!