This review may contain spoilers.
Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink.
When those words were last spoken, it was because “Doctor Who” had again turned a seemingly harmless object into something to be feared — a stone angel. This time around, if you blink you may miss something that will actually entertain.
“Time Of Angels” is a slow starter, but what keeps the episode moving is River Song (Alex Kingston) and the endless guessing games on who she actually is – or will be – to the Doc tor (Matt Smith). Her previous stint on the series (which ended in tears) indicated she might be the only person the Doctor has ever really loved (or will do at any rate). “Time Of Angels” continues to build on that idea but introduces reasonable doubt on exactly what kind of person River really is.
The opening teaser very interestingly cuts between River’s mission and 12000 years in the future as the Doctor discovers a hidden message intended just for him … an S.O.S. from River. What follows is a collection of bickering, verbal sparring and spoilers to the future of both characters that leaves plenty to the imagination.
However, “Time Of Angels” by no means encroaches the scares of season three’s “Blink,” nor does it carry the same mystery and intrigue that the return of the Weeping Angels really deserved. The new dying Angels may be more gruesome and slightly more macabre than the “Doctor Who” norm but they still do not in any way compare to “Blink.”
Then again, the final ten minutes really pick up and lead right into another brand new adventure that could see the Angels return to their prime so maybe the best has yet to come.
The homage to “The Ring” was expertly executed and is just one of those scenes you can’t tear yourself away from until it comes to its conclusion. Murray Gold’s subtle scoring as Amy investigates the movement of the Angel cranks up the tension big style. Unfortunately, the translucent and non-corporeal Angel detracts slightly from the overall fear-factor (perhaps a stone Angel stretching through the television would have been better utilized) but the overall effect is well achieved.
Even the very setting of the episode comes with chills – the Maze of the Dead is almost textbook in its design and is incredibly similar to a labyrinth of legend. And, it even holds a very twisted secret that is revealed through idol banter. When the lights go out and the gruesome features are revealed, the final ten minutes are loaded with intensity and the dying creatures look more like zombies than they do Angels.
Alex Kingston again has a fantastic presence on the series, only this time with a more sinister edge than we’ve seen in “Forest Of The Dead.” Back then, she was all knowing and almost altruistic but in “Time Of Angels,” an encounter that obviously precedes her library experience, she holds a darker secret. It is almost as if her time with the Doctor mellows her over time and what we’re seeing is a very early view of the character.
And Steve Moffat deserves a pat on the back for some of the lines trumped by the character. Of particular note is River’s simple request of, “Can you sonic me?”
Best of all, Matt Smith’s last minute speech was simply terrific.
What Didn’t Work
The Angels will never be as captivating as they were in their debut and “Time Of Angels” requires a major re-invention of the monsters to keep the scare tactics effective.
River clearly knows who the Doctor is, yet the Doctor she knows is not even mentioned. They are the same person, yes, but why is it Matt Smith’s Doctor that comes to her rescue onboard the starliner and not the Doctor she eventually comes together with?
The episode also shot down the infamous wooping of the Tardis as an egotistical mistake made by the Doctor for hundreds of years.
Most disappointingly of all, the cliff-hanger leading into the next episode fails have the level of magnetism it really deserves. The Doctor brandishing a gun a shooting an anti-grave globe isn’t exactly a shocking twist to leave you wondering what will happen next.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “Time Of Angels” was written by Steve Moffat and directed by Adam Smith.
“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 6.20 p.m. on BBC One in the United Kingdom and at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.