This review may contain spoilers.
“Doctor Who” monsters; we’ve had evil ones, scary ones, ludicrous ones, and there have even been some so cute you just want to take them home. The Weeping Angels don’t fall into any of the above categories and again prove to be something far more terrifying than any piece of CGI, pepper pot, or man in a metal suit.
The Weeping Angels by definition are just chilling.
Having said that, where “Time of Angels” was naturally exciting in its premise, “Flesh and Stone” struggles from the onset. The predicament that the characters are in – namely, trapped on board a crashed vessel with an entire army of Angels descending upon them – is very quickly tossed aside in place of larger peril … the end of time itself (like we haven’t heard that one before).
The narrative of the episode is swallowed by cracks (literally) and the Angels are relegated to a convenient device designed to provide the characters with a reason to keep moving. The scares and thrills of “Time of Angels” are gone, leaving too much to dialogue. The solution to Amy’s (Karen Gillan) growing Angelitis, the unspoken eureka moments and a series of other convenient twists involving the long-term effects of time travel all detract from the unfolding drama. And, again, the visuals of the episode are far less than what the series is capable of producing.
Thankfully, “Flesh and Stone” does not rely on flash visuals or massive set pieces. These things are all there to enhance the drama only and it is instead the inter-personal relationships and the human reaction that keep the episode afloat.
Gillan in particular carries the episode, continuing to be the most fascinating companion of the revitalised franchise. Amy is a young, care free woman with a heart for adventure. Like her predecessors, she is capable of seeing the wonder of her circumstances as well as the danger.
Like its season four counter-part, “Flesh and Stone” is another fantastic opportunity to see the Doctor out of his comfort zone. In every adventure, he is the one to take his companions by the hand and teased with the future of humanity and the future of the universe itself. But with the inclusion of River Song (Alex Kingston), the Doctor becomes the companion and he is forced to face his own future.
Kingston again excels at the role, and creates a fantastic dynamic between the Doctor and Amy. Although the mystery of her prison sentence is never fully elaborated on, she remains as much of an enigma as she was during “Forest of the Dead.” The Doctor has a habit of redeeming people and it is an interesting notion that River is one of those souls that is in need of his rehabilitation.
The Doctor snapping at River was also a nice development to the character as he struggles under pressure … we’ve already seen snippets of the same personality traits in previous seasons but this could be what makes Matt Smith unique as the Doctor.
What Didn’t Work
Like “Time of Angels,” Octavian (Iain Glen) remains underused (despite a very nice goodbye speech) and you just can’t help but feel like he would have been better utilized as a villain (ala “Tomb Raider”).
It was incredibly disappointing to see the Angels disposed of so easily and without any major agenda beyond killing the people onboard. Plus, the execution of their destruction was something worthy of the original series that relied on wobbly sets and cheap camera work.
And, there was something a little too raunchy about Amy thrusting herself towards the Doctor at the episodes end. On a series like “Torchwood” it would be incredibly mild, but the subject matter may be a little too mature of the shows target audience.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “Flesh and Stone” 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.