A Conversational Journey through New Who – S05E04/05 – The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

“The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone”
Season five, episodes four and five
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
River Song – Alex Kingston

I find myself really struggling with what to say about this two-parter. So much of what is to come in the future of the show has roots here!

Spoilers, sweetie!

But River! When I first watched these, of course I had no idea about the events of “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, so River was this brand new character who apparently had a huge history with the Doctor and I was just learning about it. In light of later events (of which we shall not speak), the relationship between Amy and River in this story is FASCINATING, and her easy manner with the Doctor, the TARDIS, the past and future, well, it’s just marvellous, particularly this time around. That said, River Song’s timeline completely bewilders me. The first bit with the diary seems to imply River and the Doctor have had some intervening adventures offscreen. But then that’s later debunked! So confusing!

Best not to think about it, really. I think it’s great that you came in with this as your first River story – after all, we were told only in the previous story that the Doctor has also been friends with Churchill for ages. You don’t always have to have seen those adventures. One of the best things about Doctor Who (and something new people often don’t believe or understand) is that the massive weight of 50 years of continuity actually hardly matters. It’s always about new adventures, new self-contained stories – and we’re never going to see absolutely everything the Doctor gets up to.

Song, River Song.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I often assume that anytime we meet characters it seems the Doctor has a history with, I just assume there have actually BEEN adventures with them in Classic Who – works really well for newbies! 🙂

There have been lots of characters introduced in the show’s history who are meant to have extensive histories with the Doctor, even a companion IIRC! So, the idea of off screen adventures doesn’t faze me at all. And, with River Song there is the advantage that they don’t even have to have happened yet.

One of the things I like best about Amy and River in this story is that they are in no way jealous of each other’s relationship with the Doctor – Amy has given the impression that she fancies the Doctor a bit (and of course by the end of this story that has been ratcheted up to ‘quite a bit) but she’s fascinated by this other woman and what she might represent. The fact that she “might” be the Doctor’s wife (first time that thought has been vocalised on the show) is something she is amused by.

I much preferred the dynamic between River Song and Amy than some of the others we’ve seen. I think a big part of this is the fact that Amy looks at River and sees something she wants for herself, a life filled with adventure and travel, and someone who is very capable and good at what she does. I did get the impression that Amy didn’t feel particularly challenged by her career path. And, perhaps most importantly, she sees someone whose life hasn’t ended the day she got married.

So, perhaps it is that when she looks at River she doesn’t see a competitor, but a role model.

That’s a wonderful interpretation, I like it a lot. You’re absolutely right that Amy hasn’t figured out yet what she wants from life – travelling with the Doctor is about searching for that. And while Rose got caught up in the Doctor himself, I do feel that Amy’s attachment at this point is as much about where he can take her as it is to her “raggedy man” himself.

On the beach

So, Moffat just makes up “canon” to suit himself when the story requires it, right? ‘Cos there’s stuff happens here that seems to conflict with other stuff in other stories? Or is that just me showing my newbie status? 🙂

Show me your ‘broken canon’ and I will explain it!

But yes, of course he just makes it up as he goes along, he’s a writer. That’s what we do. It’s why I have no time for people fussing about the whole ‘the Doctor only has 12 regenerations and then he’s toast’ malarkey. What will happen is, we’ll get to that point, and then a writer will MAKE SOMETHING UP TO FIX IT.

Sadly of course that didn’t work for Donna. But there’s still time. I have a theory about how that’s more possible for Doctor 12’s era than Doctor 11’s but will save that until David is caught up.

That totally works for Donna if you read the wonderful fanfics! Like this one, which I still adore 🙂

There is no way that the 12 regenerations limit is going to stop the BBC from continuing, and I can think of several ways to get around it – and, if I can, someone like Moffat or Cornell can definitely manage!

Personally, I thought they had already done that in … um, but not yet, sorry David!

*changes subject quickly* I sincerely love the cave of statues set – it’s brilliant!

Gorgeous, as is the forest-on-a-spaceship concept as realised, and the beach shots as well. Add to that the very stylised opening sequence for River Song and the clever museum scene and this is honestly one of the best looking Doctor Who stories of all time.

This season really has taken the visuals up a notch, and this episode is no exception. There is so much eye candy, from the waterfall to the caverns full of angels, it looks amazing.

Girl talk

Have to say it: Father Octavian = Ser Jorah Mormont! #geekcrossover

I KNOW RIGHT? It was the other way around for me because I came to Game of Thrones late, but I have a disturbing feeling that I like the character of Jorah way more than I should, simply because he is Father Octavian. Who is a really excellent supporting character in this. But of course that’s all mixed up with how I always get him confused with the comedian Bob Franklin…

Haha yes, I may have squeed a little.

Father Octavian was my favourite character in this. I thought that he could have very easily been a caricature, but instead was a complex and nuanced character. I liked how uncompromising he was, and how he refused to be overawed by the Doctor. But, he wasn’t one of those unthinking, bull headed military types that seem to crop in so many TV shows, who are unable to listen to or consider other viewpoints. But Iain Glen could bring dignity and gravitas to any role – what a voice.

Some really great guests already this season, that’s for sure.

Yes, Khaleesi!

The militant Church of the future was a fascinating concept and I would love to see them again. I’ve found it interesting that Christianity has featured a few times in New Who’s portrayal of the future, though I am not sure the writers have really thought about the ramifications of that, other than that it makes a fun plot device. And the line when we learn that Bob is a Sacred Name – hilarious!

It’s interesting, isn’t it, considering how often Christianity (or religion generally) is just quietly “forgotten” about in so much futuristic science fiction, as if it could have disappeared completely from history despite being so integral to humanity’s recent past – in this case it certainly adds another dimension to what could otherwise be just random troops, Aliens style.

Bible Bashers!

I had not forgotten how bloody terrifying Amy alone in the forest was – I think I was more scared this viewing, and for goodness sake, I know what happens! The Weeping Angels really are the scariest darn monsters, especially in this episode, when they’re actually killing people, not just stealing their time.

TANSY: I like that this story isn’t just “Blink 2: the Revenge”; they are doing something quite different with the Angels. And on such a larger scale. The scene in which Amy watches the video of the angel is a fantastic piece in its own right, and the fact that the story revolves around her having to keep her eyes closed (rather than not blinking) is quite devastating.

(there’s a thing in this that I desperately want to talk about and I won’t but you know the thing right, Tehani? The thing in the forest? It does make this one an especially good rewatching episode)

Walking blind

Yes, the thing! (sorry David…) 🙂

I’m using this rewatch to take much more notice of the resolution of episodes, and to look for pointers to overall arcs. I’m really rubbish at seeing this stuff normally, getting all caught up in the viewing, so trying to put my “critical viewer” hat on. Not sure it will be maintained, in the face of Matt Smith awesome, though…

While I really enjoyed “Blink”, I actually thought this two parter was superior. It’s already been mentioned, but the scene where Amy is trapped with the TV screens is as good as anything I have seen in any horror movie for years, while my flesh was creeping when the Doctor was talking with Dead Bob.

Bringing back something as popular as the Angels could have been a terrible mistake, it is hard to recapture the same magic, but by inverting their threat and ramping up the stakes Moffatt has taken them to the next level in this story.

Don't blink!

I love them both for different reasons, I think. “Blink” is something a bit special, and stands out as a Doctor-lite episode, but this is packed with all sorts of other good things…

And I’m back to River – I just love her, and the interaction with the Doctor, but I still can’t fathom the timeline. Is there a gif for that?

There’s a map somewhere.

Oh, there’s this! (David, DON’T CLICK THAT!) – it’s out of date now though… 🙂

At this point, from David’s point of view, it’s easy – this is before the Library for her, and after the Library for him. She’s still technically imprisoned in the Stormcage at this point, but is obviously earning her freedom one good deed at a time. Note what she’s wearing, though, you will see it again…

More zingy Moffat dialogue in this one – I’m starting to think the dialogue might be my very favouritest thing about this season…

Amy: Explain. Who is that and how did she do that museum thing?
The Doctor: It’s a long story and I don’t know most of it. Off we go.

The Doctor: I can run away from anything I like. Time is not the boss of me.

The Doctor: Didn’t anyone ever tell you? There’s one thing you never put in a trap—if you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow—there’s one thing you never ever put in a trap … Me.

River: There’s a plan?
The Doctor: I don’t know yet. I haven’t finished talking.

Moffatt’s dialogue is the best thing about all Moffatt’s writing ever. Which is why it’s quite good he went into telly, I suppose. Remind me to lend you my Press Gang DVDs some time … and I’d love to see a fanvid which compares the various Mighty Speeches we get from Matt Smith’s Doctor with the Mighty Rants Jack Davenport gets to utter in Coupling. His are mostly about things like pillows, girls being stupid, and putting the toilet seat down, but I’m sure there’s some sort of crossover potential there…

Speaking of the ‘one thing you don’t put in a trap’ line – the cliffhanger and resolution of this two parter is one of the best of all New Who even if you have to be paying very close attention to the screen to figure out what has happened. It’s certainly up there with ‘Go To Your Room’ in “The Doctor Dances”, another Moffatt script. I do feel he handles two parters (especially the second part) much better than RTD did.

The terrible trio

Yes, especially the second part, completely agree.

Before we finish we should totally look at the final sequence, in which Amy and the Doctor return to her room and she comes on to him. Thoughts?

(I will admit right now that my original response to this scene was to burst out laughing – but I’ve given its ramifications a lot of more serious thought since then).

Laughter here too, yes, but then as you say, further consideration leading to different conclusions. And again, in light of what comes later, it changes the perspective again, I think.

As I think everybody is aware, I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the romantic elements we have seen, especially with Nine, and found some of the Doctor’s moral choices … questionable at best. So, I was actually a bit relieved by his reaction here. It’s another example of the growth we have seen in the Doctor since we first encountered the guilt ridden, traumatised survivor of the Time War. Here, he seems more startled than anything else.

It’s hard to decide what to think about Amy’s actions here, she is obviously have a terrible case of wedding jitters and being swept off your feet by your childhood hero, travelling around the universe and nearly being possessed by one of the most dangerous creatures in cosmos wouldn’t make for an uncluttered mind. So, it is unsurprising that all those things add up and express themselves in throwing herself at the Doctor. But, I can’t help but think of poor, devoted Rory waiting back at home.

Angels in the forest

Oh yes, poor old Rory. Amy gets a lot of stick for her Doctorlust in this season, but I think the important thing to note is – SHE’S TWENTY ONE. People make dumb decisions at this age, and she’s someone who has more confusion and trust issues in her background than most.

The more you learn about Amy, the more understandable it is that she does not in fact entirely believe that anyone would love her the way Rory does. What is happening right now is classic ‘testing’ how far she can go before he gives up and leaves her. It’s not nice or pretty but it is quite realistic, as is the long fallout from what she has done – and of course, running away into space the night before her wedding is part of that too.

I find Amy’s flaws quite refreshing, especially as she does have to deal with the relationship fallout that comes from her choices.

Upon reflection, I think that her actions are far more about a physical reaction to the events of the story than born of any real romantic feelings for the Doctor. At the risk of sounding crass, it seems far more of a “let’s get it on” than a “let’s settle down forever”. Not that I think it makes it okay, but that they are two *very* different motivations.

Another concern that many have raised (which made me uncomfortable about how funny I personally found this scene) is that Amy is ignoring some pretty serious consent issues – physically accosting the Doctor multiple times despite him clearly saying ‘no’ and not being interested. It is not something we would EVER see a male character do to a female character without the writer being aware they were doing something wrong – in television these days, anyway. It’s a slapstick scene that takes its comedy, like many Moffat scenes which raise feminist hackles, from a very old fashioned premise which is that a hot woman throwing herself at a bloke who isn’t interested is inherently funny.

(My excuse for finding it hilarious the first time is simply that I was raised on Carry On… movies, you can’t always shake that stuff off)

Now that is a very interesting point indeed. Shows how much we are conditioned to view things a certain way. I would have been very unhappy, angry even,had the roles had been reversed, but I have to confess I didn’t even blink an eye at that. I will have to think about why that would be the case.

And like you, Tansy, it’s not something that crossed my mind at first. Our friend Mondy often talks about how he is always having his eyes opened to things by his podcast co-host Kirstyn, and by other media like Galactic Suburbia, and I’m a bit the same – a few years ago, I would have been oblivious as well. Growing up means things aren’t always as easy as they used to be, but I hope it makes me a more aware person!

There is not a “like” button on this, so I’ll just say I’ll second that!

Having the DVD I now always watch the version of this episode with the extra scene in the TARDIS after the kiss, which I highly recommend – it’s a fun, friendly scene which shows Amy challenging the Doctor’s supposed lack of interest in having sexy female companions around and also shows that she wasn’t actually all that invested in having sex with him. The next adventure is just as enticing…


DVD box sets, this is all I am saying…

Angels crowding in
Previous Episodes

“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks

One thought on “A Conversational Journey through New Who – S05E04/05 – The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

  1. Pingback: A Conversational Journey through New Who – S06E04 – The Doctor’s Wife | Ebon Shores

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