This story works with two plots – the advancing – or should that be retreating – Angels, who, with the voice of Angel Bob, are sarcastic and playful and utterly menacing – and this new threat which promises to not only to be able to rewrite everything you ever thought you knew about Doctor Who since its return but beyond that. More straight forward and far less subtle than RTD’s Time War or even Lawrence Mile’s Faction Paradox, it gives reasons for Amy’s lack of knowledge of Daleks or why history doesn’t talk about giant CyberKings in Victorian London. As usual with Steven Moffat though, he gives us the solution to the episode at the start, but it’s the forehead slap at the end which really does work.
If I was to criticise this episode it would be to say it’s a little too quick. Things happen very quickly, people are despatched or removed cleanly and this story ends a good five minute before the episode does. It’s best to look at this second part as part of a whole. As an episode on its own, whilst thrilling, it’s a little disjointed.
Again direction is slick and inventive, and the use of light and dark and loud and quiet along with quick edits and odd camera speeds help create the fairytale world. And fairytale again plays a part – as River hints at the end. This episode more than most is beautifully framed and lit. Many of the images – particularly the TARDIS on the beach – will become iconic.
The guest stars are limited in what they can do, but they do do it well. The clerics are loosely drawn but do their job adequately. Iain Glen’s Bishop Octavian is underused, and, as the Doctor say “I wish I’d got to know you better”, and this is a sentiment I agree with. Alex Kingston’s River Song has a couple of nice moments, winks a bit about spoilers and makes some comments about the future, but is not the centre of attention, although her instinct to sacrifice herself for the Doctor is again on show.
Karen Gillan has lost some of the cocky swagger from her earlier episodes and plays Amy with a cute and endearing vulnerability. She has a terrifying episode, in scenes which will become much talked about in Wholore.
This is the first time Matt has been allowed to properly take centre stage as the Doctor apart from that tantalising glimpse at the end of The Eleventh Hour and it’s a fabulous performance from start to finish. Properly in charge the Doctor is manic and fast and brilliant in equal measures, but he allows some neat downbeat pulses in exchanges with Amy, River and Octavian. Again he channels other Doctors effortlessly. For RTD-philes, there’s lots of David, and he almost gets his “I’m so sorry” catchphrase out for an encore and, at one point, mimics his line to Sarah Jane…”My Amy,” he says touchingly. He does a mean Sylvester too and works out directions the same way Tom does. He is at times though a shouty and at once point a sweary Doctor. This works well in context, and gives Matt some meat to work with. I’m really enjoying Matt, particularly in this story. His reaction to Amy at the end (I won’t say why) is gawky and awkward, funny and touching, but he does manage a bit of Girl In The Fireplace too…
People might moan a bit about this episode, but it should be absolutely viewed as a whole with The Time of Angels. The quick denouement is to make way for something else… and something which will have your chins on the floor. I’m pretty sure you won’t see what happens five minutes after the Doctor and Amy left Leadworth coming. But, of course, ssshhh… spoilers…