Moffat Era Marathon #4 – “What if we had ideas that could think for themselves?”

Okay, I’ll start with saying that this one is genius.

This is our first distinct break from the Russell T Davies era, I think. Moffat concepts are coming together, in a way they haven’t done so far – the Weeping Angels, of course, and River Song. And we really play with some Moffat-y tropes here, with the meta aspects, people surviving somehow beyond death. Also, before I get to the crux of the change, Moffat’s a serial mucker-abouter and that’s so prevalent here, as he knits together a gloriously cheeky script. The Doctor leaving the brakes on all these years is hilarious, and River, oh, River, River, River, is amazing. Deliciously naughty and stealing the limelight here – god, I love her.

But at its heart, it comes down to stories. It’s because this marks a break from realistic storytelling to storytelling. Doctor Who is now less of a real-world thing, and more of a story. This is something that grows throughout Series 5, and it starts from here, really. It’s a very Moffat-y thing, it’s grown throughout a lot of his RTD era stories, and was basically the whole point of Forest of the Dead, which is set in a bloody massive library and says that people can live on through children’s stories. It is no surprise that in his era, Doctor Who telling stories instead of telling reality is a thing, and this is where it begins.

How does he do it, then? How does Moffat turn Doctor Who from a show about reality to a show about stories – well, he plays off the greatest strengths of the RTD era, which was, rather awkwardly, the fact Doctor Who was a show about reality… but he shows that this doesn’t need to be a problem, because he makes the stories real.

The story starts with hallucinogenic lipstick. From the off, somebody is trapped in a living idea. And then, of course, we get the Angels. Already, in Blink, we have a monster that is scary because of the meta way in which it is shot, basically emphasising that every statue could be an Angel. But here, that goes one step further.

The Time of Angels shows us literature written about the Weeping Angels, and it says that this literature, these ideas, can come alive. What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us. The time of Angels. That’s what makes this story doubly terrifying, more so, perhaps, than any other Weeping Angel story. Because this is literally happening on screen – the Angels are thinking for themselves, in a story called The Time of Angels. This gives the Angels a new terror because the viewer becomes part of the story – just as the Doctor, Amy and River are experiencing the time of Angels with the idea of the Angels coming to life, the viewer is experiencing The Time of Angels, and the notion that the Angels could be alive is chilling. Moffat goes to such great lengths as well, because he makes the Angels animate dead people and gives dead people a voice – if they could speak, what would they say?

And so with the Angels, and the lipstick, and dead people communicating. Moffat’s ideas are creeping further and further into the real world than they have done before – ironically, by turning the show into a story, he has made it even more terrifying – because he provides the means of those stories being real, and the vehicle for the horrors of a fairytale villain to really exist.

As is a running theme through Series 5, stories are real. The fact the concept of the Angel being a living idea is first shown through Amy is evidence of this. From Amy’s perspective, her story of the Doctor came to life. As the companion she is our surrogate and as she experiences stories coming to life, we are too. But it’s exemplified through the fact Amy’s whole arc is based on her turning to stories to run from her anxieties, and those stories that Amy has run to are coming to life. And now, specifically the villains of those stories are coming to life as well. Interestingly, for Amy these would be doubly terrifying, because the Weeping Angels cannot be run from, and they are now living stories – and because Amy’s route of escape is through stories, she is trapped. The Angels will always be able to get her.

Let’s talk about mental health. Because Amy suffers from mental health issues, obviously, and so it’s fitting that Moffat puts to bed the stigma against it – or at least starts to, because he builds on it throughout Amy’s time on the show. I mean, if anyone was moronic enough to say that a mental health condition is not real, Moffat is making the mind come alive – he is literally saying that what goes on in your head is just as real as what’s going on around you, and that if you have a mental health condition that it is just as real as a physical one. And it’s interesting that Amy is affected by this – because her hand turns to stone and she becomes physically trapped by this living idea in her mind – her mental health is trapping her, and that’s a glorious piece of awareness to raise, and I’m hella looking forward to watching it extended further in Flesh and Stone.

All of it culminates in a terrifying story. Perfectly paced, claustrophobic, gritty, and yet hilarious and cheeky at the same time. Moffat tackles a genre of episode he hasn’t tackled before, and it gives him a chance to explore the way he can tell a story. Of course, as always, he does it deftly, putting his unique spin on it.

A spin so unique, that he actually makes the episode alive. In 2009/10, just before this episode was broadcast, 3D cinema hit its peak with Avatar, and there’s always been this thing about what the next big way of experiencing television will be – HD and 4K and all that. Moffat shows that stories can be written in such a way that immersion in television and film doesn’t rely on the technology, but in fact, on the story. What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur to be true, the time will be upon us.

The Time of Angels.

The Time of Angels – 9/10

Other bits:

  • Moffat militarising the church is so clever I love him. What if evangelicalism got so far it was an almost military-like process? Amazing stuff.

 

  • It was very clever of them to do a sequel like this. The danger was, of course, to do another Blink, but Moffat was clever and decided to go completely the other direction, and it certainly paid off.

 

  • Karen is on brilliant form – I sort of feel like she took to the show slightly better than Matt did, because she doesn’t struggle at all, whereas I sometimes feel with Matt it’s a bit of a, oh, hello, it’s a new actor. But I feel mean having a go because this was a huge role for him, and he does do very well.

 

  • While on the subject of Karen, you can tell that Amy and River are mother and daughter, which is very well done.

 

  • I feel like I can’t talk about this one hugely well until I’ve rewatched the next one, so we shall see what Flesh and Stone holds…
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