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Recap: Doctor Who S29 E10 "Blink"
aka: Doctor Who NSS 3 E 10 Blink

"Don't blink. Don't even blink. Blink and you're dead. They're fast. Faster than you could believe. Don't turn your back, don't look away, and don't blink. Good luck."
'The Doctor

"Blink" was written by Steven Moffat.

The Doctor-lite episode was based on a short story written by Moffat for the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, titled "'What I Did On My Christmas Holidays', by Sally Sparrow". (The BBC has kindly put this up on their website.)


"Blink" centers on Sally Sparrow (played by Carey Mulligan), a clever, spunky young woman who visits an old mansion called Wester Drumlins in 2007 and finds a spookily-detailed message from the Doctor written in 1969. The message tells her to "beware the weeping angels" and "by the way, duck!" She ducks, and a ceramic pot of some sort smashes into the wall just behind her head. Seeking the attacker, she sights an angel statue in the garden.

Sally leaves Wester Drumlins and, the next day, goes to visit her friend, Kathy Nightingale. At Kathy's house, Sally notices a TV set playing a DVD of the Doctor, apparently talking to thin air. She also meets Kathy's brother Lawrence (Lawrence Nightingale, get it?), who has apparently discovered that sleeping in the nude helps with those tricky midnight leaks. Sufficiently Genre Savvy viewers know what's coming next, despite Moffat trying to throw a curveball by reversing the genders of the protagonists.

Anyway, Sally persuades Kathy to accompany her to Wester Drumlins. When someone knocks on the door, Kathy stays behind in case of danger, while Sally investigates. Completely off-screen, the angel from the garden approaches, appearing ever closer as the camera angle changes...

Meanwhile at the door, a strange man approaches Sally with a letter, written by his grandmother: Katherine Costello Wainwright, formerly known as Katherine Nightingale. Sally opens the letter to find that it is indeed from Kathy, who had mysteriously teleported to 5 December 1920.

Sally takes one last look around Wester Drumlins, unable to find Kathy, and takes a key hanging from the hand of one of the stone angels. While her back is turned, one of the statues apparently moves, its hand grasping for her as she walks away.

After visiting Kathy's grave ("You told her you were eighteen? You lying cow!"), Sally heads out to fulfil Kathy's last request and convey her love to Lawrence (a.k.a. Larry). At the DVD shop where he works, Sally gets into an argument with the same recording of the Doctor. Since he appears to be talking directly to her, she soon gets creeped out and yells at the Doctor to stop being so weird... at which point, Larry shows up. He tells her that the video of the Doctor is an Easter Egg on 17 apparently unconnected DVDs, and that nobody seems to know what it's about, though he and his online friends have thoroughly dissected every line in search of answers.

Sally gives him an edited version of Kathy's message, collects a list of the DVDs with the Doctor Easter Egg, and then steps out of the back room, her head still spinning. The man behind the counter shouts Go to the police, you stupid woman! Why does nobody ever just go to the police? Sally is startled, but relaxes when she sees that he's watching a B-Movie. (You can practically see Moffat winking at the audience).

This explicit Lampshade Hanging leads her to take the counter-jockey's inadvertent advice, and Sally heads over to the Police Station — followed by the Weeping Angels. At the station, she meets a police inspector called Billy Shipton, who flirts with her shamelessly,encouraged by a Freudian Slip on her part. He also shows her a garage full of cars whose owners have disappeared in or around Wester Drumlins in the past few years. The prize of the collection is an imitation police box built entirely to scale which nobody can manage to open (they know it's fake because the phone's just a dummy and the windows are the wrong size).

Sally responds to Billy's come-ons by giving him her phone number — "Just a phone number" — and then leaves. Billy returns to the garage to find it infested with four angelic statues. The camera zooms in on his face until he blinks, at which point he disappears.

Minutes later, Sally receives a phone call from Billy. She follows his directions to a hospital, where she finds Billy Shipton, now 60 years old. Just before he dies, he tells Sally that he met the Doctor in 1969, and the Doctor gave him a message for her. He also reveals that in the interim years he got into publishing, eventually DVD publishing. His company published all 17 DVDs with the Doctor's message on them, and asks if she's figured out the connection between them.

Sally stays with Billy until he dies. Then she calls Larry to tell him what the DVDs have in common: they're all the DVDs she owns. Larry is incredulous to learn that Sally only owns 17 DVDs, but quickly agrees to meet Sally at Wester Drumlins, along with a DVD which has the Easter Egg.

At Wester Drumlins they set up a portable DVD player and, on noticing an Angel in the garden, Sally tells Larry to keep an eye on it. The following sequence is one of the biggest Time Paradox Mind Screws you will ever encounter, with Sally and the Doctor carrying on an extended conversation even though the Doctor is speaking to a video camera thirty-eight years in the past. The Doctor's attempt to explain the temporal mechanics of the situation gives us the Trope Namer for the Timey-Wimey Ball. When asked how he knows what she's going to say, the Doctor responds "Look to your left". Sally does so — to find Larry scribbling her lines into his copy of the transcript of the Doctor's dialogue from the DVD Easter Egg (adding a necessary but slightly cool-dampening modicum of plausibility to the sequence). The Doctor reveals he has a copy of that completed transcript as he records his part.

The Doctor also explains the nature of the Weeping Angels: they feed on "potential energy", meaning the energy a person would have expended if they lived into the future, but do not expend if they live out the rest of their lives in the past. As he remarked earlier to Billy, they're the only psychopaths in the universe who kill you nicely; they send you back to the past and let you live yourself to death.

They've also evolved the ultimate defence mechanism:

The Doctor: They're quantum locked. They don't exist when they're being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature, they freeze into rock. No choice, it's a fact of their biology. In the sight of any living thing they literally turn to stone. And you can't kill a stone. 'Course, a stone can't kill you either, but... then you turn your head away. Then you blink, and oh yes it can!

The Doctor tells Sally and Larry that the Angels have the phone box, and if they can get in it, they'll be able to feed on the time energy inside... and do enough damage to switch off the sun. Sally has the key, so it's up to her to open the TARDIS first and send it back to the Doctor.

His explanation done, the Doctor, noting that his transcript has ended, gives Sally and Larry these last words of advice:

The Doctor: And that's it, I'm afraid. There's no more from you on the transcript, that's the last I've got. I don't know what stopped you talking but I can guess. They're coming. The Angels are coming for you, but listen — your life could depend on this — don't blink. Don't even blink. Blink and you're dead. They are fast, faster than you could believe. Don't turn your back, don't look away and don't blink. (beat) Good luck.

It is at this moment, of course, that Sally and Larry realise that neither of them has been looking at the Angel in the garden. After a moment's pause, they look up to see it standing only a few metres away, poised to attack. Sally goes to look for an exit, leaving Larry to stare at the Angel. He looks away for a split second, and when he looks back the Angel's hands are inches away from his neck.

Sally finds the TARDIS in the mansion's basement, and she and Larry make their way down the stairs. However, the Angels follow them, and one creates intervals of darkness for the Angels to move by feeding on the electricity powering the single light-bulb. Sally and Larry make it inside the TARDIS just as the Angels reach them.

They then discover that Larry's DVD functions as a TARDIS-activation key, slot it into the TARDIS' handy Plot Coupon drive and then watch as the TARDIS de-materialises without them. The Angels have surrounded the TARDIS by this point, and when it disappears they're stuck looking at each other — forever. Whoops.

Fast forward one year. Sally and Larry now run an antiquarian book and rare DVD shop named "Sparrow and Nightingale", which Sally insists is all there is between them, at least partly because she's too focused on investigating what happened to them.

Then the Doctor and Martha walk by, with Martha carrying a quiver of arrows, and the Doctor carrying a bow. They are in a hurry to deal with — well, four things and a lizard. Neither the Doctor nor Martha recognises Sally, which leads her to realise that for them, the events of the episode haven't taken place yet. She also realises that the very convenient folder containing Larry's complete transcript of the conversation and various other details regarding the "Weeping Angels" affair is the source of the Doctor's knowledge about the incident. She gives the Doctor the folder, and tells him to use it the next time he gets trapped in 1969.

Larry walks up just in time to see Martha and the Doctor off. Then he and Sally walk back into the store, their clasped hands hinting that they are about to have a Relationship Upgrade. Then the camera lazily travels upwards... and halts on a Weeping Angel on the roof above.

What follows is 29 seconds of pure paranoia-fueled Mind Screw, as we return to the last few seconds of the Doctor's video:

The Doctor: (following gargoyle close-up) Don't blink. (cut to shots of three successive human statues) Blink and you're dead. (cut to several more statues) Don't turn your back, (cut to two more statues) don't look away, (cut to several more statues) and don't blink. (several statues in quick succession) Good luck. 'cut to close-up on the Doctor's eyes — he blinks)


Tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Sally, and, to a lesser extent, Larry.
  • And I Must Scream: The ultimate fate of the Angels.
  • Buffy Speak:
  • Chekhov's Gun: The DVD list Larry gives to Sally
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Sally Sparrow: (on realizing the Doctor was speaking to her through the DVDs) The 17 DVDs, they're all the DVDs I own. The Easter egg was for me.
    Larry Nightingale: ...You've only got 17 DVDs?
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The Angels. Played for Paranoia Fuel initially, then for several Jump Scare moments.
  • Determined Expression: Done mostly through body language, when Sally gets dangerous.
  • Easter Egg: An in-universe example. Also Defictionalization — the Doctor's half of the conversation really is an Easter egg on the Series 3 DVD.
  • Expy: Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale seem very similar to Amy Pond and Rory Williams in personality as well as physical appearance.
  • Fan Disservice: Larry Nightingale, a very hairy guy walking around naked, unless you're into that sort of thing.
  • The Film of the Book: "Blink" is based on Moffat's short story and shares several common elements; the heroine in both is Sally Sparrow (though the story's Sally is somewhat younger), there are elements of finding messages left by the Ninth Doctor trapped in the 1960s behind peeling wallpaper, and concludes with Sally finding a video tape, having a similarly strange conversation with the Doctor through the tape, and eventually helping to reunite him with the TARDIS. Fortunately, the story lacked much of the terror that "Blink" had including the Weeping Angels and being sent back through time.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The Weeping Angels don't just move only when a character is not looking at them, but also only when the camera is not looking at them.
  • Freudian Slip:
    Billy Shipton: And that's Sally...?
    Sally Sparrow: Sally Shipton. SPARROW! Sally Sparrow!
  • Fun T-Shirt: Discussed Trope. Larry has a t-shirt with "The Angels Have The Phone Box" on it. You can get one too.
  • Gambit Roulette: Subverted. From Sally's perspective the Doctor's plan relies on insane guesswork, but by the time it's over you can clearly see how he pulled it all off.
  • Genre Savvy: The Angels are clearly aware of the fact that they resemble statues in their quantum locked state. They often take poses one would expect of statues and place themselves where one would expect to see statues. It's probably the main reason they aren't simply following the heroes through the streets.
  • Get Back to the Future: From the Doctor's and Martha's perspective, this is the plot of the episode.
  • Ironic Echo: Billy, meeting Sally as a young man, tells her "life is short and you are hot". Later, bidding her farewell as an old man, he tells her "life is long and you are hot".
  • Just Friends: Sally states that this is all there is between her and Larry.
  • Just Ignore It: Inverted.
  • Just Smile and Nod: Martha says this is the right way to behave around the Doctor: just nod every time he takes a breath.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Go to the police, you stupid woman! Why does nobody ever just go to the police?" Everyone's talking to Sally, even if they're talking to a TV screen or out of a TV screen.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Sally after Billy dies of old age. Even the music gears up as she goes into Determinator Mode.
  • Light-Flicker Teleportation: In the cellar with the flickering lightbulb.
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe example with "The Angels have the phone box." This later caught on in Real Life, Just as Planned.note 
  • Metaphorgotten: The Doctor attempting to explain how time is not linear, but is more like a ball. It gets away from him.
  • Mind Screw:
    • The ending.
    • The whole Stable Time Loop in general.
    • A later episode reveals that "whatever contains the image of an angel shall become an angel". With it now on DVD, how many times do they show the angels in the episode?
  • Mistaken for Granite: The Weeping Angels are initially thought to be just statues.
  • Mood Whiplash:
  • Naked First Impression: Larry Nightingale, for Sally Sparrow.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Larry, again.
  • Newspaper Dating: How Kathy finds out that she's in 1920.
  • Noodle Implements: Said while carrying a bow and arrow:
    The Doctor: Things happening. Well... four things. Well... four things, and a lizard.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • We never learn what the four things and the lizard are. It isn't a reference to another episode.
    • For that matter, we never find out exactly how the Doctor and Martha get stranded in past as part of the angels' plan to get the phonebox.
    • Or what the Doctor and Martha were doing in 2007, considering that (from a linear, subjective viewpoint) Martha first met the Doctor in 2008. This means there were two Marthas in London simultaneously, putting her at risk of being affected by the Blinovitch Limitation Effect.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never actually see an Angel send anyone back in time. We only see the people they've sent back after they've been sent back. In part this is because of the fourth wall-breaking nature of the Angels' portrayal (see Paranoia Fuel below), but in part it's because imagining them creeping up on you is much scarier.
  • Oh Crap
    • : "Why's it pointing at the..." (the light bulb flickers)
    • Also:
      Sally: You're not looking at the statue.
      Larry: Neither are you.
  • Once More with Clarity: The Easter Egg, for Sally and Larry.
  • One-Word Title
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Although not high school students, Sally Sparrow, Kathy Nightingale, Lawrence Nightingale and Billy Shipton all fit this trope very well. They're just normal people who get swept up into very weird events through no fault whatsoever of their own.
  • Plot Coupon: The DVD.
  • Public Secret Message: The DVD Easter egg.
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Once she ends up in 1920, Kathy claims to have been born in 1902. Sally makes it clear to the audience that Kathy wasn't really that old.
  • Red Shirt: Kathy literally wears one while rooting around with Sally, although she's not killed outright, just time displaced.
  • Stable Time Loop: The episode revolves around creating one of these. Which, arguably, makes the ending a Foregone Conclusion. And, yet, it's still terrifying.
  • Stalking Is Love: Ben is the first person Kathy sees when she gets sent back to 1920; they later get married.
    Kathy: Are you following me?
    Ben: Yeah.
    Kathy: Are you going to stop following me?
    Ben: No, I don't think so.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Take That: When entering Wester Drumlins for the first time, Sally and Kathy suggest names for their little "investigation team". When Sally comes up with "Nightingale and Sparrow", Kathy dismisses it as a bit too ITV. Doesn't stop Sally and Lawrence from using it as the name of their shop.
  • Theme Naming: Sparrow and Nightingale — is it any wonder they get together in the end?
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Twice.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Averted, despite being the Trope Namer. The time-line for this episode, despite being circular, is relatively organised. The only real issue is that there's no way — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — to enter the circle in the first place.
    The Doctor: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: For all the hype about the Angels being so fast, they sure can take their time sneaking up on people when no-one (including the audience) is watching. During Sally's conversation with the Doctor on the DVD, both she and Lawrence spend a good bit of time not watching the Angel in the garden, only to look up and find that it has just come in the room. In an earlier scene, Sally spies two of the Angels on a church across the street and one blink allows them to cross the entire distance.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: This came out during the last hurrah of video rental stores. Of course, given that this is a show about time travel that always treats the era the episode is filmed in as the "present," it can afford to be this.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Parodied in-universe, with a spin on It Makes Sense in Context.
    Sally: How can you know what I'm gonna say?
    The Doctor: Look to your left.
    (Sally looks to her left, and sees Larry transcribing everything she says)
    Larry: What does he mean by "look to your left"? I've written tons about that one. I think it's a political statement.


No! Keep looking at the—

note 
Doctor Who S28 E4 'The Girl in the Fireplace"Nebula AwardDoctor Who S31 E10 'Vincent and the Doctor"
Doctor Who S29 E8 'Human Nature"Hugo AwardDoctor Who S30 E8 'Silence in the Library"
Doctor Who S29 E9 'The Family of Blood"Recap/Doctor WhoDoctor Who S29 E11 'Utopia"

alternative title(s): Doctor Who NSS 3 E 10 Blink
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