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Recap: Doctor Who S31 E04 "The Time of Angels"
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.
In the 51st Century, Not-Yet-Professor River Song
carves a message in Old High Gallifreyan onto the "home box" (like a black box) of a starliner, the Byzantium
. 12,000 years later, the Doctor and Amy come across the message while the Doctor’s 'touring' a museum, "keeping score" by laughing at all the mistakes on the plaques and noting the bits he’s been involved in. It says "Hello, sweetie"
. (Although Amy can't read the ancient Gallifreyan it's written in, which will be important later.) They run off with it, and after watching what's happening to River at this exact moment 12,000 years ago
, they travel back just in time to catch River as she ejects herself from the starliner via the airlock
. She offers a warning that there’s something in the hold that will make sure the ship never reaches its destination.
Much to Amy’s curiosity and the Doctor’s resentment, River takes control of the TARDIS. She learned how to pilot it from the best pilot there is. The Doctor was busy that day.
The team follows the Byzantium to where it has landed — or, more accurately, crashed. Specifically, on top of an ancient, abandoned temple built on Alfava Metraxis. Not long after they’ve arrived, River is joined by a team of "clerics", a military off-shoot of the Church
led by a "bishop", Father Octavian. They're hunting the creature that caused the ship to crash — a Weeping Angel
. River has promised the Doctor’s help in catching it, as it appears to have escaped into "The Maze Of The Dead"
, the catacombs underneath the temple. Also, Amy quickly figures out that River has just got
to be the Doctor's wife
. The Doctor honestly doesn't know, and River delights in keeping the answer a secret.
As the clerics work on breaking into the temple, the Doctor and friends work on decoding the mystery of the Angels with a four-second clip of the Angel in the Byzantium. They also use an old Alfava text which, ominously, does not include any images of the Angels. The Doctor and River eventually realize that the text is trying to tell them that any image of the Angels essentially becomes
an Angel, and is imbued with the qualities that make them so dangerous. Something that Amy is well ahead of them in discovering, having become trapped in the room with the recording of the Angel, which is gradually coming out of the screen towards her. Amy manages to defeat it by stopping the looped recording at the exact point where the image of the Angel is glitched out, but not before she looks into the Angel’s eyes despite the Doctor’s instructions. As the clerics manage to access the temple, Amy complains of something in her eye...
A light-producing "gravity globe" activated inside the catacombs reveals a disconcertingly large amount of statues, which the Angel is hiding amongst. The Doctor begins to explore, and Octavian and River have a conversation revealing that they’re keeping something from him, something involving a spell in prison on River’s part which could conceivably prevent the Doctor from helping them. Meanwhile, a group of clerics investigating the one clear exit from the catacombs are being gradually picked off by the Weeping Angel, all after being summoned over the radio by their apparently dead colleagues and having their necks snapped. And Amy’s problems with her eye begin to increase when, after rubbing it, she feels sand pouring out.
As the party investigates deeper into the temple, the Doctor and River realize something terrible which has been staring them in the face all this time
— the Aplans were two-headed beings, whereas the statues in the Maze of the Dead are all one-headed. They’re all
Angels, emaciated and weakened from centuries underground. But the radiation from the crashed ship is giving them strength and reviving them, exactly what the Angel on board had intended. The Doctor has led everyone into a trap. At the same time, the voice of a dead cleric the Doctor had previously connected with appears on the radio to warn them; the Angels are hunting them down. As they escape, Amy reveals to the Doctor that she looked into the eyes of the Angel when her hand suddenly turns to stone, trapping her. Refusing to leave Amy despite her pleas, the Doctor convinces her that it’s just the Angel messing with her head... by biting her hand. She’s less than grateful.
Finding themselves directly under the hull of the Byzantium, the party’s torches are failing as the Angels continue to draw power and grow stronger. The Angels appear over the radio to taunt the Doctor for failing them all, hoping to make him angry. Unfortunately for them, it seems to work — after asking everyone whether they trust him, the Doctor grabs a gun from Octavian and aims it at the gravity well, warning the Angels that they’ve made a mistake, because there’s one thing that should never, ever be put in a trap:
Bang. The Doctor shoots the gravity globe. Cut to credits.
To be continued in "Flesh and Stone
- Action Prologue: River Song aboard the Byzantium.
- Actionized Sequel: Moffat described this as Aliens to the Alien of "Blink".
- Actor Allusion: Karen Gillan's previous role on Doctor Who, "The Fires of Pompeii", also involved people turning into stone (including the small part she played) albeit for a different reason.
- Angelo And Bob
- Are We There Yet?
- Badass Boast: The Doctor does it so well:
"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."
- Badass Preacher: Apparently clerics and bishops in the future have changed into soldiers.
- Batman Grabs a Gun: And sets up the cliffhanger with it...
- BBC Quarry: The Maze of the Dead.
- Justified: they're catacombs.
- Berserk Button: The Angels taunted the Doctor.
- Black Dude Dies First: Played twice as straight. The Angel's first kills are two black clerics.
- Body Horror: Amy has stone pour out of her eye, imagines her arm is stone, and may well be turning into one of the Angels.
- Buffy Speak: "They're blue... boring-ers!"
- Call Back: Moffat does several nods to his previous episodes; besides the obvious Angels and River, there's people's voices being recorded and played back by the thing that killed them à la the Vashta Nerada.
- The Bishop appears to refer specifically to the devices in the latter episode that preserve a part of a person's consciousness, suggesting the dead troops can still be 'rescued' by that means.
- Apparently it's not just archaeologists; the Doctor points and laughs at museums too.
- And speaking of the museum, the Doctor seems to keep running into River in the vicinity of the universe's largest storehouses of knowledge.
- Church Militant: The Bishop, along with Sacred Bob, Angelo, Christian and crew.
- Subverted in that they're a very nice group of soldiers — no Knight Templar behaviour at all.
- Their armbands, white cross on maroon field, mark them as the Knights of Malta.
- Colonel Bishop Badass: Bishop Octavian, natch!
- Commercial Pop Up: Those fans watching on BBC 1 in many regions were uniformly delighted to be presented with a brightly-coloured animated banner complete with a caricature of Graham Norton for yet another talent show. During the cliffhanger. They might as well "just wipe s*** all over the screen during the final scene of Dr. Who next week".
- It's the second time Graham Norton has turned up in Doctor Who when he's not wanted, the first time being some wire mix-up leaking sound from BBC3 during "Rose".
- The BBC reported the incident (which attracted thousands of complaints) as "Doctor Who fans want Graham Norton Ex-ter-min-ate-d!"
- Norton later engaged in some Self-Deprecation for the incident.
- Continuity Nod: Amy's costume is almost identical to Emma's in the 1999 Comic Relief story "The Curse of Fatal Death" (which Steven Moffat also wrote). Both stories are set in ancient stone buildings built by now-extinct alien races with plot-relevant weird biology.
- The gravity globe is reused from The Satan Pit.
- The "Crash of the Byzantium" is one of the future events that River alludes to in passing in "Silence in the Library".
- In some Eighties serials (including "Battlefield" and the original cut of "The Five Doctors") when the TARDIS lands, all that is heard inside is a chime. In this episode, when River lands the TARDIS without using the brakes, there's a very similar chime.
- River's message to the Doctor contains the letters "Theta Sigma", his old Academy nickname.
- Deadly Gaze: Looking a Weeping Angel in the eye, even when it's in statue form, is enough for it to gain a foothold in your mind.
- Drives Like Crazy: The Doctor leaves the TARDIS brakes on when landing, and calls the blue stabilisers "blue boringers".
- Drugged Lipstick: River's break-in in the very beginning.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Angels were already bad news in their original appearance; here it's explained that they can survive for centuries without sustenance, they eat all forms of energy, they're strong enough to snap necks with ease, they can materialise out of television images of themselves, they can steal your voice and, oh, yeah, the one way to stay ahead of them, by keeping a steady eye on them? That backfires too if you stare them in the eye too long, since then they get inside your head!
- The prophecy (mentioned at the top of the page) implies that the angels are, in fact, sapient ideas. Which makes sense, since perception is so important to their existence.
- Enforced Method Acting: Apparently Matt Smith actually bit Karen Gillan's hand on several takes to provoke a proper reaction.
Karen: The Doctor bites my arm, and I’m not really sure how we’re going to do that. Is he actually going to do it?
I’m going to bite her arm! Yeah, for sure!
- Everybody Lives: Subverted; this is an episode where you don't expect someone to die on screen (the Angels just send you back in time, not kill you), especially as it's a Steven Moffat episode. Explicit body count? Seven: Alistair and the three known Byzantium crew in the crash; and Bob, Angelo and Christian, of a quick snap of the neck. And that's to say nothing of the people who were retroactively erased from existence.
- The neck-snaps are horrifying in their own way: obviously, you'd never be able to show something like that in Doctor Who's time-slot, but you get a fleeting shot of a Weeping Angel that cuts to black and a snapping noise.
- Failed a Spot Check: The Doctor and River fail to notice the discrepancies between the statues the Aplans supposedly left and the physical attributes of the Aplans until it's just a bit too late.
- Fantastic Aesop: The Church's opposition to the Aplans' "same-person marriage" would appear to be one about gay marriage, but this is then subverted/played for laughs when Amy points out that they do have a point - the divorces would be messy.
- Faux Affably Evil: Angel Bob is unfailingly polite. It's explicitly stated to be doing this just to anger the Doctor.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas:
Doctor: I mean what's all that about? But then that's the church for you! No offence... bishop.
Bishop: Quite a lot taken if that's all right, Doctor.
- Follow That Ship!
- Foreshadowing: Sacred Bob shoots a statue that he claims turned and looked at him. He's promptly told off for panicking and shooting at the décor. Of course we later find out that all these statues are Angels.
- In the beginning of the episode, the Doctor makes an off-hand remark about the museum being the final resting place of the Headless Monks.
- Freeze Frame Bonus: When the Doctor's keying in the co-ordinates, you can see that there's a red panic button on his keyboard.
- If you look closer, there's a green one just below it that says smith.
- Have We Met Yet?: River has a diary and photos of all the Doctor's faces just to find out where she is in his timeline. She's actually surprised, however, to learn she'll be a Professor one day.
- The last time we saw River, she asked the Doctor if they'd done the crash of the Byzantium yet.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: He's hard to recognize visually wearing the helmet the whole episode, but if Octavious's voice have you wondering where you've heard it before, Iain Glen went on to play Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones.
- I Lied: River gives Amy an immune booster, promising that it "won't hurt a bit". She follows Amy's complaint with this, word for word.
- Idiot Ball: See Poor Communication Kills.
- I Meant to Do That: When River Song manages to pilot the TARDIS better than he does, pointing out several features he didn't know about, the Doctor insists that it's better the way he does it because it's more interesting, in a tone that clearly suggests he had no idea it could do that.
Doctor: It didn't make that noise (when it landed), you know like, (imitates TARDIS' engine)
River: That's because the brake was on.
- Imminent Danger Clue: The ancient ruins they're in were from a culture where the population had two heads, but nobody notices for a while that all the "statues" have only one head each.
- It Can Think: In "Blink", the Angels are predators that sneak up when you're not looking and leave you stranded elsewhere in time. Here, they work together to lay traps, break necks and steal voices as bait. Gets worse in the second part.
- It Won't Turn Off: This happens to the video recording of the Weeping Angel.
- (spoiler for the following series) Like Mother, Like Daughter: River and Amy both say the Doctor goes to museums in order "to keep score". It's not revealed for another whole series that River is Amy's daughter.
- Make It Look Like An Accident: When River is caught snooping about at the beginning: "Wait until she starts running. Don't make it look like an execution".
- Meanwhile, in the Future: The opening sequence.
River: A needle in a haystack.
Doctor: A needle that looks like hay. A hay-like needle of death. A hay-like needle of death in a haystack... of statues. No, yours was fine.
- Mistaken For Granite: All the other Angels.
- Mood Whiplash: We go straight from a humorous scene with Bizarre Alien Biology jokes about the Aplans having two heads... to the Doctor's realisation that the statues don't. Oh Crap indeed.
- Morton's Fork: Look away from the Angel, or blink? It breaks your neck. Stare at the Angel too long? Your mind retains the image of the Angel which then becomes another Angel.
- Actually, it is staring into the Angel's eyes that results in this. Consequently the Doctor tells Amy to keep looking at the Angel, but not at its eyes.
- Most Wonderful Sound: the TARDIS' *rnnnnnt* or *vworp* is explained by River as the Doctor leaving the brakes on; normally, it lands silently. However, the Doctor claims that he keeps the brakes on specifically to hear it.
Doctor: Yeah, well, it's a brilliant noise. I love that noise.
- Multiple Head Case: The Aplans, according to the Doctor:
Doctor: Very relaxed, sort of cheerful. That's from having two heads. You're never short of a snog with an extra head. [...] Then they started having laws against self-marrying and what was that about? But that's the church for you. Uh, no offence, Bishop.[...]
Amy Pond: Church had a point, if you think about it. The divorces must have been messy.
- Never Give The Captain A Straight Answer: The Weeping Angel uses this trope (and Christian and Angelo's voices) to lure Angelo and Bob to their deaths. The victims comment on how annoying it is, but give in after continued nagging.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: In "Blink", the Angels' MO and abilities were fairly straightforward. In this outing they get a whole raft of new powers that were never mentioned before. Possibly excused by Rule of Scary, though.
- Although it's Hand Waved that the Angels in "Blink" were starving and possibly dying, hence their reduced abilities.
- No Eye In Magic: Bad things happen if you let an Angel look you in the eye for too long. Which is a problem, because bad things also happen if you look away from an Angel.
- Noodle Incident: It's implied that the Doctor and River have met a few more times between "Forest of the Dead" and this episode.
- Odd Name Out: Octavian, Christian, Angelo, and Bob. Sacred, Scared, Angelic Bob.
- Oh Crap: "Just something in my eye..."
- The Doctor and River realising the statues have one less head than they're supposed to have.
Amy: What's wrong?
River Song: Oh.
River Song: How could we not notice that?
- And the Doctor after realising that which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel.
- Poor Communication Kills: Amy, would it really bother you to tell the Doctor or River about that stuff in your eye?
- The eye thing may be possibly justified, however, as the angel in her mind has some influence over her mind. In the second part of the episode, Flesh and Stone the angel makes her not want to shut her eyes, and she has to fight it, so it's entirely possible that the angel influences her to just ignore or forget the stuff coming out of her mind.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hold this!" says Amy, right before the television record for most epic use of a pause button.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: The episode begins with a guard suffering from this, albeit enhanced by the hallucinogenic lipstick.
- Reconstruction: In Blink the characters literally have a staring contest with the Angels. In this episode, during Amy's first encounter with the Angels, she's seen winking one eye at a time. However, it turns out that looking at an Angel (especially in the eyes) is still a bad thing.
- Rushed Inverted Reading: Amy and River discuss the Doctor, while he scans the room with an electronic gadget. River accuses the Doctor of eavesdropping, he protests his innocence and she points out that he's holding the gadget upside down.
- Scenery Gorn: The shot of the Byzantium crashed into the temple is rather spectacular.
- Screw Yourself: This was apparently a problem with the two-headed Aplan race, which commonly made out with themselves and even self-married before the Church stepped in.
- Schmuck Bait: "Come and see this!"note
- Shout Out: Let's see, there's warp drives, a Galaxy Class starship, Angels coming out of TV screens and Angels using the voices of their victims to lure in more victims.
- Suggestive Collision: The Doctor and River upon River entering the TARDIS.
- Technobabble: Played with.
River Song: How could we miss that?
The Doctor: Low-level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.
- Tempting Fate: "All right, five minutes! But I'm telling you right now, that woman isn't going to drag me into anything!"
- Television Portal: "That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel."
- Title Drop: Right in the trailer.
- Timey Wimey Ball: Once again, River Song has this effect on the Doctor's life.
- Throw It In: In the spaceship, the Doctor is fiddling with a strap and it comes off in his hand. The first time that happened, it was an accident (Smith kept on going, but Gillan and Kingston corpsed), but the production crew decided to keep it and had him do it again in subsequent takes. (Even in the scene that made it into the episode, you can see Karen flinch.)
- Thrown Out The Airlock: River airlocks herself to escape the Byzantium... right into the TARDIS.
- For added points, she does that on the off-chance that the Doctor will find her message thousands of years later, and travel back in time to catch her.
- The Virus: That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel. Including humans, if they look an Angel in the eye.
- Wham Line: "I didn't escape, sir. The angel killed me too."
- "[The Aplans have two heads] So why don't the statues?"
- That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic??: invoked with the Church members, who take their own names and naturally have names like Angelo and Christian. And Bob.
- Woman in Black: River.
- The X of Y
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Amy believes her hand is stone, thus it is stone. The Doctor therefore bites her hand to make her aware of it.