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Recap: Doctor Who S31 E4 "The Time of Angels"
aka: Doctor Who S 31 E 04 The Time Of Angels
It's like Aliens in a way...

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. Before she leaves the ship, she offers those on-board a warning that there's something in the hold that will make sure the ship never reaches its destination.

To Amy's curiosity and the Doctor's slight resentment, River takes control of the TARDIS, having "had lessons from the very best." 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 realise 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...

It just so happens that the catacombs are filled with statues, amongst which the Angel is hiding. The Doctor begins to explore, Octavian is cryptic, River has a dark secret and the clerics investigating the one clear exit from the catacombs are gradually picked off by the Weeping Angel (as in killed, even though the Angels only used to send their victim back in time). Also, Amy feels sand pouring out of her eye.

As the party investigates deeper into the temple, the Doctor and River realise 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 humanoid. 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 unwittingly led everyone into danger. At the same time, the voice of a dead cleric with whom the Doctor had previously connected appears on the radio to warn them; the Angels are hunting them down. As they escape, Amy's hand suddenly turns to stone, trapping her by holding on to something. Refusing to leave her despite her pleas, the Doctor tells Amy that it's just the Angel messing with her head... and convinces her 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:

Me.

Bang. The Doctor shoots the gravity globe. Cut to credits.

To be continued in "Flesh and Stone".


Tropes:

  • Action Prologue: River Song aboard the Byzantium.
  • Actionized Sequel: Moffat described this as Aliens to the Alien of "Blink".
  • Aerith and Bob: Angelo and Bob.
  • Are We There Yet?
  • Badass Boast: The Doctor does it so well:
    The Doctor: 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: 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.
  • Berserk Button: The Angels taunted the Doctor.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played twice as straight. The Angel's first kills (apart from everyone onboard the crashed ship) are two black clerics.]]
  • Body Horror: Amy has dust 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:
    • The "Crash of the Byzantium" is one of the future events that River alludes to in passing in "Silence in the Library".
    • River's message to the Doctor contains the letters "Theta Sigma", his old Academy nickname.
  • 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 Badass / Badass Preacher: Bishop Octavian, natch!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • 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.
    • The gravity globe is reused from "The Satan Pit".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, though if you didn't know that, it almost comes across as the angel being Innocently Insensitive.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas:
    The 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 Car: Follow that ship!
  • Foreshadowing: Sacred Bob shoots a statue which he says he thought 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.
  • 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 pleasantly 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.
  • Humanoid 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    The Doctor: It didn't make that noise [when it landed], you know like, (imitates TARDIS' engine)
    River: That's because the brake was on.
    The Doctor: (pause) Well, I like it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    River: A needle in a haystack.
    The 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.
  • 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. invoked
    The Doctor: Yeah, well, it's a brilliant noise. I love that noise.
  • Multiple Head Case: The Aplans, according to the Doctor:
    The 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: Church had a point, if you think about it. The divorces must have been messy.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Neck Snap: 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 crunching noise.
  • 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. 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.
      The Doctor: Oh...
      Amy: What's wrong?
      River: Oh.
      The Doctor: Exactly.
      River: 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. 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...
  • Suggestive Collision: The Doctor and River upon River entering the TARDIS.
  • Technobabble: Played with.
    River: How could we miss that?
    The Doctor: Low-level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.
  • Television Portal: "That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel."
  • Tempting Fate: "All right, five minutes! But I'm telling you right now, that woman isn't going to drag me into anything!"
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Once again, River Song has this effect on the Doctor's life.
  • Title Drop: Right in the trailer.
  • 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, Christian and Bob. Sacred Bob, mind you!
  • Woman in Black: River
  • The X of Y: "The Time of Angels"
  • 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.


Doctor Who S31 E3 'Victory of the Daleks"Recap/Doctor WhoDoctor Who S31 E5 'Flesh and Stone"

alternative title(s): Doctor Who S 31 E 04 The Time Of Angels
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