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Recap / Doctor Who S31 E4 "The Time of Angels"

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Doctor Who meets Aliens

"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."

Original air date: April 24, 2010

The one where Moffat gives you more reasons to be afraid of statues.

Written by Steven Moffat.

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 after apparently doing what she does best - causing mass havoc! Before she leaves the ship, she offers those onboard 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; guess River was right. 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 book which, ominously, does not include any images of the Angels. The Doctor and River eventually realise that the book 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 victims 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. 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:


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

To be continued in "Flesh and Stone".


  • Action Prologue: River Song aboard the Byzantium doing an infiltration.
  • Actionized Sequel: Moffat described this as Aliens to the Alien of "Blink". "Blink" was a haunted house story built around a Stable Time Loop and a spooky atmosphere, with a couple of unarmed civilians trying to evade four angels. Here, we have the Doctor, River, Amy and several trained soldiers against an entire army of angels.
  • Actor Allusion: Karen Gillan's previous role on Doctor Who, in "The Fires of Pompeii", also involved people turning into stone (including the small part she played) albeit for a different reason.
  • Apocalypse How: Alfava Metraxis suffered a Class 3a of mysterious cause 400 years before the story's time setting which wiped out the original native dominant species, before human colonists came in a century after that. The Doctor theorizes the Weeping Angels, an entire army of whom are living in the extinct species' catacombs, were the cause.
  • Aerith and Bob: Bishop Octavian and clerics Angelo, Christian and Bob. All are sacred names, suggesting the existence of a Saint Bob or some such between now and then.
  • Are We There Yet?: While on the fourth level of the maze, Amy asks how much farther it is to the top. River tells her it's two more levels to go.
  • 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... the Doctor really doesn't like guns.
  • BBC Quarry: The Maze of the Dead.
  • Big Bad: The Weeping Angels, with the one nicknamed "Angel Bob" being responsible for reviving the others and acting as their spokesman.
  • 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 alluded to in passing in ""Silence in the Library".
    • River's message to the Doctor contains the letters "Theta Sigma" (ΘΣ), his old Academy nickname.
    • The Angels communicate with the voice of one of their victims, just like the Vashta Nerada did.
  • Church Militant: The Bishop, along with Sacred Bob, Angelo, Christian and crew are clerics and they're soldiers. In the 51st century, "the church has moved on". 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: Octavian is a Bishop, which is similar to a colonel in the military church.
  • Commercial Pop-Up:
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Moffat does several nods to his previous episodes; besides the obvious (the 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.
    • It's not just archaeologists; the Doctor points and laughs at museums too. One of the glass cases in the museum in question has a detonation pack from "Planet of the Ood".
    • The Doctor seems to keep running into River in the vicinity of the universe's largest storehouses of knowledge.
    • Gravity globes first appeared in "The Impossible Planet".
    • The Angel, while luring Angelo and Bob to their deaths, uses phrases reminiscent of when the Cybercontrolled Adeola Oshodi lured her coworker Matt into the hands of the Cybermen.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Amy looks away from River's recording of the Angel for one second and it's suddenly moved.
  • 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 stabilizers "blue boringers".invoked
  • Drugged Lipstick: River's break-in in the very beginning uses hallucinogenic lipstick. One poor bugger thinks he's at a wedding.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: This was the first Eleventh Doctor story to be written and filmed, meaning that the Doctor comes across as noticeably more short-tempered and prone to moments of jerkassery than in the rest of Matt Smith's run in the role, while Amy seems a little more subdued (outside of the final scene) compared to the rest of the season. In the Doctor's case, it's justified—as he explains, he's about to head into radioactive catacombs in search of a Weeping Angel, so it's understandable that he's a little on edge.
  • 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 if you stare them in the eye too long 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.
  • 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. The Doctor blames this on a Perception Filter. "Or maybe we're thick."
  • Fantastic Aesop: The Church's opposition to the Aplans' "same-person marriage" would appear to be a metaphor about gay marriage, but this is then played for laughs when Amy says that they 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 offenc, Bishop.
    Bishop Octavian: Quite a lot taken, if that's all right, Doctor.
  • Feet-First Introduction: River is introduced with a shot of her red stilettoes striding down the corridor of the Byzantium.
  • Follow That Car: Follow that ship!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The museum at the beginning, the Delirium Archive, is an asteroid stated to be the final resting place of the Headless Monks.
    • When Amy asks how River can fly the TARDIS, this exchange happens:
      River: Oh, I learned from the very best.
      The Doctor: Well...
      River: Shame you were busy that day.
    • In the maze, Octavian pulls River aside and they have a conversation where he points out that the Doctor clearly doesn't know who River is yet, and tells River if he loses any more men he might just tell the Doctor what River's secret is.
    • 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. We later find out that all these statues actually are Weeping Angels.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The image that River captured on the security camera becomes an Angel, which then comes out of the monitor and tries to attack Amy.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When the Doctor's keying in the coordinates, 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.
  • Happily Married: Amy assumes that the Doctor and River Song are married and interprets their banter as proof that they have been married for a long time.note 
  • 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 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.
  • Henpecked Husband: After pegging the Doctor and River Song as a married couple, Amy immediately decides the Doctor is one of these.
    Amy: She's like "Heel, boy".
  • 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: It's not supposed to make that noise. You leave the brakes on.note 
    The Doctor: [pause] Yes, well, it's a brilliant noise. I love that noise.
  • 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. It gets worse in the second part.
  • It's a Long Story: The Doctor re: his Time-Travel Romance. "It's a long story and I don't know most of it."
  • It Won't Turn Off: This happens to the video recording of the Weeping Angel; it turns itself back on.
  • 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 jumps to 12,000 years in the future where the Doctor finds the home box that River Song left a message on.
  • 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 an Imposter: Father Octavian yells at Sacred Bob when he fires at a "statue" when he thinks it moved. Turns out, it probably did.
  • Mistaken for Granite: All the other Angels were thought to be Aplan statues.
  • 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: In-Universe, 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. invokednote 
    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 two Clerics 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: creating themselves from images, growing inside someone's mind if that person looks them in the eye and feeding off all forms of energy instead of just "potential energy". It's explained by way of saying that the Angels in "Blink" were starving and thus weaker, hence their reduced abilities. (The Doctor explicitly describes the "Blink" Angels as "scavengers".)
  • 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. And that their latest meeting from his perspective may have ended somewhat disastrously.
    • While checking her diary, River asks the Doctor if he's done the Bone Meadows yet.
  • Odd Name Out: Octavian, Christian, Angelo... and Bob.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Doctor, after realizing, "That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel."
    • "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?
  • Ominous Television: The screen with the looping recording of an Angel. Attempts to turn off its power, of course, do not work.
  • One-Man Army:
    Octavian: You promised me an army, Dr. Song.
    River Song: No, I promised you the equivalent of an army. This is the Doctor.
  • Perception Filter: Namedropped by the Doctor as the probable reason for why they didn't notice the "statues"' single-headed nature earlier.
  • 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.
  • Resolved Noodle Incident: River mentioned the crash of the Byzantium in "Silence in the Library", and now we get to see what she was talking about.
  • Retcon: Back in "Journey's End", it was stated that the reason the TARDIS tended to be so shaky and wildly unpredictable during flight was because TARDISes have to be operated by six people in order to fly stably. This episode does away with that and establishes the existence of "Blue Stabilizers", which allow the TARDIS to fly entirely smoothly with one pilot with the simple touch of a button, presumably meaning that the previous Doctors either didn't bother using said stabilizers, or they were non-functional and conveniently got fixed after the Tenth Doctor's regeneration blew up the console room.
  • 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.
  • Saintly Church: The church of this time period provides heroic soldiers that help the Doctor neutralize the Weeping Angels. Octavian gives the sense that this is a routine mission. They're even helping criminals atone for their crimes (albeit in the sense of a parole officer).
  • Scenery Gorn: The shot of the Byzantium crashed into the temple is spectacular.
  • Schmuck Bait: "Come and see this!"note 
  • Screw Yourself: This was a problem with the two-headed Aplan race, which commonly made out with themselves and even self-married before the Church stepped in.
  • Shout-Out: Let's see...
  • Stupid Evil: Angel Bob knows full well who and what the Doctor is, and still goes out of his way to antagonize him.
  • Suggestive Collision: Upon entering the TARDIS, River lands on top of the Doctor. Amy promptly begins shipping them.
  • Super-Speed Reading: The Doctor flips through the definitive work on the Angels in a couple of seconds. Bit slow in the middle (and he hated the guy's girlfriend).
  • 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!"
  • 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, though she does have the hindsight to request an air tunnel to the TARDIS so she doesn't asphyxiate.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Once again, River Song has this effect on the Doctor's life. Such as dragging him back 12,000 years by leaving a message on an artifact for him to retroactively save her so they can have a meeting before the Library and "the bone meadows" and after some other stuff.
  • Title Drop: "When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us: the time of Angels."
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: These are not the "kill you nicely" Angels that Ten spoke of in "Blink". These are neck snapping and evil gloating Angels.
  • 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:
    • "That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel."
    • "[The Aplans have two heads.] So why don't the statues?"
    • The Doctor has a question for Bob:
      The Doctor: Bob, keep running, but tell me: how did you escape?
      Bob: I didn't, sir. The Angel killed me too.
  • 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!
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who S 31 E 04 The Time Of Angels


The Doctor shoots the lights

The Doctor asks a soldier for his gun, and after making a speech that you should never put him in a trap, turns the lights out with the pistol.

How well does it match the trope?

4.44 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / BatmanGrabsAGun

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