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New Who 5.5: Flesh and Stone

I didn't post about this last weekend, because I was too busy attending swisstone's wedding, and I haven't since because I was more concerned with painting my kitchen and following the election. So I'm way behind the times now, and can't really add much that hasn't already been covered on doctorwho and elsewhere. (If you don't follow these matters but are mildly interested all the same, I would draw your attention in particular to cavalorn's theory about time-travel and the Doctor's jacket, which I think is very likely to be correct).

I do like to make sure I post an entry on each episode as they come out, though, so here's just a few notes on my own reaction before I forget all about it.

Overall, it's a great episode. I especially liked the way the soldier-clerics left behind to guard Amy progressively disappeared, leaving her with nothing but her own memories that they had ever existed - a very spooky concept! I loved the constant references to the Doctor just making everything up as he goes along, too. That's a lovely way of characterising him. And I also liked that we learnt so much more about both the Time Crack and River Song. This feels like a much better way of working through a real plot arc than most of RTD's efforts, which essentially boil down to dropping a few clues here and there, but not actually addressing the main arc until the end of the season. That inevitably results in a feeling of last-minute red buttons and deus ex machina, whereas what Moffat is doing is more in keeping with the way that programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer have always handled plot arcs - gradual development in small bursts spread throughout the season, balanced with the individual story-of-the-week episodes.

It is odd that the Angels' modus operandi has changed so much. They now kill their victims rather than sending them back into the past. This is obviously more scary, especially given that merely being sent back in time is not really a big problem for time travellers. It is also to some extent addressed in the script by references to the Angels having different priorities in this story from in Blink, due to the threat of the Time Crack and the energy provided by the radiation from the Byzantium. But it still leaves a feeling of disrupted continuity, which makes it harder to suspend belief and enjoy the story. In particular, as far as I remember from Blink, the Angels only had to touch their victims to send them back in time, so that Bishop Octavian, for instance, should have disappeared into the past the moment the Angel touched him - not be able to stand talking to the Doctor from within its grasp. I mean, that was a great emotive scene, but it would have been even better if it could have been managed in some manner that was consistent with what we've previously been shown about the Angels. Similarly, the idea of Amy being able to fool the Angels into thinking that she can see them doesn't accord with what we learnt in Blink, and they don't seem to be very bothered about putting their hands over eyes to stop them from seeing each other, either. I don't think any of this is more important than just delivering a good story - but it would have been nice to see these things ironed out.

The idea of things being wiped out of time by the Time Crack is a genius way of handling the increasing strain of maintaining the illusion that the events of Doctor Who are taking place in our universe. As far as I understand from what we heard in this story, events such as the Cyber-king in Victorian London did happen, and the Doctor and his companions will always remember them - but because of the Time Crack, us ordinary mortals don't. For the same reasons, Amy doesn't remember the Daleks or what the Doctor said to her when she was seven, because she had not yet travelled in time when they happened. This gives Moffat a lot of lee-way, acting as a sort of re-set button on the events of the RTD era, and is also being made into a fundamental plot point. Fantastic.

On River Song, of course the big question now is, who was the 'very good man', a 'hero to many' whom she killed? My guess is, not the Doctor - too obvious, and if it means Eleven, unlikely for production reasons, because we've got no reason to believe Matt Smith won't be carrying on into the next season. I'm going to put forward a guess of Rory, Amy's fiancé. He's already been quite prominent in the first episode, we're going to learn more about him in the next, and we could well see him doing something really heroic in the season climax. River might find herself in a position where she somehow has to kill him in order to help the Doctor save the universe - but the Doctor cannot condone that decision or forgive her for doing it, and she has to go to jail because of it.

I also think that the next time we see her is going to be her first meeting with the Doctor. So far, every time we've seen her she has been the one with all the information, and thus all the power over the Doctor. The dramatically interesting place to go next would be to reverse that, and show him knowing about their future together while she knows nothing. I think it would work, because she does say at one point in this story that she 'might have done enough to earn a pardon this time'. That means that her first meeting with the Doctor could be the one in which she kills the 'very good man' and goes to jail, but also still leave room for her to leave jail a couple of times after that and have some of the meetings and adventures with the Doctor which she's clearly already had by Flesh and Stone.

Finally, Amy's attempted seduction of the Doctor at the end of the episode has certainly prompted a fair bit of discussion. It came rather out of nowhere, and her behaviour does have a weird, slightly drunken edge to it - although that seems to be part of how Karen Gillan has been playing the role anyway, so it's hard to know whether it's anything significant. But on the whole I think it's a good thing for Doctor Who to be directly addressing the issue of the disorienting effects of extreme fear, though. It's not absolutely the first time this has come up - Tegan's departure in Resurrection of the Daleks is quite explicitly portrayed as being the result of trauma which she feels means that she can no longer stay with the Doctor and continue having the same experiences. But it often isn't really acknowledged, so it's nice to see Moffat suggesting that thinking you are about to die in the middle of a forest might make you do some weird things afterwards. And it's also good to see that it was used as part of the plot, making the Doctor realise how everything is centring around Amy and her forthcoming wedding day.

So, seems I had more to say than I thought, huh? Looking forward to tonight's episode - vampires plus time travel plus Venice = WIN! And, although the plot clearly won't be the same, I'm also rather glad that one of the small handful of Big Finish audios I have heard happens to be The Stones of Venice. I'll be interested to hear what resonances, if any, there might be between the two - especially since I see that I've noticed the fairytale feel of the Big Finish story in my review of it, and that is clearly a major theme of the current season of Doctor Who as well. One hour to go!

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's an interesting thought about Rory - the Doctor specifically describes him as 'good' when Amy says that's who she's marrying.
May. 8th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Ah, so he does! It's certainly something that's worth looking out for, if only because Rory is the only man other than the Doctor who's realistically around in this season to fit the bill.
May. 8th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
People have mentioned Rory on the Dr Who comm and I thought it was silly as he's so obviously not v heroic - but that begins to make more sense when you explain it that way.. maybe Rory instructs River to do something that will kill him so as to save the Doctor - who is of course his rival, kinda -- that might make you think of him as the best man you ever knew.. esp given River would obviously be intensely grateful to someone who saved the Dr. Plus, it would write Rory out so Amy can continue to travel with the Dr - as I don't think Dr plus couple is a sustainable long term format and we know both Matt and Amy are signed up for another series. (No I don't know exactly why I think it isn't sustainable but I just don't.)

My own crack theory re the Angels is that this whole series is set in an alternate universe so far (where daleks did not invade Earth, etc as per Amy's memory) and the finale is going to be about putting things Right; thus it isn't surprising the Angels have a diferent modus murder & only the Dr remembers how they ususlaly do it to be puzzled. (I'm also fairly convinced the "madman" who wrote the book all about the Angels is the Dr himself at some future point - after asl he'd know it all and know his earlier version needed it & he's been described as a madman twice already this series!)
May. 8th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
I think Rory has time to become heroic by the end of this season. He was already pretty observant in The Eleventh Hour, noticing coma patients on the green when no-body else did, and of course in tonight's episode he has now had a chance to develop some hero skillz, fighting monsters and trying to save Amy. It's plausible enough now that he could do something really heroic and self-sacrificing in the final story.

I don't think this season is taking place in an alternate universe - as you say, it's a bit too cracky. But I do like your idea about the Doctor writing the book about the Angels. Especially if the jacket theory is right, and he's at some point going to travel back through some of the earlier stories in this season, he would have every opportunity to drop it off at the point where it was needed.
May. 9th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
yes I was going to say it had become much more likely in light of tonight'd ep but I didnt want to spoil you!!

Wasn't that SUCH a Tennant-era episode tho? Esp the bit about the Doctor luring companions into danger because they want to impress him. Thought Moffat would have cut that..
May. 9th, 2010 08:56 am (UTC)
Well, again if I'm right about Rory getting killed at the end, that line may well have been an important way of setting up that situation. It'll now feel plausible if that's exactly why he dies.

Then again, it certainly isn't very Moffatish to go killing off characters, especially ones we've got to know over the course of an entire season. It'll be quite a change of form if Rory does get killed.
May. 8th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
These past two episodes have really freaked me out... I love the idea of the angels - statues that move when you aren't looking - but they are pretty creepy. I should be too old to be frighted by it, but I guess not. >_<

I think you made a good point about the 'good man' that River kills. At first I was thinking the Doctor was the one she killed, but I too decided that was too obvious. That it's Rory is a good guess, I think. I would think it is at least someone we know and feel for, otherwise it's not an interesting story.

I am so looking forward to this Venice episode too! Vampires + Venice = vaguely Ann Rice WIN
May. 8th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly about it being someone we know. Having just seen the latest episode, I'm all the more convinced now that Rory will be built up over the series into the right sort of character to fit what River said.
May. 8th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
> This is obviously more scary

Ah, now I found the angels just killing people pretty dull, whereas sending their victims back into the past permanently really freaked me out last time round. On the whole I was disappointed with their reappearance, but then they were never going to have as much impact once we'd already met them.
May. 8th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, there's a certain argument for saying that it would have made more sense to just invent an entirely new monster-race for this story. But I understand why they would choose not to, based on the popularity of the Angels last time round, and the sheer effort which inventing a whole new race would require.
May. 9th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Finally, Amy's attempted seduction of the Doctor at the end of the episode has certainly prompted a fair bit of discussion. It came rather out of nowhere[...]

I don't think I'd agree that it came out of nowhere. I'd thought from earlier episodes that she'd given him vaguely lustful looks from time to time. I can't cite anything specific (sky+ box is having problems so I can't rewatch episodes as easily) I'm afraid.
May. 10th, 2010 08:29 am (UTC)
Oh no - I agree that there had been signs that she thought he was a bit fit before, like in The Eleventh Hour when she watched him changing his clothes without turning her back. But I just mean that it was a bit of a sudden transition within this story from "Yeah, he's a bit of OK" to "I am going to take you to my bedroom and jump you now".
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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