5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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“Some things you never find out, and that’s OK.”
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Well, well. So he can do it after all.
While many aspects of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances were brilliant, sentimentality and plot idiocy meant that they never fully reached their potential. And Girl In The Fireplace was beyond its surface glitz bogged down in a swamp of illogicality and misdirected emotion.
So when “by Steven Moffat” came up onscreen for the fourth time, we were a little bit wary. But we needn’t have fretted. The problems besetting Moffat’s earlier episodes have been shorn away, and what’s left is a triumph.
It’s that time of the series where there isn’t enough Doctor to go around. That isn’t all bad, though, as it opens the door to innovative storytelling. Last year, we got a half-brilliant, half-terrible story that despite its drawbacks managed to thrill us with its freshness. This year? The same, only without the terrible part.
There’s so much to love about Blink, we hardly know where to start. So how about with the plot? While it’s possible to pick some holes in it (and that’s always going to be the case), nevertheless we’re profoundly impressed with how neatly it’s worked out. It’s a sheer joy to see the various pieces slot one by one into the frame and the pattern gradually become apparent. As an example of how carefully it’s put together, we particularly like the way Kathy phoning Sally to warn her about her brother echoes the Angel-related messages Sally gets. Nice.
And what’s also a joy is the utter inventiveness of some of the plot ideas: if anyone ever thought that you couldn’t do anything new with this clapped-out franchise, this episode gives that the resounding lie. The Doctor as DVD extra? Wonderful. A message from the grandson of the woman seen seconds before in her early twenties? Brilliant.
And it’s packed with that kind of stuff. There’s more plot in here than some two-parters this year have managed: not so much it’s confusing, but enough to keep you totally enthralled the whole way through. There just aren’t any draggy bits.
Then there are the monsters, who on their very first appearance shoot practically to the head of the league table. (If that’s the right expression. Sport is a mystery to us, and we like it that way.) The logical underpinnings might be a bit shaky (see us shake them below), but too bad – they’re fantastic. The creepy hands over the faces. The unnerving movement (cheap, too!). And they’re utterly, utterly scary: when Larry turns his head for a second and the angel is all up in his face, we screamed. Screamed. It’s that good. It shows that even with modern jaded audiences you don’t need expensive CGI to make an impact: you just need a really good idea. You don’t see many of those, but you see one here. We thought we were far too old to ever experience a genuine behind the sofa moment from Doctor Who again. We were wrong.
And there’s the sheer fun of the thing. Moffat is no slouch at comedy, and here he uses his talent to enormously entertaining effect. There’s some great material here: we particularly love the conversation about Hull and the superb DVD Guy. (And, of course, “You’ve only got seventeen DVDs?” How we relate.) But it’s not overdone: just when the Billy-meets-Sally scene’s starting to get too feelgood and we relax, the angels appear. The tension between humour and peril is expertly handled by Moffat to enhance both of them, rather than the jarring contrast we’ve too often seen in the new series.
And the cast? Great. We do find Sally, although pleasingly clever and brave, just a little lacking in personality: we suspect that’s because Carey Mulligan’s not quite as good at getting over the comedy as some of the others. Nobody else puts a foot wrong.
What about the lack of Doctor? It doesn’t matter. At all. He’s not there much, but this is without question a Doctor Who episode. And it’s fun squared getting to examine him from such a novel angle.
So it’s good. It’s really, really good. We didn’t even want to strangle Murray Gold until the very end, and that says a lot. Not only is it clever and original, it’s fantastically entertaining. It’s an interesting contrast following immediately on after the Cornell two-parter: while that was excellent, we could more see the quality than feel it. Blink, however, made us fall utterly in love with it.
The bad bits? OK, so there are some plot points that don’t make sense. Before we launch into them, however, we’d like to point out that the episode as a whole is of such a high standard that any fuzzy parts don’t significantly weaken it. They’re there, but we don’t want you getting the idea we think they matter.
Disclaimer over, so… the angels are creatures of the abstract, are they? That live on potential energy? Uh-huh. Well, it makes no sense, but we suppose it can’t be excluded as a possibility in some branch of physics yet undiscovered. (As one of us said: “It’s bollocks, but it’s not utter bollocks.”) More problematic, however, is that if they consume “the energy of all the days you might have had”, what happens when Martha returns to the present? Hasn’t her life been munched? (The Doctor, obviously, doesn’t count. His “potential energy” must be all over the place.)
Then there’s the way they interact. Presumably they have some sort of look detector, otherwise they’d never take their fingers away from their faces, but they can’t be psychic, otherwise the face-covering in each other’s presence would never be necessary. So how did they plan the TARDIS shaking so that they all got to different sides without ever clapping eyes on each other?
And there’s Sally’s angel peril. It’s all very scary, of course – when it’s not scary at all because we don’t know the angels are there yet. But they are there, so what are they doing? The “duck” moment works nicely, but actually makes no sense – what on Earth would they want to heave a rock at her for? And what are they doing all the time she’s wandering around snapping photos and ripping wallpaper? Then just after finding out about Cathy, Sally’s alone in the room with the angels. How come they don’t get her? Are they full?
It’s the same later: when they return to the house with the DVD player (and why in God’s name Sally would want to do that in the house when she knows what happened to Kathy we haven’t a clue: a nice café would be a lot more prudent) they spend ages faffing around chatting with the Doctor while the angels wait politely to attack.
Why are the angels hanging around in the house anyway? Yes, we know some people have gone in there over the past couple of years, but there must be far more heavily-trafficked places to plonk themselves. No wonder they’re so hungry. And how do they follow Sally, first to the DVD shop and then to the police station? Are they crouching behind pillarboxes and posing nonchalantly in parks?
So there are a few holes? So what. Innovation and entertainment, expertly written and beautifully directed: honestly, it rarely gets much better than this.
MORAL: If you must fluff up your garden, stick to topiary.
PUSH PUSH PUSH
How come with these uninhabited deathtraps even the wimpiest of girls can always break down the stuff covering the doors?
INSIDE YOUR MIND
What was that very expensive, shiny and undusty chandelier doing in an abandoned house? There have been so many Phantom Of The Opera refs this season we were convinced it was going to lurch up and go for Sally’s head.
Sally looks wonderingly at the “duck now” on the wall, then gasps and ducks. But the rock comes silently from behind her – so why the gasp?
I MUST PROTEST
The TARDIS windows are too big? That’s tellin’ ya, fandom. And while he’s at it…
OH, GO ON THEN
…he’s practically daring us to do the t-shirt. And we can resist anything but temptation.
Isn’t it lucky for the angels that people blink very sloooowly in this?
YOUR BILL IS TEN YEARS OVERDUE
Not only is there light in the cellar, the chandelier’s bulbs are lit as Sally and Larry do the DVD thing. We wish we could say this was impossible, but knowing utility companies…
ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP
So Lawrence writes the transcript which the Doctor then bases his one-sided conversation on, right? But he doesn’t start till halfway through the conversation!
WITH REFERENCE TO THE THEOREM OF NEWTON
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect? If you say so, Doctor.
AMBASSADOR, WITH THESE REFERENCES YOU ARE REALLY TEASING US
“I’m rubbish at weddings. Especially my own.” Oh, whatever.
Why don’t they shut one eye at a time?
IN WORDS OF ONE SYLLABLE
While Larry’s saying “everything’s gonna be fine”, he blinks. Sally’s looking at the statue at the same time so it’s OK, but really, Larry, which part of “don’t blink” didn’t you understand?
THE QUALITY OF MERCY
We were sure that Larry was for the chop, given that he wants to give the angels what they want (the filthy appeaser).
THERE MIGHT BE A TUNNEL TO CHINA
The cellar? That sounded like a sane plan? What was wrong with breaking the window? Or getting out through the place Sally originally got in so effortlessly?
IF THE TARDIS IS ROCKING, DON’T BOTHER KNOCKING
It’s a very nice surprise when the TARDIS disappears without Sally and Larry just when we were expecting the usual hello, I’m the Doctor, I can’t thank you enough scenario.
GIVE US A HAND WITH THIS ONE, DAVE. DAVE?
Y’know, it might be an idea to do something about those angels, given that they’re only never going to move again if they stay in that configuration and there’s nothing to stop someone else coming along and shifting them?
STATUE OF LIMITATIONS
As well as slightly over-egging the pudding, the “any statue is dangerous” ending unfortunately lacks punch, following as it does on the heels of the “any mirror” thing in the previous episode. Mind you, it’s no doubt pants-wettingly scary to kids, which we’re sure they love. Incidentally, remember the furore when they made plastics scary? Those were the days, eh?
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