Friday, February 4, 2011

"Flesh and Stone"

It's an interesting resolution to this two-parter, and much like the previous episode it's more serious and somewhat dryer than the earlier stories. The cliffhanger resolution is, of course, quite good, although the way the gravity wave works is a little unclear. Besides, wouldn't the fall 'up' onto the hull of the Byzantium be quite painful? And if the gravity orientates to the floor inside the ship, how come it orientates to the hull on the outside? Why would the aritificial gravity extend outside the ship at all? Also, how do the Angels get up there? Presumably they can fly or something but it's not entirely clear; obviously the Angels have further powers of which we are unaware. That's something which I find a little disappointing with this episode; there are moments when the Angels are seen to move and it diminishes the mystery somewhat. I always enjoyed the notion that the Weeping Angels' quantum lock extended to the audience for all intents and purposes and that they would be stone when we saw them too - that it was physically impossible to observe them in motion. There's also the idea that the quantum lock is instinct rather than some kind of physical law; it was my impression that the Weeping Angels turned to stone under observation because they had no choice. Thus it makes it difficult to rationalise the Doctor's advice to Amy that she bear herself along as if she can see. The movement of the Angels is a little odd too, the grinding noises and the slow, stony limbering-up. I always assumed that the Angels actually looked absolutely nothing like their stone statue forms when they were unobserved, that their true appearance was perhaps indescribable and unknowable in real terms. That would reinforce their nature as conceptual creatures. The Doctor also says that they are incredibly fast, but they don't appear to be. So why do they move? It seems to diminish the mystery somewhat.
The choice to set much of the episode inside the 'oxygen factory' forest aboard the Byzantium is an inspired one however, because instead of confining us to spaceship corridors, as good as they are, we get another semi-natural environment which complements the Maze of the Dead from the previous episode.
The crack in time reappears from "The Eleventh Hour" as well and it's all very convenient for the Doctor to stop the Angels. I think it's good of Steven Moffat to incorporate the over-arching elements into the episodes themselves rather than just dropping meaningless arc words which were purely clues with no story role the way RTD did, but it seems very convenient that the crack appeared then. What was the Doctor going to do if it hadn't? Presumably something involving blowing up the Byzantium; I think it would have been good if it had something to do with them closing their eyes, thus exposing themselves to danger but forcing the Angels into non-indestructible form. The bit where the Doctor turns off the gravity and causes the Angels to fall into the Time Field is quite clever all things considered but I must say it seems like a bit of a cop-out. What is 'time energy', anyway? It sounds cool but time, like the Angels, is in many ways more conceptual than physical and doesn't have a specific energy associated with it. Again, I'd like a little bit more of a scientific explanation and unfortunately what drags this episode a bit is that it doesn't have much to say.
There are some good moments, however, such as the image of the Angel in Amy's mind and the fact that she does have to close her eyes to be safe; as I say I think this could have been used more. I also enjoy the laughter of the Angels, and the way they make Amy count down, scaring her 'for fun'. It's unclear what the relation between 'Angel Bob', the resurrected consciousness, and the Angel from the Byzantium is, though, and we see the Angel holding Bob's communicator but while it's in stone form. So how does it speak? Is the Bob consciousness able to speak even when the Angel is inactive? It was previously implied that the Angels quite simply don't exist under observation and that the statues don't actually contain the Angels and they're not aware while observed, but it's not very clear. Also, I thought Angels couldn't look at each other, but they seem to crowd around a lot here. Unfortunately there's a good deal of inconsistency with the behaviour and 'rules' of the Angels, but I suppose if they're meant to be so conceptual then they can bend the rules a bit. Nonetheless I have to say it's not as spooky or clever as the previous episode, and the presence of the crack causes a bit of a distraction from the Angels themselves.
The disappearance of the Clerics into the Time Field is rather effective, however, with the dialogue as they forget each other reminiscent of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me" or, again closer to home, the Red Dwarf episode "The Inquisitor". The explanation for why Amy remembers - because she's a time traveller - is I suppose plausible enough but I think something about parallel realities might have been nice. I think that's another problem; the story is already so busy dealing with the Angels it's hard for it to make all the 'timey-wimey' stuff fit as well. Also, once again there are parts where the music is too loud. Father Octavian's death is quite moving, however, and his line "I think, sir, that you've known me at my best," is a cracking piece of dialogue. River's cheeky comment about the handcuffs is, of course, tinged with a dark irony because she handcuffed the Doctor to a pole in the library when he saw her die in Series 4. Moffat's not too shabby at weaving this stuff together. It's not bad as a resolution to the Angels story but I feel like it could have done more. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston are of course all on top form as usual, the Doctor's occasional rage again working as an effective contrast to his usual calm, and Iain Glen's performance as Father Octavian is once again great to watch. It's just that the story is a bit lacking.
Finally we get this last scene where Amy cracks onto the Doctor. I'm a little disappointed that they had to have the whole 'Doctor and Companion snog' thing again but Moffat's explanation in Confidential was quite right; if a mysterious stranger swept into these young women's lives, wouldn't at least some of them want to have a go? It's weird to notice that this 'great love' between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, for instance, never manifested in any physical way particularly, so it's a good inversion here of the more likely circumstance: Amy wants something physical with the Doctor, and that's it. Of course the Eleventh Doctor's awkwardness and obliviousness in this situation is perfect and played excellently, and it makes sense that Amy might want some 'comforting' in the aftermath of such a horrid experience with the Angels. Then again, though, not very fair on Rory, is it? The Doctor's refusal, and his explanation are also effective. You can't doubt that he's moved on from the emotional vulnerability of his previous incarnation, but it's also made him sensible and cautious. This is who the Doctor should be, and it's exactly what the Doctor would do. His response to Amy that "You're human!" in particular makes a lot of sense. Was this scene supposed to be the 'flesh' part of the title? Yes, I am waggling my eyebrows.

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