Doctor Who series 5 episode 4: The Time Of Angels review

The return of River Song. The second coming of the Weeping Angels. But was Doctor Who: The Time Of Angels any good? Here's our spoiler-filled review...


Right then. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Blink that wasn’t. For reasons we discussed in the spoiler-free review yesterday, there was never really a chance that the weeping angels were going to have quite the same impact in The Time Of Angels that they did when they first appeared. That’s the nature of the beast.

Nonetheless, you have to give Steven Moffat some fairly hefty credit here. Appreciating that we’re all pretty much au fait with the idea of not blinking when the angels are around, and appreciating that it’s hard to make us jump out of our seat in the same manner that he did the first time round, he’s still got a few ideas to make his finest monster creations very effective.

The centrepiece moment for them in The Time Of Angels was the marvellous slight homage to a certain Japanese horror movie (not mentioning it for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it!), where Amy finds herself locked in the bunker-esque vehicle staring at seemingly recorded footage of what’s supposedly the only weeping angel in the vicinity. He slowly builds it up, and you just know something’s going to happen. And just as you’re thinking that the angel doesn’t look quite as scary this time round, the damn thing jumps out of the screen.

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It’s a really effective, and really quite creepy device, not least because once more it allows Amy to show herself to be one of the finest problem-solvers that the Doctor has ever travelled with. If you’re really looking for signs of massive progress in the world of Doctor Who, then just compare the savvyness of Karen Gillen’s Amy Pond to the likes of Bonnie Langford’s ever-screeching Mel from the 80s.

It’s not, of course, just the angels that Moffat is bringing back here. He also re-introduces another of his creations, River Song. Back when we first met her, in the Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead two-parter (and just as we explored the universe’s biggest library in Silence, we get the biggest museum at the start of this episode), it was heavily implied that she was the Doctor’s wife. Here, it’s once more implied that may be the case, and Amy gets the job of quizzing the Doctor on the matter. Just when we think we might get a clue, though, Moffat pulls back, and we’re left to consider what’s said of River Song later.

For what is the truth about her? Why was she in prison? And why, if the Doctor works out who she is, will he not help her? Is she going to turn out to be The Rani or something? Why has she got a book on the angels and who wrote it? How come the homebox she sent back had Gallifreyan writing on it? Maybe we’ll get some answers next week, and find out what some of those “spoilers” actually are.

Eventually, River, the Doctor, Amy and a gang of clerics with big guns find themselves in a massive chamber, which seemingly looks set up for a big game of hide and seek. The problem? It’s full of stone statues, and one of them is an angel. That said, it didn’t take too long to twig that there was more to the other stone statues than originally met the eye, and sure enough, the fit truly hit the shan.

The sequences in this chamber, while they looked stunning, weren’t quite as tense and gripping at first as we might have hoped. That’s no slight on director Adam Smith, who does some fine work here, but perhaps another by-product of meeting the angels before. They only really become sinister again in this segment when the statues around are revealed for what they truly are.

Which brings us to the one logic gap that niggles slightly. The idea is that if you don’t blink, and are always looking at the angels, then they won’t move. But surely, in a chamber that big, there’s always going to be an angel in the dark somewhere, or one that can’t be seen? Or is that just us being a little picky?

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While we weren’t convinced entirely by the idea of the angels finding a voice at first, it did give a nod of the head to one of the immense skills that Steven Moffat has. Before the Doctor finds out that he’s talking to Bob the Angel, he draws our attention to the clue that’s been living in the background for a good chunk of the episode: namely that the statues in the background have one head when they should have two. We love moments like that, and it’s hard to think of anyone better than Moffat at doing them.

Still, The Time Of Angels did peter out a little to a pretty underwhelming cliffhanger. That’s the old Who fan in us, yearning for imminent destruction for the Doctor to resolve in double quick time perhaps, but while the peril around them was clearly escalated, it did feel like quite a low key end to the episode. That said, it does hint that it’ll make good of the anger that the Doctor has been fused with these past few weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see if the taunts of the angels can have their desired effect.

And thus we arrive at perhaps the obvious conclusion. The Time Of Angels was another good episode of Doctor Who, in a series that – appreciating not everyone likes Victory Of The Daleks – has impressed right from the start of its current run. Was The Time Of Angels up there with the best of Steven Moffat? You’d have to say no, it wasn’t. Was it a very good way to spend 45 minutes on a Saturday night, and an even better way to lose chunks of the next week wondering who River Song is? Absolutely.

We’ll see you back here next week to see how all of this pans out…

Our review of last week’s episode, Victory Of The Daleks, is here.

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