Doctor Who reviews: Flesh And Stone
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
A promising start leads to a series of cosmic cop-outs...
Flesh And Stone had a cheat and a teaser too many to qualify as an out-and-out stonking episode of Doctor Who. In fact I'm beginning to wonder if new Who shouldn't entirely give up on two-parters and either adopt a series arc - which would let it keep the odd cliff-hanger that the show is so identified with - or stick to single-story episodes...or even return to the old extended-story format, which spanned many episodes. It can't ever seem to get the pace of two-parters consistent or right, as Silence In The Library demonstrated.
Flesh And Stone doesn't jar as much between its two instalments as that particular story, but it wasn't able either to repeat the creepiness of last week's encounter between Amy and the screen-bound Weeping Angel, and it spent too long setting up future stingers, zingers and possible red herrings.
Retreated from the rock environment into a gravity-independent floating ship, the Doc and co. quickly find themselves fighting off the hordes of Weeping Angels in a very spooky Silent Running-style space forest. It's a Mexican stand-off between The Doctor and his accompanying clerics, and the creatures that cannot move while they are being looked at.
Even the ticking time-bomb of Amy turning into a Weeping Angel herself is turned off at this point, and it's right here that Steven Moffat seems to have painted himself into a corner. Having paid tribute to Aliens and had a good look round a truly infernal environment, he doesn't seem to know where to go next, and re-introduces the cosmic 'crack in time' from The Eleventh Hour - a universe-wide phenomenon which is intricately bound up with the fate of Amy Pond and either (from the look of next week's trailer) going to be resolved imminently or span at least the whole of series 5...and possibly beyond.
"Other worrying things: Doctors and assistants kissing - an event that by itself should have torn the fabric of the universe"
Moffat won't get a second chance to credibly introduce this bit of failing masonry into a plot as a deux et machina again, even if he does it with such aplomb as The Doctor's 'gravity solution', which gets rid of both the Weeping Angels and the crack in time at a swoop. So if this is set to recur in the series, it had better to be a smashing concept, or it had better get wrapped up next week.
Other worrying things: Doctors and assistants kissing - an event that by itself should have torn the fabric of the universe. In his defence, the Doc repelled Amy's end-of-episode advances in consistency with his father-like/mentor-like attitude to her, and he doesn't seem to have Tennant's emotional vulnerability as demonstrated towards Rose - a note of alienation that is helping to keep Matt Smith's take on the time-lord very interesting.
And so, River Song. Let's face it, all the hints are that she succeeded (or will succeed) where even the BBC high command failed in the 1980s and 1990s - in killing off The Doctor (in her past, The Doctor;s future). Or is there some other 'best man she has ever known' for whose murder she is serving out a prison-sentence?
Anyway, as it stands, our Hero has worked out that his stumbling across Amy Pond as a new assistant is no coincidence, and that (it seems) truly cosmic events are taking place with her at the centre, or maybe because of her. This not only repeats a little the exaggerated significance of Rose in seasons 1-3, but also the dynamic between The Doctor and Donna, in that this is the second time he has whisked an assistant away from the aisle.
"Apparently it doesn't matter anymore whether you are actually looking at the Weeping Angels, in order to 'freeze' them; it's enough to whistle cheerily with your eyes shut and pretend that you can see them - which gets Amy out of Moffat's forest-centred writer's block in an even clumsier manner than the reprise of the glowing fissure from The Eleventh Hour."
There were some strong moments: Iain Glen's terminally-paused stranglehold in the Weeping Angel's clutches was both the scariest and most effective moment of Flesh And Stone - but this was counterbalanced by Moffat changing the rules about quantum-locking...
Apparently it doesn't matter anymore whether you are actually looking at the Weeping Angels, in order to 'freeze' them; it's enough to whistle cheerily with your eyes shut and pretend that you can see them - which gets Amy out of Moffat's forest-centred writer's block in an even clumsier manner than the reprise of the glowing fissure from The Eleventh Hour. There's no backing out of this grafted-on weakness now, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the core concept of the creatures.
It depends on the ratings, but I think Moffat will not return to his stony monsters until he has a smaller and more intimate tale to tell with them. This one started promisingly with The Time Of Angels, but exited on a desperate note, and in a positive flurry of lucky chances.
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