Episode four of Doctor Who’s fifth series sees a return of two elements Steven Moffat brought to the show under Russell T. Davies: the Weeping Angels, and River Song. They’re each unique, full of the timey-wimey-ness that is almost fundamental to Moffat’s Doctor Who.
Alex Kingston’s River Song is a delight from beginning to end, of course, strolling onto screen in those sky-high Louboutin heels with a distinct sense of badassery we only got hints of in her debut episodes. She has almost instant chemistry with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and the relationship between River and Amy Pond is immediately friendly and warm. We get hints of her past that weren’t really there in Series 4: she wasn’t always a professor, and she is, for some currently unknown reason, in prison.
But the true heart of this episode’s energy lies in the return of Moffat’s Weeping Angels. There’s only one to start off, but eventually, in a brilliantly constructed twist, we find out there are a great many more, more than enough to be thoroughly terrifying. As with River Song, new information is divulged about these monsters, and new abilities given them, such as the ability to project themselves out of images. This makes for a terrifying scene midway through the episode, which pits Amy against one of these images—and once again shows how clever Amy can be by having her outsmart the angel.
What I enjoy most about this episode, however, is the twist I mentioned: it turns out all the statues in the Aplans’ Maze of the Dead are not tributes to a people long gone, but angels themselves, weakened and half-dead. The twist depends not only on the characters’ anthrocentrism, but the audience’s as well: we’re so used to seeing things that look like us (particularly aliens in shows like Doctor Who) that we don’t even question the appearance of the statues. Even when the Doctor reveals the Aplans were two-headed, it takes a moment for the truth to bear down upon us. Even Cleric Bob’s claim that one of the statues looked at him is an early hint, but dismissed by every character onscreen as mere jitters. In every way, this twist is an example of what Steven Moffat is capable of as a writer. As we’ll see at the end of the season, he constantly leaves hints for the viewer, hoping and believing that we will figure it out. The reason so many of his twists seem “obvious” to some is that they’re meant to be.
Amy’s actions in this episode are also interesting to me. As I said before, she displays that observant cleverness we’ve seen in her again here, realizing she can stop the angel in the dropship by taking away its image. She also shows some real bravery, too; she’s willing to be taken by the angels if it means River and the Doctor, and Octavian and his clerics, will be safe. While she does sort of go the whole “don’t tell anyone you’ve got a zombie bite” route with regards to the angel in her mind, it isn’t as big a deal here, I don’t think? This subplot all comes to a head in the next episode, so it might be meet to talk more extensively about it there.
All in all, however, Time of Angels is a taut thriller of an episode with a magnificently executed twist and a hell of a cliffhanger. It really shows the whole gamut of Steven Moffat’s skills, and its second part, as we’ll see next time, takes it to whole new heights.