River Song and the Weeping Angels May 17, 2010Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Uncategorized.
(This blog entry is primarily for other fans of Doctor Who. If you’re not one, you’ll probably be bored. Sorry!)
“Blink” and the two-part “Silence in the Library,” both by Steven Moffat, are three of my all-time favorite Doctor Who episodes. So when I saw that Steven Moffat was the author of the two-part “The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone,” featuring both the Weeping Angels (“Blink”) and River Song (“Silence in the Library”), I suspended my doubts.
According to “Blink,” the Weeping Angels evolved near the beginning of the Universe. They are “quantum-locked,” which causes them to turn instantly into stone when observed by another life-form — even another Angel, which is why (in “Blink”) one saw only faces covered by hands unless the Angel was a split-second from striking, and why they are also known as the Lonely Assassins; they may not even look at each other. “Blink” never explained how or why a species would evolve to be unable to procreate except blindly.
In “Blink,” the Angels “eat” by touching their victim, which sends the victim back in both time and space; Kathy Nightingale was sent from London back 87 years to a moor in Hull, while the Doctor, Martha, and Billy Shipton were all sent back 38 years, Billy from indoors to outdoors. For some unknown reason, the Angels have evolved a mouthful of really frightening fangs.
In other words, the Angels “eat” by consuming the potential temporal energy the victim would have had if he/she had NOT been transported back in time. (This makes no sense to me, though I’d love to be able to live off of potential food. But never mind.) The Angels are, the Doctor says, the kindest of killers and psychopaths, since they do not kill, but allow their victims to “live to death.”
Other rules laid down in “Blink”: the Angels move both silently and amazingly fast when not observed, yards and yards in a fraction of a second. It is implied that they are stone only when observed.
“Angels/F&S” changes these rules. Now the Angels live off not merely temporal energy (uh-hunh), but also electricity, not to mention the various other forms of radiation emitted by a Galaxy-class Star Liner. Whoever looks into an Angel’s eyes becomes an Angel — even if she looks only into a video image of an Angel’s eyes. (Well, that’s one way to procreate, though it doesn’t sound like fun!) The Angels move significantly more slowly and noisily. They now murder their victims by snapping their necks. Although they crave the time-energy of the TARDIS, the pure time-energy emitted by the Crack will kill them. (Drowning in time itself, I suppose.) They no longer worry about covering their faces. At one point during “F&S,” we all observe the Angels moving. There are several scenes in “F&S” when no one is looking at the Angels, but the Angels continue to stand around inertly. Although a few Weeping Angels “ate” and converted thousands of two-headed natives after the crash, no one Angel-ized the commando-priests Christian, Angelo, and Bob.
Most startling, the Angels can now reanimate a dead brain, dead lungs, and a dead voicebox and use them to communicate. “Come look at this” is the most imaginative thing they can come up with to lure Christian and Angelo to their deaths, but they use poor “Angel Bob” to become almost chatty.
Okay. I can live with these changes in the rules, I suppose. But I’m not sure I understand the changes in River Song.
In “Silence in the Library,” River Song recognized the 10th Doctor as the Doctor at first glance, but had no idea that he was such an early incarnation that he hadn’t met her yet. She began by suggesting that they compare diaries, apparently not noticing that he had no diary and was bewildered by her familiarity with him.
Although we all gather that the Doctor and River will go on to have a diary-full of adventures together — including but not limited to the Bone Meadows, the picnic at Asgard, the opening of the Pandorica, a journey to the End of the Universe, and, just before their first/last meeting in the Library, a trip to hear the Singing Towers of Darillium. During most of “SitL,” River refrained from telling the Doctor more than she had to, to protect their future relationship from “spoilers,” but it is clear that she has been/will be much more to him than a mere Companion. For one thing, she knows the Doctor’s name, a secret so deep that she apologizes with urgent sincerity for whispering it into his ear.
For those who are doggedly reading along without being Doctor Who fans: At the end of “SitL,” River sacrifices her life to save the Doctor. She lives on today only as data in the Library’s CPU. Any River we audience members meet from now on is a younger woman than the one whose body died in the Library.
In “SitL,” the older River does not realize that the 10th Doctor has not met her yet. In the just-aired “Angels/F&S,” a younger River recognizes the 11th Doctor, informing him that, apparently unlike her older self, she keeps “pictures” of all the Doctor’s incarnations. The younger River knows that she and the Doctor keep meeting each other out of sequence. Apparently they have so many adventures together in the Doctor’s future that the older River does not remember “Angels/F&S.”
The younger River is better at flying the TARDIS than the 11th Doctor is, and tells him she learned from the best, and it’s too bad the Doctor wasn’t around that day — implying that instead of only the Doctor being able to fly the TARDIS, at least three people can. The younger River has no trouble implying to Amy that she and the Doctor have a quasi-spousal relationship. The younger River is occasionally annoyingly smug.
Most puzzling of all, the older River recognized Donna Noble, who would go on to save the Universe as part of the DoctorDonna. But even though it is clear that Amy Pond is connected to the Crack in time in a way that will end up saving the Universe before she can retire and marry her Rory — i.e., just as important to the Doctor as Donna was —, the younger River appeared not to recognize her.
The theme song of the late, lamented Mystery Science Theater 3000 commented, “If you wonder how they eat and breathe, and other science facts, / Repeat to yourself: ‘It’s just a show. I should really just relax.’ ” I realize that as a staunch Doctor Who-vian, I am required to believe in giant flying salt-and-pepper shakers, super-high-tech aliens whose spaceship-ambulances can’t tell the difference between animate tissue and artifact, monsters who suck faces off through TVs, and giant scarlet spiders who create vast criminal enterprises unnoticed.
But I still think that once a TV show has established an alternate reality, it ought to stick to its own rules. Either the Angels kill by sending you back in time OR they kill by snapping your neck. Either the Angels can’t communicate with you OR they can reanimate dead brains. Either River Song has never seen the 10th Doctor before OR she is totally blasé about meeting the 11th Doctor for the first time, the Doctor himself for the second time from his point of view.
I trust Steven Moffat. I do. I rank him in the same pantheon as Joss Whedon, Russell T. Davies, and Jane Espenson. (Moffat’s “Silence in the Library” was beaten for a Hugo Award by Joss Whedon’s “Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog” — by about 100 votes!)
The “Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone” two-parter gave us Bishop Octavian, whom I liked a lot, as well as important information about the Crack and important clues about the significance of Amy Pond. I think Moffat was right when he said Amy was the best Companion yet. I’ll watch reruns of this two-parter without much complaint.
I realize that each of my quibbles can be rationalized. The “new” Weeping Angels are so slow because they were dormant for so long. Unlike billions of generations before them, this generation has evolved a way to survive looking at each other. They’re so slow because they starved for so many centuries that their brains have been affected.
But did River Song have to be so annoyingly smug so often? And what was that Bushwah about being able to refuse a mental image by closing one’s eyes? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m better at seeing mental images with my eyes closed! That whole business about a mental image needing to grow into a Weeping Angel that would eventually exit Amy through her irises OR complete her transformation was simply lame. If a growing mental image had that much power, Glenn Beck would be wearing a pink tutu as he cleaned the toilets in a maximum-security prison.