In the midst of rushing to the scene of the Next Big Moment this season, a lot of people ask Doctor Eleven what his plan is, and he tells them he’ll figure it out when he gets there, or words to that effect. The first time was pretty funny, but the more he says it, the more I begin to suspect it’s actually Steven Moffat talking. Maybe I just didn’t pay close enough attention (lots of confusing timey-wimey stuff, not to mention some secrets and lies), but it didn’t seem to me as though this story had a plot, at least not one driven by characters. Instead it’s driven by a desperate dash to the next safe place, or rather the next Cool Set Piece. This is pretty slight criticism, however, considering that very few (if any) Doctor Who episodes have what you’d call a character-driven plot.
The Cool Set Pieces are, in fact, kinda cool. The shipboard forest is probably the coolest, making a nice deep dark wood for Little Red Riding Amy to be lost in. I really enjoyed Falling Up, Angels Attack the Tunnel, The Forgotten Soldiers, Angels Swarm The Doctor (a.k.a. That Old Daleks Computer Game), and of course Falling Sideways. These pretty much made up for the fact that the Angels mostly function here as very slow-moving and sinister Doctor Who monsters, and not much else, to be honest. There are no further revelations about their nature beyond what we learned in Blink.
They also don’t really cover their eyes that I noticed, and could easily be looking at each other. And they kill people by breaking their necks now, apparently. Again, maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention, but it seemed as though most of the rules that made them what they were in Blink were broken here. But I didn’t mind too much, and actually enjoyed their antics in this second part more than in the first. I didn’t even mind that they basically stole a Vashta Nerada bit with the whole Dead Man Talking routine.
So in general, good times…but here’s the thing. The day after I watched this, I continued my Ninth Doctor rewatch with “Aliens in London.” Now, there are a lot of embarrassing things about that episode, but one of the brilliant parts, the thing that RTD did so well and made Rose so terrific in the first season, is the reaction when Rose returns 12 months later than she left, instead of 12 hours. Flatulent aliens in human skins were as silly as Doctor Who has ever been (okay, ALMOST as silly, since the Adipose and the Abzorbaloff were still to come), and yet for once in the history of the series, the Doctor picked up someone whose family actually noticed and cared that they were gone. The seriousness, the humor, and the heart with which those sequences were carried off felt so fresh and yet so head-slappingly obvious. Why hadn’t this ever happened before? It made so much sense and gave the series a sense of reality amid the goofy science-fantasy of it all.
The Eleven era is trying for this, but as I noted in my comments on “The Eleventh Hour,” it feels a bit ersatz. It’s different, and that’s nice — Amy’s family knows all about “the raggedy Doctor,” because if they hadn’t it would be the “oh my heavens he’s from space? where are you going in that blue box?” all over again. But Amy Pond’s no Rose, and it really shows in the over-the-top ridiculousness of the very end of the episode. We know she WANTS to do what she does, but the scene in which she does it is unbelievably childish. It’s like she’s suddenly possessed (maybe she is, who knows). I’ve heard comments that this season seemed more firmly aimed at children than the RTD era, and I didn’t really buy it until that moment.
Still, it’s an interesting setup, smacking a bit of Back to the Future (in a good way, if that’s possible), and I like that we didn’t have to wait till the end of the season to see the crack addressed, however temporarily.
Nice guest stars, by the way, particularly the Colonel/Bishop/whatever he was, the grunty-looking soldiers, and…okay, just them. I’m still not a fan of River Song, and don’t find myself as intrigued as I’d hoped by her revelation. If the person she’s talking about is the Doctor, that’s kind of obnoxious; if it’s not, who else could it be? I don’t know which to hope for.
Still, I’d say the season is 4 for 5 right now, and that’s a damn good track record. I wish the Tennant era had had this kind of consistency.