TV in Review: Doctor Who, “Blink”
June 30, 2012 13 Comments
I had high expectations going into this episode of Doctor Who, as it came highly recommended by friends on the interwebs as well as by friends in the material world. And yeah, they were all right. Keep out if you’re scared of spoilers, but come on in if you want to read me fawning over a top-rate forty-four minutes or so of Doctor Who.
DOCTOR WHO: Your life could depend on this. Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink, and you’re dead.
“Blink” starts off in media res, with a lone girl entering a space which is simultaneously forbidden – Danger Keep Out! — as wells as abandoned. (Double creep factor, that.) Many if not most episodes of Doctor Who begin in the middle of things, but I like how this one does so in such a quite yet urgent fashion. The lone girl (who will later prove to be older than I initially thought) proceeds with apparent purpose, so there’s a mystery from the first second, without her having to say a word.
“Or is there a mystery?” asks the story, as the girl takes out her camera and reveals herself to be taking pictures. “Yeah, I kind of think so” answers the story, apparently talking to itself, as our photographer peels off some wallpaper to discover “BEWARE” written underneath IN CAPITAL LETTERS.
It’s classic Doctor Who. There’s the aforementioned creep factor, plus a new human we can get to know and like, and there’s that dashing sense of humor. The young woman keeps peeling off wallpaper to reveal that the message is talking to her, and that the message of the message is to duck. NO, REALLY, DUCK!
Empathizing with her comes easy, as Sally Sparrow is played by Carey Mulligan, who lit up the screen in An Education. But how many people’s stories are told here? We get attached, and they get taken away, like Kathy Nightingale. It’s a melancholy affair.
KATHY: What’s good about sad?
SALLY: It’s happy, for deep people.
I mean, really, my emotional wariness may be worn down due to work, but the instant we learn that Kathy has been permanently blown out of time, I felt teary in sympathy, even though we just got to know her. That’s the best of the new Who — the joys of time travel are balanced by the sadness of what can’t be changed in time, even by a Time Lord.
The narrative moves forward like a detective story, and it’s easy to see how the writer, Stephen Moffat, is the same guy who writes Sherlock. Other than some video cameos, the Doctor doesn’t even appear until just over the halfway mark, which is when we learn that the weeping angels are a race which zap people into the past.
DOCTOR WHO: I need you to take a message to Sally Sparrow. And I’m sorry, Billy. I am very, very sorry. It’s going to take you a while.
Sadness for Billy, that he’s been trapped in the past that now has to serve as his present, into the future. Sadness for Sally. We saw that moment they had when meeting, how taken Billy was, the slip of the tongue in which she gave herself his last name — a very concise and well-executed presentation of what we know from other movies and television shows to mean that a great love affair was on its way. We are all weeping angels, now.
Of course, Kathy’s letter from the past says that she really didn’t mind. I think of her earlier exchange with Sally…
KATHY: Why did you come here anyway?
SALLY: I love old things.
…and how “old things” could also refer to the very show that they’re on, which premiered in 1963, a full six years before the old past in which the Doctor is trapped.
DOCTOR WHO: People assume that time is a straight progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, stuff.
There’s a truth to that fiction. Don’t we tend to have an effect and then create a cause in the past, by creating a story in which some cause led to the effect we just saw? When presented with new facts or evidence or effects, we can quickly assign the cause elsewhere. That’s non-linear, in that the past is created in the present.
There are some terrific repeating lines in this episode that emphasize the time travel and there are also some terrific stand-alone ones, such as when Kathy’s spacey brother Larry thinks that Sally lives in the abandoned house.
LARRY: You live in Scooby Doo’s house.
Or when the Doctor explains that the aliens have captured his space ship.
DOCTOR: The angels have the phone box.
Moffat does a magnificent job of using television to show us the power of statues, with these creatures who turn to stone as soon as they are observed. I thought the reveal at the end would be the Doctor and Martha looking at the angels, having come back in the TARDIS, but of course it was a more permanent ending to have the statues caught looking at each other.
How did the Doctor arrange that ahead of time? Or know what to write on the walls under the wallpaper? I dunno. And I’m also not sure why he couldn’t come by to explain everything once his time ship was returned. Okay, so deduct .3 points in total. I still found it a deeply satisfying journey of surprise and subtlety, and can see why “Blink” is rated 9.7 on IMDB. I’m definitely with the masses on this one.
The BBC first aired Season 3, Episode 10 of Doctor Who on June 9, 2007.
Polentical: TV in Review: Doctor Who, “The Family of Blood” (Season 3, Episode 9)