John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
jkahane

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Thoughts on DW: "Flesh and Stone"

Caught the fifth episode of Matt Smith's Doctor Who last night, during a re-broadcast on Space here in Canada. "Flesh and Stone" was the second part of a story that started with "The Time of Angels" (reviewed by me here). Here are my thoughts and observations on the story, and a few ramblings.



"Flesh and Stone", being the second part of a story, had to immediately deal with the cliffhanger bit from the previous episode (albeit admittedly a poor cliffhanger compared to most. I realized at the end of "The Time of Angels" that the Doctor was trying to reverse gravity so that he and the others would be on the underside of the spaceship, and I was pleased that this was exactly what happened. From that point on, "Flesh and Stone" moved on a continuous flight from the Weeping Angels, with some "talky" moments here and there, and revelations about what was going on coming at the viewer from seemingly all sides.

In many ways, this was one of the strangest and quite surreal episodes of Doctor Who that I've ever seen, without a doubt. The story, when all is said and done, is about time. Time is something the Doctor is very good with and at, except when he isn't, and forgets stuff. And I have to wonder if that's the theme for this current season. This story emphasizes the fact that things appear to have started back in "The Next Doctor", in the mid-19th Century when the Doctor defeated the Cyber King in the middle of London in full view of everyone, yet it was forgotten about despite the fact that Jackson Lake said it never would be. However, it's obvious that it was from some of the lines in "Flesh and Stone". What I don't know is whether or not Steven Moffat had something to do with that, or whether RTD plain and simple forgot about it.

This ties in with the other theme of the episode, the ability to re-write time. To be honest, I didn't understand why the Doctor was surprised that time could be re-written. He has done this before, and he's going to do it again before the end of the season, methinks... because we see *two* Doctors in this episode. If you look at the sequence where the Doctor, River Song, and Father Octavian leave. The Doctor leaves without his jacket, since he had eft that behind with the Weeping Angels on the fight deck earlier. In the sequence, Matt's Doctor is a bit rough on her, saying that he'll come back for her, but he's not being kind or gentle with her by any stretch of the imagination. Then, moments after he walks away, the Doctor takes Amy's hands and talks to her, telling her she needs to remember when she was seven. Notice that this Doctor has his sleeves rolled up; we can see his bare arms, when moments earlier his sleeves were down. Furthermore, there's a close-up on the Doctor's face, and if you look closely, you can see that he's wearing a jacket of some type. We can't see his shirt or his bracers; it looks to me like a darker jacket on his shoulders. Add to that that this Doctor is far kinder and gentler with Amy than the one who just departed. Heck, he even gets a great line here: "If I always told you the truth, I wouldn't need you to trust me." To me, this makes no sense at all for the Doctor who just left with River and Father Octavian, but if the Doctor who says that line were a future version who had more of a relationship with Amy? Perfect sense. I firmly believe that there are two versions of Matt's Doctor involved here, and that it's not a continuity error (since I don't think that Matt's jacket and mannerisms would be fouled up so easily), and the conversation between Amy and the Doctor here makes no sense. Remember the bit back in "The Eleventh Hour", when young Amelia is waiting for the Doctor with her suitcase? I think it harks back to this, and I think the Doctor *did* return to get her, but for some reason grown up Amy can't remember this. Moffat has said that there are things in this season that the viewers are going to have to go back and rewatch, because they will only make sense in retrospect. I'm convinced that this is one of those moments.

The chase through, what shall we call it?, the cyberforest (I heard the term "treeborgs" a couple of times), when the Doctor and his allies are being pursued by the Weeping Angels, was both exciting and disturbing for the most part. It wasn't just the Weeping Angels that you had to be frightened of, but also the cracks in your bedroom wall, and even the Angels were frightened of the crack. It was a twist that I wasn't really expecting, and makes me wonder how many children who watched the episode will have nightmares about this for weeks. I also think this episode has made it abundantly clear that the crack in the wall is not just a random phenomenon, but that it is following the Doctor and Amy around. Or perhaps it's following Amy specifically. And this made it pretty explicit that it's a crack in time. It's all directly connected with Amy somehow, but I just haven't got a clue yet how. Not sure I understand yet what specifically Amy has to do with it, but...she may be somewhat directly responsible for the crack in the wall of time and space. That said, the time crack or time curtain or whatever it is seems to change and alter time, but also make people forget about events. At first, I thought this might tie in to why Amy didn't remember the Daleks ("Victory of the Daleks") and the business with the Cyber King ("The Next Doctor"), and I still think it does, but it makes me wonder whether Steven Moffat is retconning Doctor Who continuity using this time crack/curtain to negate various events from the RTD period of the series. Will be watching to see how this shakes out.

There was a lot of good stuff in this episode to recommend it, but I have to say that "Flesh and Stone" had more elements of horror in it than did the first part of this story. The threat of the time crack, that even had the Angels afraid, was an interesting touch, and added to the suspense and horror. The cyberforest sequence, as mentioned, was quite terrifying with the shadowy feel given to it and the moving of the Angels being a creepy bit for me. One of my favourite bits in the story was the scene with Father Octavian in the grip of a Weeping Angel, facing his death. It was a good bit of acting on both the parts of the fellow playing Octavian and Matt Smith. Speaking of Matt Smith, his portrayal of the Doctor is coming along quite nicely I thought, and his vulnerability was showcased in this episode very well. As he seeks to come up with solutions, the Doctor's frustrations are shown clearly, often manifesting as anger (at himself). I like the fact that he's not the self-assured Time Lord that David Tennant's Doctor was. This episode added some depth to the character, but there are times when Matt's Doctor comes across as being petulant and annoyed at himself, rather than the emotion that it is meant to convey (shades of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton). I did love the bit when the Weeping Angels are consigned to the crack in time, and Matt's Doctor reacts with the same type of glee that was typical of Hartnell and at times Troughton.

Karen Gillan was excellent as Amy in "Flesh and Stone", as she didn't really impress me with her performance in the first part of the story. The fear that she felt for most of this episode, with the realization that she was being Angel-ized, was quite well done, and the scenes where she had to walk through the cyberforest with her eyes closed was handled nicely, the expressions on Karen Gillan's face telling the viewer more than her hesitant, awkward steps.
It is clear from this episode that Amy is somehow central to the season's great arc of the crack in the wall, and things came across well, and forwarded the story arc for the season somewhat obscurely. The hints continue to drop on the big story, of course, but are coming in drips and drabs.

What can I say about River Song? The hints and references to her past with the Doctor continue to be dropped, as well as subtle stuff about River herself. The fact that she calls herself a time/space event in her own right just strengthens my belief that she is a Time Lord and that she's the Rani. The revelation that she killed "the best man I ever knew" seeemed to indicate that it's the Doctor, as did Father Octavian's avoidance response when asked by the Doctor that very question. I feel that the Doctor certainly believes that he is the one that River kills/killed, but I'm not convinced that this is the direction that Steven Moffat might be taking with this. It was intersting that she told the Doctor that she would see him next when the Pandorica opens, as we already know this is going to be the two-part season finale story to hopefully wrap up the big story arc for the season. I found her comment about whether the Doctor can trust her to be interesting as well, and for some reason that strengthened my belief that she is the Rani.

Two things really got to me about the episode, one positive one negative. The positive: The way in which the Doctor turned the tables on the Weeping Angels and got rid of them. This was pure Steven Moffat, and is an excellent indicator of how he writes. The solution was a juxtaposition of elements that had been there the entire time, the Byzantium's artificial gravity and the crack in time. Lovely stuff. The negative: The final sequence, when Amy tries to seduce the Doctor was a bit...I don't know, just didn't sit well. You could see that Matt's Doctor was rather uncomfortable with it the way he rambled on somewhat, and it was clear that he doesn't think of Amy in that fashion, but Karen Gillan came across amateurish in the seduction scene; this may or may not have been deliberate. I don't think that it was suited to Amy's character to do so, and have to wonder how much of it was a reaction to River Song's potentially being the Doctor's wife later and how much of it had to do with Amy almost dying and the choices she has about who she wants to be with. There was no doubt that this had nothing to do with love, it was a case of Amy just wanting to get into the Doctor's trousers! Regardless of that, I just didn't like the whole idea - but have to wonder at times about previous companions. One thing is for certain: Since the New Who began, the Doctor has gotten his share of snogging in! :)

To all intents and purposes, "Flesh and Stone" worked pretty well as an episode, but was weaker in some respects than "The Time of Angels". It raised as many questions as it answered, since we still don't know who River is and I don't believe it will be the case that River killed the Doctor, despite the intimations of said deed. The Weeping Angels came across much more three-dimensionally in this outing than they did in "Blink", so I think that the episodes developed them rather nicely, something that I was rather concerned about with this two-parter.

I give the episode a 7 out of 10.
Tags: doctor who, review, tv hut
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