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8 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 797: The Time of Angels

Dear diary,

When it was first announced (In Doctor Who Magazine, possibly?) that the Weeping Angels were to be making a return for Series Five, I can distinctly recall in-depth discussions with a friend about the ways they could be reintroduced. In the end, we decided that the story ‘had’ to revolve around Wester Drumlins - from Blink - being renovated. The new owners, or possibly the workmen on site, would move one of the four statues in the basement out of position and the Angels would be free to roam once more. If I’m honest, I think this discussion mainly stemmed from the fact that we genuinely wondered what the Doctor’s back-up-plan would be if such an event happened. I don’t think either of us expected what we actually got from this story - an adventure which takes what we know about the Angels from their first outing, and goes on to develop that, and add new facets to them. I’m sure I’ll come back to this more in-depth with tomorrow’s episode.

I can also distinctly recall being a bit non-plussed that River Song would be making a comeback. As I said a few weeks ago, I’d simply not taken to her during Silence in the Library, and the prospect of having her come back to the programme didn’t particularly excite me. Somehow, though, I completely bought into her from the second she appears in the story - which is right at the start, before the opening titles have even kicked in. Watching it again today, I can’t help but think that it’s because she’s just so much fun in that scene. Flirty, dangerous, packing weapons, and using that very Steven Moffat trope of playing with the format of a Time Travel programme to summon the Doctor. The way she catches his attention here is so much better than simply sending a message over the psychic paper, and I love watching both halves of this little narrative play out in tandem. Hello, sweetie!

It also doesn’t hurt that Alex Kingston and Matt Smith have such a great chemistry together from the off. Oh, sure, David Tennant played opposite Kingston very well, and when I watched their two episodes recently I was completely won over in a way that I simply wasn’t in 2008, but there’s something about the way that matt behaves when they share the screen together. I’m wondering if it’s simply because I know that it’s these two who’ll go on to play out the rest of the Doctor/River relationship, or because something just works between them, but it’s already a great dynamic that I can’t wait to watch evolve over the next month.

On the subject of which… we’re four episodes in, now, and i’ve not really mentioned Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor. I’d love to say that I’ve been waiting for today as this episode contains the first scenes he filmed and thus made a fitting point to bring it up, but if I’m honest it’s simply because he’s so recent in my mind as the Doctor that I sort of forget that I’ve not mentioned it! Frankly, he hits the ground running, doesn’t he? He’s fabulous in this episode, and by the time he gets around to stories like Victory of the Daleks he’d really nailed down the way he wanted to play the part. There’s something about his energy that really resonates with me, and simply makes him feel like ‘the Doctor’. As his era originally played out, I couldn’t help thinking that his performance lost something from Series Six onwards, when writers stop writing simply ‘the Doctor’ - which Matt then filters in his own unique way - and start writing ‘the Doctor as played by Matt Smith’.

Everything started to feel a little bit more forced as his tenure went on, whereas here he’s fresh, playing it the way he thinks is best, and perhaps mores than any Doctor since Tom Baker, you get the impression that he’s simply opening his mouth and surprising even himself with the way he’s choosing to do certain scenes. I can’t say that I was against casting someone so young as the Doctor (but, equally, I can’t say I was overjoyed by the choice - I just sort of felt nothing), but when you watch him even in his earliest episodes, you completely understand how he changed Steven Moffat’s stance on wanting to cast an older Doctor - Smith is just so right for this part. I’m actively anticipating the chance to watch him develop the character now, and see if I was wrong first time around about it feeling more forced as time went by. I really hope I was wrong, because he’s won me round all over again, now…

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