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Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Stage Review of Doctor Who - Blink

Apologies for the late arrival of our weekly Doctor Who review. I’ve only just emerged from under the duvet after Blink scared the living daylights out of me.

Die-hards will always tell you that Doctor Who is such a great idea because it’s such a flexible format, can go anywhere in time and space, can give us an urban techno-thriller one week, silly alien invasion the next, with a tear-jerking romance not far behind. It’s a cliché because it’s true. The format is so loose and broad that we can even have episodes that barely feature the two leads at all, while still managing to feel so much like Doctor Who it hurts (in a good way).

Blink is Stephen Moffat’s third story for Doctor Who on the telly, having given us scary boys in gasmasks, girls in fireplaces, and now we have terrifying statues. Moffat, more than any other writer, takes chances with his Who writing, loosening a nut here, tightening a bolt there, to do things that keep the Doctor Who structure intact while encouraging us to look at it in a different light.

When Sally Sparrow explores an abandoned house of a very spooky variety, she is drawn into a story that spans across time. She discovers a message from the Doctor behind some wallpaper, advising her to duck, which she does, just in time. Later, she drags flatmate Kathy back there to make sure she didn’t imagine the whole thing. Some spooky wandering around later, during which Sally takes delivery of a mysterious package, Kathy disappears… But then our plot thickens even further, as the package turns out to be from Kathy, who ended up back in time and lived a full and happy life until her death. There’s something screwy going on, and I wouldn’t be at all be surprised if it had something to do with that really scary looking statue of a weeping angel… And when Sally gets home, why is the Doctor speaking to her from a DVD extra?

Once again, Doctor Who serves up some seriously good television thanks to a clever script that zings along with Moffat’s trademark dialogue and some great performances from a cast who are doing Doctor Who without the Doctor. Carey Mulligan is so thoroughly likeable as Sally that you long to give her a hug and take her out for coffee. She’d make a great companion for the Doctor should he have need of a new one in the future (although the one he’s got is working out just fine, thank you…). I wanted to see more of Cutting It’s Lucy Gaskell as Kathy (probably because I unashamedly fancied her more than Sally), but it’s down to Moffat’s writing that he can sketch characters so deeply with only a handful of scenes to do it in.

And then there’s the Weeping Angels, a race of aliens who can only move when nobody’s looking at them – so in other words, don’t blink. Ever. As soon as you do, you’re dead… And if they get you, you’re blasted back in time, the potential energy of your future absorbed by the angels. And that’s what happened to the Doctor and Martha, who ended up in 1969, cut off from the TARDIS.

With the Angels, we probably have Doctor Who’s most pant-wettingly scary monsters of all time, and their very concept has you questioning the inner workings of the writer’s mind. This is quickly followed by the sad realisation that you haven’t a hope in hell of ever being that clever, even if you spent the rest of your life trying.

With Blink, we have what has become known in fan circles (of which I obviously know nothing about) as the ‘Doctor-lite’ episode. It’s a thumbnail heading to denote that two filming blocks are ongoing, and as David Tennant and Freema Agyeman can’t be in two places at once, one episode has to be light on scenes for them. Without this, the shoot would go beyond the nine months it currently spans, so it’s a logistical necessary so the leads don’t go doolally-tap from over-work.

Last year we were given the Peter Kay-starring Love and Monsters, which was a love it or loath it affair in its tricksiness. Where Blink scores over Love and Monsters is managing to have an episode without the Doctor and Martha, yet which manages to give them so much presence in the narrative for this to still feel deliciously Who-ey. This also gives us a chance to see just how well Tennant and Agyeman really do work together. When they do pop up, it feels so natural, that it’s always been the Doctor and Martha. Personally, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Blink continues the high-quality run of episodes we’ve had from this third series of Doctor Who, and it easily ranks as one of the best (although I still favour Moffat’s The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances from his three stories to date). And that stridently confident ending will strike fear into the hearts of children for years to come, going down in Doctor Who lore as ‘The One with the Bloody Scary Statues’.

Just as it should do…

Published Tuesday 12 June 2007 at 16:59 by Mark Wright

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