‘Doctor Who’: The Time Of Angels review

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So, just four weeks in, and already it feels like there simply isn’t enough time to stuff in all the dangling storylines that have been hinted at, from the Doctor suddenly not being a very good time-keeper, to Amy’s (mis)remembrance of the Daleks, In fact, there’s barely a chance to examine holes in the plot, let alone cracks in reality. In other words, there hasn’t been a chance to, well, blink.

While Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) has a serious case of Dalek denial (it’s reasonable to assume she hasn’t heard of Cybermen, Slitheen or Harold Saxon either, and this reviewer would bet a Dalek squeezy stress toy that the rest of the human race are similarly confused), it’s wonderful to see how Matt Smith is shaping up in the role, particularly in stories that so far haven’t really showcased him to the fore.

Since the RTD reboot of Doctor Who in 2005, we’ve been given an entirely new kind of Time Lord – one that’s prepared to slice off a human version of himself and shack up with a girl that’s young enough to be his great-great-great-great-great (and so on) granddaughter. That means that the traditionally accepted idea of a Doctor – one who simply ‘renews’ himself – doesn’t really make sense anymore. Better to think of him as a type of living, breathing Russian Doll – with a crotchety old man as the outer layer, and eleven more ‘inner selves’ to be discovered – all closer and closer to his ‘true personality’.

All of which is a roundabout way of commentating on how Series 5 seems to be shaping up so far: not always making a lot of sense, rattling through storylines in the hope that we’ll be patient enough to tie up the loose ends later. We’ve had Episode 1 (hello, Doctor 11), Episode 2 (hello, Amy Pond) and Episode 3 (hello, familiar old villains). Now, there’s no excuses: Steven Moffat and co have to deliver on telling actual stories. And it’s a belter. The Angels are the first creatures in the era of nu-Who that legitimately have the chance of being iconically scary monsters (as in, in thirty years time, conversations that begin ‘do you remember the one with the stone statues?’) and bringing them back might’ve been a risky move, as is the case with River Song. Cracks in time aside, it doesn’t really matter if this is the first time Alex Kingston’s character has met The Doctor (and, yes, we do know: we’re just not telling you), but the energy that the character and her history (well, future… well, past… well… anyway) bring to this episode heighten everything to a genuinely exciting and scary level.

If the length of the story (it’s a two-parter) has widened, so has the scope. It looks gorgeous and is a clear homage to Aliens: we even have marines, monks and a character called Bishop, and there’s a wonderfully lengthy and tense sequence lifted right out of The Ring, which answers the critics on one major question: why hasn’t Amy Pond been showing fear yet? Simple answer, she’s not needed to: she’s been travelling with her childhood imaginary friend, only meeting monsters that don’t directly threaten her. In ‘The Time Of Angels’, that’s all changed, and we have 45 minutes of genuinely tense television. Never mind telling the kids not to blink: they won’t even sleep…

Airs at 6.20pm on Saturday 24th April 2010 on BBC One.