Doctor Who: "Flesh And Stone"
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Doctor Who: "Flesh And Stone"

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Doctor Who

"Flesh And Stone"

Season 5, Episode 5
A-

Doctor Who

"Flesh And Stone"

Season 5, Episode 5

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And now, the thrilling conclusion of “Blinks.” Or at least that’s what I’m dubbing this two-part sequel to “Blink,” which plays like the Aliens to its predecessor’s Alien. Of course, I said that last week. But as long as I’m repeating myself, I also mentioned last week that I couldn’t really judge “Time Of The Angels” without seeing how things wound up in “Flesh And Stone.” Now I’ve seen both and I have to say this is one fine two-parter. Moffat found some interesting variations on ways to defeat, outwit, or just survive the seemingly unstoppable angels while advancing both the short serial story of the crack in time and the longer (I’m guessing) serial story of the Doctor’s relationship to River Song. Plus that final scene. I honestly didn’t see that coming.

Let’s start with that. (This being a show about a time traveler, I feel like I can take those kind of liberties.) It’s been obvious from the start that this Doctor-and-companion pairing had a more pronounced sexual chemistry than some of the other recent pairings. It was always there, politely, with Rose, of course, and Martha made no attempt to hide her feelings. But with these two it’s always felt like something might, you know, happen. I didn’t expect Amy to push it to the breaking point this soon, however. And is there at least a half-second of reciprocation coming or is he just thinking? Is he figuring out how this moment fits into the larger scheme of cracks in time and space or pondering, if only fleetingly, what it might be like to take some pleasure the humans he so admires? (Amy even makes it clear she expects nothing long term, to say nothing of centuries of long term.)

It’s a startling, funny moment, and I think it sends a signal that Moffat doesn’t necessarily intend to draw things out. It took a season to find out what “Bad Wolf” was all about but here we already know at least part of what’s going on with that weird rift. Amy might have kept the Doctor in the dark about her impending wedding a while longer, too. And yet now he knows. Similarly, this episode resolved its major storyline with the angels with time to spare. We should expect the unexpected, in other words.

That’s true of the episode itself, too. I wasn’t expecting Amy to have to walk blind through much of the episode, a neat reversal of the central premise of “Blink.” The episode kept ratcheting up the tension from last week, and a lot of the credit should go to director Adam Smith and whoever designed that eerie space-forest set. Particularly effective: the shots of Karen Gillan looking a lot like a helpless Red Riding Hood in that red pullover.

Nicely done. And not, I think, an accident. The season’s been playing with images from fairy tales and children stories from the start. This week, the Doctor and River even have an exchanged acknowledging it. (“That’s a fairy tale.” “Aren’t we all?”) It’s working. And the River sub-plot gives it some gravity. Does anyone else think the man River kills is the Doctor himself? We may be in cosmic fairy tale land, but that doesn’t mean we’re heading toward a happy ending, does it?

Meanwhile: Vampires in Venice await. (Though I’m going to hand off reviewing duties to the extremely capable Todd VanDerWerff for one week. See you in two.)

Stray observations:

• “Well, it’s a death trap and a time bomb.” I love the way Smith brings pep to even the direst moments, even when Amy’s death appears to be impending. Sure, he’d be crushed if he lost her. But he’s dealing with the moment just like he’s dealt with seeing friends in peril for centuries. Emotions have to come into it later.

• When I interviewed Moffat at the beginning of the season, he had this to say:

AVC: This is a quote from you about The Doctor’s companions: “The Doctor may long, he may notice, but he doesn’t do.” If that’s an ironclad rule and viewers know it, how much can you tease them without frustrating them?

SM: It’s not an ironclad rule. Nothing can ever be a rule in drama, because then you’re saying certain things won’t ever happen, and that would be very boring. It, generally speaking, is true. The Doctor doesn’t seem to go that extra mile with any of the women he falls for—and he does fall for them, and always has—he just doesn’t do that. He seems to draw back from that. To play the more fatherly, the older-brother figure, or just the almost boyfriend but not quite. It’s quite interesting with The Doctor and Rose. He was quite clearly nuts for her, but just didn’t quite do that. That’s something he decided against. 

AVC: Do you have, in your head if not in the show’s canon, a reason why?

SM: In my head, not within the series: I think it’s quite important that we never quite know what The Doctor thinks. He’s a mysterious guy. If we start reducing, we lose some of that. But in my head, he knows he’s leaving. He’s in love with that big blue box. He wants to run away and explore the universe far more than he wants to settle down with anybody. So if you’ve got your bags packed at your feet from the moment you arrive, you know you’re not in the business of making a commitment. 

His reaction this week conforms to that… More or less. But can he really stick with a companion who’s lusting after him if he can’t do anything about it week after week? Will that be addressed next week? (Yeah, I know some of you know. But NO SPOILERS. Please?) 

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