Well that was fun! After three compelling but uneven episodes that didn’t quite add up to more than the sum of their parts, Doctor Who delivers the first home-run of its Flux miniseries experiment. From tense setpieces to endearing supporting characters to cool sci-fi ideas, “Village Of The Angels” has just about everything you could want from a Doctor Who story—including a cliffhanger that suggests this antepenultimate episode is going to be one of the most pivotal hours of the season. It’s stylish, spooky, game-changing fun, and it has me very excited to see whether the final two episodes can stick the landing.
The moment this episode goes from good to great is when time displaced orphan Peggy leads Yaz and Dan to the edge of a 1901 village, where the road suddenly drops off into outer space. It’s an audaciously surreal image, one that helps make up for the poorly rendered CGI elsewhere. And it confirms that “Village Of The Angels” has more on its mind than just a one-off historical romp with the Weeping Angels. Yes, those returning monsters bring a welcome dose of stone-faced suspense to the proceedings. But there’s a lot here that works beyond just nostalgic affection for an iconic recurring villain too.
Most of all, “Village Of The Angels” does a really great job establishing a sense of time and place. The rogue Angel who commandeered the TARDIS at the end of last week’s episode leads the Doctor and her companions to the village of Medderton in 1967, where they quickly split off into their own separate missions. While Yaz and Dan join the search for a missing 10-year-old girl, the Doctor runs into Claire (Annabel Scholey), who’s spent the past two years living in the 1960s since she was teleported there by an Angel in “The Halloween Apocalypse.”
It turns out the reason Claire recognized the Doctor in that episode isn’t because they’d met before, but because she’s a seer who has premonitions of the future. Claire has spent her time in the ’60s under the inquisitive eye of Professor Eustacius Jericho (Kevin McNally). And when the Doctor’s arrival coincides with an Angel invasion, the trio find themselves in a sort of haunted house/home invasion story that calls to mind co-writer Maxine Alderton’s previous script for “The Haunting Of Villa Diodati,” as well as a healthy dose of “Hide” too. This time around, however, the call is coming from inside the house. Claire isn’t just touched by an Angel, she’s possessed by one too.
The simple mechanics of the Weeping Angels seem to inspire director Jamie Magnus Stone to lean into simple, evocative imagery throughout this hour, particularly in a standout sequence where the Doctor peaks into Claire’s brain to see what’s really going on. “Village Of The Angels” dramatizes Claire’s mindscape as a double-shored beach (or maybe a split sea, if you want to get Biblical), where the rogue Angel speaks through Claire to reveal what’s actually going on: Like the Doctor, the Angel is a former Division agent who’s on the run from the organization and its extraction squad. Unlike the Doctor, however, the rogue Angel not only remembers her time in the Division but also has knowledge of the organization’s entire history too—including the Doctor’s mysterious time working for them.
If there’s a weakness to “Village Of The Angels” it’s that some of the various Division-related reveals and double crosses get a little confusing to follow in an hour that also has a whole bunch of time displacement logic to keep track of too. But given that there are still two more episodes of Flux to clear everything up, it’s easy enough to roll with the punches for now. Especially when the final image of the Doctor getting turned into a Weeping Angel is such a riveting cliffhanger.
Indeed, there’s a lot about this episode that’s just plain cool, which isn’t always the case on Doctor Who. The idea of all the residents of a village disappearing once in 1901 and then again in 1967 is a great sci-fi set up. And this episode is loaded with the kind of texture that Chris Chibnall’s solo scripts are often missing. Peggy’s callous, condescending uncle Gerald feels like a very realistic depiction of a stuffy kind of 1960s masculinity. Professor Jericho, meanwhile, offers a flipside to that. Though he’s a lonely workaholic, he lets that experience fuel him with kindness and curiosity rather than coldness. He and Claire make for enjoyably capable one-off companions for the Doctor’s battle with the Weeping Angels, and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) seeing more from them in the future.
I was also really moved by the scene where Mrs. Hayward speaks to Peggy across time to explain that she’s actually a grown-up version of the time displaced little girl. It’s both hopeful and tragic in the way the best Weeping Angel stories are. And I’m excited to see what happens to Peggy, Dan, Yaz, and Jericho now that they’re trapped in 1901 with no Doctor and no way home. Given that Professor Jericho and Peggy are both characters in search of a family, maybe the time hop will bring them together as a surrogate father/daughter duo.
When this hour isn’t spinning it’s multi-generational Medderton story, it’s checking in on Bel, who finds herself in a subplot that’s part “Ascension Of The Cybermen,” part “Utopia.” She seeks refuge on the half-destroyed planet Puzano, where she learns that Azure is offering to “save” survivors of the Flux by transporting them into Passenger (a.k.a. trapping them in a sentient prison). It’s just enough to check in on the ongoing Ravager thread without letting it overwhelm the episode. And it’s another reminder that casting an actor as charismatic as Thaddea Graham for such a small but seemingly pivotal role is one of the smartest choices Chibnall ever made.
Indeed, “Village Of The Angels” is the strongest episode of Flux yet, if not just one of the strongest episodes of Chibnall’s era as a whole. It’s cohesive, entertaining, and atmospheric in a way the show has often struggled with over the past two seasons. The characters pop, the villains are scary, and the surprises are genuinely surprising. What more could you ask for from a village on the edge of the universe?
- Yaz’s knowledge of how to organize a missing persons search is a really nice, specific use of her background as a cop.
- Love you Bel, but I wouldn’t list “conveying important information in a timely manner” as one of your special skills. Coordinates should’ve been the first thing you recorded in your holographic message to Vinder! (That happens in a rare mid-credits scene, in case you missed it.)
- Jericho mentions being among the first British soldiers to liberate the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
- Two fun Weeping Angel moments: The version from Claire’s drawing bursting into flames when the Doctor tries to burn the paper, and the polygraph machine printing out the image of an Angel.
- Will we see any more from that skeptical guy who was zapped by an Angel while counting gravestones? Or was he just a one-off suspense builder?
- Love to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!