Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Blink is what is called by the production team as a "double banking" episode. These episodes have limited parts for the regular actors in order for the production team to crank out an extra story. One of these a year is now the norm for Doctor Who (and Torchwood it seems.) The tradition of stories told from a different perspective than the main characters is not new in science fiction television being employed by the X-Files (The Lone Gunmen, Michael McKeon's Area 51 episode) to Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Andrew's Vampyre movie...for the purposes of this review its science fiction) just to name two. The double banking procedure for the Doctor Who production now has turned the "outsider" episode in to a habit.

The success or failure of these types of stories has to begin, in my opinion, with the writing. Love and Monsters from the second series was passable. The oblique and not so oblique references to fandom in that story were entertaining enough and the main character was mildly engaging. The Torchwood episode Random Shoes was, however, a failure. How does Blink stack up to these precedents? It is not even close. The script for Blink was, as the author Stephen Moffat put it in an interview, a waste of a great theatrical movie idea it is that good. The Doctor, although rarely seen, is integral to the plot which gives Blink an edge up on other outsider stories which tend to sideline the main characters rather clumsily. There is nothing clumsy about The Doctor in this story. Here The Doctor is stuck in the past and must use his guile to get the Tardis back while defeating the dreaded weeping angel statues. The viewer is rewarded for his or her patience when The Doctor is on screen ( a little joke there......) as the easter egg DVD idea could have easily come across as just a writer's gimmick but is quite effective (and eerie) as the "window" for the outsider in to The Doctor's world.

When horror and science fiction mix sometimes what you do not know is another testament to a good script. If you try to explain everything more often than not the explanations are either too mundane or too exhasperating to be entertaining. The weeping angels in Blink are given just enough explanation to make you marvel at their existence while not trying to over analyze their motives for punishing/killing people by sending them back in time. The story focuses on the tension of The Doctor trying to communicate through time in what is another rightfully ambiguous set of circumstances. If we knew why he had to be so surreptitious in trying to avoid tipping off the future would we really be better off for it? Our imaginations are left to fill in the void which makes Blink even more entertaining as a story. This intentional ignorance is reinforced by a running theme in the story that sometimes you will "never know" the answers to some questions.

Writing an outsider story is a huge challenge in itself but it is only the first hurdle. Random Shoes in my opinion was further pushed off the rails of good entertainment by the director going for too much whimsy. With Blink Hettie Macdonald was not saddled by a throwaway script so she was graced with the challenge of producing a piece of art instead of a filler episode. She rose to the challenge admirably. If you try to imagine the angel statues being produced by 70's or 80's Doctor Who you realize just how far this institution has come. Since it's reinvention it really has become a form where artists excel at their work instead of the advanced sock puppet theater it really was before. The gothic horror here was, just as the script, movie quality.

The final hurdle for an outsider tale to overcome is the "new cast." After all the production ducks are in a row if the main character of the story is miscast all the superlatives I heaped on Blink above would not be enough to make the episode a success. Carey Mulligan as Salley Sparrow sealed the deal. In less than five minutes I was aware that Blink was the short end of the "double bank" habit (not really having seen much about the story before viewing I did not know before hand) but Mulligan had me hooked. The gravitas of Macdonald's direction could have been let down by a sub standard lead perforance. Mulligan was flawless, however. The only quibble I do have with Blink is a minor one. Finlay Robertson as Larry Nightengale reminded me too much of the nerd/geek patrol that pretty much killed Random Shoes. It would have been nice for Larry to be a little less cliche' especially in the final scene right before The Doctor and Martha hit the street.

Some might consider this blasphemous but I rank Blink in the top ten episodes of all time Doctor Who episodes. I may over time be inclined to put it in the top five. Despite it being an outsider story what we all know and love about The Doctor himself was present for us to revel in. The half interaction and then the full interaction of the DVD conversation seemed to exemplify the mystery that is the best part of The Doctor. David Tennant in the five or six minutes of screen time he had was brilliant. From his description of the poor hens in 1969 to the final DVD conversation it is really hard to not just smile when he is strutting his stuff. With each new face it takes a while to be convinced that the quirks and mannerisms are our precious Doctor. At some point if you are not convinced you are thoroughly put off by them (Colin Baker springs to mind.)

With Blink I have finally and irrevocably been convinced that Tennant is vying for title of "the best" Doctor while having only a limited amount of minutes do the convincing. It is hard to think of Christopher Eccleston anymore. Comparing Tennant against the sock puppet Doctors is an excercise in reviewing apples and oranges because the huge chasm in quality in production values and direction between then and now really makes it two different shows and thus for comparative purposes two different characters. I am a Tom Baker devotee but it is getting harder and harder for me to picture anyone else but Tennant as The Doctor. Thankfully I have the DVDs to show me just how good Eccleston was in the role. Maybe sometime soon I will go hunting for easter eggs and remind myself but for now The Doctor is a guy with hair gel telling a confused police detective how his temporal displacement detector has the bad side effect of exploding hens.

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