Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I have strange conceptions of what Doctor Who should be. I believe it should be about the Doctor, his companions, his adventures. This is one of the problems I had when we started getting novels back in the mid-1990's in which the Doctor was tangential to the action: they ceased being about the Doctor, or his companions, or in fact anything to do with him, but seemed instead to be diversions into universes the writer wanted to piggyback onto the one we love. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, except I refer you to my original comment.

Last year's experiment in Doctor Who sans Doctor was unique, something that tore my opinion in two: nice piece, pity about some of the execution. Apart from my widely-varying opinions on the quality of the story, there was something I decided I held in complete conviction: no more. No more stories that really don't have anything to do with the Doctor or his companions; we get 14 episodes a year, and that's not enough time to spend on other concepts. That's the realm of Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures or Margaret Blaine's Adventures in Wonderland or whatever else Russell T Davies and company come up with. When I first heard that "Blink" was going to be this year's experiment in Doctor Who sans Doctor I was undoubtedly ambivalent; the only thing that kept me from expecting very little was the pen (or keyboard, this is 2007) of Steven Moffat. Moffat's first-season tour-de-force, "The Empty Child," was the highlight of that year, and last season's "The Girl in the Fireplace" was perhaps the closest Doctor Who has ever come to being lyrical poetry. But even though Mr. Moffat was behind the story, my fears of a 45-minute jaunt into the life of someone I have never met were readily apparent.

How wrong I was. Fresh on the heels of Paul Cornell's staggering two-part epic comes this little gem of an episode, so fresh and interesting and unique in its storytelling that, for a moment, I actually forgot all about the Doctor. Which is a hard sell, considering just how omnipresent David Tennant was throughout the story -- the Doctor may not be on screen the entire time, but the episode actually stays about him, and his predicament (shared, of course, with Martha, who's really the only one who suffers a lack of screen time). They're stuck, of course, in 1969, with no way back to the TARDIS except to play one great gamble with time that has roots in, for instance, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: take advantage of the opposing cause-and-effect time travel provides by sending messages through the lives of ordinary people. It all looks like great fun, of course, until the chills start running down your spine, thanks to the Weeping Angels, truly one of the (if not the) most frightening Doctor Who aliens of all time. A masterstroke of design turns innocuous-looking stone statues into terrifying nightmares, and some brilliant direction makes scenes such as the one with Sally and Larry in the cellar of the old house the stuff of nightmares.

The episode may have fallen apart without a good actor in the center seat, and Carey Mulligan (as Sally Sparrow) lives up to the challenge -- she's intelligent, articulate, free-spirited and feisty. Sally is a character worthy of that role of companion (and it's a nice thought that, maybe some day, the Doctor comes back for her and takes her on the trip of a lifetime; he's obviously already impressed with her upon their brief meeting outside the DVD store at the end.) I also must confess that I found some great chemistry between Mulligan and Michael Obiora, who played the role of D.I. Billy Shipton, whose fate I was sure was going to be disasterous the moment she gave him her phone number. How nice it is, though, that from the mind of the man who wrote the episodes in which "Everybody lives," we get another alien race for whom their plan of attack is to let people live to death. D.I. Shipton and Sally's friend Kathy both end up happy, which for victims in a Doctor Who serial is a very nice touch.

One of the things I like most of all in Moffat's script is that everything seems to work logically; here we have a whole succession of improbabilities which, by the end, make perfect sense. The linear structure of time works against most stories like this, but that's where Doctor Who gets to play around with things -- the transcript of the DVD leading eventually to the Doctor making it in the first place, the DVD easter eggs being targeted to Sally in the first place. The only logic flaw I've managed to find is how the Doctor knew which 17 DVDs Sally -- who he just met in front of that store -- had on her shelf. (If she gave the list to him at the end, when did she write it down? In the split second between the time she noticed the Doctor and Martha getting out of the taxicab and running out of the store?) But that's really a minor quibble...

If we're forced to have a Doctor Who sans Doctxor story every year, this is the sort of story I'd like to see: the Doctor is a part of the action, even when he's off the screen, and meanwhile the story is clever and entertaining. "Blink" could have been a nightmare; instead, it only induces them... and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm sure I'm going to see those Weeping Angels somewhere between bedtime and morning.

Wonderful, exciting and absolutely creepy - another triumph.

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