Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It's really annoying. A few years ago I had a dream in which a time traveller from the future has a love affair with a young criminal, and repeatedly rescues her from arrest by using details of her exact whereabouts found in her diary he picked up years after the event at a jumble sale (seriously!). I always thought this would make a great short film, but never got around to writing it. Seems I never will now.

The neat paradoxes of time travel make for satisfying storytelling (see Back To The Future, which this episodes references with the letter), yet are oddly underused in a show about time travel. It's strange that there are only a small handful of adventures whose plot revolves around the notion of time travel. Off the top of my head Day Of The Daleks, Timelash, Mawdryn Undead, Father's Day... I'm sure there are one or two others. Though I don't think any have done it quite so satisfyingly as here.

If you don't think about it too hard, it all ties up beautifully; though of course with most of these things, there are gaping plot holes if you give it more than a moment's consideration: for example, how did the Doctor know the exact timing of his conversation with Sally, not to mention some of the incidental details, considering he only had written evidence? How come the Doctor has the TARDIS set up in advance with a device which reads DVDs and gives the bearer a one-way ticket, complete with handy hologram? That said, the actual pre-recorded conversation was done very well, and the messages encoded into DVD easter eggs was quite a Philip K Dick moment, as was the alluded-to cult following that the messages has accrued.

As with last year's Love And Monsters, there was an underlying sense of tragedy behind the frightening haunted house romp, a real feeling of loss; and like last year, the Doctor was stamped all over the proceedings, like Orson Welles in The Third Man, despite his limited screen time. This time around, however, the Love And Monsters trademark silliness was largely absent, making Blink the more memorable and succesful of the two "Doctor Lite" episodes to date.

The weeping angels gave the episode the feel of the childrens drama serials the BBC were so good at during the late '70s and 1980s: The Enchanted Castle, Moondial, The Legend Of Green Knowe, etc. The fast pace and glossy 2007 production values took a fair bit of the edge off the spookiness, and I can't help wondering how much more creepy it would have been done in the slower-moving and more sombre early '80s style. It would probably have scared the bejeezus out of me.

So, other than a (probably) unavoidable modern glossiness and (probably) unavoidable plot holes, were there any down sides? Well, only the usual really. Most of the characterisation felt very standard-issue RTD, and Murray Gold's score undid a lot of the atmosphere by veering into Keff McCulloch territory with those ghastly 'orchestra hits' towards the start - whoever thought they were an attractive or effective noise? And the whole Sparrow and Nightingale thing? This was presumably a dig at low-rent ITV detective drama Rosemary and Thyme, hence the reference to ITV in the dialogue... but if so, why bother including such naffness in the episode in the first place? And anyway, Sally Sparrow (presumably a reference to similar '90s time travel sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart and its protagonist Gary Sparrow) is such an obviously made-up name that it proved tremendously distracting.

These are just small grumbles, though. Blink was yet another Steven Moffat masterclass in how to do 45 minutes of Doctor Who, tantalsingly drip-feeding the viewer information, avoiding the otherwise obligatory last act runaround, and getting the whole thing wrapped up under time (leaving the editors a minute or so at the end to play around with some pictures of statues they had lying around) without it ever feeling rushed. Along with The Shakespeare Code and Human Nature, the third absolutely top notch episode this season. More please.

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