In the fifth episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor, Amy, and River Song face an impossible situation as they are surrounded by the Weeping Angels. Surprisingly, the “crack” in Amy’s wall from the series’ opener is actually explained. WHAT. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
HOLY GOD, WHAT AN EPISODE OF TELEVISION. Seriously, I don’t know if I could pick a single moment from “Flesh and Stone” as my favorite. I did not expect this second half of the story to be even more relentless and intense than the first, but there are so many moments where I held my breath in horror or tears welled in my eyes. Like I felt during “The Eleventh Hour,” Doctor Who just seems so fresh and new these days, and this episode is Moffat not only giving us a thrilling episode full of fright, but he shows that he can do emotionally huge drama like Russell T Davies was known for.
For once, I really like the resolution of the cliffhanger; it didn’t feel like it took away from the urgency of the situation, and as the camera revealed that the survivors were actually upside down, I had the goofiest grin on my face. YOU ARE BRILLIANT, DOCTOR. The thing that’s so great about this is that Moffat doesn’t wait a second to continue to up the stakes. In past two-part episodes, upon resolving the conflict, the episode usually settles into a much slower pace, allowing the characters to get into place for the finale. But in “Flesh and Stone,” there’s no waiting at all. The scenes of the remaining survivors doing their best to try and outrun the Weeping Angels are simply amazing, most especially the hauntingly quiet moment when the Doctor realizes he’ll have to ask everyone to turn their lights off in order for them to move deeper into the ship. I love that Father Octavian asks River if she trusts this man with her life, amid the din and terror of the situation, because it did not suggest later events near the resolution of the episode.
I worried that we’d have to deal with another story of the Doctor and his companions trapped inside of a spaceship with aliens trying to attack them, but, again, unbelievably unprepared. I was so unprepared. The Doctor reveals that there is an oxygen factory, a LITERAL MACHINE FOREST, on board the starship. And I really have to praise Moffat for this. Taking the episode to this new set really injects a completely different tone to the rest of the story. Many of the moments where Weeping Angels flash into place behind trees and creeping around bushes are among the best images this show has ever produced. The actual coloring is exciting, too, which is probably a weird thing to pick up on, but the earthy tones and the unsettling lighting of this place create an unending sense of gloom to what’s happening on screen.
But out of everything that happens during “Flesh and Stone,” it’s the crack in the wall that most surprised me. (Well….ok, maybe the final scene did. We’ll get there.)
As it appeared on the wall of the Byzantium, I knew that it would be impossible to ignore it. I mean…IT’S RIGHT THERE. AND IT IS HUGE. The Doctor orders everyone out as he begins to investigate and WHAT. WHAT. It is literally leaking time?!?!?!?! I mean, how many times have we heard the phrase, “Time is running out”? AND HOW MANY TIMES WAS IT EVER LITERAL? Oh god, Moffat, you are a genius can I bake you some cookies
The thing is, this season’s “theme” or endgame was seeded fairly obviously throughout these episodes, but this is the first time that it’s been addressed so blatantly before the final two episodes of the series. I was taken entirely offguard by Moffat’s script because I assumed the pattern would be the same as it always was: hint towards the finale, don’t explain anything until episode eleven or twelve. OH HEY, THIS IS EPISODE FIVE AND THE CRACK CONSUMES TIME. It’s why Amy didn’t remember the Daleks or other details of her life and it’s why we watch the other soldiers quickly forget that their fellow clerics ever existed. Which is a terrifying thought, by the way. Somehow, though, Moffat compounds this with Amy’s slow conversion due to the Weeping Angel inside of her. Has counting down ever been so disturbing?
“Flesh and Stone” doesn’t just excel with a fantastic story, though. Both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith have some of their best-acted scenes in series five so far. (I must say, too, that Alex Kingston and Iain Glen provide more-than-satisfactory assistance in this regard as well, but I’ll get to them later.) As the Doctor realizes the severity of Amy’s situation, he knows he’ll have to leave her behind to find a solution. I found their parting scene so unbelievably raw, especially for two actors who are only on their fifth episode together. It’s undeniable that Matt and Karen have possibly the best chemistry between a Doctor and his companion yet, and it’s a testament to their remarkable talent that it’s taken them so little time to build a genuine, believable rapport.
But I have to say: The Doctor saying goodbye to Father Octavian is UTTER BRILLIANCE. That look on his face when he knows that Octavian is going to die is so goddamn real. It last but a second, coming right before Matt Smith’s eyes well up with tears, and it is one of the most powerful images this show has ever given us. And as cheesy as it might actually be, Father Octavian’s parting words are poetic and bittersweet.
For Karen Gillan, though, it’s being placed in an impossible situation that truly makes her shine, and I have no qualms about stating that I know I will already love her as a companion this early into her run. Not only does she have to literally be in the dark throughout a good portion of this episode, she plays up the physical aspect of her situation with incredible skill. The scene where she has to navigate to the Byzantium with her eyes closed, but acting as if she can see, is riveting, well-acted and logistically completely nightmare fuel. AGAIN.
Goddamn, I love this show.
I didn’t feel like the end of this part of the story was anti-climactic either, as we get a full explanation for the “crack.” Caused by an explosion in time on June 26, 2010, the crack rewrites time as it expands and as the Angels rush to escape it, I found it a fitting end for the creatures that they were devoured by the time explosion in order to save Amy, River, and the Doctor. It’s one of those bits of wild science that would probably break down if I spent even five seconds thinking about it, but I’m in this to be entertained. I don’t necessarily hold Doctor Who to the same rigorous standards as most science fiction I consume.
As we bid goodbye to River Song, certain that she will return again, we find out she killed a man and was always under the watch of the clerics, traveling to Alfava Metraxis to hopefully earn a pardon. I mean…that can’t be the Doctor she killed in his future/her past, right? Sooooooo…..what? She then names the next moment we will see her: when the “Pandorica” opens, which is now the second time we’ve heard that phrase. How does that relate to the time explosion crack, and why does the Doctor believe it’s a fairy tale?
Truthfully, though, I don’t think any of us expected the closing scene of “Flesh and Stone.” Understandably so, after a truly awful experience, Amy asks to be taken home to recuperate and attend her wedding to Rory. OMG SHE IS MARRYING RORY! THAT IS SO ADORABLE OMG MORE RORY. What makes absolutely no sense, though, is Amy expressing sexual feelings for the Doctor. We’ve never seen anyone kiss the Doctor like that before. I mean, I liked the distinction Amy made that she wasn’t in love with the Doctor; she merely wanted a make out party. MAKE OUT PARTIES ARE AWESOME. But why now? Why is she acting this way?
The episode ends with the Doctor whisking Amy away when he realizes the date: June 25th, 2010. The time explosion is THE VERY NEXT DAY.
What the holy fuck, you guys.
- “I’ll do a thing.” “What thing?” “I don’t know! It’s a thing in progress! Respect the thing.”
- “I’m 907 years old. Do you understand what that means?” “It’s been awhile?”
- “A forest in a bottle in a spaceship in a maze. Have I impressed you yet, Amy Pond?”
- I love Matt Smith and Karen Gillan so much. SO MUCH.