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What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if, one day, our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us: the time of Angels.
In the 51st Century, Not-Yet-Professor River Song carves a message in Old High Gallifreyan onto the "home box" (like a black box) of a starliner, the Byzantium. 12,000 years later, the Doctor and Amy come across the message while the Doctor’s trolling a museum, "keeping score" by laughing at all the mistakes on the plaques and noting the bits he’s been involved in. It says "Hello, sweetie". (Although Amy can't read the ancient Gallifreyan it's written in, which will be important later.) They run off with it, and after watching what's happening to River at this exact moment 12,000 years ago, they travel back just in time to catch River as she ejects herself from the starliner via the airlock. She offers a warning that there’s something in the hold that will make sure the ship never reaches its destination.
Much to Amy’s curiosity and the Doctor’s resentment, River takes control of the TARDIS. She learned how to pilot it from the best pilot there is. The Doctor was sick that day. The team follows the Byzantium to where it has landed -- or, more accurately, crashed. Specifically, on top of an ancient, abandoned temple built on Alfava Metraxis. Not long after they’ve arrived, River is joined by a team of ‘Clerics’, a military off-shoot of the Church led by a 'bishop', Father Octavian, who are hunting the creature that caused the ship to crash -- a Weeping Angel. River has promised the Doctor’s help in catching it, as it appears to have escaped into 'The Maze Of The Dead’, the catacombs underneath the temple. Also, Amy quickly figures out that River has just got to be the Doctor's wife. The Doctor honestly doesn't know, and River delights in keeping the answer a secret.
As the clerics work on breaking into the temple, the Doctor and friends work on decoding the mystery of the Angels with a four-second clip of the Angel in the Byzantium and an old Alfava text -- which, ominously, does not include any images of them. The Doctor and River eventually realize that the text is trying to tell them that any image of the Angels essentially becomes an Angel, and is imbued with the qualities that make them so dangerous -- something that Amy is well ahead of them in discovering, having become trapped in the room with the recording of the Angel, which is gradually coming out of the screen towards her. Amy manages to defeat it by stopping the looped recording at the exact point where the image of the Angel is not on-screen, but not before she looks into the Angel’s eyes despite the Doctor’s instructions. As the clerics manage to access the temple, Amy complains of something in her eye...
A light-producing ‘gravity globe' activated inside the catacombs reveals a disconcertingly large amount of statues, which the Angel is using as cover. The Doctor begins to explore, giving Octavian and River the chance to have a conversation revealing that they’re keeping something from him, something involving a spell in prison on River’s part which could conceivably prevent the Doctor from helping them. Meanwhile, a group of clerics investigating the one clear exit from the catacombs are being gradually picked off by the Weeping Angel, all after being summoned over the radio by their apparently dead colleagues and having their necks snapped, and Amy’s problems with her eye begin to increase when, after rubbing it, she feels sand pouring out.
As the party investigates deeper into the temple, the Doctor and River realize something terrible which has been staring them in the face all this time -- the Aplans were two-headed beings, whereas the statues in the Maze of the Dead are all one-headed. They’re all Angels, emaciated and weakened from centuries underground -- but the radiation from the crashed ship is giving them strength and reviving them, exactly what the Angel on board had intended. The Doctor has led them all into a trap. At the same time, the voice of a dead cleric the Doctor had previously connected with appears on the radio to warn them; the Angels are hunting them down. As they escape, Amy reveals to the Doctor that she looked into the eyes of the Angel when her hand suddenly turns to stone, trapping her. Refusing to leave Amy despite her pleas, the Doctor convinces her that it’s just the Angel messing with her head... by biting her hand. She’s less than grateful.
Finding themselves directly under the hull of the Byzantium, the party’s torches are failing as the Angels continue to draw power and grow stronger. The Angels appear over the radio to taunt the Doctor for failing them all, hoping to make him angry. Unfortunately for them, it seems to work -- after asking everyone whether they trust him, the Doctor grabs a gun from Octavian and aims it at the gravity well, warning the Angels that they’ve made a mistake, because there’s one thing that should never, ever be put in a trap:
Bang. The Doctor shoots the gravity globe. Cut to credits.
To be continued in "Flesh and Stone".
- Actionized Sequel: Moffat described this as Aliens to the Alien of "Blink".
- Actor Allusion: Karen Gillan's previous role on Doctor Who, "The Fires of Pompeii", also involved people turning into stone (including the extra Karen Gillian played) albeit for a different reason.
- Angelo And Bob
- Affably Evil: Angel Bob is unfailingly polite.
- Are We There Yet?
- Badass Boast: The Doctor does it so well:
"There's one thing you never put in a trap if you're smart. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow there's one thing you never ever put in a trap: Me."
- Badass Preacher: Apparently clerics and bishops in the future have changed into soldiers.
- BBC Quarry: The Maze of the Dead.
- Justified: they're catacombs.
- Berserk Button: The Angels taunted the Doctor.
- Black Dude Dies First: Played twice as straight. The Angel's first kills are two black clerics.
- Body Horror: Amy has stone pour out of her eye, imagines her arm is stone, and may well be turning into one of the Angels.
- Buffy-Speak: "They're blue... boring-ers!"
- Call Back: Moffat does a bunch of nods to his previous episodes; besides the obvious Angels and River, there's people's voices being recorded and played back by the thing that killed them a la the Vashta Nerada.
- The Bishop appears to refer specifically to the devices in the latter episode that preserve a part of a person's consciousness, suggesting the dead troops can still be 'rescued' by that means.
- Apparently it's not just archaeologists; the Doctor points and laughs at museums too.
- And speaking of the museum, the Doctor seems to keep running into River in the vicinity of the universe's largest storehouses of knowledge.
- Church Militant: The Bishop, along with Sacred Bob, Angelo, Christian and crew.
- Subverted in that they're a very nice group of soldiers--no Knight Templar behavior at all.
- Their armbands, white cross on maroon field, mark them as the Knights of Malta.
- Colonel Bishop Badass: Bishop Octavian, natch!
- Commercial Pop-Up: Those fans watching on BBC 1 in many regions were uniformly delighted to be presented with a brightly-coloured animated banner complete with a caricature of Graham Norton for yet another talent show. During the cliffhanger. They might as well "just wipe s*** all over the screen during the final scene of Dr. Who next week".
- It's the second time Graham Norton has turned up in Doctor Who when he's not wanted, the first time being some wire mix-up leaking sound from BBC3 during "Rose".
- The BBC reported the incident (which attracted thousands of complaints) as "Doctor Who fans want Graham Norton Ex-ter-min-ate-d!"
- Norton later engaged in some Self-Deprecation for the incident.
- Continuity Nod: Amy's costume is almost identical to Emma's in the 1999 Comic Relief story "The Curse of Fatal Death" (which Steven Moffat also wrote). Both stories are set in ancient stone buildings built by now-extinct alien races with plot-relevant weird biology.
- The gravity globe is reused from The Satan Pit.
- The "Crash of the Byzantium" is one of the future events that River alludes to in passing in "Silence in the Library".
- In some Eighties serials (including "Battlefield" and the original cut of "The Five Doctors") when the TARDIS lands, all that is heard inside is a chime. In this episode, when River lands the TARDIS without using the brakes, there's a very similar chime.
- Drives Like Crazy: The Doctor leaves the TARDIS brakes on when landing, and calls the blue stabilizers "blue boringers".
- Drugged Lipstick: River's break-in in the very beginning.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Angels were already bad news in their original appearance, here it's explained that they can survive for centuries without sustenance, they eat all forms of energy, they're strong enough to snap necks with ease, they can materialize out of television images of themselves, they can steal your voice, and, oh, yeah, the one way to stay ahead of them, by keeping a steady eye on them? That backfires too if you stare them in the eye too long, since then they get inside your head!
- The prophecy (mentioned at the top of the page) implies that the angels are, in fact, sapient ideas. Which makes sense, since perception is so important to their existence.
- Enforced Method Acting: Apparently Matt Smith actually bit Karen Gillan's hand on several takes to provoke a proper reaction.
Karen: The Doctor bites my arm, and I’m not really sure how we’re going to do that. Is he actually going to do it?
- Everybody Lives: Subverted; this is an episode where you don't expect someone to die on screen (the Angels just send you back in time, not kill you), especially as it's a Steven Moffat episode. Explicit body count? Seven: Alistair and the three known Byzantium crew in the crash; and Bob, Angelo, and Christian, of a quick snap of the neck. And that's to say nothing of the people who were retroactively erased from existence.
- Everything's Better with Bob: Sacred Bob, no less.
- Failed a Spot Check: The doctor and River fail to notice the discrepancies between the statues the Aplans supposedly left and the physical attributes of the Aplans until it's just a bit too late.
- Fantastic Aesop: The Church's opposition to the Aplans' "same-person marriage" would appear to be one about gay marriage, but this is then subverted/played for laughs when Amy points out that they do have a point - the divorces would be messy.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas:
Doctor: I mean what's all that about? But then that's the church for you! ... No offence ... bishop.
- Follow That Ship!
- Foreshadowing: Sacred Bob shoots a statue that he claims turned and looked at him. He's promptly told off for panicking and shooting at the decor. Of course we later find out that all these statues are Angels.
- In the beginning of the episode, the Doctor makes an off-hand remark about the museum being the final resting place of the Headless Monks.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Doctor's keying in the coordinates, you can see that there's a red panic button on his keyboard.
- If you look closer, there's a green one just below it that says smith.
- Fridge Brilliance:
- River has pictures of all the Doctors because (spoiler for the following season) she was raised to kill him.
- Ever wonder how the Tenth Doctor, with all his knowledge about the Angels, and Martha, got caught by them in "Blink"? Sally Sparrow gave them the image of an Angel.
- The Aplans have two heads. This makes them ideal for facing Weeping Angels - each head can take turns blinking.
- Have We Met Yet?: River has a spotter's guide and a diary just to find out where she is in the Doctor's timeline. She's actually surprised, however, to learn she'll be a Professor one day.
- The last time we saw River, she asked the Doctor if they'd done the crash of the Byzantium yet.
- I Lied: River gives Amy an immune booster, promising that it "won't hurt a bit". She follows Amy's complaint with this, word for word.
- Idiot Ball: See Poor Communication Kills.
- Imminent Danger Clue: The ancient ruins they're in were from a culture where the population had two heads, but nobody notices for a while that all the "statues" have only one head each.
- It Can Think: In "Blink", the Angels are predators that sneak up when you're not looking and leave you stranded elsewhere in time. Here, they work together to lay traps, break necks and steal voices as bait. Gets worse in the second part.
- It Won't Turn Off: This happens to the video recording of the Weeping Angel.
- (spoiler for the following season) Like Mother, Like Daughter: River and Amy both say the Doctor goes to museums in order "to keep score." It's not revealed for another whole season that River is Amy's daughter.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: When River is caught snooping about at the beginning: "Wait until she starts running. Don't make it look like an execution."
- Meanwhile in the Future: The opening sequence.
River: A needle in a haystack.
- Mood Whiplash: We go straight from a humorous scene with Bizarre Alien Biology jokes about the Aplans having two heads...to the Doctor's realisation that the statues don't. Oh Crap indeed.
- Most Wonderful Sound: the TARDIS' *rnnnnnt* or *vworp* is explained by River as the Doctor leaving the brakes on; normally, it lands silently. However, the Doctor keeps the brakes on specifically to hear it.
Doctor: Yeah, well, it's a brilliant noise. I love that noise.
- Multiple Head Case: The Aplans, according to the Doctor:
Doctor: Very relaxed, sort of cheerful. That's from having two heads. You're never short of a snog with an extra head. [...] Then they started having laws against self-marrying and what was that about? But that's the church for you. Uh, no offense, Bishop.[...]
- Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: The Weeping Angel uses this trope (and Christian and Angelo's voices) to lure Angelo and Bob to their deaths. The victims comment on how annoying it is, but give in after continued nagging.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: In "Blink", the Angels' MO and abilities were fairly straightforward. In this outing they get a whole raft of new powers that were never mentioned before. Possibly excused by Rule of Scary, though.
- Although it's Handwaved that the Angels in "Blink" were starving and possibly dying, hence their reduced abilities.
- Noodle Incident: It's implied that the Doctor and River have met a few more times between "Forest of the Dead" and this episode.
- Odd Name Out: Octavian, Christian, Angelo, and Bob. Sacred, Scared, Angelic Bob.
- Oh Crap: "Just something in my eye..."
- The Doctor and River realizing the statues have one less head than they're supposed to have.
- And the Doctor after realising that which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel.
- Poor Communication Kills: Amy, would it really bother you to tell the Doctor or River about that stuff in your eye?
- Or couldn't she just tell them that the angel image had moved?
- The eye thing may be possibly justified, however, as the angel in her mind has some influence over her mind. In the second part of the episode, Flesh and Stone the angel makes her not want to shut her eyes, and she has to fight its influence, so it's entirely possible that the angel influences her to just ignore or forget the stuff coming out of her mind.
- Or couldn't she just tell them that the angel image had moved?
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hold this!" says Amy, right before the television record for most epic use of a pause button.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: The episode begins with a guard suffering from this, albeit enhanced by the hallucinogenic lipstick.
- Rushed Inverted Reading: Amy and River discuss the Doctor, while he scans the room with an electronic gadget. River accuses the Doctor of eavesdropping, he protests his innocence, and she points out that he's holding the gadget upside down.
- Scenery Gorn: The shot of the Byzantium crashed into the temple is rather spectacular.
- Screw Yourself: This was apparently a problem with the two-headed Aplan race, which commonly made out with themselves and even self-married before the Church stepped in.
- Schmuck Bait: "Come and see this!"
- Shout-Out: Let's see, there's warp drives, a Galaxy Class starship, Angels coming out of TV screens, and Angels using the voices of their victims to lure in more victims.
- And River throws herself out of the Byzantium to get into the Tardis.
- Also a Church Militant group in a sci-fi setting? Using dropships? With names like Octavian? Exterminating an amoral alien menace to humanity with extreme prejudice? After all it's the Fifty-First Century and the church has moved on. In the Fifty-First Century there is only war.
- "Hello, Angels."
- Possible oblique one to the Book of Revelation, or at least the King James Version, with the angels saying, "Come and see." The Four Horsemen said that to John, and some equate the horsemen with the archangels Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, and Raphael.
- Suggestive Collision: The Doctor and River upon River entering the TARDIS.
- Techno Babble: Played with.
River Song: How could we miss that?
- Tempting Fate: "Alright, five minutes! But I'm telling you right now, that woman isn't going to drag me into anything!"
- Television Portal: "Any image of an Angel is itself an Angel."
- Title Drop: Right in the trailer.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Once again, River Song has this effect on the Doctor's life.
- Throw It In: In the spaceship, the Doctor is fiddling with a strap and it comes off in his hand. The first time that happened, it was an accident (Smith kept on going, but Gillan and Kingston corpsed), but the production crew decided to keep it and had him do it again in subsequent takes. (Even in the scene that made it into the episode, you can see Karen flinch.)
- Thrown Out the Airlock: River airlocks herself to escape the Byzantium... right into the TARDIS.
- The Virus: That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel. Including humans, if they look an Angel in the eye.
- Wham! Line: "I didn't escape, sir. The angel killed me too."
- "[The Aplans have two heads] So why don't the statues?"
- That which holds the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: invoked with the Church members, who take their own names and naturally have names like Angelo and Christian. And Bob.
- Sacred Bob, mind you!
- Woman in Black: River.
- The X of Y
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Amy believes her hand is stone, thus it is stone. The Doctor therefore bites her hand to make her aware of it.