The Image Of An Angel (Blink)

(112 comments)

In this scene, Clara is cleverly disguised as a bit of crown
moulding. 
It’s June 9th, 2007. Rihanna (and Jay-Z) are at number one with “Umbrella,” while Beyonce and Shakira, Maroon 5, Timbaland, Akon, and Twang also chart. In news, Scooter Libby is sentenced to thirty months in prison, although the sentence will be commuted by President Bush, and immigration reform fails in the US Senate due to failing to pass a cloture vote.

On television, meanwhile, it’s Blink. As we’ve already discussed, Blink is not the reason that Steven Moffat is now showrunner of Doctor Who. Just writing good episodes is insufficient, or else Paul Cornell, who in 2007 had almost as many and as brilliant Doctor Who episodes under his belt as Moffat did, would have been a sincere contender. And he wasn’t, not because he’s not one of the most brilliant and influential Doctor Who writers ever (Moffat’s been open about how much his take on Doctor Who owes to Cornell), but because he’s not a television showrunner and entrusting him a brand as big of Doctor Who would be absurdly risky. Moffat was the heir apparent because he was the only safe choice.

This is distinct from why he was the popular choice, though, which did mostly have to do with the fact that he wrote very, very good episodes of Doctor Who. And Blink was very good - good enough that the period in which Human Nature/Family of Blood was the obvious Hugo contender for Doctor Who lasted about a week. Its general reputation is as the holy grail of Doctor Who episodes. And fair play, as everything about it is, in fact, absolutely brilliant. It belongs on lists of the best Doctor Who episodes ever, its reputation is wholly deserved, and it’s one of those rare pieces that are so good that the hype of their reputation doesn’t actually diminish their impact. Jekyll may be why Moffat got the job, but Blink is the story that defined expectations of the job. And so it is worth looking at in that context - as the fantasy of what the Moffat era could achieve if (as was always impossible) he could hit these heights with rock-solid reliability.

First, of course, are the Weeping Angels. With two more stories featuring them, I’ll minimize my comments here, since later stories embrace the alchemical/mystical themes involving them more readily. For now let’s look at them as what they are within the context of Blink, which is a terribly clever monster. All monsters, of course, are systems of rules. This is why the Daleks, with their absolute and single-minded fixity, are the ur-monsters of Doctor Who - because they represent a single and absolute rule. But it’s true of any monster - they’re defined by the narrative role that they can never move past. The Silurians are defined by presenting a reasonable moral case for their own villainy. The Cybermen by their unrelenting nature. When the new series has revamped monsters, it’s often as much about revamping their rules as anything; the Sontarans are now eternally conquering warriors, the Ice Warriors are caught in the subtle distinction between honor and morality. Even single story monsters are ultimately just a system of rules that get sketched out quickly - consider the Judoon, or the Family of Blood.

The Weeping Angels work brilliantly because they’re both a very simple system of rules (if you don’t look at them, they kill you) and a very clever one. The fact that they function along the lines of the medium they’re built in is particularly good. The Weeping Angels are structured around the act of watching, as is television. And notably, they’re made to work along with the camera. We never see them moving, even when there’s no reason why they shouldn’t (as in cases where the camera pans to show one that’s seemingly unobserved). And so the Angels become woven into the fabric of the episode in a strange and compelling way. Even though they’re just fictional representations, they’re scary in a way no other monster is simply because their televisually represented forms are indistinguishable from their real ones. In this regard the later declaration that the image of an Angel becomes an Angel is self-evident, because the image of an Angel is indistinguishable from a real one in that the act of appearing makes it appear harmless.

In many ways, of course, this is trademark Moffat. Not just his “let’s make an ordinary object like a statue scary” move, but his embrace of glitchy media. This is the single most common Moffat trope in existence - the idea that glitches in media might contain some unnerving content. This is not a surprise - his background is in comedy, with a specialty in farce. Farces trade on comical misunderstanding. And since Joking Apart Moffat has favored farces in which communications technology exacerbates the misunderstanding.

So in his Doctor Who work he just turns farce into horror, making the misunderstanding not an occasion for wacky hijinks but an occasion for terrifying things to creep into the world. In this case, the Angels are an accident of televisual representation. They exist as threats because of narrative object permanence. Already Moffat is setting up his future moves in this regard, making the Angels threats that exist primarily as narrative consequences. (And note that both subsequent Weeping Angels stories are as metafictional as this one is.)

In particular, note that the Doctor spends the bulk of the story trapped in his medium as well. He’s stuck on television, being watched. And more to the point, he’s a glitch - an inexplicable bug stuck on a bunch of DVDs. But instead of using Patrick Troughton’s occasional trick of appearing to be able to look out of the television screen, the Doctor is actually able to look out of it. He really does know what’s going on off of the screen, and in fact carries on a conversation with Sally Sparrow from inside the television. The difference is one of levels - the Doctor looks out of the diegetic television and into the diegetic world, while the Angels look out of the diegetic world and into the real world (or, rather, are looked at from the real world).

But, of course, there’s an entire second level to the conceit that’s visible to Doctor Who fans. The Weeping Angels are, in point of fact, a gleefully dark Doctor Who joke: they’re monsters that make hiding behind the sofa pointless. No, worse than pointless; hiding behind the sofa is the single stupidest thing you could possibly do in the face of a Weeping Angel. This is, of course, terribly inside baseball. But so is much of Blink. A key part of its premise is that it’s about obsessive reading of Doctor Who. Key clues are buried in DVD extras, and through the obsessive stewardship of Internet fandom. There’s even an acknowledged shout-out to Outpost Gallifrey. This is the second Doctor-lite episode to foreground fandom, but there’s a significant difference in how it does, and the difference is terribly revealing about Moffat and Davies.

When Davies wrote his story about fandom, it was at the end of the day about love. The entire point of Love and Monsters is that Doctor Who itself is irrelevant to its own fandom, and that the real benefit and joy of it is the communal bond. But Moffat takes a different approach. In Blink it actually is the basic textual pleasure of Doctor Who that is valorized. The community of obsessives who are pouring over the Doctor’s DVD clip are not really focused on as a community. Instead the DVD clip is part of the episode’s own puzzle box structure, looked at by Larry in the same way that the audience is looking at Blink itself. Sure, the episode mocks bad readings such as Larry’s mistaking “look to your left” as a political statement, but ultimately Blink is about the fetishization of obsessive textuality, whereas Davies generally eschews that, and is indeed usually a bit paranoid in avoiding the obsessively textual within his episodes. Even when he plays with it - Bad Wolf, for instance - the mystery is usually structured to be unsolvable, whereas up until Clara all of Moffat’s puzzle boxes had been solvable. (The only exception, for Davies, is actually Mr. Saxon, which is perfectly guessable.)

There’s a fannish closure involved in this that Moffat has always traded on. Where Davies has always taken a perverse glee in pissing off Internet fandom, Moffat is more ambivalent, swerving wildly between deliberately tweaking fandom and pandering to them. Moffat has never seemed comfortable with the prospect of being hated by fandom (hence his retreat from Twitter), and has always inserted content designed to appeal to them. Blink is a prime example, structured as it is to pat its audience on the back for figuring out what’s going on a moment before they’re told. That’s part of the appeal of the puzzle box structure: it compliments the audience for their cleverness. And textual referentiality is another component of that. Insider references and jokes are used to reward fans for being savvy enough to catch them.

But what’s interesting about Blink - and to be fair about a lot of Moffat’s work - is that it’s in no way exclusively for fans. Indeed, Blink is the one Tennant-era episode that really works as an introduction to the premises of the series, because the puzzle box of the episode is presented as Sally Sparrow figuring out what show she’s on. And so there are in fact two puzzle boxes being assembled here - the timey wimey one, and the one about who this man on the DVD extra is. The result is an episode that makes long-term fans feel terribly clever, but that is actually also an outstanding introduction to the series.

The timey wimeyness is also worth commenting on. Another one of Moffat’s standard tricks has always been non-linear storytelling; from Press Gang on he’s liked moving the events of a story out of chronological order. But notably, he’s never really done that with Doctor Who, save for an occasional flash forward or back from the cold open. All of Moffat’s Doctor Who scripts are told in a strictly linear progression from somebody’s point of view. It’s just that they portray nonlinear events. It’s a subtle difference, but ultimately an important one, and it ties in with the larger themes of Blink. From the linear perspective what is crucial about a timey wimey event is that it is not an event to experience but a story to unravel - a puzzle box. So this allows Moffat to embed stories within his stories. Again, this is why the Weeping Angels are one of two quintessential Moffat monsters (the other, of course, being their inversion, the Silence) - because they are threats that emerge out of the act of televisual storytelling, and Moffat’s stories are, from this point on, all about stories.

So what we have is a Doctor Who story that on the one hand is about explaining the nature of Doctor Who, but is on the other hand about a threat that emerges out of itself. This produces a wonderful sense of the uncanny that accounts for why Blink is so scary despite the threat the Weeping Angels pose being relatively innocuous. (I mean, they don’t even kill you, really.) What’s scary about them is that they threaten the idea that there’s a line between the events of the story and the representation of those events. The timey wimey loop is ultimately closed, such that everything within the story is simultaneously cause and effect save for the Weeping Angels themselves. And so even without the final sequence that cheekily suggests that any given statue could be a Weeping Angel waiting to quasi-kill you the story makes the Weeping Angels an unsettling remnant. The closed timey wimey loop leaves Blink as a pleasant bit of self-contained storytelling seemingly unconnected to the rest of the series. But it also leaves the Angels as the remainder - what’s left after the closed loop cancels itself out.

Moffat will manage this level of intricateness again, but never outside the context of a larger plot arc. This is the one time he manages it on this minute a scale; the one time he does it in forty-five minutes instead of weeks, months, and years. And that’s the key thing about Blink - between it and Jekyll, it became possible to imagine the sweeping puzzle boxes of the Moffat era. And for wholly understandable reasons, we liked what we saw.

And so the future became clear. After that, all that had to happen was that it had to murder the present.

Comments

SpaceSquid 3 years, 9 months ago

The Weeping Angels are, in point of fact, a gleefully dark Doctor Who joke: they’re monsters that make hiding behind the sofa pointless. No, worse than pointless; hiding behind the sofa is the single stupidest thing you could possibly do in the face of a Weeping Angel.

That's a lovely point. It works in a more general way too, of course; a horror movie that actively suggests turning away to avoid the nastiness will make things worse. The one moment I truly loved in the otherwise bafflingly over-rated Ju-On (some may remember it's US remake as The Grudge) was the idea that partially covering one's eyes actually made the ghostly presence more obvious. Much as with the bedroom scene in the same movie, and with "Blink", turning our sanctuaries from horror into sources of horror is an exceptionally neat idea.

What’s scary about them is that they threaten the idea that there’s a line between the events of the story and the representation of those events.

When I was much younger and watching my VHS tape of "Curse of Fenric" I had this recurring terror that if I didn't watch the whole thing in one go, the Haemovores would somehow remain outside the narrative, undefeated until I watched them destroyed, free out there somewhere. Coming for me. I can't imagine the psychological issues "Blink" would have forced on me had I watched it as a child.

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

The weeping angels threaten a lot of lines. There's the line between background and foreground. Things that don't move about are normally background - we don't pay attention to them. Whereas we pay attention to things that do move about. Weeping angels are background but only as long as you pay attention to them. There are exceptions, e.g. art. The weeping angels are functionally statues. But they're kitschy statues - the sort that one doesn't reward attention and which is treated as background.
They also threaten our intutions about the stability of the world - the idea that things remain where they are put unless someone moves them. One of the points about that is that it's not something one can ever establish by empirical testing: empirical testing presupposes it. But at the same time one can't get around in life without that. And yet the weeping angels are things that don't stay where they're put.

Otherwise: for what it's worth, I think Clara was guessable - I thought there would be some timey-wimey prismatic scattering device. What I didn't guess was what the device would be.

Two other things to mention: firstly, the actor playing Sally Sparrow is quite good isn't she? She can deliver lines like 'sad is like happy for deep people' without making you hate her. They should bring her back as a companion. I'm sure it would be a better career move than whatever she's doing now. (Although, if you think of it, will more people be watching Blink or The Great Gatsby in fifty years time?)

Finally, this is one of the best directed episodes of Doctor Who. I think Angels in Manhattan is probably the better script, even if it isn't quite such a neat puzzle box. (But neatly done puzzle boxes don't have any intrinsic relation to the human condition.) Nick Hurran is good. But Hettie MacDonald's direction is incredible. It's rather theatrical. She likes shooting scenes lined up with the lines in the set. They really should try harder to get her to come back.

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 9 months ago

Aww, I was hoping you were going to break our minds with some experimental post of timey wimey proportions, but I suppose after the last episode, best not to do it too often...

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Chris 3 years, 9 months ago

This post has a totally bonkers format whenever you're not reading it.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 9 months ago

And along similar lines...

"We never see them moving, even when there’s no reason why they shouldn’t (as in cases where the camera pans to show one that’s seemingly unobserved)"

But... but we, the audience are observing them, so narratively the Angels follow the same logic for the audience as they do for the characters within the episode, for that extra meta layer. I always thought that was a really nice touch actually, though whether it's deliberate or not is perhaps open to debate.

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SpaceSquid 3 years, 9 months ago

By the time of "Angels in Manhattan" at least, it can only be deliberate or gross incompetence. Given the idea seems to be to deliberately screw with the viewers' standard reactions, though, it seems reasonable to assume it was deliberate all along.

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

I think the bit in Time of Angels where one does see them move is not a success. To be fair to the director there, it would have been a tricky sequence to pull off otherwise.

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 9 months ago

...wow.

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Alan 3 years, 9 months ago

This is the single most common Moffat trope in existence - the idea that glitches in media might contain some unnerving content.

Gotta disagree. While that's prevalent, the single most common Moffat trope is that Time is riddled with paradoxes that create themselves. In addition to this episode (Sally solves the puzzle of the Easter eggs and then gives the solution to the Doctor so that he can later present the unsolved puzzle to her), all three Moffat seasons have the same basic arc: the Doctor investigates a mystery only to eventually discover that he himself is the cause of it.

Off topic, another thing I loved about Blink was the elegant simplicity of the monsters. Obviously, the plot point about DVD Easter eggs would have been anachronistic, but the basic idea of the Angels could easily have been executed at almost any point during the show's history simply through the use of stationary props and clever use of camera angles. Even during the cheapest era of the show, the BBC still could have produced polystyrene statutes in various creepy poses.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

a horror movie that actively suggests turning away to avoid the nastiness will make things worse

Though that's equally true (diegetically) when the menace is merely man-with-knife, no?

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SpaceSquid 3 years, 9 months ago

Though that's equally true (diegetically) when the menace is merely man-with-knife, no?

Well, perhaps not quite as true - if something is coming for you either way, you might prefer not to see it happen - but I take your point. What I was trying to get at is that looking away should make things easier for the observer as distinct from the victim, and the idea behind "Blink" or that scene in Ju-On is that the act of turning away makes the observer become the victim.

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prandeamus 3 years, 9 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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prandeamus 3 years, 9 months ago

Try again...

River Who
River
Who's there?
Knock Knock

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dm 3 years, 9 months ago

It belongs on lists of the best Doctor Who episodes ever, its reputation is wholly deserved, and it’s one of those rare pieces that are so good that the hype of their reputation doesn’t actually diminish their impact.

I'm in the minority here, but I strongly disagree. This is a neat little puzzle box, to be sure, but to my mind it isn't even the best story of the season, let alone among the greats of the entire series. It pulls off its trick admirably, and yes the lingering threat of the angels is palpable (however much that is deadened by the stupidly obvious and tacky final sequence), but it lacks some of the mystery and beauty that truly marks a classic for me.

This is, IMO, the second time when Moffat's vision for Who seems compromised in the RTD series (the first being Girl in the Fireplace). I am a huge fan of Davies, and generally prefer his era to Moffat's, but the overtly alchemical and magical elements of Moffat's Who (the bits that I really love) tend to jar with this version of the program. I feel that both these episodes feel a little too neat and sterile, where they could feel like much wilder, stranger and more unknowable things in the post-2010 series.

It's in the 2010 Angels two-parter that they become really interesting for me, as the connection is drawn more clearly between the quantum observer stuff and the alchemical manipulation of symbols. That's the kind of thing that really interests me in a Moffatt story, much more than the (admittedly impressive) clever-clever puzzle box stuff.

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Froborr 3 years, 9 months ago

Nah, Phil's right if you include Moffat's non-Who work.

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Froborr 3 years, 9 months ago

So what we have is a Doctor Who story that on the one hand is about explaining the nature of Doctor Who, but is on the other hand about a threat that emerges out of itself.

Hit the nail on the head there, Phil. Thank you, this articulates better than I was ever able to why this is the best episode to show people who've never seen Doctor Who.

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Marionette 3 years, 9 months ago

I always thought the Weeping Angels were great one-off villains.

As is so aptly demonstrated by every subsequent appearance they make.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't know what you mean. All of our episodes with the Angels have been fantastic.

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David Ainsworth 3 years, 9 months ago

The closed circle (and the bit that bothers some people, the events which lead to themselves) itself reflects the nature and character of the audio-visual in the era in which Blink was produced. Early Who, the episodes intended to be seen once and never again, was theater: filmed as live, often, and never meant to be repeated, much less subjected to frame-by-frame scrutiny on the inevitable DVD release.

So when this story sets about creating an environment built around the media the story itself inhabits, it consciously engages with the audience's lived experience of that media. Of course Blink is a closed circle: just put the DVD in the drive and see events proceed again, exactly as they did before. The threat the Angels pose is that of narrative disruption, of consuming the story of those they touch, dropping characters out of their own narratives, trapping them in a cul-de-sac life.

The brilliance of the episode, I think, is reflected in the ways in which events and their solutions march alongside the imagery, the symbols and the solutions fit to the underlying metalogic. Of course the Angels are defeated by being placed in an interlocking circle of their own gazes. And of course, in an episode predicated upon the Doctor's absence, it's the absence of the TARDIS that brings about this defeat. And of course, in a story where the Angels represent the risk of time travel outside the bounds of the narrative, we get two people who enter the TARDIS but cannot travel with it.

But the real brilliance of the story's construction is the part that bothers some people, where the Doctor is handed the script he'll be reading from by Sally Sparrow. Within the narrative itself, events "script" what happens and what people say, but by the end of the narrative, Sally and Larry's notes and transcripts become the story that generates them.

By the normal logics of human life and experience, this is patent nonsense. But by the logics of narrative and TV and film, it's perfectly normal for the script to precede and generate events, even if the script presents itself as the after-the-fact narrative of one of its characters.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

All this is wonderful!

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

I believe the angels are in fact played by mimes who stand still, rather than by props. But the basic point holds.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

It seems to be a recurring thing with Moffat that he can create things which are so clever the first time you see them that they really don't have any choice but to get worse the more you see them.

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xen trilus 3 years, 9 months ago

That final line is very foreboding, and only increases my frothing anticipation for whatever your Silence in the Library post is going to consist of.

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Froborr 3 years, 9 months ago

Here I thought "murdering the present" was a reference to the present day of the viewer, namely the events of the season finale.

But it makes much more sense as a reference to the present of the series, in which case Silence in the Library is the better fit.

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Froborr 3 years, 9 months ago

and the bit that bothers some people, the events which lead to themselves

I've never understood why this is considered a paradox? Information isn't a conserved quantity, so there is no reason (assuming time travel to begin with) an event can't cause itself. There's no contradiction, so how can there be a paradox? It's closer to a tautology.

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

It's interesting and a little embarrassing how many of the best episodes of the new series feature so little of the title character. "Love and Monsters," "Blink," "Turn Left"...even "Human Nature / The Family of Blood" is in a sense Doctor-lite, since for most of the story he's a different person. It's hard to imagine this kind of story even being allowed in the classic series (perhaps partly because of its structure; we get a dozen or so stories a year now, as opposed to 4-6), and I think we're the richer for it.

I think I'm less interested in a monster to the extent that it's a set of rules. (Maybe this means I don't like monsters.) But this was one of the problems I had with the Angels the first time round, and several other times since. Being "unrelenting" is more of a character trait than a rule, and in theory you could do a lot of interesting things with Cybermen if you decided to treat them as characters (or their race as a single character, if you like). They seem to have some kind of history, muddled as it's gotten, and they seem to want something, basic as it is. The Angels as a race are all but incomprehensible to me, and I can't figure out if that's a virtue or a flaw. For instance, however they reproduce, it can't involve the missionary position.

I see why you suggest this is a good introductory episode, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that this is true. I wonder if there are people who get sucked in and then are surprised when the show week-to-week has the wild charismatic Doctor at the center of almost every story rather than as an enigmatic voice speaking to more conventional characters.

I've said before that I think "Blink" is overrated, but I do like it, and to contradict what I say above about rules-based monsters, I think we'd still need to think outside the invading-military-force box even if we decided to treat the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, and Ice Warriors less as stereotypes. As (clever, but) goofy as the Angels seem to me, I'm glad they're in the mix.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

Philip, perhaps unintentionally, hits on the reason that the Angels fail to work in their follow-up appearances. In "Blink," they follow a simple, clever set of rules. They can't move if someone (including the audience) is looking at them; and their mere touch "kills" by sending the victim back in time.

But "The Time of Angels" blows it by both adding more rules and ignoring the previous ones. These Angels can move while being observed, both by the audience and, presumably, by each other. (Unless we are assuming that an army of Angels can somehow follow their prey without once looking at any other Angel also in pursuit, even while in a narrow corridor.) And now they kill by snapping necks. There may be an in-story excuse for the latter; nevertheless, it removes something strange and unique about them.

Meanwhile, other rules are grafted on: the image of an Angel is itself an Angel; and looking into one's eyes for very long allows it to gain mental dominance over the victim. The former will create problems when we get to "The Angels Take Manhattan," but the latter is worse because it subverts the defining trait of the Angels: they are a literal game of Statues. One is safe so long as one can continue staring without blinking. The impossibility of doing so makes an encounter with them all the more frightening. That tension dissipates if one is equally screwed by looking at them for too long. (Yes, I suppose one could stare at their feet, but that's not nearly as scary as having to look a fanged horror in the face.)

In "The Angels Take Manhattan," the rules have changed again. They're once again sending people back in time, except when they merely teleport them. The baby Angels can move (or at least exhale) while being observed. They can even see each other without harm, as in the hotel hallway scene. (That may be more a matter of sloppy direction, but still...)

Then there's all that nonsense about them being able to turn ordinary statues, including the freakin' Statue of Liberty, into Angels. Moffat had to invent an unconvincing out-of-story reason to wave away the reasonable complaints that it would be impossible for Lady Liberty to walk across town unseen in a city that famously never sleeps. Combined with the "image of an Angel becomes an Angel" rule, this means that every photograph, every postcard, every souvenir of the Statue of Liberty is an Angel too. They're no longer Lonely Assassins, but a unceasing multiplication of monsters.

If you can put all of that aside, then sure, their follow-up stories have their moments. But they undermine everything that made the Angels so elegantly memorable in the first place.

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Galadriel 3 years, 9 months ago

Oh dear. That last sentence is rather ominous. I didn't notice it that first time.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm a bit surprised that there was nothing worth drawing out here about the fact that this was an adaptation of a short story. Not that I can think of anything in particular that would be enlightening either, but it seems like the sort of thing that would hold some bit of enlightenment.

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Josiah Rowe 3 years, 9 months ago

So what was Moffat's out-of-story explanation for the Statue of Liberty problem?

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

It's not just a puzzle box though. There's also the gut-punch of Billy Shipton's arc (which I'm baffled that no one has mentioned, since in a way it's the emotional heart of the episode). And the creepy realisation of "It's the same rain."

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

Unless we are assuming that an army of Angels can somehow follow their prey without once looking at any other Angel also in pursuit, even while in a narrow corridor

Maybe they have tunnel vision.

every photograph, every postcard, every souvenir of the Statue of Liberty is an Angel too

That is a bit awkward.

Also it means Sally did the Doctor no favour in giving him a folder with photographs of Angels in it.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

The locus classicus is Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps."

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

why this is considered a paradox?

Because causal dependence is ordinarily taken to be asymmetric.

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Nyq Only 3 years, 9 months ago

If you go back to the posts covering episodes from 1969 (e.g. http://www.philipsandifer.com/2011/06/if-we-dont-do-something-quickly-space.html ). You will find that Philip has already answered each of our comments in hidden paragraphs.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

http://www.themarysue.com/steven-moffat-doctor-who-statue-of-liberty-weeping-angel/

“The Angels can do so many things. They can bend time, climb inside your mind, hide in pictures, steal your voice, mess with your perception, leak stone from your eye… New York in 1938 was a nest of Angels and the people barely more than farm animals. The abattoir of the lonely assassins!

“In those terrible days, in that conquered city, you saw and understood only what the Angels allowed, so Liberty could move and hunt as it wished, in the blink of an eye, unseen by the lowly creatures upon which it preyed. Also, it tiptoed.”

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

however they reproduce, it can't involve the missionary position.

They could do it in the dark. "Hey, who turned out the lights?"

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BerserkRL 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, that was one of three omissions that surprised me. Billy Shipton (see above) was the second. The potentially problematic nature of "Are you going to stop following me?" / "No, I don't think so." was the third.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I am unsurprised that our host would choose not to call attention to the depiction of "Hi, I'm going to stalk you until you fall in love with me," as cute and unproblematic rather than stalkery and potentially taking terrible advantage of a woman in a fairly desperate situation when the paint hasn't dried yet on the Moffat Misogyny Thread

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

Or through a sheet. I guess that's the holy way to do it, and they are angels, after all.

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T. Hartwell 3 years, 9 months ago

Mulligan is one of my absolute favorite actresses working today. I haven't seen Gatsby because Lurhman, but she's wonderful in An Education and (especially) Never Let Me Go, among others.

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T. Hartwell 3 years, 9 months ago

I could definitely see the Angels working production-wise during Hartnell, if Web Planet is anything to go by (ooh, and imagine them in a black-and-white story...that'd be marvelous). As long as you had a relatively strong costuming department (which Doctor Who has generally had), they really aren't too hard to pull off.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

t's a good short story too, but the Weeping Angels are a better idea than the seven-year-olds homework trick. Billy Shipton's death is one of the new series' better emotional moments. I don't feel like I have anything to say about either beyond "yep, that's a thing."

Which leaves "are you going to stop following me," which I didn't touch because, well, I did the Moffat era and feminism post instead.

If I were to touch it, I'd basically point out that Moffat has two lines of dialogue to set up a romance. He does it by nicking the substance of the jukebox serenade from Say Anything. That Moffat is routinely the subject of savage criticism for it while the jukebox serenade remains one of the canonical most romantic moments in cinema is the sort of thing I mean when I suggest that there's a strange standard not entirely related to textual evidence in the Moffat-as-misogynist argument. I mean, if this is a cornerstone of the evidence, and it appears to be treated that way... then the evidence has problems. Yes it, like the jukebox serenade, involves a lack of respect for boundaries that is often used as a tool of sexual assault. Equally, there is zero reason whatsoever to think that it was in either case. In the end, all evidence is that Kathy consented to her future husband's courtship and was happy with the decision. I know people who have had courtships that included similar moments, and who are now in seemingly healthy and happy marriages. On the whole, the critique feels like looking for a club to hit Moffat with rather than like something that emerges out of the episode as a serious problem.

(I have similar frustrations with the Doctor's kissing Jenny, which she evinces no problems with, being turned into "the Doctor sexually assaults Jenny," as I've seen done. Little is accomplished by recklessly overplaying your hand. Overplaying your hand should be done carefully and strategically. :) )

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T. Hartwell 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, it was something Jack Graham had picked up on in his analysis of the episode, which he described as "a surprisingly careful, sympathetic, compact and poignant study of the passing of time and the achievement of emotional maturity."

It's an aspect of the Angels that I'm disappointed isn't brought up more often, as it's the side that really interests me. It's part of why I much prefer Angels in Manhattan to Flesh and Stone/Time of Angels- I'm much more fascinated by the Angels when they're used as a force of history rather than a force of narrative.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

The "also it tiptoed" makes it clear that Moffat's explanation is no sort of actual explanation, and amounts to "shush you, it's cool enough that I'm willing to sacrifice a morsel of story logic for the visual of the Weeping Angel Statue of Liberty."

In the larger sense, I'm annoyed about the changing rules of the Angels in exactly the same way that I'm annoyed that in The Daleks the Daleks are imprisoned on their static electricity-carrying metal floors, then in Dalek Invasion of Earth they can move with satellite dishes bolted to their casings, then in The Chase they can move freely and have time travel.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

They also digitally remove the tiny amount of movement that the actresses have. In the commentary track, Moffat remarks on just how much scarier they get after that digital processing is done.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

I think the bit in Time of Angels where one does see them move is not a success.

Agreed - not only does it mess with the "narrative object permanence" aspect, but after Blink, I felt like a non-quantum-locked Angel wouldn't look like a moving stone statue, but something far weirder; possibly, nothing but a formation of blurred, incredibly fast motion. To have such a mundane representation felt distinctly meh.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

Although, if you think of it, will more people be watching Blink or The Great Gatsby in fifty years time?

That's actually a really good question, considering how the fortunes of Doctor Who have changed over the last fifty years, how Baz Lhurmann-style filmmaking will be received by the audiences of the future, whether puzzle box stories will be popular, whether stuff about Gilded Age-style rich people will be relevant, whether - if Doctor Who is still popular/popular again then - the Weeping Angels will be considered a classic monster, if the idea of a "classic monster" will still be a thing, etc.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

The "are you going to stop following me" thing bugs me less from a misogyny standpoint (I mean, I personally have very strong objections to the standard trope of "stalk her until she loves her" that make me want punch everyone involved in writing 'Family Matters', but that's neither here nor there), and more from the perspective that it is, essentially, a sitcom plot that's invaded what should be a really scary moment. It's part of a larger whole with Kathy's subplot that we never actually see her express much more than mild annoyance at having been forcefully ripped out of her life and tossed back in time the better part of a century with no means of escape and no possibility of ever seeing her friends and family again. In fact, for all they talk up the horror of the weeping angels, the only victims whose stories we see seem to go fairly happily. I'm uncomfortable with the way there seems to be an angle of "I'm SO SO sorry, you're stuck in the past and can never go back to your own time and place and old life. But it's okay, you'll get over it and live a happy and productive life which will be in many ways better"; Billy Shipton may not be a police officer any more, but he's still happy and fairly successful, and Kathy seems to consider her situation a net win. From a dramatic perspective, there's something bizarre with the setup "Beware the weeping angels; don't blink or you're [strike]dead[/strike] going to get a fresh exciting new start in life with the benefits of decades of foreknowledge" -- Angels in Manhattan, in this respect, is a marked improvement because the thing that happens to you if the angels catch you actually is horrific.

This is made all the worse by the fact that both of the stories we see of people displaced by the angels were people who were sent to periods when they de facto and/or de jure counted less fully as people.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

I've never understood why this is considered a paradox?

Because the actual meaning of "paradox" is something that seems an impossible contradiction, not something that actually is.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

Well, you can take a rules-based monster and introduce an individual that doesn't function by that rule, and have it work. Jenny and Strax are both examples of that.

Actually, Doctor Who is behind the curve on this; the first major example of this in pop culture was, of course, Worf. (Admittedly, DWM had Kroton the Cyberman first, but if you're looking for not-major examples, there's tons earlier than that.)

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 9 months ago

"Hey, who turned out the lights?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY9YSWp2dSo

Jemaine: Hey, Bret, I think I know where I went wrong.
Bret: Hmm?
Jemaine: I think I know where I went wrong last night.
Bret: Yeah?
Jemaine: Yeah, Sally wanted to leave when you turned the light on. I think she found it weird - the whole thing with you there with the - with the light ... on.
Bret: Yeah, I think it might also be because she and I used to go out.
Jemaine: Yeah. It's 'cause you and her used to go out, but also because of the thing with the light. She's thinking, "Oh this is a nice situation." But then, "Ugh, who-- who turned on the light?"
Bret: Yeah. Yeah, maybe. But I think it's mainly because her and I used to go out... for like six months.
Jemaine: Yeah, well -- yeah, it's mainly because you used to go out, but also mainly because of the whole situation with the light.
Bret: Yeah, but the last thing you want to see when you're hooking up is your ex in the same room.
Jemaine: Yeah, and you also don't want to be startled by a light, do you?

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

The one thing the moving angels showed me was that they were not, in fact, polystyrene statues, but people dressed to look like polystyrene statues. So it functioned as a reveal of the production process.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

I quite like the Angels moving scene because of how it's shot - long shots on Amy that keep Angels in view the whole time, which mean that she should be safe because of the long-established visual convention that the camera locks the Angels as well. And then that's ripped away, and suddenly the audience is consciously aware that they cannot help Amy and that they are not in control of her fate.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

MacDonald did three episodes of Paul Abbott's transgender assassin drama Hit & Miss, which was terribly underrated.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

I prefer to think of a paradox as a "pair o' dox," which is to say, twin teachings (though one is probably evil.) This is the antithesis of "pair o' lies," which is kin to the statue of limitations.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought "murdering the present" was some kind of commentary on The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

If an image of an Angel becomes an Angel, an Angel could theoretically reproduce through a looking glass.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, but that fate is being menaced by fairly generic monsters at that point. (Especially with the "killing" aspect rather than sending you back through time.)

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 9 months ago

It's part of a larger whole with Kathy's subplot that we never actually see her express much more than mild annoyance at having been forcefully ripped out of her life and tossed back in time the better part of a century with no means of escape and no possibility of ever seeing her friends and family again. In fact, for all they talk up the horror of the weeping angels, the only victims whose stories we see seem to go fairly happily.

I suspect some of this is also the nature of human adaptation. Because of the timey-wimey nature of the story (or plot contrivance, depending on your interpretation), our folks are trapped in the past and there's no way the Doctor or any other time traveler can ever return them to their normal lives.

Of course, upon initial arrival, life will be awful and strange. But there's nothing you can do to change that; you quite literally cannot go home again. One is left with two option in this case: suicide or acceptance. That Kathy and Billy eventually chose the latter is not terribly surprising, given that humans have a remarkable talent for making themselves content and comfortable where ever they find themselves, and even more especially given Doctor Who's hopeful and life affirming message.

Compare/Contrast Hank "Sir Boss" Morgan in Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and you can see how this style of foreknowledge could make life both a lot easier and more difficult.

Aside: Can you imagine if this was the twist ending of Life on Mars? Sam Tyler gets hit by a bus driven by an angel. Or, because the angel was reflected in the windshield, the truck is the angel...

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

As someone who's either oblivious to the romantic attractions of others, ambivalent, or just too shy (depending on where I've been in my life) I find the whole "persistent suitor" trope to be strangely truthful. Just speaking personally, all of my lovers have had to exhibit such persistence in our courtship. This isn't a test or requirement, it's just how things have worked out. And, I dunno, I think it's something I find attractive in someone, that they have the sort of confidence to overcome what might seem like a rejection on my part, but which in fact stems from my own lack of confidence.

Conversely, such persistence is anything but welcome in someone who I unequivocally dislike. But that's why we have courtship rituals -- because there's a lot of ambiguity to figuring out the vagaries of attraction. There certainly isn't enough time to explore it in a half-minute scene.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

Visually, I think having the statues move is very impressive. There's a moment of visceral "HOLY CRAP THE STATUE IS MOVING." It's only in the context of the way the angels work that it's less good.

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

Ununnilium: I assume you mean Vastra and Strax, though I suppose Jenny doesn't always function by human rules, either. :) Those are interesting examples because Strax's joke depends on the contrast between his "rules" and his actual behavior, and Vastra is the inversion of her rule (instead of hating the apes, she's married one).

I think I'm looking more for monsters you can't reduce to rules, of course. Many monsters don't appear to have them in their first stories; the "rules" only take shape with repetition. The Angels are all rule and no creature; really nothing about them as a species matters. They are only what they do.

jane: Does an Angel freeze when it sees itself in the mirror? Is an image an image if no one's looking at it? If an Angel poses for a portrait, is the painting itself the image (producing one Angel) or is the painting's representation on someone's retina an Angel?

And since we've all seen countless images of Angels by this point, why aren't we all dead?

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

It's easy for me to accept the Dalek changes as improvements in technology. That's a drawback of what is essentially a magical creature: all it has are its rules.

I guess we could assume that the Angels in the two-parter have some reason for not wanting to feed off these particular humans, or don't want them in the past (perhaps they're too well-equipped to be a problem). And I know Moffat's (successfully) being funny, but if we take seriously the idea that New York in 1938 is a wee bit Matrixy, perhaps the Angels have found some way to sneak more effectively. I think if I were a creature with such an eccentric weakness I'd probably work on developing better ways not to be seen (perhaps by watching Monty Python).

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

On the commentary track for whichever of the Season Five Weeping Angels episodes he did, Moffat is absolutely hilarious in mocking the ludicrous excesses of the concept, joking about an invasion in which they're stopped because a fly lands on one. He's visibly uninterested in the question of realism with them - their job is to work within the context of a given story. Nothing more.

Though in the two-parter, the issue is suggested to be that they're much more interested in the very big bit of time energy of the crack, and that the little human morsels aren't even worth the energy of sending back in time.

The original script apparently had the book that the "image of an Angel" bit comes from being written by one of the priests who was sent back in time, but it got cut for time reasons.

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

I do try to care only about the things Moffat wants me to care about, but I don't always succeed.

I do need to listen to the commentaries, though. I never get around to listening to commentaries on anything because by the time I get back around to sitting through something again I usually want to watch the actual thing. As soon as I finish my Tennant rewatch (I'm up to "The Stolen Earth" -- almost there!) and get through "The Reign of Terror," "The Mind of Evul," and "The Ice Warriors," I'll do that, especially now that I know there's some gold in there.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, Moffat gives amazingly good commentaries. He's got one for every Davies-era episode (though some are podcast commentaries that you'll have to hunt down - this can be tricky), and then a handful for his own era.

Davies also consistently gives very, very good commentary, though he can be brought down by his co-commenters. Anything with Davies and Gardner is guaranteed gold.

The greatest commentary track of all time is Davies, Tennant, and Moffat on Forest of the Dead. They almost completely fail to talk about the actual episode. It's sublime.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

This gets at one of my chief frustrations about the Moffat era. With "Blink" (and "Coupling" before it) he demonstrates his ability to craft intricate, beautiful puzzle boxes. Everything tightly fits. That's no longer the case once he becomes the showrunner for "Who." The puzzle boxes are still there--in fact, they subsume the show--but the pieces are misaligned and the nails are sticking out. Sometimes he forgets to include the lid.

Another example of this lack of attention to detail is the crack in time from Series Five. Its properties change from week to week, and even within a given episode. In "The Eleventh Hour," it selectively deletes people and events (on a global scale) while leaving Amy untouched in her nearby bed. In "Flesh and Stone," approaching the crack erases one from history, and a complicated space-time event such as the Doctor can temporarily close it. Except in "Cold Blood," when the Doctor can safely reach inside. (Rory objects, "You can't put your hand in there," to which the Doctor replies, "Why not?" Um, well...) Then again, moments later the crack is shooting out tendrils--an ability seen neither before nor since--to grab Rory's body. It's as if the crack suddenly realized that it had been lax about this erasing people thing and decided to be proactive.

It's maddeningly inconsistent, and it bugs me all the more because I know that Moffat is better than that. It's as if he simply doesn't care.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

The difference with the Daleks is that they aren't defined by their need for static electricity. The Angels' quantum-lock isn't some odd little detail, it's intrinsic to the entire concept of a living game of Statues. It's not about "realism."

As Dinah wrote during the "Family of Blood" discussion, "A completely fluid character is not a character at all." Substitute "monster" for "character," and that's my problem with the Angels in a nutshell.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 9 months ago

Really though, the bootstrapping paradox isn't an actual paradox. People think the bootstrapping paradox is a temporal contradiction because the physical objects themselves are taken to have no origin, and exist only in the temporal loop. But in Heinlein's story, the young scientist copies his future self's notes into a fresh notebook, and his future self carries this same book, older and wiser, back with him to visit his young self. The older scientist isn't 100% sure, but that's what happens.

All the time-active parts of Sally's kit, just like in Heinlein's story, are all created in the story. The script comes from Larry's transcriptions and Sally's notes on the Angels. The DVDs are all made in Billy Shipton's manufacturing plant according to the Doctor's specifications. The one of those DVDs that ends in the TARDIS console is one of the thousands Billy produced. The creation of everything that ends up in the time loop is accounted for. Just because something ends up at a point in time before its physical creation doesn't make it a paradox; it's just time travel.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 9 months ago

There certainly isn't enough time to explore it in a half-minute scene.

There's some nightclubs in Glasgow that could prove this wrong.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 9 months ago

The Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel is such a marvellous conceit that even a spurious justification is unnecessary. Any tedious "realism" objections can easily be countered by invoking the Rule of Cool.

I'm less happy about some of the Angel behaviour in "Time of Angels". Seeing them move, having them kill people by snapping necks... it's not so much that it's illogical, it's that it's boring. The Weeping Angels in Blink were the most extraordinary Doctor Who monsters: Time of Angels made them a bit more ordinary.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 9 months ago

Billy's arc is even better when you see it as an accurate representation of the saying "life goes by in the blink of an eye."

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

That, pretty much.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

encyclops: Er, right.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

Time of Angels is also where it becomes canonical that the idea of a Weeping Angel can climb outside of your head and kill you. And, crucially, that this is the origin of the Weeping Angels - that the idea of them actually became the monsters.

Anything the Angels might have lost in the "don't look away" department is made up for by that sublime act of horror.

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Pierce Inverarity 3 years, 9 months ago

jane: Isn't there a notion like that in Borges' "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"? Something along the lines of, "To them, copulation and mirrors were abominable, because they both increased the number of men"?

Not likely to be a direct influence, I suppose. But it makes me want to go back and read that remarkable story, which is never a bad thing.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

"Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is the most sublime work of horror fiction ever penned.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I took a lot of issue with the use of the Statue of Liberty, because I think it is one of the fundamental laws of symbolism that you aren't allowed to invoke the Statue of Liberty in a story about statues you can't leave un-looked-at without the punchline being that the statue of liberty is the one statue in all the world that you can guarantee someone is *always* looking at (Yes, this is overblown hyperbole. But it's still the rules for use of the statue of liberty in fiction. Even Ghostbusters 2 had to follow it.)

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I suspect some of this is also the nature of human adaptation. Because of the timey-wimey nature of the story (or plot contrivance, depending on your interpretation), our folks are trapped in the past and there's no way the Doctor or any other time traveler can ever return them to their normal lives.

I suspected someone would respond by pointing out that it is not particularly unrealistic for events to unfold as they did. I don't disagree. But this is still meant to be the "scary" story. It's inappropriate for the genre to have the "horrific" fate of the monsters' "victims" is "After a long and happy life, they die peacefully of natural causes." It takes me out of the horror.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

For me, "The Rule of Cool" isn't a counterargument, it's a contraindication. If you find yourself thinking "Who cares if it makes sense? It looks cool," that's a hint that you should try harder. "The Rule of Cool" all too often leads to empty spectacle.

"It's not so much that it's illogical, it's that it's boring."

Yes, this. The Angels of "Blink" are unlike any previous "Doctor Who" monster. Once they start walking around and throttling people, they might as well be the Taran Wood Beast.

This is the origin of the Weeping Angels - that the idea of them actually became the monsters.

That's canonical?

"The Statue of Liberty is the one statue in all the world that you can guarantee someone is *always* looking at."

Especially if it's walking around. (Even if it tiptoes.)

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

I love the image of the Angel creeping out of Amy's eye now that it's become a recurring image in the show -- the apple of the eye, from the Eleventh Hour all the way through Crimson Horror. I mean, hell, you've got Amy and Rory trying to escape the evil Floaties of Death in a giant eyeball by the time we get to Hitler.

Hmm. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The thing that makes the Statue of Liberty more than empty spectacle, despite the trivial violation of rules (the literal level of the text being for me the least interesting) is how deeply ironic it is to appropriate her image for what it essentially a murderous prison; the US is one of the worst prison states in the world, with an incredible rate of incarceration. Plus, Amy and Rory essentially become "immigrants" to the United States in the end. That the Statue of Liberty functions as social commentary and narrative foreshadowing more than justifies her use.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

Plus, the particular "logical" objection to the bootstrap paradox -- that everything must have a causal origin -- breaks down when we consider the existence of the Universe. Either it always existed in some form (no point of origin) or it came into being from nothing (which is probably more absurd, but also strangely comforting.)

In light of the Big Picture, surely the ultimate form of the bootstrap paradox is to tie it into the origin of the Universe. Now if they could just figure out a way to do that in a Doctor Who story...

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

encylops: We are all dead. You just forgot about dying. Again. But you can remember, if you really try...

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

@Ross: It puts me into the horror, because it's making it clear that the fact of their inevitable death looks just like living. In other words, the lives we are now living are in fact our graves.

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coebabalifeandlove 3 years, 9 months ago

I saw The Great Gatsby the other night, and it is an excellent movie from a technical standpoint in terms of visual style, although some of the soundtrack is a bit awkward...so, you're really promoting 'Young and Beautiful' song, aren't you? Two different versions of it? And Carey Mulligan's performance...my gosh, she seems so young to have such a tragic bearing. She's always been good at that, hasn't she? In some ways, she's perfect as Daisy Buchannan, a young woman with a broken heart who has basically given up.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 9 months ago

It's inappropriate for the genre to have the "horrific" fate of the monsters' "victims" is "After a long and happy life, they die peacefully of natural causes." It takes me out of the horror.

Well, we already did the horror version of this tale last story, an inversion where a man deliberately places himself in the past and is forcibly ripped from his pleasant and rewarding existence by villainous forces beyond his control and trapped in a far less conventionally content life, forever unable to return to his previous happy situation. This is the story where we realize that it's not that scary to have bad things happen to you, provided you can persevere and come to terms with them (glazing over a huge portion here, depending on what the bad thing was, of course), and then work to help make sure they don't happen to others.

We will never forget the angels, but we don't have to become them, and we can fight them. A lack of fear doesn't take away their power, but it does give it to you as well.

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

jane: Ohhhh right! I remember now! How could I have forg

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

For me, the concept is so irredeemably horrible and depressing that it makes no difference at all to be told that these characters have supposedly adapted to it. I just find that unconvincing and if anything a trivialisation of it.

Although I don't mean to argue here so much that it should have been treated differently as that there's nothing anyone could have done with it that could have made me like the idea. It's so compromised at birth that, for myself, all I can really say about it is that I honestly wish the concept of the Weeping Angels had never been invented. There's nothing about any of it that has the remotest appeal to me.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, I quite like the anti-horror aspect.

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Sparhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 9 months ago

Well, there's a third possibility: that it exists as part of something larger and stranger. Which, admittedly, only pushes that paradox back a level - but IMHO a very important level.

(Now to wait and hope that no one uses the phrase "god of the gaps" in a response to this. Bleaugh.)

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

Billy's life is almost literally defined by waiting to see Sally again - the bit of his life that he might have lived had he not had it taken from him. Kathy has also gone to some lengths to ensure that Sally picks up her (Kathy's) life again at the exact point where Kathy left it. I would say that they're both making the best of what they're left with.
(This being the Eruditorum, I'd say something more about how they can't make any contributions, however personal, to any material social progress that they didn't already know happened - but I'm not sure how to put that without falling into the trap of Whig progress mythology.)

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Robert Lloyd 3 years, 9 months ago

Jane - Yes, and that's something that detractors of the trope typically miss: the object of the pursuit WANT to be caught. They just don't realize it yet, or are playing coy for reasons of social propriety, or for similar reasons. It's a conceit of the romance genre that isn't supposed to bear any relation to actual relationships (except, of course, when it does...) any more than certain tropes of the action, sci-fi, what-have-you genres.

I'm reminded of what I think is a relatively recent criticism of the classic song "Baby It's Cold Outside". Some films see it as disturbingly rapey (particularly given the line "Say, what's in this drink?) But it seems pretty clear the woman in the song (though it could just as easily be performed by two people of the same sex) WANTS to stay, and both are just looking for any excuse to allow that to happen.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

How "clear" that is really depends on the cover. (I'd say it specifically depends on how the line "At least I'm gonna say that I tried" is delivered). If you nail it, it's "Problematic but salvagable", if you blow it, it's "The christmas date rape song"

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't think detractors of the trope "miss" that, so much as object to the way that convention of the genre leads people to think about how romance ought to work in the real world. I've seen way too many instances in the world when "yeah, she wants me, she just doesn't know it yet" was an incorrect assumption in a really damaging way to be able to blithely enjoy it in movies and TV. The "Blink" manifestation is relatively innocuous, I think, and it doesn't bother me that much, but I can see why someone else's mileage might vary.

The conventions of action movies probably do their damage in different ways (e.g. affecting the public perception of war) and some of them are probably worth objecting to as well. There are probably more action films countering those conventions, though, than there are films attacking the stalker=love idea. Rushmore is the only one I can think of off the top of my head, and I've only seen it once, so maybe I'm misremembering what it does.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 9 months ago

"Visually, I think having the statues move is very impressive. There's a moment of visceral "HOLY CRAP THE STATUE IS MOVING." It's only in the context of the way the angels work that it's less good."

Is that so? Well, I got some bad news for you, sunshine:

In "The Time of Angels," the Angels are MOVING BETWEEN THE FRAMES OF THE FILM. In other words, you, the viewer, can no longer hold them at bay.

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David Thiel 3 years, 9 months ago

I think that where we have to agree to disagree is on the importance of internal consistency. For me, it's not trivial or tedious, it's fundamental.

(To be clear, when I talk about "internal consistency," I'm not talking about UNIT dating or Dalek power sources. I'm not a pedant.)

I'm all for metaphor, and love stories that work on multiple levels, but I start from the literal level and work outward/upward. If you tell me that X is vital--and, in fact, build an entire story around the properties of X--you can't simply ignore X the next time it would come into play. Not without a good, in-story reason for it. As I wrote a while back, even the Land of Fiction has rules.

For me, "because it makes a cool visual" or "because it serves this particular story at this particular moment" are no excuse at all. If core facts and values are mutable from epistopic interface to epistopic interface, then you no longer have a series, but an anthology.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 9 months ago

Don't you have to look into the eyes for the angel to get in? I'm fairly certain the journal mentions that the eyes are not windows, but doorways.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 9 months ago

I think Xen has it correct. Phil has mentioned before how Silence is basically a Moffat Era episode cast back in time.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

@encyclops: I don't think detractors of the trope "miss" that, so much as object to the way that convention of the genre leads people to think about how romance ought to work in the real world.

It's not so much depicting how romance "ought" to be -- in many respects, it's how romance actually plays out. And this itself is problematic, because sometimes the one being pursued really isn't interested at all; sometimes they are. It's virtually impossible for someone who's smitten to really know without some kind of pursuit for clarification. The fact that courtship conventions are murkier than ever before, it's an unenviable position for everyone concerned. The trope is problematic because the reality is problematic. Courtship is problematic!

This is probably why romances are so popular, not to mention romantic comedies. Courtship is rife with conflict, both internal and external, with myriad possibilities for miscommunication.

Where the trope (and the courtship it reflects) needs greater precision, I think, is making the distinction between "I really want to be with that person, but they just don't know it, so I'm going to go all out to show my worth," and "That person wants to be with me, they just don't know it yet, so I'm going to go all out to make them realize it." The former is rooted in one's own experience, and must necessarily admit the possibility of rejection. The latter is rooted in the condescending assumption that one knows another's thoughts and feelings better than they do, and doesn't admit the possibility of rejection.

Personally, I prefer the courtship rituals established by birds of paradise.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

No matter how levels you push it back, it still comes down to "something from nothing" or "always something, never a nothing." In either case, the common understanding of causality breaks down.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

It may be worth mentioning that "Swept up by forces beyond your control or understanding, then finally abandoned in a different time and place with no way to ever go home again and forced to make a new life for yourself in the random place you ended up" isn't just the fate of victims of the weeping angels; it's also what happens to a certain percentage of classic-series companions.

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

There is, though, a slight difference in that most of them have already chosen to become relatively rootless travellers or adventurers without a home other than the TARDIS. Admittedly, some joined against their will, principally Ian, Barbara and Tegan, although those three all returned to their own times and places.

Victoria and Nyssa, perhaps. Although the former had already lost her home and family before joining the Doctor, and the latter would simply have died if she'd stayed on Traken, and even then both did decide for themselves when and where to leave the Doctor.

Susan and Peri might be the closest. One suspects that the idea with the former may have been something like 'She wants to stay with David but either just hasn't realised it or doesn't think she can afford to, as the Doctor needs her,' with the Doctor helping to show that she's mistaken about thinking she shouldn't leave him, and allowing her to make a decision on these new grounds. However the way it is done - if you think the above was the intention, and you don't have to - it's just speculation on my part, I'm not trying to insist on it - is troublesome, for reasons already discussed previously. Better, I think, if they could have rewritten it so that it was clearly and straightforwardly her decision to stay where she was and leave him. Peri's is rather messy and unsatisfactory anyway in the event. Obviously intended as a means of having her killed off, before they later go back on that and establish that she survived after all and got married instead. It is rather an awkward fudge, one way or the other, and the inconsistency is such that it's not surprising some prefer to think she really was killed, although I can also sympathise with the argument that it's not a good way to kill her off either.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I find myself wondering now, whether it might be intentional in this season particularly, that they might choose to do a "horror" story which is "Basically what happens when you go off with the Doctor if we leave out the whimsey."

There's a thought. If the fundamental Doctor Who story is that you fall out of the world to go see things, surely it means something when we have a creature which can make you fall out of the world if you don't look at it.

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Henry R. Kujawa 3 years, 9 months ago

Interesting, I suppose...

I DIDN'T like it.

But then, I've always preferred THE OUTER LIMITS to THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

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Robert Lloyd 3 years, 9 months ago

"The fact that courtship conventions are murkier than ever before, it's an unenviable position for everyone concerned. The trope is problematic because the reality is problematic. Courtship is problematic!"

Tell me about it. And then, when I figured I was done with all that, I met my longest-term girlfriend (going on three years) and found out that relationships are even tougher...

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Alan 3 years, 9 months ago

I could forgive the Angels from the two-parter snapping necks instead of using the time travel trick because it was a stealth rescue mission, and Blink proved the risk inherent in sending people back through time no matter what the benefits -- a clever victim sent into the past can leave clues that potential victims in the present can use against you. I did have a problem with the Statue of Liberty because, ignoring every other plot hole raised by the concept, I simply could not imagine the Statue of Liberty sneaking around New York without thinking of Ghostbusters 2. I couldn't help but wonder if Lady Liberty was humming "Higher and Higher" as she moved around.

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Alan 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, that was one of three omissions that surprised me.

There was a fourth omission from this post I noticed that seemed particularly relevant coming off of Family of Blood -- the bit where Sally angrily calls out the Doctor on his not taking the situation seriously when two people she knew had already died (admittedly of old age, but still). Between this and Joan's comments at the end of the previous episode, it was now clear that, while Tennant might have been the most charming Doctor since Tom Baker, the show would increasingly focus on his less attractive features.

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Onesimus 3 years, 1 month ago

The Statue of Liberty as weeping angel existed in a timeline undone/prevented by the paradox caused by Amy and Roy jumping off the building.

So discussion of how "our" Statue of Liberty could move is irrelevant.

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Matt Moore 3 years, 1 month ago

David Thiel. "Sometimes he forgets to include the lid." Blink works very well because it runs of the course of a single episode. You remember the call backs about the video easter eggs. You see how the parts fit together. And the puzzle plays out over 45 mins - i.e. about the length of time that people can concentrate for. And as a writer, he gets one episode. When he becomes show runner, suddenly has whole seasons to run his puzzle boxes over. Which means that his puzzle boxes have to play out over months. There's two problems here. Firstly, the audience has to both remember and to care about the details of the puzzle box over that periods of time. Secondly the longer something runs, the more time you commit to following it, the bigger the pay off has to be. The pay off at the end of Blink is actually quite small - but that was OK. For me, the pay-offs in intellectual and emotional terms for seasons 6 and 7 do not match the build ups. Season 5 I'm willing to give more of the benefit of the doubt.

If you fancy getting more abstract then applying the rigorous structure of Blink to an anarchistic and disruptive show like Dr Who is never going to work in the long term.

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