The Doctor: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause-of-effect…but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly…timey-wimey…stuff.
Production Code: 3.10.
Doctor Who Season: S29 (Ep10).
Story Number: 186.
The best Doctor Who story every?
Well the 2009 survey of the Doctor Who Magazine readership suggested it was the second-greatest ever after The Caves of Androzani.
It’s certainly a top-tier story.
Listening to some of the BBC Red Button commentary (executive producer Julie Gardner, casting director Andy Pryor and Finlay Robertson who played Larry) prompted some thoughts as to why.
As a digression, it’s interesting to hear the casting director discuss Carey Mulligan, the star of the episode – Sally Sparrow – and now star of various films. A major factor when considering the brilliance of this episode must the starpower that glows from the screen when Mulligan appears.
Pryor says, ambiguously, “It’s such a great idea this episode”; “It’s such a simple concept” says Robertson of the Weeping Angels.
The thing is though, while they’re not wrong, this episode is many many great ideas and concepts from Moffat, each with their own imagery.
The Doctor communicating through DVD easter eggs: the mystery of the dozens of TV sets displaying the Doctor.
The messages behind peeled wallpaper, for the peeler.
The idea of two people that leave Sally living their whole long lives before the message can reach Sally moments after they’ve left. The faded photgraphs, and the rain.
The Weeping Angels: the way they gaze into their palms, then snarl, a frozen statue each time.
It’s a winning combination of a magnetic lead actress against these instantly iconic monsters weaving through a dazzlingly inventive Timey-Wimey plot. The icing on the cake is it’s beautifully made, the camera loves using the Weeping Angels to frighten the audience.
Sprinkled over the icing of the cake is some of the cleverest dialogue since City of Death.
“It’s happy for deep people”.
“Why does nobody ever just go to the police?”
“When you say you and the guys you mean the Internet don’t you?”
“Because life is short and you are hot”.
It’s not just characters being deliciously flippant, there’s real emotion too.
“I have till the rain stops”.
It’s a very human story, as we go on the journey with Sally Sparrow as our guide rather than the Doctor. Only the Doctor has a time-machine, people on Earth live out their lines in a more linear fashion (even if like Kathy and Billy that linearity is interrupted – “the days they might have had” – and diverted to a new time to live through).
There’s one scene in which the Doctor is the not-on-a-DVD Doctor without Sally, explaining “stuff”, though it’s a contrast which emphasises the very human puzzlement of the Sally scenes. When she solves the final mystery – how does the Doctor know all this stuff? – the hand-holding of Larry provides a subtly emotional moment and a nod to a new linear future for Sally after all these Timey-Wimey puzzles.
It’s the story of Sally Sparrow that ultimately means the story is so very very great.