Review: Doctor Who – 5×5 – Flesh and Stone

Cry me a river

Flesh and Stone

In the UK: Saturday 1st May 2010, 6.25pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday 15th May 2010, 9/8c, BBC America

So the Doctor, Amy and all the warrior-vicars are surrounded by Weeping Angels. He has a cunning plan. Will last week’s cliffhanger be resolved satisfactorily?

Spoilers and more after the break.

The Doctor, Amy and River faced the Weeping Angels but discovered an even more sinister force threatening them…

Was it any good?
Interesting question. Glad you asked it. Obviously, yes it was, but it wasn’t quite the masterpiece we’ve come to expect from Stevie Moffat.

The problem here was two-fold. First, the weeping angels, while scary, weren’t really scary in this episode. It’s almost as if they were scary because we remember how scary they were in previous episodes. They’ve no energy to do anything too cool like send people back in time with a touch. The whole “don’t blink” thing wasn’t such a problem this time round and indeed even the angels seemed to have no trouble looking at each other. They’re just a bit threatening and break people’s necks when the lights are out. Instead, the real menace was the crack in space and time. More on that later.

Indeed, after the build-ups – for there was more than one – of episode one, episode two consisted mainly of not-quite pay-offs. River being a criminal – odd, but not wholly unexpected, particularly given the start of The Time of Angels. River’s terrible secret – slightly unexpected but not as good as we all thought it might be and probably won’t come to pass anyway. The Weeping Angels – largely ineffective and even Amy wandering around with her eyes shut (wot no blindfold?) proved something of an obstacle to them. Amy’s eye infection – cool idea that didn’t get a cool solution (wouldn’t it have been fun to have had a black screen with nothing but the Doctor’s voice guiding Amy around through the angels?).

Not much pay-off after the build-up.

Second, it was all largely over by the halfway point, leaving an odd 10 or 12 minutes of series arc to carry on with at the end. That made it all feel a bit bitty, if you know what I mean.

But these flaws aside, Flesh and Stone was still a good ‘un, with both tense and clever moments: Amy’s countdown, treeborgs, the artificial gravity solution to the Weeping Angel problem, the disappearing memories and people, the Bishop’s sacrifice (someone getting killed in a Steven Moffat script!) and indeed the whole series arc finally coming into its own. River Song could have had more to do, as could the clerics after such an interesting opening; there were a few plot holes that needed closing; and the pacing was a bit off, but generally, a good ‘un.

Now, in contrast to previous RTD seasons of Who which did their best to anchor the companions in the here-and-now, we had relatively little grounding for Amy in the opening episodes of this season. For the last few episodes, Amy and Doc have sort of been co-occupiers of the TARDIS, not really friends, certainly not lovers. The Doc hasn’t exactly been very warm to her, either, and although we’ve had glimpses of Amy’s personality traits, we’ve not really seen much of her as a character, beyond being smart.

So, for once, I’m going to say Rusty had the better take on these things and this series has lacked that vital emotional quality that made us care about the characters.

Flesh and Stone had a couple of points that attempted to get us to care about the Doctor and Amy, although not in the same way as we’ve cared about previous nu-Who relationships. We have the Doctor trying to be kind and protective to Amy and asking her to trust him for no readily apparent reason. I’d desperately have liked this point to be where there was some actual bonding and emotion, but there wasn’t. It felt like an alien not really getting human emotions, and actual distanced the Doctor and Amy for me.

So when Amy tries to get it on with the Doctor towards the end of the episode, it did feel a bit of a jump. Had it happened at the end of The Eleventh Hour, that would have been fine and would have followed on nicely, particularly given the Doctor’s striptease. But with so little emotional content to their relationship since then, it doesn’t quite compute.

All the same, I did enjoy it. First, after so much coy metaphor and nancying around the subject during the Rusty years, it was nice for a companion to shove the Doctor up against the TARDIS and snog him, then lie on a bed waiting for him to come get her – and not because she’s in love with him and wants to build a dream cottage with him, but because she’s a bit damaged and fancies a shag with her childhood crush on the eve of her wedding.


Second, although it feels a bit like retcon, the Doctor not having the faintest idea what she was on about and totally failing to read the signals was amusing, and I’m sure bound to please the old-school fans. You couldn’t see Doctor 10 ever doing that scene, so was quite iconic as a Doctor 11 defining scene.

To be honest, though, I think I’d have preferred them to have got it on and not just to cause outrage in the Daily Mail, but because it might have made the 11th Doctor just a tad more appealing as a character: Doctor as cad really hasn’t been done before. Still, at least there was a decent get-out clause: the series arc.

It’s all Amy’s fault
So for some reason, the cracks in the universe are all Amy’s fault or linked to her in some way. Interesting, if a bit Charley Pollard (cf the Big Finish eighth Doctor stories). As I’ve remarked before, it’s good to see a series arc that’s more than just a few hints in one episode that pay off in the final episode. Stories are being shaped and changed and the narrative driven by the presence of these cracks.

We can guess that River’s back towards the end of the season when the ‘Pandorica’ will open – maybe she’ll kill the Doctor as hinted. That would be unexpected.

But given the time cracks can erase things from history altogether, there’s a worry that a certain degree of what happens isn’t going to matter. Fingers crossed Stevie’s going to make it all count.

On balance, a decent ending for the two-parter
with some clever touches. The direction wasn’t quite as good as part one’s, but was still beautiful. Matt Smith was much improved and Murray Gold was thankfully unnoticeable (at least on my tele in HD – your sound mix might vary). Possibly the best two-parter of the nu Who years, but it might well be a close-run thing.