Don’t Blink, Don’t Think
Okay, first things first…this episode was problematic for me.
There was so much to love: My favourite city in the world filmed in a style that made me think of some of my favourite films – New York City is in Film Noir glory here. There is also the opportunity to have a good old cry for companions I’ve become very fond of and some genuine suspense and horror – this one was right up my street.
Overall it was hitting the 10/10 grade, but – the pudding was definitely over-egged, with stretched logic that jolted me out of feeling connected to the story – to the point that my lasting feeling about the episode (which started so well) is sadly, slight disappointment.
Like many of Steven Moffat’s recent stories, it worked if you didn’t think about it and went along with the flow. But – I’m going to try to be fair here…and there’s certainly plenty of Spooking and Sniffling going on.
The nation sits down, ready and waiting for a good cry.
Someone is typing on an old-fashioned typewriter to a voiceover about “Noo Yoik, the city of a thousand stories”.
(Including my own, when I met Naomi Campbell’s stalker)
But this voiceover man is not talking here about supermodels being pursued by overly-medicated strangers, he’s talking about living statues, as we get the hint that there are an awful lot of statues in New York city, like this one
Our narrator is a Private Investigator, he’s taking on a case for some rich guy (Mike McShane) – investigating statues that move…but only when you’re not looking. There’s a statue of a women and child outside the rich guy’s mansion house. Or is there? Because when Mike looks out of the window again
the mother has gone, leaving just the boy statue standing there in the Film Noir rain.
A minute in and the Spook Factor is already up to “being alone at night and not sure if that is really just the central heating making strange noises“
The PI has been sent by Mike to an apartment block in Battery Park, which is where the statues live, he is told.
Battery Park by the way, is one of the key vantage points for the Statue of Liberty (and off-topic, is where Rosanna Arquette first saw Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan – just throwing that in to illustrate that despite all these posts about Doctor Who I am a normal girl who likes normal girl things sometimes).
Mike McShane is a scary guy, noo yoiks the PI, but he’s too scared to go there, so it must be pretty scary stuff indeed.
This the apartment block, Winter Quay
And it does look very spooky indeed, but the PI hasn’t seen Blink, so he goes in..
Upstairs he finds a room with his own name typed on it. It’s already getting weird and it going to get even weirder. There’s a hat, just like his, hanging up. Then he finds his own ID card. And there’s an old guy in the bedroom warning that “they’re” coming for him, “they’re” going to send him back in time.
“I have no frame of reference for this. It’s 1938 and the kind of baddies I expect to see are played by Jimmy Cagney and and up-and-coming Humphrey Bogart.”
(And it would be inappropriate for me at this dramatic point to reference the I am you / I am Hugh mix-up from What’s Up Doc?)
The man in the bed dies. Then in the corridor the PI is surrounded by Weeping Angels. He runs out to the roof with the clatter of someone still typing on that old-fashioned typewriter, some ominous thudding noises and
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” he says.
Yes, in the “city that never sleeps”, is there any logical way for the Statue of Liberty to turn into a Weeping Angel and stomp around Downtown in search of victims?
At this moment, who cares? This is so laugh-out-loud (in a good way) audacious, I’m not in the mood to quibble.
Spook Factor? Seeing a kid in a red coat out of the corner of your eye and briefly considering the possibility that it’s the killer dwarf from Don’t Look Now
Now it’s a sunny day in present day Manhattan with Sting’s Englishman In New York playing (presumably because this is about an alien in New York, rather than being a story about Quentin Crisp, the “stately homo”, his words, that the song is about. Who I admire for propounding the theory that there’s no point in dusting, because after 4 years it gets no worse).
We get the usual New York porn – busy streets, yellow cabs and…a load of statues.
Our gang are sitting in Central Park where the Doctor is reading a book out loud.
The narrator of his book has combat lipstick and packs a load of cleavage. The book’s author is Melody Malone, an old-time detective in old-time New York. It is established that the Doctor is being really annoying reading the book out loud so much and that he fancies this mysterious Melody, yelling Yowzer!
This is really subtle isn’t it?
Meanwhile, the Doctor insults Amy for wearing reading glasses “which make her eyes all line-y”
To which Amy is all “that’s so blatantly ageist and after all the criticisms about the BBC binning off all their newsreaders if they don’t have botox and dare to have some grey hairs, I don’t care if you’re using this as a vaguely comic skit about the Doctor being all alien & weird. And no, this recapper is not projecting her own fears about the ageing process onto a fictional character, so shut up.”
Then Amy & Rory have a quick snog (Rory having passed the good husband test, or something) while the Doctor acts like a chump because he’s not getting all the attention.
Rory’s going for some coffee. See you in a few minutes Rory!
The Doctor goes back to his book – ripping out the last page because HE DOESN’T LIKE ENDINGS. Got that?
Rory walks back across the park, passing statues and being spooked by weird kid chuckling noises.
And the Doctor has got to a good bit in his book. Actually it’s not a good bit – the book is relating how our heroine met a skinny guy who was collecting coffees for the Doctor and Amy.
I wonder who Rory might be bumping into?
Spook Factor: Evaporating / Being distracted during a fairly scary British horror from the ’70s by Christopher Biggins turning up in a minor role.
Somehow Rory and River are now in Film Noir Land, where Rory is surprised to find out that River is (wait for it, I bet you didn’t guess either?) Melody Malone, the author of the book, who is called Melody, like River is.
Meanwhile, because Amy & the Doc have read this bit in the book, they’ve worked out there’s something weird going on. They walk around New York (to establish that they filmed here as well as Cardiff) back to the Tardis.
This book of River’s was just randomly found in the Doctor’s jacket (hey, why not?) and they use it to try and find Rory & River. It’s April 3rd 1938, Amy discovers.
In Film Noir Land River expositions that the city is full of time distortions and it would be impossible to land the Tardis here (as she tells Rory this, we see Amy & Rory reading about it in the book, in the Tardis, en route to 1938 New York).
Certainly it’s proving difficult to land the Tardis, they come up against loads of interference “bouncing off” 1938. So, it’s New York and 1938 that’s bad, kids – do keep up.
Apparently River Song (being every father’s worst nightmare of their little girl grown up to be a smug teenager who always knows better than her dad) got through with her timey-wimey wristband, which works like a motorbike through traffic (compared to the truck-like Tardis). So, Time Vortex Manipulators can get to New York in 1938, Tardises can’t, got that?
Rory doesn’t know how he got there, neither do I.
Amy is still reading the book, which it turns out is about the Weeping Angels that let you “live to death”. They are now in a cemetery, back where they started in 2012 and the Big End, or something, on the Tardis has gone kaput.
Of course, the graveyard isn’t exactly where they started, but the Doctor handwaves that the places are “causally linked or something” which sounds about as convincing as the way I usually describe things in recaps.
The Doctor gets really annoyed with Amy reading ahead from the book. He explains that you can only read the stuff that’s happening right now because
- the book’s magic!
- having fore-knowledge of events in your future fixes them in time and that’s dangerous
- insert other explanation of your own choice.
“DON’T READ AHEAD. Forget how I’ve been talking about how time can be re-written for years and that I sneaked out of a fixed point in time by faking my own death in a robot costume. This is stuff that cannot be re-written. That’s the rule at the moment. No exceptions. Except for maybe when there might be some exceptions. Look, don’t argue, people have tuned in expecting a good cry.”
“Once we know what’s coming, it’s written in stone.”
The camera pans to
Spook factor? Shaky / Slightly too absorbed by the irresistible power I must possess as a writer to dictate future events by simply writing them down.
Sniffle factor? Slight feeling of abstract sadness on facing an inevitable tragedy / like seeing pictures of Princess Diana on the rollercoaster with young Wills & Harry
River and Rory have been taken to Mike McShane’s mansion. Meanwhile, the Doctor is having to take some pretty drastic action to get the Tardis going, he will use an ancient Chinese vase as something to lock on to in New York, 1938.
The vase is mentioned in the book and River & Mike are bantering about at the same time.
Mike’s bit-part henchmen decide to chuck Rory in the cellar, with the “babies”. While River just stands there watching. I get that she can’t explain he’s her dad, but can’t she say he’s her friend, or assistant? Poor Rory. And he’s chucked into a dark cellar, with a box of matches while the evil kid cackling starts up again.
Spook factor? Sense of dread building / Waiting alone at a bus-stop in a dodgy part of town and hoping the lights down the road are for a kebab shop, not a brothel.
Now, what next?
“Hands off Chibnall, I’m not going yet! Not only am I yet to ramp up both the spook and sniffle factors, I’m travelling through time and space. Take that and your bloody cubes.”
Amy and Rory went back in time to leave a message on the China vase that they’re going to lock onto.
River’s pretty pleased (she’s still not visibly bothered about her Dad in the cellar though)
so River “texts” the Doctor.
Mike helpfully reminds us that the Angels attack when no-one is looking and expositions that there are loads of Angels across the city & that Melody/River is a famous Angel investigator.
Creepy Mike has been torturing the Angel and this is attracting others, then the Angel
grabs River’s wrist and creepy Mike switches off the lights to threaten River into telling him everything she knows.
Spook factor: Self-indulgently being creeped out / Re-watching Silence of the Lambs and enjoying being un-nerved by Clarice’s discomfort as Hannibal analyses her, even though we know there will be a happy ending.
Rory is in the cellar being pursued by icky cherub angels (luckily not the ones that wee in fountains) that are getting closer every time his match goes out.
This one can apparently breathe, because it blows out Rory’s match. And so that scene doesn’t get a Spook factor score, just for making no sense, but it looks cool.
The Tardis is landing, sending New York’s electrics haywire in the process.
“Just you wait til my husband gets home” nauseates River as the Tardis lands in the hallway.
Mike is out cold and the Doctor & River do more 60s sitcom bantering as Amy runs off looking for Rory.
While River and the Doctor chat, he discovers that she has been pardoned for “killing” him and is now a Professor.
I think this is meant to clue us into the fact that this is a later River e.g. closer to her death in the library. So, sadness all round for the soon-to-be-Pondless Doctor.
Sniffle factor? Negative. If I have to work out something is significant by reading about it on Gallifrey Base it leaves my heart as stoney cold as a Weeping Angel.
Oh and the Doctor doesn’t “exist” anywhere, he seems to be deleting records of his existence. This is Significant for other episodes – but don’t think about it too much in relation to other plots where people definitely know who he is.
River is still being held by the Angel and to get out she will have to break her wrist – because Amy read it in the Magic Book. Amy brainies that the Chapter titles might be useful – because that doesn’t count as reading ahead, apparently.
Bloody hell River, just a tad obtuse…but at least that tells them that Rory is in the cellar. Amy runs off to look for him.
But, oh-oh, the Doctor isn’t happy. He has read down to the last chapter name.
“Absolutely the last. Final. Full stop. Never again. Cross my heart and hope to be spanked until my bottom goes purple. Byeeeeeee”
Or, the shorter version -
The Doctor is well miffed and starts throwing the book around, then hissing that River must get her wrist out from the Angel without breaking it so as to change future events / cast a counter-spell on the Magic Book.
The Doctor has stopped yelling like a six-year old who has been told they can’t watch Doctor Who because it’s too scary by the time he reaches Amy in the cellar
there’s no Rory there, just the cherub angels and his dropped matches.
Sniffle factor: On your marks… / Watching the latest Dorothy hand her used Dorothy shoes to Andrew Lloyd Webber while the other Dorothys watch, knowing the loser is about to get her Leading Lady moment even though she’s a loser!
We are shown that Rory has been dropped by the Angels at Winter Quay. While Amy frets that the pattern now is that Rory will continue to be dumped back in time, River
and Alex Kingston’s awesome cleavage are freed from the Angel! Yeay – so, this means time can be re-written then.
She has discovered that Rory is nearby in the same timezone. More Yeay!
Rory is following in the footsteps of the PI and walking into the building, ignoring the Angel outside (despite having just being zapped by them and being an established character who has a history with them, but we’ll let this pass).
Hang on now – not only is Rory plot-contrivingly heading into a dangerous situation, which is Booooo…
…but River has in fact broken her wrist escaping from the Angel, meaning that the events of the Magic Book haven’t actually been changed. Which is More Boooo.
There’s a character moment about how much River tries to protect the Doctor from uncomfortable truths (which they don’t directly say, because Amy doesn’t know she’s coming up to her Final Farewell) then the Doctor mends River’s wrist with some regeneration energy in an attempt to give the geeks something to chew over (better to be talking about that than great old glaring plotholes and fractures in internal logic – because that would really put the cat amongst the pigeons).
And I was just going to type that it was a lovely tender scene and that I like the way Alex and Matt play off one another, when River SLAPS him across the face in a repeat of the domestic violence LOLLERY that we had in Asylum of the Daleks.
River storms off in a wifely rage that I didn’t fully understand about being really embarrassed by the Doctor, then Mother-In-Law Amy has a go at him too.
Poor The Doctor, sitting there all sad because he’s going to miss them when they’re gone.
Sniffle factor: Dormant / Thinking about getting a packet of crisps before all the really sad stuff starts.
Outside River and Amy have a touching/slightly odd conversation about not letting the Doctor see the damage, or them getting old. Touching because it’s a nice mother-daughter moment foreshadowing Amy’s doom and highlighting the fact that it’s difficult for the very old Timelord to live around the human short-lives he cares about
Slightly odd because River’s forehead is in close-up and it is distractingly, suspiciously smooth.
Back to the plot – they nick a car and head off to find Rory at Winter Quay. After they leave, Mike McShane wakes up and – eeeeeek – Angels are in his house.
Because he’s a creepy pervert, his look is all “ah come here you comely wench”, but she’s brought her kid with her, so it’s not going to go the way he wants, we guess.
Still drawn by an invisible force / plot contrivance to wander through the spooky Winter Quay building.
But at the same time River & the Doctor come across a scarily smiling Angel in the corridor and they see the room has Rory’s name on it.
Sniffle factor? Ready to go whenever I get the signal / Jenny Agutter runs along the station platform seeing a figure in the mist, calling “Daddy, my daddy”
The Doctor, being one step ahead at this point, tries to get them out of the room and not to touch anything
It’s left to the Doctor to explain.
He says: ”I’m sorry Rory, but you just died.”
The Doctor has worked out that Winter Quay is a farm, where the Angels keep their victims in order to generate time energy. They’ve taken over every statue in the city and if that all wasn’t bad enough, we hear the ominous heavy footstomps noise from the pre-credits sequence.
Sadly the Doctor has also deduced that the Angels are after Rory, set on zapping him back in time so that he will die in the bed. And he will be alone, the Doctor can tell this by how pleased the dying Rory was to see Amy again.
Sniffle factor? On high alert / Victor Laszlo gets the band at Rick’s in Casablanca to play La Marseillaise, drowning out the Nazis and inspiring everyone to get behind the Allied war effort
Rory suggests running, but the Doctor says NO you CAN’T you have JUST WATCHED YOURSELF DIE
However River reckons he should try running, or changing events in some way, in order to create a paradox. “Almost impossible” dismisses the Doctor, it would take too much power, what have we got?
Sniffle factor? Still on high alert / Scarlett realises that it’s Rhett, not Ashley, who she has really loved all along and runs home to tell him
Getting out to run away isn’t going to be easy. Angels are everywhere! Amy and Rory run up and down the stairs, while River and the Doctor haven’t even been able to get out of dying Rory’s room.
Spook factor? Pretty high / that bit in The Others when the servants are revealed to be long deceased from that photograph of them all dead in a row with their heads slumped.
Amy and Rory are out on the roof and I think you probably worked out which Angel they would come across there?
Unable to find a safe way down, Rory has worked out a way to create a paradox – by killing himself.
Standing on the edge of the high building, he tries to get Amy to talk him out of it, to tell him that he’s wrong.
But she can’t
Then he muses about what a paradox is / what they do – after all, how can he die, if he jumps, he changes the reality of the building, it will no longer be there, so what would he have jumped off?
In any case, he’s sure. It’s die now, or die 40 years later in that bed, either way, it’s a lose-lose situation.
He begs Amy to push him. She can’t, but she’s going to jump with him. Together they will change the future and stay together.
River and the Doctor arrive just before they jump and try to talk them out of it, but they are determined. It’s their fate to be together.
White light appears and the Doctor yells: “The paradox – it’s working!”
Sniffle factor? Fully aware of emotional manipulation but just about ready to blub properly / “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” – Rhett closes the door and leaves a weeping Scarlett behind.
Amy and Rory have landed in the graveyard.
The Doctor skips over to them.
Why? How? What’s the story with us always landing up here? I thought we were leaving? And how did you get here from Winter Quay (and if you came in the Tardis, how? I thought was too dangerous / not working or something?)”
“Although I will add that I can’t ever take the Tardis back to New York (not specifying whether I mean New York in 1938, the city, the state or whatever just NEW YORK – hope you got that, it is important, even though I’ not explaining myself very well) because the timelines are scrambled.”
Rory and Amy saved the day by Sam-Tylering off a skyscraper, River and the Doctor are companionably bickering – let’s go to the pub for a family outing.
Oh hang on.
Rory has spotted the gravestone and as he shows it to Amy
an Angel zaps him away quicker than you can say “hang on, I thought they had got rid of the Angels with the suicide paradox, especially due to the way the Doctor was ready to down tools and head to the pub without further investigation”
River and the Doctor run out of the Tardis and a quick handwavy sonic waggle establishes that this Angel is a survivor of the suicide paradox.
Amy wants to go back to get Rory in the Tardis at whatever point in time he has landed in, but the Doctor says they can’t as this would rip New York apart.
River backs him up, calling Amy “Mother”, so we know it’s serious.
So, the time travelling machine is no use, everyone has forgotten (for the moment) that River has a motorcycle-like time travelling machine of her own, plus a snazzy cross-time-universe GPS system that can track people down.
So, Amy has worked out her “best shot” of getting back to Rory.
With the Doctor shouting “no”, but River saying it’s the best option. Amy decides that all she has to do is “just blink”
Somehow, it is explained, by being zapped Amy is creating “fixed time” and the Doctor will never be able to see her again. This wasn’t as straightforward as the dialogue suggested to me, but if you enjoyed it, then I won’t dwell on the lack of in-universe logic.
The Doctor is begging Amy to come back to the Tardis, but she is already saying her goodbyes, asking Melody to promise to be a good girl and look after the Doctor.
“Raggedy man, goodbye!” says Amy and because she has turned away from the Angel to look at him, she gets zapped away. And the tombstone is now showing her name too.
Sniffle factor? On hold somewhat since they appeared in the graveyard. The Doctor is doing all the crying for everyone.
Back in the Tardis, the Doctor remembers that River probably has more right than he does to be upset, as they were her parents. She thinks it more important to tell him not to travel alone because the new companion has already filmed her scenes.
She turns down the offer to travel with him permanently, saying “one psychopath per Tardis, don’t you think” and frankly that makes no sense to me.
There’s some stuff to tie up anyway. River is going to write up the Magic Book and send it to Amy to get published. And River will ask her to write an afterword for the Doctor.
That’s poignant, but nice, isn’t it?
River is going to be contacting Amy & Rory, who have been zapped somewhere mysterious (so mysterious that the Doctor didn’t want Amy to follow Rory in case she didn’t end up in the same place) and too timey-wimey dangerous for the Doctor to ever see them again, or too impossible for the Doctor (or River) to take Amy to after Rory was zapped, thus leading to her moving “suicide”, thus undermining the last 10 minutes of important plot. And if New York is dangerous, could they not go to Hoboken, New Jersey (across the river from Manhattan), or send a message to whichever time/space co-ordinates Rory and Amy have been zapped to arranging a place to meet up?
Who cares about Details and Logic!
The Doctor remembers the last page in the book, which he tore out and left in Central Park. That’s Central Park in New York, New York. Okay. We can assume he got the bus.
Amy has written an afterword (on the old-fashioned typewriter). It tells us very little, apart from Amy & Rory are happy – it would have been nice to see that.
Amy wants the Doctor to go and see little Amelia and tell her stories of her awesomeness (pirate-fighting, star-whale saving, Centurian-loving, daughter-losing – oh, no that’s not mentioned).
And it’s full circle (or, as some claim – another paradox) that we leave the story of the Ponds with a sepia-still of little Amelia, sitting in the garden and hearing the Tardis noise, as we saw in Amy & Rory’s first episode.
Sweet, but don’t think about the logic too much.