Science-fiction fans’ expectations are high this weekend ahead of the UK premiere of The Weeping Angels, as the fifth series of Doctor Who continues on three continents.
The current series of the BBC-produced drama, Doctor Who, starring Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, was launched in the UK three weeks ago, while last weekend saw the show return to TV screens in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The first episode, The Eleventh Hour, was received very favourably in all four countries, attracting more than 10 million viewers in Britain and setting records in the other three.
Don’t blink – the Weeping Angels are back!
Tonight’s UK episode sees the return of the Weeping Angels, in the first of a two-part story called The Time of Angels. The Weeping Angels first appeared in 2007, in Blink, alongside David Tennant’s tenth Doctor and his companions Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) and Carey Mulligan (Sally Sparrow). Steven Moffat – the writer of both stories – won several awards for Blink, including BAFTA Craft and BAFTA Cymru Awards for Best Writer and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
Blink was based partly on Moffat’s own short story, “What I Did on My Christmas Holidays, by Sally Sparrow”, which appeared in the Doctor Who Annual 2006, and featured Christopher Eccleston’s ninth Doctor.
Carey Mulligan has since transferred to Hollywood. In 2009, she received wide critical recognition for her role in An Education (Lone Scherfig), winning a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and being nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and an Academy Award for Best Actress.
The Weeping Angels are hunters who “kill” people by sending them into the past, to live out their lives before they were born. Their physiology is quantum-locked, i.e. they occupy a single position in space when observed. When unobserved, they become a “quantum wave form”, occupying many positions in space. This means that they cannot move while being watched.
Turn to stone
However, when they are not observed, they travel very quickly, and use their ability to approach and attack unwary prey. When observed, a Weeping Angel will turn to stone (their locked state), which acts as a defence mechanism. While in this state, they appear as stone statues, often covering their eyes so that they will not see each other and lock themselves for ever that form. Therefore, in order to avoid being “killed” by them, you must not blink!
In a recent poll by Doctor Who Adventures magazine, the Weeping Angels beat the Daleks as the scariest Who monsters ever.
Writing on the BBC TV blog, Moffat said: “Good Doctor Who monsters have to come back – it’s a rule. But my feeling is that you always have to bring back a monster and do something different with it. So although Blink was a very popular episode, it was also a very spooky, cerebral episode. These Weeping Angels episodes are really the polar opposite, these are like a big action movie – albeit an action movie with bad guys that can’t actually move! It’s a very different feeling.
“The best way to explain the difference between Blink and these two episodes would be to say that I think the best conceived movie sequel ever was Aliens following Alien.”
Aliens, incidentally, starred Paul McGann, who would later go onto play the eighth Doctor in the 1996 movie, Doctor Who (Geoffrey Sax).
Moffat continues: “It took the same monster into an entirely different type of film. That is very roughly the model for this. Blink was a small, low-key one and this is the highly coloured, loud, action-movie one.”
Tonight’s story also sees the return of the Doctor’s future companion, the mysterious Professor River Song (Alex Kingston). Kingston – who is probably best known for her role as Dr Elizabeth Corday, opposite George Clooney, in ER – reprises her role from Moffat’s 2008 Doctor Who story, Silence in the Library. In that story, she appeared opposite Tennant and Catherine Tate, who played Donna Noble.
In an interview released by BBC Wales to coincide with tonight’s episode, Kingston said: “I was quite surprised [to be asked back]. I thought I died in my previous episode [Forrest of the Dead, 2008]! I like the character. I think she’s feisty. It’s a nice meaty role in a fun television show. I sort of decided that she’s a kind of female Indiana Jones because she’s a time-travelling archaeologist and you don’t get to play those roles very often at my age.”
Meanwhile, in America, Canada and Australia. the fifth series continues this weekend with Episode 2, The Beast Below, also by Moffat.