Devon, November 1967. A little girl has gone missing, Professor Eustacius Jericho is conducting psychic experiments, and in the village graveyard, there is one gravestone too many. Why is Medderton known as the Cursed Village, and what do the Weeping Angels want?
Reviewed by Tim Robins
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Series show runner Chris Chibnall played a bit of a blinder with this Sunday’s episode of Doctor Who: The Flux, “Village of the Angels”. The Weeping Angels are one of the better “monsters” created since Doctor Who received a soft reboot in the last decade. Although Steven Moffat’s Blink, which introduced the creatures, really didn’t cry out for any sort of sequel, as long as writers keep coming up with new ways to express the Angels’ brand of cosmic horror, they bring a welcome air of menace to the show.
For the most part, the episode, co-written by Chibnall and Maxine Alderton, was one of my favourite kinds of Doctor Who story, with The Doctor trapped in an old dark house under siege – all wonderfully M.R.James, with echoes of Image of the Fendahl (1977) and The Stones of Blood (1978), although better than both those Tom Baker adventures. Sadly the pace of Village of Angels was still rather manic, although the Angels demand fast cutting to achieve their full horrific impact.
There were some spooky manifestations of the mobile graveyard monsters and some great jump scares. An angel trying to grab one of the cast from out of an old TV set, and another manifesting itself from a drawing, were particularly unnerving and well realised by the effects team.
Apart from cut-a-ways to Bel and Vinder’s long distance romance (imagine two lovers running arms out-stretched, towards each other across a wheatfield that’s as wide as the galaxy), the story focussed on the “Cursed Village” of Medderton in 1967 and 1901, with cast members propelled back in time by the Angels’ touch designed to allow the creatures to feed off the quantum energy of people’s unlived lives – or something like that.
The performances were top notch. Kevin McNally played the resolute psychic researcher Professor Eustacius Jericho, who is investigating into the premonitions of Claire (Annabel Scholey), the young woman we first met in episode one. The script also managed to work in a mystery around a missing child, Peggy (Poppy Pollineck). The solution was a surprise, at least to me.
(Incidentally, McNally first appeared in Doctor Who alongside Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in The Twin Dilemma, a story I would welcome the Angels to erase from all space and time).
Dan and Yaz spent some time in a field in 1901, which I imagine looked very much like a field in any time in the 20th Century, even today, with the exception that it stood on an uncrossable interface between 1901 and 1965. As a lover of cosmic horror, think The Void (2016) and The Colour Out of Space (2019). I loved the way the village was bounded by views of the vastness of the universe itself.
Jodie Whittaker got one of her all too rare moments to shine in a surreal setting inside a character’s mind, where she confronted a seemingly Fugitive Angel. I am not a big fan of the Doctor’s quest to recover her memories, but it provides some kind of motivation and seems to feed into a wider history of her character.
For newer fans than I, we also got more gubbins about the sinister organisation known as “The Division”. I just hope the reveal is worth the wait. Chibnall clearly has some kind of endgame in mind, and I will certainly be sticking around to find out what it is.
Having castigated the season teaser trailers for mimicking an analogue signal, I feel it is only fair to congratulate the series on mimicking a failing digital signal to literally break up the end credits to this story. I am also going to eat humble pie by noting the use of a faux analogue signal in the teasers could arguably be seen as an example of a niche genre actually called “analogue horror”. A case of Doctor Who being as educational as ever.
Dear reader, a review is an opinion. Other opinions are available, including your own.
• Doctor Who is available to watch on BBC iPlayer | Official Web Site: www.doctorwho.tv
Doctor Who Magazine Issue 571, available now, reveals more about the first two “Flux” episodes, The Halloween Apocalypse and War of the Sontarans, Chris Chibnall’s production notes about crafting modern Who’s first six-parter, and interviews with Sam Spruell (Swarm) and Rochenda Sandall (Azure). Three variant covers are on offer, all available from newsagents and Panini direct | Azure | Swarm | Skaak
The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
Dan Lewis: John Bishop
Professor Jericho: Kevin McNally
Claire Brown: Annabel Scholey
Reverend Shaw: Alex Frost
Bel: Thaddea Graham
Namaca: Blake Harrison
Azure: Rochenda Sandall
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Azhur Saleem
Executive Producer: Matt Strevens
Executive Producer: Nikki Wilson
Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall
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