Doctor Who Series 13, Episode 4
“Village of the Angels”
Posted by Sage
It’s impossible to say yet how well integrated “Village of the Angels” is re: the broader Flux plot, but this was the kind of balance I was expecting when it was announced that this series would be a six-parter. Like “War of the Sontarans,” last week’s episode gives us a story that largely stands on its own while feeding into the ongoing thread. As I’ve found with a lot of Chibnall-era takes on older villains and monsters, his use of the Weeping Angels frays canonically and logically the harder and closer you look at it, but on the other hand, what a cliffhanger image, eh? Either way, the Angels have the TARDIS and they’ve got us cornered in a small English village that’s equal parts creepy and quaint. Let’s go.
This episode is the sole co-write of the season and the credit belongs to Maxine Alderton. She also wrote the Series 12 banger “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” so it’s safe to say that Ms. Maxine knows how to set a foreboding mood. And “Village of the Angels” also has atmosphere in spades, from the foggy (and over-populated) graveyard to the crisis the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan walk into: a 10-year-old girl has gone missing on a dark night. Dan and Yaz head off to help the girl’s crotchety great-uncle and disturbingly passive great-aunt continue the search, while the Doctor follows her blazing hot sonic to the study of a Professor Eustacius Jericho.
Here, we reunite with Claire Brown, who we spent a brief scene with in the series premiere when she recognized the Doctor in Liverpool without the Doctor recognizing her. And while the standard Doctor Who assumption would be that they would meet for the first time in the Doctor’s future, the show takes it in another direction. Claire has psychic abilities and saw the Doctor for the first time in one of her visions. (“Not yet,” she says in “The Halloween Apocalypse” when Yaz asks if they’ve met, “but we will. In the past – I think – if it’s true.”) For reasons that the show doesn’t take pains to explain (this is my shocked face), Claire has submitted to Dr. Jericho’s tests. Is she hoping to make contact with the Doctor? Is she the one making this choice or is the Angel within her influencing her?
One also wonders if there’s more to Jericho than meets the eye. I’m guessing that the psychic experiments he’s conducting have something to do with the town’s “cursed” reputation, but whatever is going to happen in 1967 hasn’t happened yet, so what cause does he have to posit that the mass disappearance in 1901 wasn’t a one-time thing? And why aren’t he and Claire also out looking for the lost child? They couldn’t have been worse search party participants than Peggy’s Uncle Gerald, who seems skeptical that a 10-year-old girl can be a distinct person with thoughts and feelings of her own. Zoom in on Yaz and Dan’s barely contained disdain.
What follows with Jericho, Claire, and the Doctor after she barges in on them is basically a home invasion horror movie with Weeping Angels instead of a guy with a big knife. They barricade themselves inside, and the Doctor even sets up a primitive surveillance system, but it’s all a farce. The Angels have already breeched the perimeter – not just through the sketch Claire made of her premonition but also through her very mind’s eye. The new rule added in the “Time of the Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” two-parter carries over here: that which holds an image of an angel becomes an angel itself. And while there’s no point in bringing back an old monster unless you’re going to teach it some new tricks, there’s a bit of retconning going on. Everyone who sees an Angel, not just looks into its eyes as Amy Pond does, should be in the same predicament as Claire, right? And the way they dispose of Gerald and Jean is also a new invention. That Eleventh Doctor two-parter had its Angels snapping necks and reanimating corpses, not turning people into stone dust.
“Village of the Angels” is jam-packed with ideas about how to use make use of the villains, and those ideas seem to be mostly motivated by visual impact. The Angels in the walls lining the secret corridor, grasping for the escapees; the Angel catching the hem of Gerald’s coat; Claire looking in the mirror to find a pair of stone wings on her back; the flaming Angel come to life from the burning sketch; and of course the Doctor, having been recalled by Division (*Sean Parker voice* “Drop the ‘the,’ it’s cleaner.”), being transformed into an Angel for…transport? I guess?? Chibnall does seem to have an affinity for possession and body horror – just look at his Dalek specials – and that concept is effectively unsettling, if not always narratively supported.
With Yaz and Dan stuck in 1901, the story of Medderton isn’t over yet. But “Village of the Angels” is still weighed down by convoluted mythology and extraneous characters (i.e. the priest who’s only there to call the elder Peggy crazy.) One imagines that we’ll find out where the turn-of-the-century townspeople were sent and what the vastness of space encroaching in on the village has to do with the Flux. (Theory: it’s a weapon developed by Division that the Doctor, in her past life, decided was her line in the sand.) Based on the Doctor’s conversation with the Angel possessing Claire when she very nicely sought permission to enter Claire’s mind – hey, they do listen to us! – it may no be a 100% satisfying resolution. The Doctor asks the Angel how she was able to separate from Claire in order to hijack the TARDIS to bring them there, and the Angel is like, “Don’t worry about it, lol.” More believable is that the “rogue Angel” was able to draw the Doctor into its trap by soliciting her sympathy and putting a human in danger. She is and always will be a sucker for a reformed villain.
With so much story and jargon to get through, Yaz and Dan are somewhat sidelined this week. But they each have some nice moments, particularly Yaz keeping cool and collected despite being thrown back in time – something the Doctor already warned her could separate them forever. The trailer for “Survivors of the Flux” hints that they’ll get more time to shine as they live out years in the past with Peggy and Jericho, surely working on sussing out the truth about the village and saving the Doctor. To start: what makes Peggy so special? We’re told they like to leave witnesses, but there’s no one for Peggy to witness to where they send her. And the Angels wanted her specifically to know about quantum extraction, which has more to do with the Doctor than it does what happened to her.
Unfortunately, the return of the Angels and that admittedly killer cliffhanger overshadows the totally competent B-plot, in which Bel and Vinder continue their search for one another and another piece of the Ravagers’ plan is revealed. And it makes a case for elevating a pure human emotion like desperation over a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles. Bel travels to a planet where refugees of the Flux have gathered (and what was to be the site of her and Vinder’s honeymoon) and meets a man named Namaca who tells her that their salvation is on the way. (BTW, Namaca is played by Blake Harrison, who is hilarious in The Inbetweeners and also played Jodie’s character’s ex-husband in the miniseries Trust Me.) In a scene right out of Midsommar, survivors wait hopefully at the bottom of a cliff to cheer the arrival of Azure, who promises to bring them to a paradise untouched by the Flux. (Shades of Series 8 Missy and “the Promised Land.”) In her suspiciously extensive travels, Bel has come across another Passenger and realizes with horror what’s actually happening there. But Bel’s comparative worldliness sets her sensors going before that, when Namaca explains why he’s there. Her mission may be love, but she knows enough of the universe to be wary of any savior who’s supposedly doing so much and looking for nothing in return. Bel saves Namaca’s life, something he doesn’t fully grasp until after she’s gone. And Vinder doesn’t seem all that surprised to hear about it when he gets to Puzano just a little too late.
Timey Wimey Observations:
- I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I am praying that Bel and Vinder’s baby is just a baby, and that their story ends with them getting to go off and be a family. I’m tired of mystical pregnancies and of characters who only exist to bring a plot device into the world. Bel deserves better than that.
- We weren’t allowed to know the release date until it was a few weeks away but multiple episodes are airing the day they take place?? I’m going to physically fight the BBC myself.
- Wait, wait, wait, because last I heard, the team structure was not flat.
- We all know that “don’t blink” is the catchphrase, but it doesn’t make sense the other way around. When the Angel has the TARDIS and the Doctor works out a Hail Mary plan to reboot it, she tells Yaz and Dan to blink on her count. But realistically, wouldn’t you just say “close your eyes”? They couldn’t give us one “the angels have the phonebox” but they had to get that in there? I’m furious.
- Related: Dan lamenting that he has dry eyes made me lol.
- Since sex barely exists on Doctor Who, it was nice to hear that Bel and Vinder had an eventful wedding night. Good for them.
- For a show that’s been overly nice about almost everything in this era, there were really no tears shed for Gerald and Jean, huh? There’s something very cold about introducing two characters who do nothing but make another’s life miserable and then gleefully dispatching them.
- Yaz screaming “NO” and lunging at the Doctor to the point where Dan has to pull her back, send tweet.
- “You are observed and that is my power over you.” I wish there had been a more direct connection made between this line and Jericho’s experience in World War II, but there hasn’t been time for deep reflection on anything this series.
How did “Village of the Angels” grab you? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Source: BBC