“You are observed and that is my power over you!”
Doctor Who: Flux is back on its feet after that shaky outing last week. It’s not that ‘Once, Upon Time’ was bad but it was confusing, and never amounted to much more than filler. ‘Village of the Angels’ is the show at its best though; with a great setting and fun supporting characters and returning villains who, for my money, are up there with the Daleks and Cybermen as the greatest Doctor Who nemeses. If they are used right, that is, and unfortunately the angels have a spotty history in Doctor Who, despite their superb introduction in ‘Blink’. Thankfully though, Chibnall gets them spot on here – making them a compelling mystery and hide-behind-the-couch scary (I sincerely hope a new generation of children have become traumatised like I was back in 2007 watching ‘Blink’).
It’s one thing to make the angels scary again though, but Chibnall and co-writer Maxine Alderton achieve the seemingly impossible and weave this story of the angels into the overarching Flux plotline and the controversial timeless child story. The angels are in a village in 1967 hunting down a rogue angel (the one who kidnapped Claire in episode 1). This rogue angel was once an agent of the mysterious ‘Division’ a comrade of the Doctor’s. It’s a cool twist and one which actually makes me considerably more interested in the Timeless Child twist.
All of the Chibnall era of Doctor Who has looked pretty spectacular, visually. But ‘Village of the Angels’ stepped it up to another level with outstanding direction by Jamie Magnus Stone. The whole episode had a perfect 60’s and 70’s British horror movie vibe, which was no doubt helped by the brilliant Kevin McNally hamming it up as the awesomely named Professor Eustacius Jericho – who could have stepped right out of a Hammer Horror film. The direction was fantastic and there were even a few moments that took me by surprise. The scenes of the Doctor and Claire on the beach/in Claire’s mind were stunning and how about that awesome mirror shot with Claire? It surely must have been achieved with a double and a fake mirror (like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2) and it was expertly done. I know a lot of people won’t even notice these moments but for me, it really helps elevates Doctor Who to the big leagues. It’s still the little and occasionally naff British sci-fi show but the talent and heart both in front of and behind the camera are incomparable.
Speaking of, the main Who trio of the Doctor, Yaz and Dan were on top form this week. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor was so so good this episode and perhaps the most ‘Doctor-y’ we’ve ever seen her (the moment where she sniffed that guys coat to work out what year they were in – and then got it wrong – gave me a big laugh). She really is a fantastic Doctor and I’m glad she’s ending her tenure by finally having some top tier episodes. Yaz had some great moments too, particularly where she channelled the Doctor, showing how the time they’ve spent together has rubbed off on her. Dan is still the same old Dan, but he’s such a wholesome and genuine presence in the show I’m already getting sad at the thought of him leaving.
Arguably, the stuff in this episode away from the village was not quite as strong as the main plot. Thaddea Graham returns as Bel and I am really enjoying her charming performance so far. A cut from the creepy village in 1967/1901 to Bel in the far reaches of space slows the momentum of the angel story somewhat, although I do like that we are getting some more progression to the main villain storyline as we see Azure kidnapping people under the guise of saving them. I’m not sure how else this could have been handled except for a less jarring edit perhaps, and for the most part, the continuing ‘Flux’ plotline is still intriguing to me.
The Doctor being turned into a weeping angel at the end of the episode was such a bold way to end the episode, I loved it. There’s not really any clue how she gets out of it revealed in the next time either, but we do see that Dan and Yaz are stranded in 1901 (presumably with Dr Jericho too). Next time’s ‘Survivors of the Flux’ also sees The Grand Serpent and Awsok returning so who knows what’s happening there. With only two episodes left, the show has a lot left to wrap up. Perhaps some stuff will continue into the New Year’s Day special? Whatever happens though, after 3 fantastic episodes (and 1 decent episode) I can’t wait to see what Chibnall and Co do next.
Reviewed by Tom