Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels - Faith in the Dark

So... the Weeping Angels are returning with a vengeance....

I honestly didn't think I could be terrified any more by them... it's bad enough they have forced me to develop a phobia of stone statues in a churchyard... now I'm terrified of them coming out of the television!

There was certainly a lot to take in during the course of this episode... Moffat has certainly tossed a lot of cards onto the table.

Firstly there was the return of the mysterious and enigmatic River Song. Moffat certainly teased and tantalised us with tidbits. There were playful hints (again), as to exactly what the nature of her relationship with the Doctor is/will be. We also know now that she has a shady past... something that at this stage of his life, the Doctor may not be ready to accept. We also know that she has had flying lessons in a TARDIS... and appears to be more proficient than the Doctor (although I suspect he "leaves the brakes on" for dramatic flair), but the question remains... who exactly taught her? I'm also personally curious as to whether or not there is a link between Amy and River... they both used the exact same term of phrase to describe the Doctor's reason for museum visits.

Next we have the militaristic clerics led by their bishop, Father Octavian. Being a Christian I took special interest in this faction of soldiers. At a guess I'd have to say that their presence and the name of the crashed starship (the Byzantium), are a nod back to both the Roman Empire and the militaristic Roman church of old. Octavian was the original name of the Emperor Augustus and Byzantium was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Whilst they appear both pretty conservative and militaristic (particularly Octavian), I don't think they came across as negative. Quite how their involvement figures into the big picture I'm not certain... but lets not forget they were on a mission to protect the human colonial inhabitants of Alfava Metraxis and were sent to "neutralise" the angel. Curiously Octavian appears to be aware of who the Doctor is.

Then finally of course we have the angels themselves. As I said... terrifying as they were in Blink, Moffat has expanded on their background and abilities and made them much more formidable. Just as the daleks eventually neutralised the "staircase escape technique", the angels have a workaround for their quantum lock weakness. If you don't blink... and you look them in they eyes, they begin to turn you into one of them. The same goes with technical equipment or anything used to record their image.

"That which holds the image of an angel itself becomes an angel"

Amy inadvertently finds herself staring at the image of the angel onscreen... as it projects itself through a television screen and starts to attack her. This has dangerous repercussions for her as she herself finds herself (through psychological manipulation), turning slowly into an angel. The Doctor temporarily saves her from this fate by biting her hand which she believes to be stone.

Furthermore, the angel the clerics were sent to neutralise was a creature of incredible cunning and infinite patience. It bided its time, lying dormant for centuries until it sensed an opportunity to revive others of its kind on the planet. I thought it was curious that the characters were referring to the native Aplans as double-headed creatures when none of the statues had two heads... and then  in a marvellous twist we found out why! The statues were not Aplans but deteriorating angels who were now slowly being restored by radiation leakage from the Byzantium's engines.

As the Doctor, Amy, River and the surviving clerics run to the Byzantium crash site, they find themselves closed in by the angels (now communicating with the Doctor having killed cleric Bob and used his cerebral cortex to fashion a means of communication - this I thought was very similar to the way in which the Vashta Nerada communicated with the Doctor in Moffat's previous River Song story). As the lead angel boasts of its imminent victory and the characters' impending doom, it also tries to provoke the Doctor tino rage. The Doctor responds by stating the one thing you shouldn't put in a trap if you have any sense... is him. He then fires a cleric's pistol into the gravity globe... the sole source of light and protection from the nearing angels... and the show ends on a cliffhanger.

I think the name of the globe is a hint at how they might escape their initial peril (gravity globe... by destroying it, my guess is they will float or fall out of harms way), but this is pure speculation.

A couple of things stood out for me in this episode with regard to spirituality. The first unsurprisingly is the nature of angels - or more specifically... fallen angels. in the episode, the Doctor talks of the power of the angels being in their image. This is so true. One of my major concerns about the modern world's obsession with the occult, is the mistaken belief that all spiritual forces that make themselves out to be benign or benevolent... are exactly what they pertain to be. I'll be focusing on this in a later post that has been brewing for quite some time in my head.

In one passage, the Bible speaks of Satan masquerading as an angel of light. By wooing us with what appears to be kindness, he lowers our defences and opens us up to his more nefarious plans. In the Narnia stories, the White Witch appears to be benevolent in some scenes... until her dark schemes are revealed. When Jonathan Ross criticised the film version, for "confusing the audience" about who was good and bad between Aslan and the witch I had to break out with a wry smile. He was missing the entire point!

I don't know if you've ever seen the Usual Suspects, but there is an excellent line in it which is very telling:

"The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

In the latest episode of Doctor Who, Amy has been put in personal peril because she was drawn into the gaze of an angel. Similarly if we become enamoured with the occult, we too can be drawn in and find ourselves in great physical, psychological and spiritual danger.

The other spiritual point I wanted to make was with regard to the Doctor himself; it's from the cliffhanger:

"There's one thing you never put in a trap if you're smart. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever, put in a trap: me."

That to me sums up the relationship between Jesus and Satan. In Gethsemane, Satan must have thought he'd got the ultimate one over on God... killing his Son in mortal form. He put Jesus in a fatal trap... but what he failed to anticipate was the fact that Jesus being in the trap was actually part of God's plan. When the lights went out on Good Friday, it was the ultimate cliffhanger.

However on Easter Sunday... Satan got utterly owned. Jesus may have subjected himself to The Law... but because there was no sin to be found in him, it had no power over him.

The Doctor asked his companions whether they trusted him, whether they put their faith in him... and they responded positively.... this was just before he plunged them into darkness and risk.

Similarly, God can ask us to put our faith in him whilst we find ourselves in the midst of very strange or nerve racking circumstances. I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is when these times come... are we prepared to put our trust in him?

1 comment:

  1. I had to record it on sky plus then watch it over breakfast because I wasn't able to sleep well for almost a week after watching the don't blink episode last year (or the one before)

    Hello btw, I'm Samantha, and have randomly found your blog :)


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