New Who in Conversation: Blink (S03E10)

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all. We’re also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Swancon 36 (2011 Natcon – Perth) and Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne), and can be done online.

“Blink” – Season three, episode ten

Sally Sparrow – Carey Mulligan

The Doctor – David Tennant

Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman

TEHANI:

We move straight from the excellence that is “Human Nature / The Family of Blood” into the completely different, but equally amazing, “Blink”. And I want to say it straight up – Sally Sparrow ROCKS. Carey Mulligan, who plays Sparrow, absolutely owns this episode – it’s pretty amazing, for a one off appearance.

She shares very little screen time with the Doctor, as this is a “Doctor-lite” episode, and I wonder if this lets us really embrace her – she IS the focus of the episode. While the Doctor is there, making things happen, he’s not THERE, onscreen, with his dazzling charisma – it’s all about Sally – ordinary Sally thrown into the strangest of events – who really gets the job done. I LOVE her!

Favourite line: “I’m clever, and I’m listening. And don’t patronise me, because people have died and I’m not happy.” Go Sally – Doctor smackdown!

And two episodes in a row we have a gorgeous, strong woman finding the Doctor, and passing him up. Poor Matron Redfern in the preceding episodes really had a hard job of it, but Sally did it splendidly – she recognised the Doctor for who and what he is, and it made her choice easy.

TANSY:

I think Sally Sparrow is the character most requested to return as a companion – and as Carey Mulligan’s star rises in Hollywood it becomes less and less likely. She is playing Daisy in the new Great Gatsby movie opposite Leo DiCaprio!

TEHANI:

Even more than Sophia Myles?? Wow, impressive!

DAVID:

Yes, Sally really is the star of this episode. She has some wonderful lines, and we see the whole range of human emotion in yet another stellar guest appearance. How moving was the scene in the hospital, or how cutting was the “We just run a shop together”? I love the line you mentioned, Tehani, but my personal favourite – “Sad is happy for deep people.” Carey Mulligan has a great screen presence, and I can see why people wanted Sally Sparrow to return. But, as I will no doubt talk about further, I think Sally makes the right decision in the end.

TANSY:

I do love Mulligan in this; her performance is fantastic and it’s one of my favourite Moffat scripts, not for the scary parts so much as the excellent banter, and the economy of words. Nearly every line is packed cleverly with so much character as well as driving the plot forward.

Sally is a wonderful example of someone who can be heroic without necessarily being violent or special. Though she is of course, clever!

I wondered watching this whether they could actually do a whole season (or mini-season) of Doctor Who stories that do exactly this, that show a one off character and their experience with the Doctor from their own point of view rather than that of the Doctor or an Official Companion. Would it work if this was the formula rather than an occasional experience?

TEHANI:

Do we love the Doctor too much to appreciate Doctor-lite episodes for a full season? :)

TANSY:

They wouldn’t have to be Doctor-lite! Just putting the point of view in the hands of new characters instead of a continuing companion. It could be argued of course that they did this in 2009, but I don’t want to spoil David so I’ll shut up now…

JO:

Don’t spoil for me either, thank you very much! :)

DAVID:

Although they are very different in other ways this reminded me of another “Doctor-lite” episode, “Love and Monsters”. While the Doctor doesn’t have much screen time in either, his presence hovers over everything that happens, casting a shadow over the entire story. While it may be that the rarity of these episodes, I would love to see more of them because they bring into focus the way the Doctor changes the lives of everyone he touches, even when it is only a brief encounter, and sometimes he really does seem a bit cavalier about it.

TEHANI:

That’s a good point – to me, the Doctor is (almost always) like a puppet master. There’s a sense that he (almost) always has control of the situation, even when he doesn’t appear to. But in the Doctor-lite episodes, you can SEE this. It’s a tangible thing, because otherwise the episode wouldn’t work!

JO:

I love the Doctor as an easter egg in this episode, the way he “Shows up where he’s not supposed to be.” I think it’s a great way to sum him up!

TANSY:

I agree – and it’s a sign of how iconic David Tennant as the Doctor has become that those few glimpses of him are so surreal and exciting.

JO:

Even for me, who has never watched any Doctor Who until now (yeah yeah, don’t all fall out of your chairs at once) and was very taken with Christopher Eccleston. So much so that I was even a bit skeptical of David Tennant at first. At first…

TEHANI:

I was determined NOT to like Tennant, Jo, but ended up loving him just like everyone else :) Although having said that, second time around it is interesting to watch for the arrogance he plays in the Doctor, which makes him somewhat less likeable!

DAVID:

As an episode this is another triumph for Moffat, it’s wonderfully tight and self contained and like “The Girl in the Fireplace”, you could imaginative showing it to someone with no idea of what Doctor Who is all about. I still think “Human Nature/The Family of Blood” deserved the Hugo more, but I am considerably less outraged! Not only is it a bit of mystery story where we slowly unravel what is happening with clue after clue coming together, but it is also a mighty fine example of the sort of horror I hate (and when I say hate I mean I enjoy but get the creeped the Hell out by). There is no blood or gore, just a deeply creepy atmosphere and that sense if you close your eyes something terrible might happen. Oh and the shock of something all of a sudden being that close to you! *shudders*

TEHANI:

I have to say that the Weeping Angels are probably the creepiest of the New Who monsters for me. I find them genuinely scary, even though really, what they do is not as horrible as some – just relocate you to another time. No pain, no carnage, just the opportunity to live out your life somewhen else. Sure, you have to leave all your friends and family behind, but still… And yet they are sincerely terrifying!

JO:

This episode is such a horror movie. The Angels are seriously creepy (there’s a cemetery on my drive to work and thanks to Blink I cannot help but glance at the angel on my way past…). The old house has a haunted quality to it — statues that move, noises from upstairs, shadowy basement and unexplained writing on the wall. The musical score and direction only emphasise it.

I only really noticed how tight the writing and the imagery were on my second viewing. The first time round I was just creeped out and seriously wondering what was going to happen next. Second time around the prevalence of watching / viewing imagery really struck me. From movies going on in the background, the importance of the DVDs, to Sally repeating “Don’t look at me!” to Billy Shipton when she embasrasses herself in front of him. That scene seriously sent a tingle up my spine, because I knew what was about to happen next…

TANSY:

Billy is an amazing character – and he comes across in just three scenes. Sally’s friend Kathy is much the same – there’s a whole world in each of their performances, and we only get fragments of greater lives that are hinted at. The idea of a monster that kills you using your natural lifespan against you is brilliant and awful.

TEHANI:

I agree about Billy – another great actor for the episode. They were all pretty good weren’t they! But the scene with Billy and Sally flirting was just delightful. Then so sad :(

DAVID:

Both stories of displacement were wonderfully told, I thought. Whether it was the letter from Kathy, or Billy’s death bed scene, there was a real emotional resonance. And the interesting thing is that both of them still managed to find a great deal of happiness in their altered lives, so on first examination you might almost think that what the Angels did to them wasn’t actually that bad. But, the terrible thing is that the Angels didn’t give them any choice in the matter, they simply took their future away without care for the consequences. Their victims’ lives could have just as easily ended in desperate loneliness as happiness, and whatever good came from it is due to the character of Kathy and Billy, not anything the Angels did.

JO:

Oh I like that, hadn’t thought of it that way before. In a way it makes their fates even more tragic. Both Billy and Kathy were strong enough to adapt, and find happiness. Makes them less like victims, somehow, and altogether just … sad. But sad is happy for deep people, right? :p

TANSY:

The key thing of course is that the Weeping Angels are no real threat to the Doctor – he could just hang around and wait. But that isn’t how he works and more importantly, having Martha with him ups the stakes because if she loses 40 years of her life, that’s a big deal.

Poor old Billy, though.

DAVID:

I thought the only real weak spot in this episode was the ending. It could have quite easily finished with them walking back into the shop, with Sally finally able to let go and move on with her life (something people who encounter the Doctor can’t always do!), the statue montage seemed a bit gimmicky and cheap compared to the rest of the episode. It’s a small quibble though, I can see why this episode inspired t-shirts (hmmm, there’s an idea…), it is exceptional. I’m willing to put up with the occasional Slitheen if it’s the price we pay for the other end of the scale.

TEHANI:

I don’t know, I kind of liked it – a nice creepy touch to finish it off!

TANSY:

I always forget that part, and laughed when I saw it – it is a touch that probably wasn’t necessary, over egging the pudding somewhat, but they weren’t to know how successful the episode would be in freaking people the hell out about statues out of the corner of their eyes…

JO:

I could have done without the statue montage. Sally doing what humans do, and getting on with her life would have been a stronger place to end it.

DAVID:

There were echoes of the Seventh Doctor in Ten here, as well, and I am thinking especially of Curse of Fenric and the idea of the Doctor as a bit of a manipulator of people and events. He really does set up the Angels as if it were a game of chess, moving all his pieces into position perfectly. Of course, the pieces are people. It also helps having Sally’s package of info, nothing like being a few moves ahead the whole time!

JO:

It’s cool that ultimately, Sally saves the day! The doctor relied on her and her package of info to know how to move all his pieces. I shall take this opportunity to add to the chorus of Sally-love!

TANSY:

Really the Doctor isn’t actually manipulating anything – it looks like he is throughout, and it plays on our acceptance that he does that sort of thing, but really it’s Sally that instigates the matter and he is just doing what he’s told. Which is quite a clever twist.

I think the history of the Doctor as the great manipulator helps with the fake out, though!

TEHANI:

I thought the device of the DVD easter egg was really cool! And cleverly done too – I mean, we know the Doctor can jump about and find out what went on as he pleases, but to have it be Sally who provides him with the information – nice touch!

What about the best friend? Narrative device or essential part of the story, do you think?

TANSY:

Essential! Kathy is the reason that Sally is so determined to get to the heart of the matter – otherwise she’s just a bored girl playing at being a sleuth. Also that moment where the letter arrives and Kathy hasn’t actually LEFT YET – chilling!

JO:

Oh absolutely — so chilling. And sad. This initial friendship between Sally and Kathy is vital to the episode. As mentioned, it gives Sally a reason to keep searching for the truth, and really hits home for the viewer just how disturbing the Angels are. Sally has to go on without her. And she can’t even say goodbye.

DAVID:

Essential, definitely. Her fate gives us an idea of the stakes, it gives Sally a real reason to pursue her investigation no matter what obstacles get in her way, and it sets up one of my favourite scenes of the episode with the delivery of the letter. And, the moment Kathy realises where – and when – she has ended up is is wonderfully written. If it had been a stranger, or peripheral character, it wouldn’t have packed such an emotional punch

JO:

I would like to say a quick thank you to you guys for including me in this, and for giving me such an awesome episode to work with! I’ve been really enjoying my Doctor Who education so far, this is like an added bonus … or … an easter egg… ;)

TEHANI:

Thanks for joining us, it’s been fun!

We’ve already reviewed:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special

“Smith and Jones”, S03E01

“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/E03

“Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, S03E08/E09

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