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Review: Flesh and Stone


Flesh and Stone is the fifth episode in the 31st Season of Doctor Who.

Review

I have to admit that it's rare that I await the second part of a story with the nail-biting anticipation with which I awaited “Flesh and Stone,” conclusion to the excellent “The Time of Angels” (311.04). The question is: was this second part worth the wait? And the answer I find myself replying with is surprisingly ambivalent. In many ways, the climax is a good denouement; tense, creepy with some excellent acting and special effects. Yet in many ways, the episode is disappointing with the series’ arc focus diluting focus on the story at hand, and the ending in Amy’s bedroom pretty much creating a “what the heck?!” feeling.

Let’s begin with the good stuff. Matt Smith is awesome. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this version of the Doctor now. Back in “The Eleventh Hour” (31.01) and even “Victory of the Daleks” (31.03), there were turns of phrase where I could hear in my head how David Tennant would say the words. But here Smith has really nailed the role, making it his own; the delivery, the cadence, the performance just makes it hard to see how anyone else could play it. That’s quite an achievement given how much I liked Tennant’s Doctor.

His co-stars also deliver the goods. Karen Gillan’s Amy is superb. She spends a lot of time in this episode with her eyes closed to ensure the Weeping Angel she had seen on the video doesn’t end up killing her by replaying in the vision centers in her mind. She still manages to look scared and horrified in the right places. Her shining moment, though, is in the way she manages to deliver the countdown of numbers with a complete poker face.

Alex Kingston also delivers as the enigmatic River Song. She continues to delight and her scenes with Smith continue to light up the screen as much as they did in “The Time of Angels”. I also love that Moffat has written the relationship between River and Amy as supportive and caring rather than adversarial which creates a nice vibe. It was good to get some additional hints to River Song’s background and her relationship with the Doctor. The mystery adds additional tension.

And the tension of the first part is maintained throughout this one with the race through the crashed ship and its internal forest. The use of light and dark is impressive. The section where Amy has to pretend to see so that the Angels will freeze into stone is effectively creepy as the Angels begin to realize she can’t see and start to move. The problem is having built up the tension so well through the first and second parts, the actual resolution with the Angels sucked into the crack in time ends up being nothing more than just OK.

I think part of this for me is because the crack in time turns the attention away from the Angels themselves and places the spotlight on the series’ arc. What is this crack in time? What happens on June 26th? Why is Amy important in all this? These are all great questions and they do need answering, I just question whether trying to answer some of them or rather pose these questions as part of this story was the right place to do it. For me it unbalances the episode. Too much time (forgive the pun) is spent on this rather than on the Angels and the danger of the predicament they’re in. The crack in time effectively steals the Angels’ thunder and as a result the climax is a bit of let-down. Or as Simon Cowell described one of the American Idol acts recently, wet.

However, overall, the episode, if overshadowed by the series’ arc stuff, is a satisfactory ending to the set-up of “The Time of Angels” and is entertaining. Where the episode takes a bizarre turn is in the last few minutes (or, as Smith calls it in Doctor Who Confidential, “smooch-smoochy time”). Amy decides to tell the Doctor about her wedding and suddenly, completely out of nowhere, she jumps him. My main reaction was “what the…?” swiftly followed by “huh?” and “ick!”

Having lived through the Rose and Martha sagas, and having really enjoyed the Donna “we’re just mates” era, I had so hoped the friendship between Amy and the Doctor would be the focus of their relationship rather than any kind of romantic element, even a last minute fling (and let’s see how long it takes someone in fandom to call Amy a rude word because she’s young and foolish, just escaped death and wants some life-affirming fun.) The saving grace of this entire scene is the Doctor’s complete horror and bemusement, which made the scene very funny.

Overall, “Flesh and Stone” is a solid episode; it’s entertaining, finishes up the story from “The Time of Angels” and no doubt is very important in terms of the series’ arc. I just wish it had been better balanced and seriously wish I could erase the ending from my brain. Unfortunately, I don’t think closing my eyes is going to work.

Previously published at Geek Speak Magazine.

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