Thursday, 30 November 2017

Story 186 - Blink

In which a young woman named Sally Sparrow goes exploring around an old abandoned house - Wester Drumlins - to take some photographs. In one of the rooms she spots some writing under the peeling wallpaper. She starts to tear the rest away, and is shocked to find a message apparently written to herself, from someone called the Doctor, back in 1969. It warns her to beware the Weeping Angel and advises that she duck. As she does so, a rock is thrown through the window and narrowly misses her. She looks out into the garden, where she had earlier seen a statue of an angel with its face buried in its hands. Returning home, she finds a naked man in her house. She wakes up her friend, Kathy Nightingale, who reveals that the man is her brother Larry. He has been watching a DVD on TV, which shows a bespectacled man in a suit saying odd disjointed things.
The next morning, Sally takes Kathy to the house to show her the message on the wall. There is a knock at the door and Sally goes to answer it. Kathy remains behind, and fails to notice that the angel statue has moved closer to the house. It is suddenly right behind her...

Sally opens the door to a man who gives her an envelope. He was asked by his grandmother to come here on this date and at this specific time. Within the envelope is a message from Kathy which explains that the man is her grandson, and that by the time Sally reads this she will be long dead. The note goes on to say that one moment Kathy was in the house with Sally, and the next she was on the outskirts of Hull, in the 1920's. She met someone, got married and had a family. Sally goes looking for Kathy, suspecting this is all a joke, but there is no sign of her friend. She goes upstairs and finds three angel statues identical to the one in the garden. One of them has a key in its hand, which Sally removes.
She goes to the graveyard, and finds Kathy's grave. She fails to notice one of the statues nearby. She then goes to the DVD shop where Larry works, to inform him that his sister has gone away. She sees that he is watching the footage of the bespectacled man, and at one point he seems to answer one of her questions. Larry explains that these cryptic clips are Easter Eggs, found only on 12 specific DVDs. Larry and his friends have been trying to work out their meaning. He gives her a list of the DVD titles. Her next port of call is the local police station, where mention of the house leads her to officer Billy Shipton.

He has been investigating Wester Drumlins for some time, as a number of cars have been found abandoned there - as well as an old Police Call Box. Billy takes a shine to her, and asks her for her phone number. Sally gives it to him, leaving him in the car park. She returns a few moments later to find he has gone, along with the Police Box. She then gets a phone message from him, asking her to go to the local hospital. Here she finds Billy, but he is now an old man, close to death. He explains that he was suddenly transported back to 1969, where he met the Doctor and Martha. He got a job in publishing, and it was he who was responsible for putting the Easter Eggs - which feature the Doctor - on the DVDs. Sally stays with him until he passes away. Leaving the hospital, she looks at Larry's list and discovers something strange about it. She calls him and tells him that these are the DVDs that she owns. They go to Wester Drumlins where Larry has a full transcript of what the Doctor says. They play the DVDs and Sally finds that he is giving half of a conversation - with her, here on this night.

The Doctor tells them of the Weeping Angels, a mysterious ancient race also known as the Lonely Assassins. They cannot be killed themselves as they are made of stone. They feed on potential energy - sending people back in time and living off the life that they would have led. The creatures are quantum locked, meaning that they cannot move when being observed, even by their own kind. This is why they shield their faces - to prevent them seeing each other. The Doctor and Martha had been sent back to 1969 by them, cut off from the TARDIS which is still in the present day. The transcript runs out, and the Doctor states that there is no more - meaning that he suspects they are about to come under attack. He warns them not to take their eyes off the Angels, not even to blink. Larry and Sally are attacked by the four Angels and seek refuge in the cellar, where they find the TARDIS. She realises that the key she found will gain them access. Once inside, an automated message from the Doctor asks them to insert the DVD of the conversation into the console. This causes the TARDIS to dematerialise and make its way to 1969. However, it is leaving them behind, surrounded by the Angels. As the Police Box vanishes, however, the Angels are facing each other, and so become trapped in their own gazes.
Some time later, Sally and Larry have become a couple and are working at the DVD store. Sally suddenly sees the Doctor and Martha rush past. She stops them and gives the Doctor all of the material she had gathered about the Angels. For them, the trip back to 1969 has not happened yet, so the Doctor is forewarned to set things up just as Sally has already experienced them...

Blink was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on 9th June, 2007. Setting aside the 50th Anniversary special, it is far and away the most successful of all Moffat's scripts, introducing as it does his signature monster the Weeping Angels. A recent poll had them more popular than the Daleks. This story marks the first use of the phrase "timey-wimey".
When the third season was being planned, Moffat was approached to write the two-part Dalek story (which became Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks). Busy on other things, Moffat declined this commission and agreed to write a single part story for later in the run. By way of penance for upsetting Russel T Davies' plans, he accepted the Doctor-lite story. These had become a necessity since the annual Christmas Special had been added to production on 13 regular episodes.
Back in 2006 Moffat had written a story for the Doctor Who Annual, entitled "What I Did on My Christmas Holidays, by Sally Sparrow". In this, a young girl is staying with her aunt in Devon and finds a message for herself under the wallpaper from the Ninth Doctor, dating from 1985. An old photo from that year plus other messages lead her to a videotape, which has half of a conversation from the Doctor. He has become separated from the TARDIS and needs Sally's help in getting it back. He knows all of this as she will write it down afterwards as her school essay.
This formed the basis for Blink, as you can clearly see. This format allowed the Doctor and companion to feature only briefly, in the video / DVD footage, whilst the young woman became the story's chief protagonist.

Moffat liked to use things which scared children - such as something lurking under the bed (used twice), cracks in walls, and creatures which had skull-like faces, or no faces at all. He had always found statues a bit creepy, and had been struck by a particular angel monument in a graveyard next to a country house hotel which he and his family had stayed at. This gave him the inspiration for the story's monsters. The notion that they could not move when observed derived from the children's game known as Statues or Grandma's Footsteps, where a child has their back to their friends and they have to sneak up - freezing when the first child randomly turns round. Anyone caught moving is "out".
Playing Sally we have Carey Mulligan, who has since gone on to greater things in major Hollywood movies. She pretty much carries the whole episode. Joining her are Finlay Robertson as Larry, and Lucy Gaskill as Kathy. Billy Shipton is played as a young man by Michael Obiora, with Louis Mahoney as the older version. Mahoney had appeared in the series twice before - as the newsreader in Frontier in Space, and as the Morestran Ponti in Planet of Evil. Kathy's grandson Malcolm is Richard Cant - son of the legendary Brian Cant who had himself played two roles in the series back in the 1960's. Thomas Nelstrop plays Kathy's husband, Ben Wainwright.

Overall, an exceptionally good episode. Mulligan and Robertson are very good leads, replacing the Doctor and companion roles. The Angels are a wonderful addition to the roster of aliens and monsters, and won't be anywhere near as effective in later appearances as they are here. This story won a Hugo Award in 2008, and it was voted second favourite story of all time in both the DWM Mighty 200 and 50th Anniversary polls.
Things you might like to know:

  • The house playing Wester Drumlins is on Fields Park Road in Newport. A decade later, some of the scenes for Knock, Knock were filmed at the property. In both stories a character describes it as a "Scooby Doo" house.
  • Wester is the name for a wind that comes from the west. A drumlin is a glacial landscape feature - an elongated hill with a steep edge at one end, tapering gradually down at the other.
  • This episode is directed by Hettie MacDonald - the first woman to direct a story since the series was brought back. The last time a woman directed a Doctor Who it was Sarah Hellings, with The Mark of the Rani.
  • The prologue, when Sally encounters the Doctor and Martha in the street, takes place one year after the rest of the story. Viewers in the UK knew this, but the caption was omitted when the story was broadcast in the US.
  • Investigating the house together, Sally points out that she and Kathy have names which, together, sound a bit "ITV". This is a reference to a number of shows in which a pair of characters have complimentary surnames - the most obvious example being the amateur sleuths Rosemary and Thyme, who both just happen to be gardeners.
  • All the DVD titles in the shop are false ones, the names and poster images being devised by the production team.
  • Moffat will have a dig at his own catchphrase when the War Doctor is exasperated by "timey-wimey" in Day of the Doctor.
  • A number of the later Weeping Angels stories will contradict this one, as looking at the Angel in the crashed Byzantium actually creates problems for Amy Pond. Here, Sally also gives the Doctor some photos of the Angels, whereas it's later stated that the image of one becomes one.
  • Moffat had originally intended to use the Weeping Angels in a planned story about an abandoned library, but brought them into Blink instead as he was rushed for time. This meant he had to devise the Vashta Nerada for the library story when it finally arrived in Series 4.


  1. This was the first episode of Who I ever saw. What an introduction!