Written by: Michael Hickerson (SoSF Staff Journalist)
I’m going to make a bold statement here–Stephan Moffatt may be the new “Doctor Who”‘s equivalent of Robert Holmes. For those of you who are new to whole “Doctor Who” experience or have only seen the new series, Holmes was one of the most consistent writers of the original series, starting back in Troughton’s days and culminating with his offerings in Colin Baker’s era. Holmes scripts were (for the most part) challenging, creepy and often revolutionary (“Deadly Assassin” being the most revolutionary as it completely redefined the mythology of Gallifrey). When Holmes’ name appeared in the writing credits, you knew that you were in for a treat.
And that’s exactly what is happening every time writer Stephen Moffatt’s name appears as the writer. Two years ago he won a Hugo for his brilliant “Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” story. Last year, he gave us the brilliant “The Girl in the Fireplace.” And now, in series three we get yet another brilliant episode with “Blink.” (Wow, I’m using the word brilliant a lot here but really it’s the only way to describe the stories).
Moffatt is three for three on stories for the new series.
I have to admit I knew very little about “Blink” when I sat down to watch it. I knew it was this season’s Doctor-light episode and that it was by Moffatt. Beyond that, I had nary a clue.
I found out later that the story is an adaptation of a short-story Moffatt wrote for a “Doctor Who” annual. The BBC has posted the story on their web-site and just like last week, it’s fascinating to see the original source material and inspiration for this episode. It also continues a trend for the new show of having great episodes adapted from previously published works.
I’m hesitant to say too much about the overall plot of “Blink.” Honestly, it’s one of those stories that the less you know about the twists and tricks going in, the better it’s going to be. I will admit, I’m not a huge fan of when time-travel stories create their own future and cover all their bases (think scenes from “Bill and Ted”) but I have to admit the way the time-travel element and time being non-linear for the sake of the storyline really worked well here. And the good part is that Moffatt covered all his bases without it feeling forced–again, back to “Bill and Ted” where the “We need to go back and do this so we can escape now” comes to mind of a poorly done example.
The strength of this story is the characters. And it’s not just the Doctor. The leading lady this week is Sally Sparrow, remarkably played by Carey Mulligan. Mulligan’s Sally comes to life on screen and is easily companion material. I’d love to see more of Sally’s character and not just because Mulligan is easy on the eyes. Mulligan makes Sally’s frustration, wonder and terror at what is happening to her completely authentic. One of the great things about “Doctor Who” is that (for the most part) the actors play the situations seriously, instead of camping it up or overacting as would be an obvious temptation. It’s because of Mulligan’s performance that we’re drawn into the story and that we have a vested interest in how things play out. Watching Sally lose her best friend and then a potential date is nicely done, as is the disbelief she feels at first as to what’s happening. It’s interesting to watch Sally slowly becoming convinced that what’s happening to her is real and not just something her imagination has conjured up.
As for the threat, it’s absolutely brilliant. One of the strengths of Robert Holmes’ stories was that he took ordinary, every day things and made them terrifying. Things that were safe suddenly took on a devilish context within his scripts and that’s exactly what Moffatt does here. The alien threat and how they move and attack propels the story along and gives it a dramatic intensity. A lot of this I chalk up to the strength of Moffatt’s storyline, but a big part of this has to go to the direction of the show. The way certain scenes are filmed, editing and staged adds a great deal to the overall tension. Again, I’m being deliberately vague because I don’t want to ruin this for those of you who haven’t seen it yet. And whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you the nuances of this superlative episode. It will probably take away half of the fun.
And with that, “Doctor Who” is officially kicked up to the next level. Three weeks, three absolutely fantastic episodes. If the rest of the season only gets better, we are in for quite a roller-coaster ride. I’ve got my fingers crossed…
Next up: The end of the universe, Derek Jacobi guest stars…..oh yeah, and Captain Jack Harkness is back.