I am a huge fan of Doctor Who and have been for many years. My first Doctor was Tom Baker and for many years I happily named him the best Doctor of all. My opinion changed, and good ol’ Tom slipped to the number two slot, when I began watching the David Tennant Doctor Who stories.
One of the things I especially like about the tenth Doctor is the blending of horror element with the usual sci-fi fare. This was also done in the Baker years, which is one of the reasons I always like his stories. One episode from Series Three of the new Doctor Who show has become a favorite of mine: Blink.
Blink is the story of Sally Sparrow, and the Doctor really only makes a cameo. Sally is drawn into an ontological paradox wherein she provides the Doctor with clues that he feeds to her while he is trapped in 1969. The story does a wonderful job at playing on the paradox of time travel itself, but that’s not the highlight of the episode for me. It’s the villains of the piece that really do it justice.
The bad guys in this story are “The Weeping Angels”, a group of ancient assassins with the perfect defense: whenever someone is looking at them, they turn to stone and cannot move, and as the Doctor says, you can’t kill a stone. Only when you aren’t looking can they move, and they move very fast. Oddly enough, the angles don’t even kill their victims. Their touch simply sends one back in time, and they feed upon the potential energy of the time the person would have had. Meanwhile their victims are shown to live out full lives in the times they are trapped in.
Throughout the episode, the Angels are figures of inescapable menace. The Doctor’s warning not to look away, to not even blink, generates enough fear in itself. Actually seeing the Angels “move” (you never see them actually move, only the position they have reached in the interim between being watched) is extremely frightening. A single blink and they go from far away to right in your face, claw and fangs bared.
The Angels also seem to represent the inescapable nature of time itself. They are relentless, immortal, and unstoppable. They cannot be reasoned with as they don’t communicate at all. They simply are, and that makes them into a force of nature, incomprehensible to the humans desperately trying to stop them.
In the end, the Angels are defeated by forcing them to look at each other (which is why they usually have their hands in front of their faces, to prevent them from looking at each other and locking themselves as stone for eternity). However, the menace they represent remains, and the episode ends with the Doctor’s warning played again, cut with images of ordinary statues.
Any story that can turn something so innocuous as statues into a source of terror is just damned good in my book. It takes something you might see everyday and tips it on its ear. It helps that the Doctor, who is often the safety blanket of the series, is not present to save Sally and her friends. They are alone, cut off from the one source of potential rescue, and facing a horror that can’t be killed. Perfect horror writing, and it’s why that episode continues to be a favorite of mine.