Doctor Who ends this week’s episode with potentially the biggest cliffhanger in its entire history
Starring Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, and John Bishop
“Village of the Angels” once again demonstrates that, far from being limiting from a diverse storytelling perspective, having a serialised format actually makes episodes feel more cohesive, tense and reduces the danger of “filler” episodes. What’s more, it also helps character development take centre stage when characters are ricocheting from event to event like they’re in a pinball machine.
“Village of the Angels” mostly stays on the standalone side. Being the only episode this series to feature a writer other than Chris Chibnall (Maxine Alderton is credited as co-writer here), this isn’t entirely surprising, and may well have been one of the stories in place before the series was reworked with the Flux branding. Though it does slot itself into the wider narrative by the end of the instalment, lots of this episode is tense and riveting within its own bounds.
Picking up from where we left in “Once, Upon Time”, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) manages to rid the TARDIS of the Weeping Angel – that tremendous intergalactic force of Plot Convenience, again – and ultimately lands in the Devon town of Medderton in 1967. Upon exiting the TARDIS, the Doctor is distracted by something that is causing her sonic to heat up, while Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) stay to help Gerald (Vincent Brimble) and Jean (Jemma Churchill) find a missing child.
The Doctor ultimately finds the source of what’s disturbing the sonic, which is Claire (Annabel Scholey) – who we previously saw being zapped back in time in series premiere “The Halloween Apocalypse” – and is currently completing experiments with Professor Eustacius Jericho (Kevin McNally). As time progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the Doctor’s presence here is no accident, and as Angels begin to beseige the town, the Doctor and her companions find themselves in the gravest danger, while Claire warns that the entire village is set to disappear that very night.
Within this instalment, Chibnall and Alderton produce an incredibly paced episode of Doctor Who. With palm-sweating, heart-racing moments, they manage to take the Weeping Angels – an enemy which has become in danger of being overpowered – and make them terrifying once more. Since being introduced in 2007’s “Blink”, the Weeping Angels have gradually found themselves evolving more powers to keep up with the audience’s level of intellect. To combat using cameras to stop the quantum locked species, 2010’s “Time of the Angels” added the news that “the image of an angel becomes an angel”, instantly meaning that any recording of an angel can transform itself into a real Weeping Angel.
Fortunately, “Village of the Angels” doesn’t add anything more to the Weeping Angels’ arsenal. Though it’s not without surprises, such as the Doctor’s attempts at burning Claire’s drawing resulting in a flaming Angel, director Jamie Magnus Stone really leans into what made the Angels scary in the first place. With many dimly lit scenes, and companions Yaz and Dan displaced to the past pretty early on in the story while the Doctor remains trapped in Professor Jericho’s house, surrounded by an army, the stakes are undeniably high and it makes for thoroughly thrilling viewing.
With Yaz and Dan separated from the Doctor, and even with Yaz’s police background and experience with the Doctor leaving her visibly scared and out of her depth seeps through to the audience’s perception of the situation and – even though logically the audience knows that Dan and Yaz are most likely going to survive this situation, what with the abundance of clips in trailers yet to be seen – this series has thrown so many things at the audience, that it wouldn’t have been surprising if one of Yaz or Dan had met their maker at the hands of the disintegrating past Angel (apparently, if you are touched by an Angel having already been displaced by them, you are destroyed). Fortunately, however, the Angels are cruel enough to keep Yaz and Dan alive just so that they can bear witness to the Doctor’s fate.
Overall, the entire episode is visually stunning. While there are some slightly dodgy effects sequences in Bel’s (Thaddea Graham) storyline, the sequence in the escape tunnel with the Angel arms protruding through the cave walls, as well as the border of the town devolving into empty space and the finale where the Doctor herself transforms into an Angel were brilliantly executed and a visual feast.
Perhaps the messiest part of the episode are the interjections by Bel. Though Thaddea Graham continues to be a breath of fresh air and infinitely watchable whenever she is on screen, other than her connection to Vinder (Jacob Anderson) – another character whose presence in the narrative has yet to make complete sense – means there are still too many questions left unanswered for this element to feel impactful. Obviously this must be going somewhere, but it almost feels like it’s treading water and, in an episode which is largely disconnected from the Division of it all, it seems like a strange addition.
On the subject of guest cast, this episode has brilliant performances in spades. Annabel Scholey continues to shine as Claire, and hopefully this is far from the last time that she is seen, considering her pivotal role in condemning the Doctor back into service of the Division – even if she is just the vehicle for a duplicitous Angel. Kevin McNally as Professor Eustacius Jericho was also wonderfully achieved, showing extraordinary courage against the Angels and refusing to give into their taunts, even in his own voice.
That’s not to mention, of course, the regular cast. Mandip Gill does wonders as a Yaz divorced from the Doctor in the past, keeping the requisite level of faith in her best friend, whilst also using her own initiative to try and save themselves from the situation. Despite her air of authority and commanding leadership, however, it doesn’t quite connect with the eyes which betray her true fear and, when the companions are scared, so too are the audience. Dan, as well, who is usually the joker, is uncharacteristically serious, betraying the high stakes of the situation. Then there’s the Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker, who propels the episode forward, whether through goofy moments such as setting the Weeping Angel on fire, or her showdown with the Angel within Claire’s mind, or her horror at the betrayal at the close of the episode.
The next time trailer does little to hint at where the story pivots from here, other than seeing the unexpected return of Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) facing off against the Grand Serpent (Craig Parkinson) and small hints at Yaz and Dan’s continued existence in the past. Since they spent the vast majority of this episode wandering around the bleary English countryside, hopefully the next episode gives them more of an opportunity to demonstrate their smarts in a Doctor-less world.
Unfortunately, not terribly many of the questions – if any – which were raised last week were resolved here. If anything, there are merely more questions added to the pot. Some may remain ambiguous, such as whether the rogue Angel truly was intending to tell the Doctor everything or whether piloting the TARDIS to 1967 had been part of the trap in the first place. Had it been planned ever since Claire had a premonition of the Angels and they latched onto her mind? It likely seems that way – some sort of ploy by the Division themselves.
On that subject, the Division had previously been implied to play a huge role in the founding of Gallifrey, experimenting on the Doctor to grant Time Lords the power to regenerate, though it seems that the Division – as hinted in “The Halloween Apocalypse” – is still very much running. Are they actively trying to prevent the collapse of Time as brought about by the Flux? Is the Flux meant to combat the Division, or were they the ones to initiate it, in the hopes of trapping the Doctor once more?
With only two episodes left to wrap up these seemingly disparate threads, Flux is showing few signs of coalescing. Hopefully the ending doesn’t end up being too messy as, the last time that audiences suspected that things couldn’t be wrapped up successfully was the final season of Game of Thrones which, judging by its meteoric collapse from public consciousness proved to be a correct inkling. Let’s hope that Chibnall sticks the landing.
Doctor Who: Flux airs on Sundays. You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.