Review – Doctor Who S03E10 Blink
Written by Steven Moffat before he was showrunner, this Tennant/Freeman episode of Doctor Who immediately stood out in the New Who era. It’s a Doctor Who episode that doesn’t have the Doctor as the main character, so already the audience is off balance. Then it slaps them with a properly twisted time paradox, and voila, an episode that adds constructively to New Who lore.
Like The Deadly Assassin, from the Tom Baker era, which broke the mould by having the Doctor on his own; Blink shifts the perspective of the episode. Sally Sparrow is the main character. She has to beat the bad guys and unravel the mystery, and she does a smashing job.
Blink also does another thing that New Who has struggled with. It adds a new villain that is actually scary and memorable. The Weeping Angels play on a fundamental human fear of the dark, and even re-watching the episode for the many-eth time I still get that tingle of hairs on the back of my neck.
Most Doctor Who villains, that work, work because they are a representation of a concept. The Daleks are fascists. The Cybermen are communists. The Weeping Angels are a manifestation of the fear of the dark (so are the Vashta Nerada from silence in the library, also a great Moffat episode). They can only move when they can’t be seen.
The cinematography of the episode does a great job making static enemies seem dynamic and threatening. Just by turning the lights on and off again, the episode gives the creatures movement and makes them threatening.
Even though I like Matt Smith’s Doctor more, this season of Doctor Who might be the best season of New Who that there’s ever been. Daleks in Manhattan is episode 3 & 4, Family of Blood is 8 & 9, Utopia is up next. Blink is the best episode in the season, and it has to beat out some real contenders (that reveal in Utopia is awesome). Daleks in Manhattan was doing new things with Daleks; Family of Blood was showing us a new side of the Doctor; Utopia is doing new things at the end of the universe. And Blink is telling the story differently, introducing a new enemy that really works, and being a genuine horror episode.
Blink, and the whole 3rd season, showed the audience that Doctor Who could tell new stories that were truly great. It isn’t the last time in New Who this would happen, but it is true that New Who has begun to look more backwards than forwards. New stories with classic enemies can be told, Daleks in Manhattan and Utopia are perfect examples, but New Who needs to sprinkle in new enemies – not just new bad guys – but new enemies. A hero is only as good as their villain is bad. Without a true representation of evil, a Doctor Who episode has no stakes. The Doctor has taken on immortals, gods, guardians, and the darkest parts of the human heart. Without an equal enemy, the story loses any feeling of suspense. If New Who wants to look back, it should look back on why those classic episodes (both in Old and New Who) worked, and come at new stories from that perspective, rather than just recycle old ideas and make mediocre monsters of the week.