Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Hettie MacDonald
Every few years you may have the lucky pleasure of seeing a truly great television episode. In the early 90’s it was ST:TNG’s “The Inner Light”. Cut ahead a few and we get to ST:DS9’s “The Visitor”, followed closely by B5’s “seccession” trilogy mid season 3. Just the other night, I happened to have the joy of watching the latest entry to the pantheon of truly great science fiction television.
On the surface “Blink” has all the makings of a “doesn’t matter if you skip this week” type of episode. It is what has now become the requisite “Doctor lite” episode, thus giving Tennant and Companion a few weeks off in the middle of a busy nine month shooting schedule. Indeed, last year’s version was ridiculed by some fans and split Who fandom clean down the centre. This year’s version, I am pleased to say, has had the exact opposite reaction.
The story is difficult to quantify in the “two sentences or less” Hollywood style, so I won’t bother. Besides wanting to avoid heavy spoilers for the sake of not ruining a truly great episode for new viewers, it would take too long to recount half the tale and your head would be spinning from the various temporal conundrums! Suffice to say, the story begins with plucky and perky young Sally Sparrow investigating an old abandoned house in some backwoods. In a deserted room she peels away at some loose wallpaper, only to find a timely message”¦”¦.to herself. Further the message is signed “The Doctor 1969″. The message warns Sally to “Beware the weeping angels”, of which several are seen standing silent and stoic guard in the manor grounds. Sally returns the next day with her friend, Cathy, only to have the newcomer disappear, seemingly ripped from existence. Thus begins a tale so cosmically and temporally mind-bending you will find yourself exercising areas of your brain that haven’t seen use since you last watched the “Back to The Future” trilogy!
Added to the temporal mechanics are some moments of pure wrenching horror. Where the original series is now legendarily famous(infamous?)for raising a generation of behind the sofa dwelling tykes, this episode by itself will have children all over the Western world screaming in fear when they see a statue in a park. I have to admit a certain glee in that. A bit of fear in kids is a good thing and can only serve to fuel the imagination of the next generation of writers and directors. What is refreshingly novel about the scares in this episode is there is virtually not one single CGI pixel to be seen. Without giving the plot away too much, some of the most horrifying moments in this episode come from simple camera cuts, quick edits and a couple of particularly effective stoccatto black out moments during the climactic confrontation. Classic horror movie stuff that wasn’t new when F.W. Murnau was doing it, yet more frightening than a thousand pixelated battle droids marching toward camera.
Finally as has been the recurring strong point throughout this new series of “Who” it has to be said the heart of this story is the emotional journey undertaken by the characters. Writer Moffat, under the watchful gaze of show runner Russell T. Davies has ensured even the most peripheral character in this episode has very clear and true motivations for their actions. In a story involving time travel and all the temporal hoops people jump through, keeping the continuity of people’s motivations must have been a mind twisting feat. It is testament to a truly talented and committed writer that even a death scene involving a person we have known for barely five minutes elicits tears of empathy. At no point during this episode did any of these characters not feel real. Thus the final confrontation with the forces of evil was gripping, exciting and very, very scary!
The reality of the episode is it is sheer bloody BRILLIANT. After a few duds that constituted a bit of a sagging middle to series three, “Blink” lifts the game to a whole new level and sets a new benchmark for “Who” and SF TV in general.