Streaming / Television

Doctor Who 13.4 Review: Village of the Angels (Flux: Chapter Four)

The Weeping Angels – Doctor Who‘s most terrifying monster (fact!) – are finally back after an almost ten year absence, in an episode that appears to have been designed purely to scare the pants off of unsuspecting children and remind complacent fans just how terrifying these stone cold killers can be given the right circumstances. It’s immediately apparent here how the long gap in-between appearances has done nothing to lessen their nightmarish effect and the resulting 55 minutes is an outstanding outing for these classic monsters.

Fully aware of the awesome power and reverence these popular creatures command, Chris Chibnall and co-writer Maxine Alderton deliver a tense and terrifying episode that showcases them in all their horrifying glory. Village of the Angels is full of chilling atmosphere and a foreboding sense of dread, building up slowly and teasing out mystery after mystery whilst punctuating the story with old school chills and full-on jump scares that make for the best kind of horror experience. The writers know what makes a good Weeping Angels story and utilise the pre-established tropes to great effect, whilst also throwing in a few new tricks to boot to ensure the reappearance of the Angels is fully justified.

It’s the creature’s presence and the way Chibnall and Alderton utilise them within the ongoing Flux storyline that makes Village of the Angels by far the best story yet this season, but even without the larger canvas in which to work within, all the ingredients are present for a classic Doctor Who story. The writers and director Jamie Magnus Stone firmly root the episode in horror movie territory from the off, imbuing proceedings with a tone that feels reminiscent of Hammer Horror and 70’s Doctor Who, and the nightmarish set-pieces feel straight out of horror movie handbook. The notion of a village surrounded by nothing but empty space is a pleasing little Who-style plot twist that not only offers up breathtaking visuals, but also ups the ante considerably, trapping our heroes in an inescapable trap as the dark forces close in around them, whilst the mythology of the Angels and the ongoing Division arc are tied together neatly in a manner that both shocks and surprises.

All this builds up towards what is arguably one of the finest Doctor Who cliffhangers we’ve seen in recent years, as the Doctor is transformed into a Weeping Angel herself! It’s a terrifying notion bought to life in stunning fashion, all sold by some great visual effect shots and Jodie Whittaker‘s excellent performance. As a cliffhanger, it may prove to be nothing in the grand scheme of the main story and will most likely be reversed sooner rather than later, but it’s still a defining moment of this era and one that will stick in the mind of a generation for years to come. It’s a shame that the random mid-credits scene afterwards with Vinder and Bel feels awkward, tacked-on and lessens the impact, but the final shot of the Thirteenth Doctor transformed into one of her deadliest adversaries is a mad, visceral image that is truly haunting and stays with you long after credits finish.

The aforementioned Flux story elements do hinder proceedings somewhat though, especially since here they feel more detrimental to proceedings than they did previously. The main strands of the plot that centre on the Doctor and the Angels are far more engaging, but when the ongoing Flux plot starts to rear up, the story slows to a crawl. The cutaway moments to Bel (Thaddea Graham) on Puzano do little to further the ongoing plot and feel unnecessary, out of place and offer very little beyond what we already know. The standalone nature of Village is what makes ultimately makes it so enticing, so the little reminders here that this is just part of a larger puzzle grate more than they would in any other episode this season.

Despite these minor flaws though, Village of the Angels is excellent – the cinematography is gorgeously stark and shadowy, the creature effects and camera tricks ensure the Angels remain as terrifying as ever, and the addition of some uncomfortable body horror into the mix offers up some truly disturbing moments as various characters are transformed into stone by the Weeping Angels. The story is excellent, the direction more so, the performances a cut above the norm – every element here works in service of one another, and the end result is a perfect little horror film that plays on primal fears and introduces a terrifying new element to the canvas of the show’s monster mythology.

With Village of the Angels, the Weeping Angels are truly back, not just on the telly, but also in the nightmares of children across the country. Just as they should be!

Doctor Who returns to BBC One next Sunday at 6.20pm. Join us for our series blog review next week.

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