When scholars of Doctor Who look back (as they will) to the twenty-first century’s (first tranche of?) the show, there will be one story that can’t be ignored. Lot’s of stories are important: Rose, Turn Left, … make your own list. Some are very good, some are clever, some controversial. Some are even not that good (like all things, there are variations). All that said, one story will be held up as an example of just what Doctor Who can achieve. Blink is that story.
Is Blink is that good?
I single out Blink for one reason. Not because of fan polls, pundit reviews or YouTube vlogs (and I’m sure there will be every opinions if I looked for it) but for overall impact.
As fans / reviewers / bloggers / writers we tend to think everyone takes Doctor Who as seriously as we do. We tend to network with other fans, post on forums with people who share our passion for the show and like an echo chamber think what we hear is the whole world, not just the very small slice we happen to be part of.
Let’s remember for all the tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who would call themselves fans, there are many, many more who just watch the show here and there, or because it suits them or out of interest. I could write a whole post on the domino effect RTD tapped to make the return of Doctor Who in 2005 so successful, but I won’t, at least not now. Let’s remember (and I’m not writing a the show’s been killed by XXX/YYY/ZZZ piece). And unlike a Time Lord, we don’t get to rewind history to a time we were at a peak.
Let’s consider the population at large, the vast swathes of people, fans and otherwise, who also enjoyed the show back in 2007. It’s they who voted Doctor Who to win awards, they who fed the surge of books / toys / music / &c, &c.
Of all the first few seasons of the revived Doctor Who, it’s Blink that commanded attention.
What do I mean by this? Well, back in the 1970s it wasn’t generally fashionable to watch science fiction, though everyone had seen Star Trek and in the UK at least, Doctor Who was a kids programme that had seen better days, or at least bigger budgets. Casual viewers were falling away and it took Star Wars to move the genre to the centre of the mainstream in terms of entertainment.
When we got to 1981, a lot of people, myself included, were enjoying Blake’s 7 and probably more so than Doctor Who. Cue the final episode, Blake, and that ending. For the first time in my memory people would talk about watching it, the power of the ending and how intense it was. By people I meant non-fans.
The same happened with Blink. I had conversations with people who knew I was a fan and all of them were along the lines of you watch that Doctor Who, don’t you. I saw the one with the statues, it was rather good. It happened a lot of times with a lot of different people. This is also (I suspect) why David Tennant is, for a lot of people, their Doctor.
This is the story that hit the zeitgeist.
What did Blink get right?
Pretty much everything. Let’s start with the story, which was a very much updated version of a story from the 2006 Doctor Who Annual. You can read it for free on the BBC website: Blink – The Original Story. No, pop over and have a read. There, not bad was it?!
Whatever you may or may not think of Steven Moffat’s merits as show-runner, I suggest strongly he can write a good story. Not just Blink, but also Empty Child / Doctor Dances. I’m personally less taken with Girl in the Fireplace and you can’t argue the importance of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. Where would we be without River Song!? (I know he also introduced Jack Harkness, but if I were a betting man I’d wonder if RTD introduced Jack to Steven’s script.) I also have a theory that you need tension between writer and show-runner and they shouldn’t be the same person.
The casting is also spot-on and let’s face it we are spoiled with the calibre of actors the show attracts on TV and audio. Carey Mulligan is the centre of the story (it’s very Doctor-lite) and carries it perfectly. She’d been a central figure in the BBC’s wonderful adaptation of Bleak House so was up-and-coming in terms of TV. [If that’s the right phrase]. Billy (both ages) is also perfect and I could continue.
The Weeping Angels are an effective, new monster well-realised and scary in a good way.
Then there’s the look of Blink. For me this is what makes it happen. Next time you watch, look at the use of rain as a device for scene setting, continuity and effect. It’s just magnificent. As is the directing (Hettie Macdonald), camera-work, make-up… everything!
What happened next?
Mr Moffat went on to run the show for a few years (and stirred up a ver mixed response), David Tennant’s career is soaring, Carey Mulligan is also no stranger to success, and in at least one parallel universe ended up travelling in the TARDIS!
The Weeping Angels have been back, and in my view less is more. A vast cavern of Weeping Angels isn’t the same kind of scare as a few in a room. It’s Aliens compared to Alien. And I don’t go for the Statue of Liberty nonsense either.
Meanwhile the show continues. What’s your view on Blink? Am I exaggerating? Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments!