TARDIS File 03-10: Blink
The Big Idea: Sally Sparrow encounters a haunted house which somehow is speaking to her. Her friends disappear mysteriously without trace. The TARDIS is around in the present day, but the Doctor and Martha can only be found as DVD Easter Eggs…
What’s So Great…
- Steven Moffatt’s latest script confirms his status as the cleverest writer on the new series. Complex, conceptually brilliant, witty, scary and completely logical.
- The Doctor’s DVD Easter Egg scenes are a great postmodern device, and Moffatt manages to make the dialogue work logically in two different scenes— using the same dialogue — without any feeling of monotony or repetition.
- The statues are perhaps the scariest Doctor Who monsters ever, even though they are never seen to move! It’s another episode that makes everyday objects scary, and fun for the kids (young and adult) to play in the streets — how long can you prevent yourself from blinking the next time you see a statue?
- This episode would be a great introduction to the series for a new viewer, probably the best episode in that regards since Rose. It contains every ordinary people that most viewers can identify with, introduces the Doctor mysteriously, and explains the concepts of the series in a subtle but clear fashion (even explaining what a Police Box is). In addition, it genuinely scary, witty and humorous, with a touching display of real sentiment that tugs on the heart strings.
Quick Bits of Trivia: Like Human Nature and The Family of Blood, Blink is an adaptation of a previously published Doctor Who story, this time Steven Moffatt’s 2005 Doctor Who Annual story “What I Did On My Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow”. The adaptation is far looser than Human Nature, with only the central concept of the Doctor trapped in the past leaving messages for Sally in the future (and then Sally writing it down completing the circle) retained. The major differences are that in the short story, Sally is 12 years old, and there are no monsters. You can read the original story on the official BBC website.
Blink was the “double banked” story for series three—a story which features a minimal amount of the Doctor and companion as it was being shot at the same time as another story (in this case Human Nature and The Family of Blood). Hettie MacDonald is the first woman to direct an episode of Doctor Who since 1985’s Colin Baker story The Mark of the Rani — a gap of 22 years! Actor Louis Mahoney, who plays the older Lt. Shipton, has appeared in Doctor Who twice before, as a newsreader from the future in Frontier in Space and as Ponti in Planet of Evil.
Things to Geek Out About…
- The concept of the Doctor setting things up for present day events with his actions in the past has been done previously by writer Steven Moffatt in the 1999 one-off comedy episode for charity, The Curse of Fatal Death as well as his 1996 short story “Continuity Errors” which was printed in Virgin Publishing’s Decalog 3 collection. Both are out of print but well worth a hunt on eBay.
- For the first time in its history, the TARDIS demonstrates an ability to dematerialize without taking its occupants with it!
Not to Complain But… there is no bloody way a hot chick like Sally Sparrow would ever hook up with geeky-DVD boy. Ok, that’s reaching somewhat, but really, there’s not much to complain about! We’re getting spoiled!
All Things Considered… this is arguably the finest episode of the season, and un-doubtedly the cleverest. Once again from the pen of Steven Moffatt (Hugo-Award winning writer for The Empty Child and nominated for last year’s The Girl in the Fireplace), Blink succeeds as a modern day Doctor Who thriller that has more chills and scares in it’s 44 minutes than most feature films in the “thriller” genre could dream of. And it does it without the Doctor playing the lead character in the story, although his presence is felt far more than his actual screen time. People who did not like last year’s “double-banked” episode Love & Monsters due to its lack of screen time for the Doctor and Rose are less likely to dislike Blink for this reason.
It may be the lack of the Doctor’s actual physical presence in most scenes that makes Blink work even more successfully as a scary thriller. Without the Doctor there to help himself or Sally Sparrow and company, the audience fears even more fearful for the fate of a couple of characters we really have come to care for in a relatively short space of time — and in turn the fate of the Doctor and Martha are tied up in this as well, adding to the concern of the viewer. With the Doctor wishing Sally the best of luck, the audience realizes that it is up to Sally to come through on the Doctor’s plan and save the day, without the comforting figure of the Doctor there to help. If next season’s double-banked episode can channel this tension into the viewer once again we will be in for another real treat.
There are two women that especially deserve to be singled out for their efforts on this episode. Hettie McDonald deserves to direct more episodes of the series based on the superb work on display here where the drama is heightened at every turn, helped by Murray Gold’s tension-inducing score. And the undisputable star of the episode is Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow. She’s so good that by the end of the episode you are wishing that she climbs on board the TARDIS and stays with the series as the companion for the next 20 years.
It is a challenging feat to write the scariest episode of the season. It is even more challenging to write the cleverest episode of the season as well. With Blink, Steven Moffatt manages to do both. A perfect production.
Line of the Week: _“Life is short — and you are hot!”
TARDIS File prepared by Gian-Luca Di Rocco
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