"Didn't anyone every tell you there's one thing you never put in a trap? If you're smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there is one thing you never, ever put in a trap." "And what would that be, sir?" "Me."
IN THIS ONE... River Song is back and so are the Weeping Angels.
REVIEW: For Moffat to bring back River Song and the Weeping Angels is a no-brainer, but together? It's all kind of risky, isn't it? Well, good news, it's paying off so far. The Angels were the toughest nut to crack because once you've done Blink, what else can you do but retread the same beats? Moffat's solution is to add all new wrinkles to their abilities without contradicting the past. Somehow, they keep their creep factor and pull off some major quantum tricks (so that's how they reproduce!). Moffat even writes in video clip sequence which harks back to their original episode, and Amy saves herself by trapping the monster in a video blip (the meta stuff Moffat does so well). The best trick is the misdirection going on in the Maze of the Dead, where all the jokes about two-headed couples (and red herrings re: River's identity) are hiding the presence of an army of decomposing Angels. The weakest trick is their snapping necks and borrowing voices, which isn't really worthy of them. It works, but it's an element borrowed from Silence in the Library and a rather cheap solution to Moffat's problem.
As for River's second (or before last appearance), it also revamps the character we previously met. We knew her as an archaeologist, but here she's rogue, a superspy working for the Church to get a prison sentence reduced. The innate chemistry with the Doctor, the flirting and the absolute trust are all there, but otherwise, it's a major change that heightens the sense of fun, though could (and will) feel a little smug over time. Now that her arc is over(?) and we know all her secrets, her episodes take on a strange bent. We know now know what she does in addition to what the Doctor does. We can tell when she lies (the spotter's guide? total rubbish), when she references something that has already happened to her (who she supposedly killed), when she references something that WILL (the crash of the Byzantium was in the diary last time), and when the character is forced to ignore things that weren't yet decided or disclosed to the actress (that Amy is her mother, though obviously, it's not a novelty for her). Since we know her final fate, the trick here was to write new mysteries for her that would be revealed later.
A clever use of the character is how she contacts the Doctor, and it explains how they would meet out of order. Leaving artifacts with Gallifreyan messages for him to find some time in the future is risky (or perhaps the TARDIS tends to home in on such), but her faith makes it inevitable he'll find the message, eventually. Faith is an important component of this story. River and Amy both have it in spades for the Doctor (I love Amy's little smile at the Doctor's line I quote above), and for River at least, it's enough to get her to throw herself out an airlock with a smile on her hallucinatory lips. She works for the 51st-century Church in full Crusade mode, and fights creatures who look like traditional Christian angels. But the Doctor isn't played as a god, merely a figure from myth. That's the purpose of his visit to a museum (with a link to the Headless Monks, I just noticed!) to "look himself up" as it were. His relationship with River Song is epic and mythical because it leaves artifacts. We're being trained to look at Doctor Who in mythical terms, which I find more useful a filter than fairy tales. Victory of the Daleks was a fairy tale, where Pinocchio's love triumphed over evil, and was the weaker for playing by those rules. In The Time of Angels, the way we learn the rules of the game (whether it's how River contacts the Doctor, what the Angels' full powers are, or even why you don't put the Doctor in a trap) through grand pronouncements, some through speech, some through action sequences. And yet, it's also Doctor Who, so humor undermines the big ideas so they don't become pompous. The message across millennia is "Hello sweetie", the Doctor's awkwardness, a cleric with the holy name of Bob. The episode is by turns clever, creepy and amusing, but its true function is to set down a new paradigm for watching the show. Moving away from a traditional action-adventure narrative will have its problems, as we'll discover in later seasons, but for no, it's fresh and exciting.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The exciting return of two of Moffat's greatest hits, but "Moffat's greatest hits" will one day become a dirty phrase.