The Weeping Angels are back! After teasing cameos in previous chapters, the Lonely Assassin are back in full force for Village of the Angels. In preparation, Blogtor Who counts down the best of their past appearances
The hour of the Weeping Angels is almost upon us! They’ve made brief appearances in the first half of Flux, but this Sunday is shaping up to be our big Weeping Angel episode. But before the Doctor resumes the deadliest staring contest in the world, let’s take a look back at some of the best stories featuring the Lonely Assassins. Blogtor Who will look beyond the main Doctor Who television show too. We’ll also explore comics, audio dramas, books and even games. So get ready for the Top Ten stories that have made the Weeping Angels the most iconic new monster of 21st century Who.
#10: Revolution of the Daleks
First up is the most recent TV appearance of a Weeping Angel at the start of this year. One of the Doctor’s fellow prisoners in Space Prison is ‘Angela’, though sending a being that can only move when unobserved to a crowded room for ‘exercise’ feels more like a cruel tease. It slides in at #10 due the significance of being the Thirteenth Doctor’s first meeting with the stone villains. But, ultimately, it is just a fun cameo.
#9: The Time of the Doctor
The Weeping Angels also make a cameo appearance in Matt Smith’s swansong as the Doctor. Despite being a relatively brief scene, writer Steven Moffat still manages to put yet another twist on the concept. Weeping Angels under the snow, their stone hands reaching up out of the white, ready to lock around the ankles of unwary passers-by. It’s a deliciously creepy moment. It also elevates the Angels as the only ones to successfully bypass Trenzalore’s blockade, when even the Daleks couldn’t.
#8: The Weeping Angels of Mons
The Weeping Angels have solidified themselves, so to speak, as part of Doctor Who’s top rung of monsters by spreading their wings into other media. They’ve been the subject of many novels, audio plays, short stories and comics. The best of their comic book tales is The Weeping Angels of Mons. Travelling with new companion Gabby between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor arrives in the trenches of World War I for another battle with the Lonely Assassins. Soldiers are telling tales of a mysterious angel appearing to doomed soliders and rescuing them, vanishing them from the battlefield. But are they really being sent somewhere better?
Running for four issues of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor title, Robbie Morrison’s story ties into a genuine spooky tale told by survivors of the war. It also succeeds in finding new ways to use the winged monsters. There’s more malice than before in some of the Angels’ displacements of their victims, while others tie neatly into the present day plot. This time they’re genuinely starving too, stealing time from soldiers with only hours or days to live. It leads to a church besieged in an attack reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead. Meanwhile, Daniel Indro’s scratchy, textured art and Slamet Muijono’s murky colours add to the dour, creepy, atmosphere.
#7: The Lost
Despite being one of the Weeping Angels’ shorter appearances, the finale of Doctor Who spin-off Class was one of their most shocking and significant. The final scenes of The Lost reveal the sinister forces that have been manipulating events at Coal Hill School all season. The ‘board of governors’ pulling the strings of the stylishly malevolent head mistress Dorothea Ames (Pooky Quesnel) are none other than the Weeping Angels! Ames has disappointed her mistresses and pays the price, but we’re left wondering at the Angels’ master plan. Sadly, we never got a second season for Class which, according to creator Patrick Ness, would have featured a full scale invasion by the Lonely Assassins, and revealed more of their origins and species – including the arrival of their god!
#6: Grey Matter
The short story that gives the collection Twelve Angels Weeping its name, Dave Rudden’s Grey Matter presents the Angels as an inexorable force. With a doom laden atmosphere dripping from every word and punctuation mark, it’s a perfectly formed little horror tale. One by one, contact is lost with each of the twelve cities on the planet Gehenna, as a strange plague takes hold. A plague that turns people to stone. Told from the point of view of the last living human on the planet, it showcases the surprising flexibility of the Weeping Angel concept within the established rules, as they propagate their way across an entire world. It’s also a rare case of giving the Angels a more complex motivation, and a unique twist on their way of operating.
#5: Fallen Angels
Many of the Weeping Angels appearances in other media stretch the Eleventh Doctor’s claim to “have meet them once before, on Earth” to breaking point. But none more so than Fallen Angels from Big Finish’s Classic Doctors, New Monsters collection. After all, it reveals that the Doctor has known the Weeping Angels as far back as their fifth incarnation. But it’s a story more than worth the blurring of continuity. In another case of finding a new spin of the central concept, this time the Doctor uncovers evidence of the Angels’ presence from the other direction. On a jaunt to Rome in 1511, he’s shocked to discover a 21st century tourist called Gabby (Diane Morgan) with a wild claim of having been sent there through time by an Angel statue.
As well as being a tense mystery adventure along the lines of the original Blink, it’s one of Doctor Who’s most fun historicals. In the future, half of the life’s work of Renaissance genius Michaelangelo (Matthew Kelly) has disappeared. In the past, the great sculptor’s maxim that he chips away to free statues from the stone has never been more true than with his new commission for an angel covering its face in grief. Both Kelly and Morgan give performances as brilliant as you’d expect from their reputations. While Davison is superbly at home and invigorated by the fast pace of a 21st century style adventure.
#4: The Lonely Assassins
The Lonely Assassins being on this list at all may surprise some given its status as a mobile phone game. But it earns its high placing due to being more than just a game – it’s effectively an extra episode of Doctor Who. Combining newly filmed scenes with puzzles and interactive texts, it’s a found phone game where you discover the phone of Blink’s Larry Nightingale (Finlay Robertson) after his mysterious disappearance.
It’s a genuinely unnerving experience, with the first time your phone suddenly rings, giving a burst of static and mysterious whispers when you answer, is a proper jump scare. And with Ingrid Oliver onboard as Osgood, needing your help as she delves deeper into the mystery of Wester Drumlins, the experience really does feel like stepping into your very own Doctor Who adventure. In retrospect, the game even fits in neatly with last Sunday’s cliffhanger too. Both game and episode feature and image of an Angel infecting a victim’s phone and attempting to get out…
(A special honourable mention here too for the claustrophobic Weeping Angel level in Maze Theory’s Edge of Reality console game. Equally inventive, and also giving you a new understanding of Claire trying to negotiate her way to her front door backwards.)
#3: The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
The Weeping Angels were a creature so carefully crafted to service the original script, the first attempt to construct a follow up was always going to be a challenge. So the success of The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone is astonishing. It doesn’t just repeating the beats of Blink but escalates the stakes and action to the nth degree. In true Steven Moffat style it also features some killer twists, such as the reveal that every statue in the catacombs is an Angel. Adding the character of ‘Angel Bob’ is ingenious. It doesn’t just give the Angels a voice they lacked in their original outing, but the nastiness of the method – snapping poor Bob’s neck and then pulling out the speech centres of his brain – brings their villainy to the next level, adding a new viciousness and cruelty to their make up.
But most of all, it has that ‘the image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel’ scene with Amy and the CCTV recording. Doctor Who at its behind-the-sofa best.
#2: The Angels Take Manhattan
Let’s face it, The Angels Take Manhattan is all about one scene. The gut-wrenching, hankie drenching departure of Amy and Rory. The Doctor’s utter devastation, and the inescapable tragedy of it, even eclipses Bad Wolf Bay. So much so that Blogtor Who can even forgive the strange loose end of a Weeping Angel apparently left to its own devices in a New York graveyard at the end.
But there’s plenty of Angelic evil to enjoy in the rest of the episode. Never tiring of finding new ways to make them scary, Steven Moffat gives a number of twists. There’s the chained up, scarred prisoner of Grayle (Mike McShane). And the truly disturbing Weeping Cherubs, who provide one of the classic symptoms of successful horror – the spine tingling moment when the audience realize what’s about to happen just before Rory does. And then, of course, the Weeping Angel of Liberty! An image so joyously irresistible that any attempt to apply common sense to it is totally pointless.
The original and still the best, the brilliance of Blink is why every other story on this list exists at all. In 2007 Steven Moffat volunteered to take the tricky ‘Doctor-lite’ slot resulting from overlapping production blocks. The result was a story built around its monster and concept like none before it; one in which is truly felt like anything could happen and nobody was safe. Its two big ideas, statues that can move as soon as you look away, and people trapped in the past communicating with the present, dovetail beautifully.
Plus casting director Andy Pryor manages one of Doctor Who’s great casting coups by grabbing future Oscar winner Carey Mulligan in her very last role before becoming a household name. With her Sally Sparrow stepping in as the hero of the hour, her performance is central to the episode’s success. So charismatic and wistfully charming is she, that the audience effortlessly becomes invested in her and the mystery she’s trying to solve.
Along with Hettie MacDonald’s stylish direction and Murray Gold’s creepily atmospheric music, the outcome is a masterclass in escalating tension. Via the rise and fall of beats like the first Angel’s lowering its hands from its face between shots, the Angels flitting across the road in the blink of an eye to flank Sally in the police station window, and their break in to the garage, it builds to a terrifying night in Wester Drumlins. It’s a nerve shredding scene that sends grown adults back behind the sofa. And it means Blink thoroughly deserves its high placement in so many fan polls, including coming second in DWM’s Fifty Years Poll.
Will Village of the Angels be their best appearance yet?
And now the Weeping Angels are returning again for their first major television appearance to not be written by Steven Moffat. Their brief appearances so far in Flux has already shown them at their most intense and scary. Claire’s encounter with one at Halloween brought them back to their basic, staring contest of death best. While the double blow of new, innovative ways to make them scary (they can instant message themselves to you now!) and their threat to seize the TARDIS itself finally being fulfilled was bravura stuff in Once, Upon Time.
So Village of the Angels’ promise to turn the fear factor up to 13, with an entire army of Angels besieging a remote village, is exciting stuff. Though Blogtor Who does wonder if there’s another twist on the formula to come. Could the Angels, in fact, be moving all the pieces they need across time and space to save the universe from the Flux?
But one mantra will surely still hold true for the Doctor, Yaz and Dan: Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t blink!
Doctor Who: Flux continues this Sunday at 6.20pm on BBC One, and on BBC America in the US, with Chapter Four: Village of the Angels
Devon, November 1967. A little girl has gone missing, Professor Eustacius Jericho is conducting psychic experiments, and in the village graveyard, there is one gravestone too many. Why is Medderton known as the Cursed Village, and what do the Weeping Angels want?