Well, I went home this weekend after I got off work yesterday afternoon (and am only just now getting back to Morgantown) so I just wanted to explain my brief hiatus in reviews before I got around to writing my review of the second to last disc of the third season of Doctor Who. This season has just blown away all my expectations of how consistently good Doctor Who can be. This particular stretch of episodes included what was easily one of the best episodes of the series to date (and with Stephen Moffat involved, this should surprise no one) and a two-parter that took risks in the storytelling nature of the series that paid off in big ways. All in all, this was the single-best disc of the entire series so far, and I’m almost sad that this season is coming to an end soon (only three episodes left) because I have no idea how Season 4 will be able to live up to the ridiculously high standards this season has set for the rest of the show (especially since Catherine Tate returns as a full-time companion).

In the first two episodes “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood”, we begin with the Doctor and Martha running from some violent encounter and the Doctor crytpically warning Martha that everything rests with her. He shows her a watch, tells her its the key, and then without warning, the show flashes to the Doctor waking up in an Edwardian England schoolhouse on the eve of World War I. However, the Doctor believes he is John Smith, a school teacher who recently moved to this school two months ago with his servant Martha. Martha knows the truth however, which is that the Doctor transformed himself into a human so that he could hide from the vicious space predators known as the Family of Blood until they finally died and then at the end of three months, Martha would open the watch which contained his essence as a Time Lord. The plan starts to fall apart however when a psychic young student picks up the watch just as the Family arrive in this time-line. Possessing the bodies of local citizens (including Game of Thrones‘ Harry Lloyd) and creating an army of walking scarecrows (much, much scarier than they sound), the Family declares an all-out war on the school to John Smith who is forced to choose between essentially dying and returning as the Doctor and losing the love of his life and saving the day while he is also forced to lead the school’s boys in an armed assault against the Family’s army in an eerie prequel to World War I.

In the third episode, Stephen Moffat’s “Blink” (which seemingly won every sci-fi award under the sun when it was released), the Doctor and Martha take a back seat to the compelling (and terribly frightening) tale of Sally Sparrow (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan, An Education). After investigating an abandoned house (for reasons that are never quite explained), Sally discovers a message to “beware the Weeping Angels” that was left by the Doctor, whose existence she isn’t aware of. As she’s leaving the house that evening, Sally notices an Angel statue but thinks nothing of it. The next day, Sally returns with her best friend Kathy Nightingale to investigate the house further. As Kathy is exploring the house, a man shows up at the door telling Sally who was supposed to come at this exact hour and minute to deliver a letter, a letter that he promised his grandmother, Kathy Nightingale. While this is happening, we see that an Angel statue is following Kathy and Kathy is suddenly transported to the 1920’s when the Angel finally touches her. What follows is an absolutely paranoia and horror inducing hour of Sally getting intricately acquainted with the concept of a stable time loop as well as trying to save herself and Kathy’s brother from the Weeping Angels who can only be stopped by observing them which causes them to be statues. If you blink or turn away, they’ll get you.

“Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” were easily as good as the season’s earlier high-water mark “The Shakespeare Code” which by itself should be quite impressive. What it gets the most points for however is the sheer emotion and drama present in the story which is rare on the series which normally preoccupies itself with science fiction adventures or inexplicable horror. For the first time outside of season finale moments such as Christopher Eccleston’s transformation into David Tennant and Rose and David Tennant’s farewells, Doctor Who made me cry and not just once but twice in the same episode. The episode just hits on an incredibly emotional level especially in those moments when John Smith realizes that in order to save everyone he must die and become the Doctor. While David Tennant is certainly consistently funny and always endearingly quirky, I’ve never really seen him as a top-notch dramatic actor, but he really nails all of his scenes both as John Smith and then the tranquil fury he presents when he’s finally the Doctor again and wreaking his revenge on the Family.

The irony of this disc is that I would have been perfectly satisfied if the two-parter had been followed by a simply passable one shot episode. However, Christmas came early for me as we get another Stephen Moffat episode that is in the running for one of the creepiest episodes of TV I’ve ever watched and also one of the best episodes of the new series (though not quite as good as “The Girl in the Fireplace”). I can’t begin to say how freaky “Blink” was. For an episode where no one died (except of old age), Blink did more to scare the hell out of me with statues than Scream 4 could with all of its blood and violence. Stephen Moffat just used good old-fashioned paranoia and psychological scares to put you on the edge of your seat and never lets up. The Weeping Angels get to replace the Daleks as the most frightening beings in the Doctor Who universe. To make it all even better though, Stephen Moffat crafted a tale where time travel isn’t just a mode of transportation in the story but is in fact central to the entire narrative. Then, we get the marvelous and under-rated Carey Mulligan in the lead. There really wasn’t anything more you could ask for in this story.

So far, the season has one episode in the top three of the entire new series (thus far), three episodes that I would call truly great if not quite the masterpieces of Stephen Moffat’s work, and no clunkers. The no bad episodes quality would by itself signify just how fantastic this season has been compared to its predecessors but its the extremely high quality of its top moments that just sets this season in a leage of its own. If there is anyone out there who is at all curious about the show but has never gotten around to watching it, this would be the season that I would recommend you watch. Watch “Blink”, and if it isn’t for you, then don’t give the rest of the show a try because nothing else about it will wow you. With all of that said, I’m definitely drawing near to my final moments with this season, but Captain Jack Harkness comes back next episode which I can only say has me unbelievably excited because he’s Doctor Who and Torchwood‘s coolest dude.

Final Score: A-

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