In preparation for the Doctor Who Season 9 premiere on September 19, we’re looking back at the series’ modern era with a curated collection of ‘The Doctor’s Finest’ episodes. Each week, BBCAmerica.com will recap each episode to not only relate the action but also explain the episode’s significance in the Whoniverse.
In an abandoned house somewhere near London, photographer Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) finds some creepy statues, and an even creepier message hidden under the wallpaper: addressed to her, it tells her to “beware the Weeping Angel” and it’s signed “Love from The Doctor (1969).” But who is the Doctor, and how is he sending her messages from nearly 40 years ago?
The mystery only deepens the next day, when Sally returns with her friend Kathy Nightingale — but a chance encounter with one of the mysterious statues sees Kathy suddenly disappear. At the same moment, there’s a knock at the door, and a man delivers a letter addressed to Sally from his recently-deceased grandmother… Kathy Nightingale.
With its combination of a time-twisting plot and a truly scary monster, “Blink” is in many ways a quintessential Doctor Who episode. But it’s also a very unusual one, as the main character — a humanoid alien who calls himself the Doctor and journeys through time and space — barely appears in it. Trapped in the 1960s with his human companion Martha Jones — but without his time-traveling TARDIS, which is left behind in 2007 — the Doctor’s only way of getting home is to send messages to Sally in the future. Aside from the writing on the wall of the house, he does this by planting a hidden video message as a DVD “easter egg” with the hope that she’ll find it.
Without the Doctor around to help, it’s up to Sally — and Kathy’s brother, Larry — to fend off the terrifying Weeping Angel statues and help get the TARDIS back to him. This episode marks the Angels’ first ever appearance in Doctor Who, with their unique method of attack and defense: motionless, indestructible statues as long as they’re being observed, yet scarily quick creatures that can zap you back a whole lifetime into history the moment you look away… or blink.
A completely self-contained story, “Blink” introduces the viewer to the world of the Doctor through the eyes of an outsider. In the Weeping Angels, it introduces a monster that plays on the classic childhood fear of statues — and they would become one of the most popular recurring creatures of the modern era. It also marks the first appearance of a fan-favorite catchphrase, when the Doctor — explaining to Sally in the video message just how they can be having a conversation across four decades — describes time as “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… stuff.”
As for the Doctor himself, while his screen time is limited in this episode, what shines through is his ability to calmly and confidently save the day and defeat the monsters, even when he’s doing so from a point so far in the past. There’s a chilling moment when it seems like he’s tricked Sally and Larry into returning his TARDIS while leaving them to fend for themselves — a reminder of the fact that, occasionally, he can be duplicitous — but it quickly turns out to be an inspired twist to help stop the Angels once and for all.
With the repeated refrain of the Doctor’s warning ringing in the ears — “Don’t turn your back, don’t look away… and don’t blink!” — “Blink” leaves behind it a significant legacy. Aside from adding the Angels themselves to the show’s mythos, it remains one of the most successful episodes ever produced, winning both Hugo and BAFTA Awards, and being voted as the second greatest story of all time by Doctor Who Magazine readers in both 2009 and 2014.