Friday’s Essay – Analyzing Monsters

I am once again posting my homework assignment to my blog.  And, why not?  I think I did a pretty good job, my professor shouldn’t be the only lucky person to enjoy my work.  So, the assignment was to analyze a popular monster and use a particular framework to examine the monster.  I am a huge Doctor Who fan and some of the best monsters in the new series are the Weeping Angels.  I like them best in ‘Blink’, the original episode about the Weeping Angels.  So, here’s my homework for you all to read!

The Weeping Angels

The monster always escapes.  According to J. J. Cohen one function of the monster is to escape.  In the context of Cohen’s thesis ‘to escape’ means: to not be seen or only known by what is left behind; to be renewed and resurrected by new storytellers in new eras or different cultures; and, the inability to ever stop the monster either within a story or within a culture.  The Weeping Angels first appeared in a 2007 episode of Doctor Who called “Blink.”  There are now four episodes that feature these monsters.  The Weeping Angels, also known as the Lonely Assassins, are at least as old as time.  When being observed the Angels appear to be statues – stone angels in a garden or decorations on a church – this ability to turn to stone prevents them from being killed.  When unobserved the monsters steal potential.  These ancient creatures are described by The Doctor as “the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.  No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death.”   The Angels consume time energy: “You die in the past and in the present they consume the energy of all the days you might have had.  All your stolen moments.  They’re creatures of the abstract they live off potential energy.”  The Weeping Angels, as presented in the BBC television series ‘Doctor Who’, are monsters who must escape due to the nature of time and episodic television.

Weeping Angels must escape, as Cohen suggests, because time is not linear.  The Doctor’s vessel, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space), – which appears as an English police call box from the 1960s – is a time machine.  Many of the show’s storylines involve time travel, changing history, making history or simply funny weird things that happen in time and space.  The episode “Blink” is particularly concerned with the nature of time.  The Doctor’s explanation, while a bit vague, points to the reason for the Angels’ inevitable escape: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.”  As time is non-linear and ‘wibbly-wobbly’ the Weeping Angels are escaping at the same time that they will escape and have escaped.

The Weeping Angels are characters in a relatively popular television program.  For various reasons writers, producers, broadcasters and advertisers like to keep a popular show on the air.  When a new character turns out to be popular with audiences writers and producers endeavour to renew and resurrect that character as often as possible and feasible.  Since the renewal of the Doctor Who franchise in 2005 there have been few new recurring monsters (though the classic monsters from the original 1963 – 1989 series were introduced early on in the ‘new’ series).  The Weeping Angels have been among the most popular new monsters, as evidenced by three subsequent episodes, T-shirts that read ‘The Angels Have the Phone Box’ and posters declaring ‘Keep Calm and Don’t Blink.’  In order to ensure that Doctor Who remains viable there must always be a way to bring back a popular monster.  Therefore The Doctor may solve one episode’s problem with the Weeping Angels, but these monsters will never be well and truly killed or captured at the end of an episode.  This way the Weeping Angels are always at the ready for a new episode to draw the fans in again.

Cohen suggests that the monster ‘escapes’ in that its true form is rarely seen, it cannot be stopped and it is always available to be renewed and resurrected.  The Weeping Angels meet each of Cohen’s definitions of escape.  The Weeping Angels’ true form is never seen for they can only move when unobserved.  As time, at least to science fiction writers, is not linear these monsters are impossible to capture, kill or stop.  Episodic television requires good characters, which the Weeping Angels clearly are. Writers and producers like to have good characters in their ‘tool kit’.  As long as these monsters are available to writers they will continue to be renewed and resurrected in new episodes.  The Weeping Angels are destined to escape every time.


Cheers and Monsters,




3 thoughts on “Friday’s Essay – Analyzing Monsters

  1. I had never really thought of the relationship between the Weeping Angels’ continued presence both in the story and in the Who fandom, but it’s true that they’re such good monsters that it only makes sense for the writers to make them unable to be caught. I sometimes wonder if Moffat always planned to bring them back or if their popularity was a key factor. On a side note, I’m one of the many fans who has a “The Angels Have the Phone Box” t-shirt!

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