1. Blink (2007) [14.3%]
“Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead!”
So many incredibly strong pieces of drama have been written for Doctor Who during the past decade, by some of the most talented writers working in television today, but Blink looms head and shoulders above them like a chilly, impassive monolith.
Not only did it introduce those dead-eyed, creeping stone creatures, the Weeping Angels, it also gave us the gorgeous Carey Mulligan – just before she was famous – as the intrepid Sally Sparrow. Blink appealed to people who don’t even like the programme. It was the first Doctor Who to give me the shudders since I was a child in the 1970s – and I jumped out of my skin when Sally and Larry looked up and saw an Angel’s frozen, snarling face for the first time.
And of course Blink is a real curio, being an enduringly popular David Tennant episode that barely features him. With the star busy on another episode, Steven Moffat was charged with making Blink “Doctor-lite”. And cleverly made him appear throughout as a DVD extra, in fact a hidden “Easter egg” (so popular on DVDs at the time; that dates it now).
In a Radio Times interview, Moffat modestly describes his script as “perfectly serviceable, nothing special” – and yet it was dazzlingly original, playful and complex. Blink delivers so many twists and chills, it’s easy to overlook the precision and subtlety of the writing, how sharp the characterisation is. There’s Sally obviously, who carries the episode, but also the endearing, nerdy, Shaggy-like Larry (Finlay Robertson) who’s obsessed with the Easter eggs (“The angels have the phone box. I’ve got it on a T-shirt”). There’s Sally’s friend Kathy (Lucy Gaskell) who only has a few short scenes before being zapped back to 1920 by the Angels, but feels like she’s been her friend for ever.
In one of the most easily overlooked, poignant sequences, the young detective Billy Shipton (Michael Obiora, now in Fortitude) asks Sally on a date, who is so dazzled that she gives her name as Sally “Shipton”. But Billy is whooshed back to the 1960s so that, moments later, Sally next meets him as an old man (indeed another actor, Louis Mahoney) dying in hospital. Rain cascades down the window. BILLY: “It was raining when we met.”
SALLY: “It’s the same rain.” BILLY: “I have till the rain stops.” We then see her alone in the ward; the bed is empty. The rain has stopped and Billy has died. Sally marches off – more determined to battle the Angels than ever.
It’s beautifully written, performed, directed and scored – like everything else in Blink. Every line, every moment, every shot has purpose. No wonder Blink bagged a Best Writer Bafta for Steven Moffat and remains, eight years on, a stone-cold classic and the fans’ favourite. Patrick Mulkern