TV Series

EXCLUSIVE: Doctor Who stars, writers and fans celebrate ten years of 'Blink'

By Cameron K McEwan

First broadcast on this day in 2007, the Doctor Who episode Blink celebrates its tenth anniversary today.

Written by Steven Moffat, who would go on to become showrunner, Blink introduced the world to the Weeping Angels and starred Carey Mulligan as the story’s lead, Sally Sparrow. Carey would go on to become an Oscar-nominated movie star.

The story was an immediate hit and Steven was awarded the 2008 BAFTA Craft and BAFTA Cymru awards for Best Writer and also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Not only that, Blink has twice reached No. 2 in the greatest Doctor Who story ever in Doctor Who Magazine fan polls (2009 and 2015).

Blink is truly a classic slice of Doctor Who.

Below you can find the thoughts and memories from those involved in the episode, Doctor Who writers and actors, and journalists. You can read what Steven Moffat exclusively told us about it here.

RUSSELL T DAVIES, Doctor Who showrunner 2005-2010:
"The readthrough for Blink is one of my favourite memories ever.

Normally, those things are big productions, with everyone from every department gasping for air. Rooms packed to the gunnels. But Blink was a double-banked episode, so another episode was being shot at the same time. Which meant everyone was busy! So we were a tiny, intimate team on that day. David wasn’t there, so Steven read the Doctor. I read the stage directions. And Carey Mulligan and Lucy Gaskell were just delightful. I remember them grinning! It was like a gang of mates, having fun. Except the air was charged, too, because we all knew this was good.

Oh, we knew.

We laughed and chatted and carried on as normal, but we all knew we were making something really and truly special. And we were right!"

An image of Larry

FINLAY ROBERTSON, Larry Nightingale:
“When I was cast in Blink I was incredibly excited - as I'd loved Doctor Who as a child. Tom Baker was my first Doctor and a few years ago I played Peter Davison's son in a play which was fantastic. I remember it being REALLY cold filming in that abandoned house in Cardiff and also being slightly sad that I wouldn't have more stuff with David Tennant as he was filming another episode at the same time.

I didn't realise that realise at the time that this made it such a unique story – and it could exist as a stand-alone story and Carey Mulligan could drive the narrative. I had to change my accent to match Lucy Gaskell's as she was my sister. Carey was lovely and it was really obvious how talented and brilliant she is. The Angels were scary looking but the final episode made it all come together with a great edit and fantastic direction.

They say the best ideas are sometimes the simplest and this was true of these monsters ... and the writing is just so good! There's such lovely stuff with the older Billy in the hospital. I was really blown away watching it on TV on that Saturday night. I've had so many lovely letters and even my face on a trading card – although they didn't give me much on the intelligence score!

I feel very lucky to have been part of a show – and an episode – that meant so much to so many people. Doctor Who is a piece of culture that creates and is held together by such brilliant fans.”

An image of Kathy

LUCY GASKELL, Kathy Nightingale:
“When I first read the script for Blink, I couldn't put it down! You can't always tell from reading, how well something will turn out but I knew immediately that Blink was a very special episode. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me scared! I knew I wanted to be a part of it and, luckily for me, I was cast as Kathy Nightingale.

My favourite part of filming was probably at the Wester Drumlins House. What an amazing location! Carey and I went off to explore a little in between scenes and stumbled upon an old, sad looking doll sitting upright in the middle of the floor in one of the derelict bedrooms upstairs. I'll never know if it was planted there by one of the crew or perhaps been left behind by a previous owner but it gave us a shudder and we got out of there before we had time to blink...!

Ten years on, fans of the show still talk about it with great enthusiasm. Just last week, I was waiting for a train at Penrith station when a lady and her son came over to tell me that Blink is their favourite Doctor Who episode! Hettie MacDonald directed the whole thing beautifully and Steven Moffat's brilliantly constructed, very cleverly written episode is full of surprises and full of heart and I'm proud to have been a part of it.”

An image of Billy

“I started working as an actor at the age of 9, 21 years have passed and in that time I've had more people tell me how much they enjoyed Blink than anything else I've been in! And that was only one episode!

Doctor Who fans are the best, and I'm honoured to forever be part of the family.”

“I was only there for a day and I remember that my taxi driver hated the English and told me at length about it and that I made Carey laugh a lot by stopping her from doing her lines by holding up a finger and that eventually made her a bit cross.”

An image of banto

BRIAN MINCHIN, Doctor Who executive producer (2013-2017):
“Oh it’s a good one isn’t it?

There is a lesson in here for writers, and all of you in fact, to get your good ideas out in whatever form you can. The world needs them! And the best will soar! Sally Sparrow first appeared in the Doctor Who Yearbook, a collection of short stories by series writers, that didn’t exactly flock to the number one best-seller spot. And frankly was something an in-demand TV writer shouldn’t have been spending his time on! But while other projects idled, the character of Sally Sparrow was born!

The story was fantastic, and simple, and pure. And it clearly had more to it… No Doctor Who writer likes to be asked to write the ‘Cheap One’. They get a funny look on their face and their minds race with visions of wobbly sets and their careers burning down in flames. But when the time came for Julie Gardner to lean heavily on Steven for a schedule-saving episode without even the Doctor in it, there was already the fantastic character of Sally Sparrow in the world. And what a script it became!

So put your ideas out anywhere! You never know! Great stories have a life of their own. They crackle with possibility and that’s hard for the world to ignore. How fine a thing it is to see a story go from prose, to screen, to a celebrated episode we’re all still talking about years later.”

An angel covers her eyes behind someone

“The "Doctor-lite" episode is an interesting feature of the modern series, taking a sometimes elliptical view of the Whoniverse in a way that some of the spin-off media, especially the comic strips, I grew up with in the 1980s used to.

I think Blink is even more interesting in that it almost seems like its own spin-off series, given the strength of Sally Sparrow as a hero, and the Weeping Angels as monsters.

There are other classic Doctor Who ingredients, such as the gothic atmosphere, the intrusion of the fantastical into the mundane, as well as the Doctor himself, that combine with such an elegant vertical plot line that it's a perfect introduction to the series in some ways, not just a strong stand-alone episode in itself. One of my favourites of the series post-2005!”

SARAH DOLLARD, writer Face The Raven and Thin Ice:
“I watched with my housemates and we were all petrified. Steven Moffat took an everyday object that was already a bit creepy and turned it into something downright terrifying. The best horror stories are grounded in sorrow and loss, and for my money that’s why the Angels are so effective in this episode. They don’t just leap out and kill you, they deliver a fate worse than death, banishing you to a life without your loved ones around you. 

We fell hard for Sally Sparrow - surely one of the best guest characters Who’s ever had - and became obsessed with Carey Mulligan who we felt should be cast in EVERYTHING. For years afterwards if we were underwhelmed by an actress in a role we’d say, ‘They should have Sparrowed it’.

Last but not least, I was delighted to glimpse the Doctor and Martha in the middle of another adventure. Martha with a bow and a quiver of arrows was a gift in itself, but how delicious to think that the show doesn’t cover everything that our heroes get up to in the TARDIS!”

Two angels are attacking

ANDREW SMITH, writer Full Circle and Big Finish author:
“Of all my new-Doctor Who viewing experiences, Blink stands out as the one I remember best. Particularly for when I commented to my wife, about thirty minutes in, that this was not just one of the best episodes of Who, but one of the best hours of telly in years.

Gripping from beginning to end, with a magnificent central concept, and introducing one of the most terrifying and original monsters in the show’s 50+ year history, Blink burns itself into the memory. And it was that year’s ‘Doctor-light’ episode, the one we’re not supposed to like! But of course, we don’t like it. We love it.”

NICHOLAS BRIGGS, voice of the Daleks:
“I actually saw it at Steven Moffat’s house, with a bunch of other people including Tom Spilsbury and Rob Shearman. Steven's sons were literally hiding behind the sofa, right behind me. Their way of stopping themselves being scared was to tell me what was going to happen next! So, I had every scary moment spoilt for me a split second before it happened! :D

It was also my first experience of pausing of ‘live’ TV. Steven had to nip off and do something just before the episode. So, he ‘paused’ it. I was flabbergasted. I remember him saying he didn’t understand how it worked either, and that it was like magic!”

EDWARD RUSSELL, Doctor Who Brand Manager:
“I almost always attend episodes or watch cuts of them along the way and I never miss out on reading the script, but for some reason - I think because we're were making another two episodes at the same time - I missed out on Blink.

I got to see it at the same time as everyone else and truly experience it as a fan. The only time that's happened in 12 years of working on the show. And what an episode to be a fan for.

It's proof that Doctor Who's success is down to its limitless format. Future generations will talk about this as a landmark in 21st century culture!”

One angel reaches out

JENNY T COLGAN, author Dark Horizons, In The Blood, and many more:
“I’ve seen Blink a lot, because it's the one I show to people who think they don't like Doctor Who. It's the Who equivalent of Back for Good by Take That.

It feels slightly unfair to other television shows, Blink, because it is so crammed full of stuff that everything else seems lame and dull and stupid by comparison. It's so very clever and sad and moving and clear- and it's proper, proper frightening. Although the last time we watched it, I had to pause it and explain to my children what a DVD was and how it might have an egg inside it.

Carey Mulligan counts as a full companion in my opinion. She glows. And I remember very vividly the first time I watched it thinking, at the final static shots of all the statues, there are going to be some UTTERLY traumatised children in the playground Monday morning. I was right about that. Blink isn't just good for Doctor Who: it's a landmark in all of television. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's art.”

JOE LIDSTER, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Big Finish writer:
Blink is quite rightly praised for how clever and scary is it but the scene that’s really stayed in my mind is Billy’s death which I just think is one of the most beautiful scenes there’s ever been in Doctor Who.”

A.K. BENEDICT, Big Finish writer:
Blink is as brilliant as when I first watched it ten years ago. Its brutal and beautiful premise; great performances; emotional pull; gorgeous direction and cinematography; delightful script that provided the greatest of modern Who phrases/excuses; silent, sinister monsters; and elegant solution had me on my feet applauding a decade ago and still has me spellbound every time I watch.

It is a world in itself - I still think of Sally Sparrow and wonder what she's doing with her timey-wimey life.”

ANDREW ELLARD, TV writer and script editor:
Blink is a breathtaking exercise in problem solving. You can tell, because nobody ever describes it that way.

Problem: Production needs to make a Doctor/Martha-lite episode.
Solution: Strand the characters outside their own show. (Okay, people do talk about that one.)
Problem: Then you have no lead character.
Solution: Make this a story about a woman who stumbles into the Doctor's world. For bonus points go for an alliterative name: Sally Sparrow. She already sounds like the hero of her own comic.
Problem: In this show people meet aliens all the time, so why Sally? Why will we be okay with this?
Solution: Because the Doctor requests her. It's like he's whipped out a psychic rubber stamp: Lead Character Approved
Problem: But why would he choose her?
Solution: Wibbly-wobbly timey...y'know.

A million problems get so invisibly solved from there - why the Doctor is stranded, what draws Sally in, how they communicate. They get solved so well that we talk about them as virtues: The brilliant DVD conversation, the shockingly real concept of seeing someone young immediately die of old age. But my favourite is this one:

Problem: Doctor Who monsters are wonderfully designed, but often look rather man-in-a-suity once they start moving.
Solution: The weeping angels.”

A close up of an angel

RICHARD STARKINGS, creator/writer Elephantmen:

If I’m honest, the only reason I’ve kept track of Carey Mulligan in her Hollywood star turns in Drive, Never Let Me Go and An Education was because I was hoping to fall in love with her all over again the way I did after her performance in Blink. No chance. Could a Doctor Who companion who never was a companion BE any more adorbz?

With the benefit of hindsight you can see that Sally and Larry are pretty much a blink to the future – a template for Amy and Rory – if you doubt me, play the scene where they complete the conversation with the Doctor on the DVD in your head with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Sally and Larry. Hmm? See? And what happened to Amy and Rory a few years later? They suffered the same fate as Elvis Costello – I mean Kathy Nightingale – they were sent back in time by an angel to live out their lives a hundred years ago. Full circle without marshmen. A Classic!

A show with everything except Doc Brown and Clara.”

MORGAN JEFFERY, Digital Spy TV Editor:
Rose might've been the episode that reintroduced our show to the masses, but to me, it seemed like Blink was the one that really captured the nation.

I have vivid memories of meeting some friends for a drink, the day after Sally Sparrow's terrifying adventure aired on BBC One. None of them were what you'd call 'fans' - yet I arrived at the pub to find them all talking about Weeping Angels, and how scary last night's Doctor Who had been.

That's a testament, I think, to how gripping, how sad, how wonderful and how powerful a piece of writing Blink is - it wasn't just Doctor Who fans looking twice at statues after June 9, 2007.”

A very special thank you to all who gave their time to be involved in this piece.

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