Doctor Who Flux: Why are the Weeping Angels so scary? Psychologist weighs in
20th November 2021

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who and the Weeping Angels

Doctor Who: Flux has seen the return of absolutely iconic monsters – and now it’s time for one of the fan favourites, the Weeping Angels.

Created by former head writer Steven Moffat and first appearing in series three episode Blink, the Angels are referred to by some fans as one of the most terrifying monsters ever created for the sci-fi.

For the uninitiated, when you’re looking at them, they resemble stone statues – but look away, and they can move ever closer.

They live off time energy, often eradicating victims by dropping them into the past and letting them live out their lives in a different time period – but they’re not above snapping a few necks when the situation suits them.

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott revealed that it’s the way the Angels tend to suddenly appear from the periphery or from behind a character and their threatening demeanour that most invokes our fear response.

‘As primates who developed forward looking eyes because we moved into the trees some time ago, although we have great depth of vision we don’t have great field of vision, say like a lizard because it has eyes on the side of its head,’ he explained to Metro.co.uk.

‘We are massively attuned to try and compensate for this problem during times of threat. Our peripheral vision enhances and anything that emerges from behind, or our periphery is prioritised for threat assessment when we are afraid.’

And their absolutely terrifying faces don’t help the situation.

McDermott added: ‘We are very much attuned to a number of things during threat with facial recognition being of prime importance – is this a threat face or friendly face?

‘Our perceptions include our visual awareness and there is a direct physical stimulus which actually bypasses the eyes and goes straight to fear central (the amygdala) when trying to assess threat faces. We literally can sense if a face is a threat or not. That is before our eyes have even had the chance to capture the image and send it to the brain for analysis.’

Commenting on one of the Angels’ first appearances, when they attacked Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) and Larry Nightingale (Finlay Robertson) in Blink, McDermott went on to say: ‘This sequence plays into these processes which are our most autonomic (unconscious/not available to reason) threat mechanisms. This process is the “do not pass go, do not collect £200, go directly to jail” fear responses that are body responses not brain responses. They are reflexive.

‘It’s the same as the frozen statues game kids love to play. We love this level of hyper stimulation. This scene is very well done, and stimulates this fear response brilliantly.’

The Weeping Angels have been brought back various times since Blink, with writer Moffat previously telling us that he hates the idea that the show would ever remain ‘faithful’ to his creation.

‘Every time you bring back a Doctor Who monster, you should be slightly irreverent with it,’ he pointed out. ‘You shouldn’t stick to all the rules. You should break a few. That’s the way it works, otherwise you’re just erecting a monument to the past and that doesn’t work.

‘Within Doctor Who, there’s a dynamic balance between being respectful and being iconoclastic really, saying: “Yeah but what if we did it this way?” or just doing something cheeky with it. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t really feel like Doctor Who. It’s respectful and grave and important, which are tedious qualities that should never get involved in Doctor Who!’

Doctor Who Flux: Village of the Angels will air on BBC One on Sunday at 6:20pm.

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