by Paul Kelly
Doctor: “Yes, squeaky bum time.”
Virtually every TV paper this week gave tonight's episode a lukewarm reception. Some went as far as saying it was a disappointment after last week's “suspenseful opener”. I respectfully disagree. Firstly, I didn't think last week's episode was particularly suspenseful. Secondly, I don't think tonight's episode suffered by way of comparison. Okay, so it wasn't marvelous. But there was more than enough content to keep me entertained; and plenty of mystery to keep me wondering.
I got a real thrill out of hearing Stephen Moore's voice at the start of this episode. Not because the opening narration was particularly brilliant, but because I have fond memories of Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV series, radio series and audio book). Intriguingly, Eldane's message was from a thousand years in the future. Which makes me think this story is far from over. And Nasreen calling out “come look for us” also seems to suggest that there's unfinished business. Will the Silurians be back later in the season?
Obviously, the big moment of the episode was Rory's death. Oh, Rory, so soon? We hardly knew you. I'd heard rumours that Rory was going to die. I just didn't believe them. So many rumours turn out to be nonsense. This time, unfortunately, they were true. Not only did Rory die, he ceased to have ever been. He was subtracted from existence. Not only could Amy not remember him, there was nothing there for her to remember. Which is annoying, because I'd just started to like Rory.
Last week, we were left to ponder the possible significance of Amy's engagement ring, and tonight, there it was again. It fell to the floor as the TARDIS landed. Amy may not have been able to keep her memories of Rory alive, but the ring is tangible proof that he existed. Plus, we've had enough reminders this season that time can be rewritten. Will the Doctor devise a method of using the ring to bring back Rory?
My heart sank when Ambrose tried to take control. There's always one idiot. At first, I sympathised with her plight. Alaya was asking for it... with the taunts, and the insults, and whatnot. Not that she deserved to die. But I can understand Ambrose's frustration, and her need to force Alaya into being more cooperative. But the change from loving mum, to torturer, to murderer was a little too quick for my liking. And when she started with the “we're not going to do what you say any more” spiel, my sympathy evaporated completely. From that moment onwards, it became obvious that things were going to end badly.
Ambrose completely ignored the Doctor's admonishment to stay calm. If only Rory had been more assertive, and taken charge of the situation, maybe they would've stood a chance. And then, once underground, Ambrose started shooting her mouth off again. No wonder Elliot walked away in disgust. In the end, Ambrose's stupidity cost them Rory, and lost Ambrose her own father. Tony didn't have much choice but to stay. It was either that or die a painful death.
Ultimately, it was Rory's insistence that they return Alaya's body, which tipped the scales against them. Her death was all the confirmation Restac needed that the humans were vermin and a danger to her people. And thus the wheels fell off. Rory died saving the Doctor. I did find his death touching. It was simple. Uncomplicated. There were no long death speeches. Just a compliment to Amy ("you're beautiful") and an apology. That was so Rory; apologising for his own death. It was almost as if he believed he couldn't die; as if seeing his future self somehow rendered him temporarily indestructible. Yet even that part got rewritten. Despite Amy sensing another person's presence on the hill, her future self was alone. Rory was gone. In fact, he was never there to begin with.
And for the second time this season, Amy almost forfeited her life because of Rory. The first time, in “Amy's Choice”, she risked all to bring him back. And tonight, consumed with grief, the Doctor had to drag her into the TARDIS, as the light from the crack consumed Rory and expunged him from existence. Another few seconds and she would've been gone. Thank goodness that didn't happen. But a solid performance from Karen Gillan tonight. She totally sold it.
And, if us watching Amy's grief wasn't painful enough, we also had to watch her slowly forget Rory. Unfortunately, for the Doctor, he now carries the burden of knowing that Rory died to save him. And that Amy never knew him.
Shame about Malokeh dying. Along with Eldane, he was the only Silurian sympathetic to the human cause. Eldane recognised that humans could be peaceable, that they'd evolved, and could envision a world where both species lived in harmony. A world of shared knowledge and mutual prosperity. But, as is so often the case, the belligerents prevailed and the visionaries either died or were outnumbered.
The grand farewell between Tony and Ambrose didn't really work for me. I didn't really connect with Ambrose, and Nasreen and Tony were pretty much forgettable -- so it was hard to shed a tear for any of them. Poor acting maybe? Poor characterisation? And there were just too many clichés. We've got all the time in the world? I've found what I was digging for? Nice geological gag, but really?
And it's looking as though the cataclysmic event which caused the crack in the universe was the TARDIS exploding in the future. That was the implication of finding the TARDIS fragment, right? I loved the way the Doctor covered his hand with a handkerchief before sticking it through the crack. What was that handkerchief made out of, exactly? Asbestos? Some kind of super-strong space material that not only protects from crazy space radiation, but also absorbs mucus?
An entertaining two-parter, but nowhere near the quality of season three's "Human Nature/The Family of Blood" or season four's "The Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead".
Bits and pieces:
-- New methods of water supply? We've got loads, mate. That stuff never goes anywhere. It's indestructible.
-- I found myself curiously attracted to Restac this week. Which isn't much of a surprise as Neve McIntosh played both Alaya and Restac. Hence the family resemblance, I suppose.
-- There was a big step up in CGI quality this week. The Silurians' tongues looked much better, and the Silurian City looked glorious. A little like a video game environment, actually.
-- Picking a lizard man's pocket while your hands are restrained? Excellent (some would say impossible) work.
-- The short skirt gags continued this week with the Silurians commenting on Amy's resistance to cold. Which prompted Amy to cry out “I dressed for Rio”. I wish she'd dress for Rio more often.
-- Human germs keep the Doctor alive.
-- When Tony told Rory not to tell the Silurians what had happened to Alaya, Restac was looking right at them. How did she not hear what they were saying?
-- Okay, people really need to stop saying things like "nobody's going to die today" and "I won't let you die". It never works. Unless, of course Rory's going to be be rewritten back into time, and they somehow manage to resurrect Alaya.
Mo: “I'm fine love. I've found Elliot. I'm bringing him home”
Are you really, Mo? Even when you're tied up and and about to be executed?
Doctor: “You've not got any celery, have you?”
Doctor: “Hello. Who are you?”
Restac: “Restac. Military Commander.”
Doctor: “Oh dear, really? There's always a military, isn't there?”
Amy: “Okay, sorry. As rescues go it didn't live up to its potential.”
Restac: “Do you understand who we are?”
Rory: “Sort of. A bit. Not really.”
Doctor: “Come on. Be extraordinary.”
Doctor: “Malokeh, I rather love you.”
Tony: "I'll be here. Always."
Right, Tony. You and ET.
Rory: "We were on the hill. I can't die here."
Amy: "Don't say that."
Rory: "You're so beautiful... I'm sorry."