Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited

Amy: 'I'm going to pull time apart for you.'

After the sub par 'Age of Steel/Rise of the Cybermen' this was a real step up in quality from Tom MacRae. This is the kind of episode that Doctor Who excels at: a girl lost in time, waiting for the Doctor. ('The Girl in the Fireplace', 'School Reunion', 'The Big Bang'.) If the highlight of the first half of the season was 'The Doctor's Wife', then this must surely be the zenith of the back six. If there's better still to come, I'll eat my fez.

After last week's trailer, I was unenthusiastic about tonight's offering. Visually it looked uninspiring; the cast size looked limited, with its locations restricted to either sterile white rooms or CGI-ed exteriors; and the robots looked like budget versions of Marvin the Paranoid Android. But the contrast between the featureless interior of the Twostreams facility, and the beauty of the Shill Governor's mansion, emphasised perfectly a world out of balance. A world where kindness could be deadly. Shallanna's exquisite surroundings mirrored one of the episode's main themes: that beauty is more than skin deep. Despite its idyllic gardens, and the saccharine cordiality of the Handbots, Apalapuchia was as dull as a brick.

All of the principle actors shone tonight. Karen had the most screen time, and delivered a mesmerising performance as future-Amy. Everything about her was unfamiliar: her voice was gruffer, her face older—even her posture was different. She was more intelligent, too. I can't imagine our Amy bandying about words and phrases like 'nexus of time' and 'causality'—not without us suspecting that she'd been possessed by aliens anyway. Would she really have had the know-how to build a sonic probe, though? Probably not. I liked that she refused to call it a sonic screwdriver, as if the name itself conjured up memories of the Doctor: her betrayer, the man she hated most in the whole world.

Despite being essentially a character piece exploring the enduring relationship between Rory and Amy, the story idea itself was complex enough to warrant multiple viewings to appreciate its intricacies. The mechanics of the two time streams was a little dense, but I liked the concept of the 'kindness facility', the Handbots, and the giant magnifying glass which enabled them to see between time streams. (Reminiscent of the device used in Fringe to peer between worlds). It's rare we get more than a veneer of sci-fi in Doctor Who—it's more a fantasy show at heart—but this was probably the most sci-fi-heavy episode thus far this season.

My first moment of ocular seepage came when the two Amys first met. Them bonding over Rory was impossibly touching. Rory is beautiful in all the ways which matter most. Despite Amy's initial coldness towards him—and her seeming lack of concern at the thought of him dying—he still refused to walk away. He still had her back. Tom MacRae did a great job of making Amy and Rory's relationship feel epic. Rory's already waited 2000 years for Amy. Admittedly, Rory was a willing participant in his bimillennial wait, whereas Amy's 36 year stint was more an unexpected glitch, but Rory sprawled helpless, on the ground, seemed to reboot her feelings for him. Not that she ever stopped loving him. Why else would she name a robot after him? A handless, non-talking, balloon-headed robot... with no genitals.

I knew future-Amy would refuse to help. Why would she agree to a scheme which would result in her non-existence? Yes, her younger self would live on, but she'd become a different Amy. The events which formed her would never happen. Those closing moments outside the TARDIS were so moving. Despite the Doctor's lies, and Rory's indecision, it was Amy who chose to let go. She begged Rory not to let her in. She knew that, despite it meaning the end of them, if Rory had opened the TARDIS' door, she'd have walked through. Such was her desire to live and her love for Rory. Her giving Amy her years, the years she could never have with Rory, had me in tears. (Yes, I am that soft.) Despite rescuing Amy, tonight's episode felt like such a failure. The Doctor's insistence that future-Amy wasn't real would have felt a whole lot more convincing had she not been outside, banging on the TARDIS' door. Lovely slo-mo of future-Amy's face on seeing the Doctor again. Her animosity and distrust seemed to melt away—only for him to betray her again. Yet still she sacrificed herself for them. For the Doctor. For Rory. For a future she'd never have.

What it means to be alive was briefly explored in 'The Rebel Flesh' and 'The Almost People', but the moral implications of wiping future-Amy from existence were far more complex. Flesh Amy was nothing more than a simulacrum. Destroying her broke the mental connection between her and the host, leaving Amy essentially unharmed—but, abandoning future-Amy meant leaving her to die. I thought Arthur Darvill handled the emotion of those scenes perfectly. Rory couldn't deal with it at all. It was like Sophie's Choice... but, with identical wives. And robots. And nobody was called Sophie. And no Nazis.

The Doctor always knew they could only take one Amy with them. The paradox would have torn the TARDIS apart. (Despite the TARDIS accommodating two Amys in the Comic Relief episode 'Time'—making for one epic continuity error). Rule number one: The Doctor lies. I loved that last shot of the Doctor's face after Amy asked 'Where is she?' He looked so guilty. For once, the decision of who lives and who dies wasn't his—it was Rory's. I think everyone hated the Doctor midway through tonight's episode. Rory hated him for making him choose, Amy hated him for leaving her behind, and I dare say the Doctor hated himself for what he had to put them through, not to mention his inability to act in their stead.

The Doctor sticking his tongue out at Amy, and her smile in response, felt like normality restored, yet the events of this episode must surely have future ramifications—for them, if not for the story. Rory got a taste of what it feels like to be the Doctor, and hated every minute of it; Amy got to peek into her own future, and saw what she might one day become; and the Doctor got to experience the agony of leaving his best friend behind—again! Can things ever be the same?

Other Thoughts:

—Amy and Rory's first kiss was during the Macarena. Shame Amy was so terrible at it. I was looking forward to seeing her dance, too.

—There's a Karaoke bar in the TARDIS! I'm guessing 'The Doctor and I' by John Barrowman will be on there. And maybe 'Doctorin' the TARDIS' by The Time Lords. Frazer Hines' 'Who's Doctor Who'. Pertwee's 'The Doctor'. I'm sure I'm missing a few.

—Rory-cam felt a little like the contacts in Torchwood, but cooler. Glasses are cool!

—Chen 7 is a one day plague effecting only two hearted races.

—They have a Disneyland at Clom. Imagine a roller-coaster full of Abzorbaloffs. There's one episode I hope they never make.

—Breaking a paper thin Mona Lisa over a robot's head deactivates it how? A paper cut, maybe?

Quotes:

Handbot: “Will you be visiting long?”
Rory: “Good question. Bit sinister. What's the answer to not get us killed?”

Rory: “Bit of Earth. Bit of alien. Bit of... whatever the hell that is.”

Future-Amy: “You didn't save me.”
Rory: “But this is the saving. This is us saving you. The Doctor just got the timing a bit out.”

Future-Amy: “Eyes front, soldier.”
Rory: “Still can't win, then?”

Amy: “I hate him. I hate the Doctor.”

Amy: “They look ridiculous.”
Rory: “That's what I told him. Still, anything beats a fez, eh?”

Amy: “Woman with a sword. Don't push it.”

Doctor: “Time is always a bit wibbly-wobbly, but in Twostreams it's extra wubbly.”

Amy: “Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met.”

Future-Amy: “You're asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself, for a boy?”
Amy: “You're Amy. He's Rory... and, oh yes, I am.”

Doctor: “Yes, if anyone could defeat pre-destiny, it's your wife.”

Rory: “Two Amys together. Can that work?”
Doctor: “I don't know. It's your marriage.”

Doctor: “It's not rocket science. It's quantum mechanics.”

Future-Amy: “Hello.”
Amy: “Hello.”
Both Amys: “I don't know what to...”
Rory: “Weird.”

Rory: “Amy, you always say cooking Christmas dinner, you wish there were two of you.”

Rory: “Can you unlock them?”
Future-Amy: “Yeah, just give me a minute and your cutest smile. That's the one.”
Rory: “Can you stop flirting with me?”
Future-Amy: “I've know you my whole life. How many games of Doctors and Nurses?”
Rory: “Shhh!”

Rory: “This isn't fair. You're turning me into you.”

Future-Amy: “Tell Amy, your Amy, I'm giving her the days. The days with you. The days to come.”
Rory: “I'm so, so sorry.”
Future-Amy: “The days I can't have. Take them, please. I'm giving you my days.”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

13 comments:

Juliette said...

Brilliant, brilliant episode. Three tiny problems:

1. Rory's just gonna let her whine about 36 years when he waited 2000?!

2. If someone says 'push the button' and there are two, you ask which one. And you certainly don't push the red one!

3. Old Amy remembered the conversation with Young Amy where she refused to help. So what changed? What broke the time loop (sort of) that made Old Amy change her mind? Rory had to have been there both times and Amy had to have said the exact same things. Someone needs to watch Red Dwarf's 'Future Echoes' again!

Josie Kafka said...

What a beautiful review, Paul.

Cesar said...

Good episode.

I agree with Juliette's first two points, but I think Old Amy remembering was something along the lines of A Christmas Carol, where the old man started remembering meeting the Doctor "in real time" while the Doctor was changing the past.

Also, I think the problem of having two Amys was the paradox of her younger self being there when the older one had never been saved. In the Time and Space episode all the characters interactions form a closed timeline (none of them did anything that "changed" what happened)

Michael Colvin said...

Rule for time travelers: when faced with a choice of a green or a red button, don't push the red one...

Lovely ode to the couple and to the idea of having a married couple in the tardis. Gold stars to Karen Gillan for her lovely acting.

Stephen said...

thought this was a Great episode, was so emotional towards the end, I think the events of this episode will really have an effect on Rory.

The two time streams did make my head hurt when I started to think about it though!

inspirejenny said...

It was a brilliant episode... so touching. I thought the scene of future amy swashbuckling her way through the room while protecting young amy and rory was fabulous...
She really looked natural kicking robot booty.
It seemed sort of jarring and un-doctor-like to just shut the door in future amy's face... (this was the same guy who insisted that the flesh was real?) i can see he had to but he was so un-repentant so " she is not real".... kind of cold. he seems a bit more coldhearted than #10. is he jealous of rory and amy's closeness? all around a sad-dish episode, great but poignant and i agree with the comment that in the end the rescue sort of felt like an epic fail... it will be interesting to see how this changes rory.. does he still want to travel with the doctor?

jayelsea said...

Missing a few? How about all of Chameleon Circuit? :p
http://chameleoncircuit.bandcamp.com/

shawnlunn2002 said...

I loved this episode. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Sooze said...

shawn - Ditto for me.

Michael - I agree - I wasn't sure about a married couple at first - but I haven't been sorry about it once.

I love when DW packs an emotional punch, and this one did it, tears and all. All three (Karen, Arthur and Matt) played their parts and the emotions wonderfully - very believable. I was so wrapped up in all that, that I didn't bother trying to think through the logistics of two Amy's and the time differences and all that.

Patryk said...

I think they just planted the seed for a companion change in this episode. Brilliant ep, but probably only 3 eps with Rory and Amy to go. Also the Doctor/River relationship is kinda entering the often hinted at married state. So she should be the next companion.

DK said...

With an attitude like hers I would have left her. Unbelievable how ungrateful she is. Well, not really come to think of it. I guess Rory has to put up with her but why does the doctor? I'd say he needs a new companion but the next will probably be worse. Sure wish the doctor would man up and stop letting the women walk all over him. What a wussy!

DK said...

... And, why is it in the doctor who universe the girls are better fighters than the men? The sexual aggressors? And why must the men be so submissive? I really don't mind a little gender role reversal but when taken to extremes it's a real downer.

WheatBread said...

Future Amy kicked serious butt, and why should she be grateful? This was an Amy who had been hardened by surviving alone for decades (and without the aid of a hand that turns into a gun, mind you). The idea that Rory waited 2000 years without being significantly changed by that experience, while epically romantic, is the far less believable thread.

And really, the gender reversals in this show are far from extreme. Yes, some of the women are gun-slingers and have the ability to out fight the Doctor- but that has never been the Doctor's style anyway. The Doctor is a singular man in the show who consistently refuses gun violence and who cares so much (often about other species) that it is to his own detriment. There are literally dozens of examples of men and male-aliens on the show who are the exact opposite. And plenty of women play to stereotype (Rose's mom, anyone?). As for the women companions, despite being shown to be extremely clever, by virtue of traveling with the Doctor they seem to need constant rescuing. Not to mention the fact that Donna is the *only* companion in new Who not to be an extremely young woman who has romantic feelings for the Doctor.

So it gets a little tiresome seeing comments that Doctor Who is some fantastic example of gender role reversal. There's some window dressing, for sure, but I'm still waiting for a woman Doctor.