Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Rory's Choice

Doctor Who
The Girl Who Waited
Series Six, Episode Ten

In Doctor Who, the rules of time travel can be a little… hazy.  Some things you just can’t change.  Some things you can.  And some things you can't, except for when you decide to anyway, which may or may not have consequences.  Got all that?*

Then, just when you're making sense of it, along comes The Girl Who Waited with a new spin on things.  Some things you can change, but what if they don't want to be changed?

Amy is trapped in a fast timestream, so she waits for rescue.  She waits for 36 years.  But that's no problem: just go back and rescue the Amy from 36 years ago, and Bob's your uncle!**

Except Future Amy doesn't want to be erased from existence, crappy life or no.  Bob is definitely not your uncle.

We like this.  It's a logical worst case scenario version of The Eleventh Hour, where the Doctor's lateness irrevocably mucked up Amy's past, and here results in an entire misspent life.***  Amy is unwilling to let him wave it away with a sonic screwdriver and a smile, and quite right.

Old Amy has a perfectly valid point: thirty six years of her life will be erased.  As bad as it might have been, there’s no way of telling if the new version will be any better.  Also, erasing the thirty six years will erase the Doctor's mistake.  Perhaps Amy wants the Doctor to live with the consequences for once, no quick fixes, no magic wands, just Old Amy and a guilty conscience.  Big surprise, he feels differently.

This episode is very good to Amy and Rory, and about time, too.  No more ambiguous hints about Amy and the Doctor: this love is so strong, it can rip through time.  (And yes, we love the bit with the Macarena.)  Of course, Rory’s always great, but this is the first time in two years we’ve felt anything for Amy.  What a relief.  Karen Gillan is amazing.  She's convincing as her furious older self, hiding a forever love for Rory under anger and abandonment.  She's convincing as her younger self, trying to convince her counterpart to let go and give it up for love.  Scenes of the two thrashing it out could have been boring, but they're in safe hands.  Plus, she’s super pretty.

But what is Amy without Rory?  Like we said, Rory's always great, but Arthur Darvill's non-stop gem of a performance here deserves a repeat.  We love him.  Plus, the glasses are adorable.

It's a good-looking episode.  The white set is a SF staple, it’s obviously really cheap but it looks cool, especially against the TARDIS.  The director gets the most out of it, particularly when switching between red and green rooms.  It's an oldie, but a goodie.

That being said, STOP FILMING IN THE ARMADILLO – it’s the most recognisable building in Britain! 

The Armadillo?

The Wales Millennium Centre.

I'm not sure the, er, Armadillo is the most recognisable building in Britain. The Welsh might think so, I suppose.

I think it is.  From the inside, I've never seen anything like it.  Couldn't possibly ever mistake it for anything else.  Most buildings are pretty generic on the inside.

Looks kind of like an airport terminal.

No it doesn't. It looks like an armadillo.  It's all sloping and bronze.

I suppose.  But then I didn't think of the Millennium Centre at first.  I, uh, thought of New Earth.  Is that bad?


The slow motion sequence at the end goes on a bit - was the episode running under? - but there are a lot of nice camera shots, sticking two people’s faces in the frame and it really works.  Especially if some of them are super pretty.

Shame about the robots.  They actually look fine, until they start walking.  Seriously had enough of slow shuffling polite monsters now.  And how rubbish are they?  They have an incredibly basic understanding of phrases, Star Trek style (no one told me there were aliens, therefore you’re definitely lying, even though I am capable of scanning you and seeing you only have one heart), and their own hands short them out, along with artwork as thin as a poster.  Worst design ever.

So.  We like Amy, Rory, and Amy-and-Rory.  We like the moral dilemma and the look of most of it.  But we're not sure about the Doctor.

First of all he's got some funny ideas about kindness.  There's a lot to be said for quality of life over quantity, and apparently it's entirely up to Rory to notice that stuff, despite the Doctor being the universe's biggest humanitarian.

Secondly, after an episode spent setting up that Old Amy is a person too, the Doctor decides she's ‘not real’ and that's that.  Is he just preserving the timeline, does part of him want to conveniently get rid of the Amy that hates him, or is this about guilt, for Amy's past and for doing it all over again?  Saying ‘She's not real’ doesn't make much sense for the Doctor, who'd probably assign human rights to a sausage roll.  Is he trying to convince himself as much as Rory?****

Although it’s obvious from the start that Old Amy ain’t gonna make it, we’re really not sure what we’re supposed to get from the ending.  Old Amy wants both her and Young Amy to survive.  The Doctor tells her it’s possible.

And we know bigger paradoxes have worked in previous Who.


There's an obvious one, which involved making the TARDIS red instead of blue, but even so, it IS possible.


The Master?  Murdered the human race with the decendants of the human race?

That involved turning the TARDIS into a Paradox Machine. 

He turned the TARDIS red.  

It was a Paradox Machine.  The plot deliberately dealt with how that paradox was going to work.

Clearly the TARDIS is capable of controlling paradoxes then.

Clearly?  That was the Master for a start, and the TARDIS 'hates' paradoxes.

Says the Doctor.  Turning the TARDIS red/into a Paradox Machine was for a really big paradox.  This is only a little one.  So just make one corner red.

So is the Doctor lying to get her on side, or does he only realise it's not possible after the glasses short out, leaving him with no way to break the bad news?  Honestly, we doubt it's the latter.  He refers to Amy as ‘the nasty Amy’ to his TARDIS, he mentions lying, and when Rory asks him outright, he avoids answering the question.  It just cuts away at the end – what are we meant to take from that?  Is this poignancy or the writers copping out?  We're really hoping this situation will have echoes later on, but you never know with this show.

It doesn't help that this is almost a Doctor-lite episode, with Matt Smith stuck looking on in the TARDIS.  That'd be fine if the episode really was about Amy and Rory, but it's more about the tough call he makes, and the way he goes about it.  We don't know if the Doctor's reasoning is valid, because we don't see it.  And even if it is, which is probably is, why then does he stare Old Amy in the eyes and wait just long enough so he can slam the door in her face?  Why make a choice, then foist it on Rory, manipulating someone he knows is sensitive and kind into thinking it’s his fault?  Old Amy actively has to take the decision away from Rory to save him from the Doctor.  And then the Doctor sits there and actually waits for her to die before he leaves and rewrites time.

Rule one, the Doctor lies.  So does his catch phrase have to be ‘Trust me’?

Just what is this episode trying to tell us?  Amy trusts the Doctor, and wastes thirty-six years in a living hell; then the moment she trusts him again, he slams a door in her face and leaves her to die, before then erasing her from history.  I think what I’m getting here is ‘Don’t Trust The Doctor’.  Considering how manipulative he’s been this year, I wasn’t about to.  Someone hurry up, don a spacesuit, jump in a lake and take the bastard out.*****

Still, it's a very interesting idea and the actors give it their all, though it drags a bit in the end.  Somehow I doubt it's a big hit with the kids, with its emphasis on relationships and paradoxes, not to mention the shuffling Robots Of Dull.  Anyway, despite the moral minefield, I like it.

I don't.

* We're looking at you, Episode 13.

** The characters fathom what's going on much quicker than we did.  It should be an instantly understandable premise so you can concentrate on the emotions, but there's a lot of wiffly science and technobabble getting in the way.  Something about three levers?  And the Doctor’s theories on whether a timestream can be rewritten change every thirty seconds.

*** Thirty six years doesn't actually feel that much, considering Rory waited two thousand years, but whatever.

**** Because that’s just what the Doctor's personality needs.  More guilt.

*****Another week, another episode, glad there’s no River Song, infuriated there’s no mention of Melody.  Since it’s now apparently possible to see someone’s future and then change their past so it never happens… go and save your daughter maybe?  Just a thought.


  1. See, I liked how it looked, but I thought the story was silly. There's no Doctor Who canon, but there does need to be continuity, which is not the same thing- and here there's no continuity.

    Melody Pond (the baby) is apparently done and dusted.

    Poochy Song's absence has been a blessed relief but River Sue will bob up like an unflushed turd soon enough.

    Doctor Who needs to pick a set of Laws of Time and stick to them too.

  2. I think they regret the baby Melody storyline. Maybe they'll just never mention it again, except with very embarrassed faces.

    Also: again with all the footnotes? It breaks up the reading with all the scrolling, so I've given up even trying to read them. Ihope you don't say anything important in them.

    Nice review though.

  3. Yeah flick the footnotes, just order them into the main text. :)

    I agree Gillian, I think they did the melody baby thingy on the run and it has backfired beautifully. If beautifully is the word I was flailing around looking for.

    And it isn't.

  4. Haha!

    They should just go back to just well-written stories like they used to. Like in the David Tennant days. There was a mini through line of the 'Bad Wolf' thing, but it didn't take over and distract from great episodes like 'Blink' and generally excellent hour-long edge-of-your-seat frolics. I like frolics.

  5. Okay, so
    one, in retrospect, why did we ever think we could work together?
    two, is Amy really *that* pretty?
    three - to Flying Tiger Comics - 'River Sue' - ha ha ha ha ha ha.
    four - to Gloucester J. Shrubhill - hooray the red corner thing was ME.
    five - to Gillian - I do not recall Doctor Who being well-written in the David Tennant days.