Doctor Who Season 32, Episode 10–The Girl Who Waited

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Tom McRae has – somewhat surprisingly – delivered what for my money is the clear class of the second half of season 32 thus far.  It was a nice showcase for Karen Gillan as Amy (she’s been wearing on me somewhat this season) but even more, feeds the growing body of evidence that Arthur Darvill’s Rory is the best companion since the Baker (Tom) days.

For starters, I’ve always felt the dynamic of multiple companions worked better than one – especially when they comprise both genders.  Sarah Jane and Harry, Jamie and Zoe (my favorite companion pair), even Adric, Nyssa and Tegan – all of these dynamics worked well, despite each having its own limitations.  With just The Doctor and a pretty young girl, romantic subtext invariably gets in the way and because The Doctor tends to get “humanized” in those situations by the writers so as not to completely dominate the show, he’s reduced as a character in the process.  Amy and Rory work well as a pair because they can play off each other, allowing The Doctor to be the more remote, alien figure he should be.  Amy on her own, not so much (at least for me).

An interesting premise by McRae here, and he uses it well.  Amy trapped in a kind of temporal hospice where victims of a terminal disease that kills in a day (and only affects two-hearted victims) can live a full but isolated existence in their own personal time stream.  Nothing about the set design was expansive but the show looked good – exactly what you’d imagine that sort of sterile, pseudo-luxurious facility would look like.  The “nurses” – the handbots that Amy must avoid to survive as their two-hearty medicine would kill her – were humorous and ominous at the same time.  And Gillan did a fine job expressing what it would have been like for bright young Amy to survive 36 years on her own, feeling abandoned and fighting for survival every day, turning into a kind of female “Braveheart”.

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I don’t blame middle-aged Amy for being pissed when The Doctor and Rors showed up 36 years late, though I certainly wanted to scream at her that Rory had waited 2000 years for her once already.  Nevertheless, the dilemma that McRae set up was a fascinating philosophical, moral and emotional one – which Amy to save?  Of course Rory guessed correctly – The Doctor knew full well that the TARDIS would never abide two Amys existing side by side.  I suspect old Amy knew it too.  For me, the most powerful part of the episode came when Rory lashed out at The Doctor “You’re turning me into you!” That was a justified reaction at being forced to make a decision no one should have to face, but it was cold and surely struck The Doctor at her very heart(s).

It’s remarkable the degree to which the 28 year-old Smith has slipped into the Doctor’s skin – the difference in the last year is stark.  This is an old soul, this actor, and more so than any Doctor since Colin Baker he embodies the “otherness” at the heart of this character.  He’s also shown himself quite capable of messing up, as indeed he did in forcing the sadness and drama this week, perhaps more than any Doctor we’ve seen in the role.  It’s an interesting element to the character, being both vulnerable and remote at the same time, yet overtly emotional as well.  More than any Doctor, I think, Smith’s Doctor rises and falls with the strength of the material.  In the right hands, he’s poetry – a tragic and eternal figure.  But with a weak script, the house of cards comes tumbling down rather easily.

Next week is “The God Complex” by Toby Whitehouse.  The creator of “Being Human”, he’s written two previous “Who” stories including the superb “School Reunion in 2006, which featured the return of the late Liz Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and led directly to the creation of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”.  This one looks like a haunted hotel story of some kind.

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9 comments

  1. l

    It is this kind of episode that actually make me start watching Doctor Who. The Doctor ever so kind and wonderful… full of fault and funny at the same time. Can be so cruel when need to be, I bet beginner will be shocked that Doctor is capable of killing a companion even with good reason. Even old-timer like me was shocked and I knew he kill his entire race himself.

    I still remember the first episode I watched , played by Christopher Eccleston the 9th Doctor. At first, I realize what a stupid, childish show the show was. Then on episode 2(I always watch 2 episode of whatever before I passed any judgement), someone was burned to death and the doctor actually tried to kill the person responsible. At that time I knew this wasn't just any children show and I was hooked till now.

    Next episode: Hotel with full of monster? No problem even monster have things they fear..the Doctor.

    @Enzo
    Yes, Rory waiting for 2000 years was among the best emotional scene ever. I often dream a spin-off where Rory went on a journey as Roman soldier fighting to protect Amy. Then again he doesn't make a good protagonist, not enough initiative.

  2. t

    I think the question of "right" is essential to looking at the episode. I'm grateful that the episode didn't make light of the consequences of the decision, but I do believe the Doctor went too far, which could potentially be fantastic for the narrative.

    A few too many thoughts on last night's Doctor Who: http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/09/doctor-who-on-forgotten-wives-and.html

  3. Agreed. I definitely enjoy when we see the darker side of the Doctor. One of the weaknesses of the Davies era (and it wasn't exclusive to him, though he was the worst) was overhumanizing the character. Of course, setting 97% of his eps on Earth didn't help either.

  4. K

    Doctor Who is my single favorite show. Glad to see its being covered here.

  5. A

    My favorite companion is still Donna Noble. Smart, funny, checky, and 98% unavailable to the Doctor.

    It might be interesting if he could have a male companion in a future season though.

  6. I enjoyed Donna as well. She made a nice change from the pretty little girls who generally tag along with The Doctor.

    A male companion – as in, just he and The Doctor? That would be a pretty rare alignment indeed – the only time I can remember it happening was when Adric was with the Doctor for a couple of episodes before Nyssa joined up.

  7. H

    I thought there were a few times it was just Jamie and the Doctor? Not as familiar with that era but I thought that did happen once or twice.

  8. You could be right – been so long since I've seen the Troughton eps I can't remember.

  9. H

    Anyway, finally just got around to seeing the episode, but I think it's neat how there was Amy's Choice last season and this episode was kind of a Rory's Choice (with a sad ending everyone knew was coming but still hoped wouldn't happen anyway). I think it's one of if not the strongest episode of all of season six, a very nice showing.
    Oh and I completely agree about multiple companions at once working better on this show, I saw some Classic Who over the summer (think I saw every group you mentioned) and I really liked that kind of set-up better than the single female companion from RTD (even if Donna was awesome).

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