Doctor Who (6.10): A killing kindness

I’ve a horrible feeling that the Ponds’ time in the TARDIS is coming to an end. The Girl Who Waited is horror of a different kind – no universe-threatening evil plan, no Earth-destroying aliens, but a man forced to choose between the wife he knows and adores and the wife he doesn’t know quite so well because she’s been waiting for him for 36 years. The Ponds are certainly testing their wedding vows to the point of destruction, and I fear that there’s not much more they can take.

Which will be a shame because I love Amy (I have developed a bit of a girl-crush on her to be honest) and I adore Rory. Only Rory would even attempt to put two different, but equally feisty, Amys inside the TARDIS after all.  I can only hope Steven Moffat will prove me wrong about this theory.

(Spoilers, sweeties, below the line…)

There is so much packed into what appears to be a quiet little episode. Instead of a lovely holiday on the second most popular planet in the universe (the first one is apparently all coffee shops), the Doctor is stuck inside the TARDIS hiding from a one-day plague that affects only two-hearted beings (the Apalapucians and Gallefreyians – and when I say affects, I do of course, mean it kills then in 24 hours), while Amy is trapped inside a quarantine facility, in danger of being killed by the kindness of robot nurses. Rory is attempting to rescue her, but she’s in a different time stream which is running far faster than his.

Which means by the time Rory does reach her, she’s been waiting more than 36 years for him. A truly brilliant bit of make-up ages Karen Gillan perfectly, and she puts in a stunning performance as the older Amy t00.

But this really isn’t about who does what (for the most part anyway), it’s about putting Amy and Rory under the microscope. (It does it so well, that it’s only as I write this that I realise the annual Doctor-lite episode has just been screened without me noticing. These guys are very, very good. But I digress…)

Did the episode title make you think of Rory by the way (I did), or did you leap straight to all the previous waiting that Amy has done? It’s notable that Rory does waiting a lot better than Amy. I’m not saying she loves him less than he loves her, but I can’t imagine her waiting a thousand years for him outside the Pandorica. She wouldn’t have given up on him, but she’d have done more than wait. Just look what she did with the 36 years she’s had on Apalapucia – she’s hacked the main computer, built a sonic screwdriver, built a suit of armour from bits salvaged from the robots she’s destroyed, tamed and disarmed one to turn into a pet called Rory, and developed some wicked ninja fighting skills. And she’s very, very angry.

The Boy Who Waited waited a thousand years, and didn’t seem all that put out about it really. Writing it down, it sounds like a character flaw, but it’s Rory’s loyalty and (most of the time, these days) calmness that make he so attractive. So what a terrible thing for writer Tom MacRae to do to him – make him choose between two Amys. The one he came to save and the one he’s found, the one who’s waited…

We’ve been shown flashes of why the Ponds’ relationship works in the past, but there have been too many questions left unanswered (fine with big storyline mystery arcs, not so good for a relationship between two central characters), now we get a little flesh on the bones. From Rory being upset not that Amy has got older, but that they didn’t grow old together, to his anguish when he realises older Amy won’t help save her younger self from the 36-year wait (because she will then cease to exist) and his tears when he can’t save them both (and older Amy sacrifices herself to save our Amy) – what woman wouldn’t want a husband like that?

And we get Amy’s explanation too, he’s not one of the beautiful, but dull-as-a-brick types, but the kind whose face becomes them, ‘their personality is written all over it and they become so beautiful. Rory’s the most beautiful man [she's] ever met.’ Which is why she will pull time apart for him. And sacrifice her older self for him.

Those last few minutes of conversation through the TARDIS door were an astounding performance from Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill and worthy of any tears shed by soft-hearted viewers across the land. But honestly, how much more of this can the Ponds take?

Best bits of The Girl Who Waited:

  • The Doctor waxes lyrical about Apalapucia – “sunsets, spires, soaring silver colonnades” and then berates Amy for wanting to update Twitter about it (although, actually she wants her phone so she can photograph the sunsets, spires and soaring silver colannades).
  • The kindness of the two-streams facility – instead of sitting by someone’s bedside for 24 hours watching them die, you can sit in the waiting room for 24 hours and watch them live.
  • The ‘small act of vandalism’ alarm…
  • The faintly sinister tone of the robot trying to deal with Amy’s unregistered bacteria, and the mismatch between the calm voice declaring the ‘secondary system engaged’ and the robot head opening out to display an arsenal of drug-filled needles. Though it did also remind me of the electronic jellyfish with their “You will experience a tingling sensation and then death” in Let’s Kill Hitler.
  • Finally I see the point of topiary (no pun intended)…
  • That Rory is concerned with whether the thousands of people in Red Waterfall timestreams are happy. I bet he was a really good nurse.
  • Rory and robot Rory waiting for the two Amys to sort things out, like fathers outside a maternity ward in the ’50s.
  • The paradox of Amy changing her own future – something that every rule of time says shouldn’t be possible. The Doctor: “Yes, except sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it. Especially if you’re bloody-minded, contradictory and completely unpredictable.*” Rory: “So basically if you’re Amy then?” The Doctor: “Yes, if anyone can defeat pre-destiny, it’s your wife…”
  • * We’re all thinking about Lake Silencio again aren’t we?
  • Rule number one: The Doctor lies and that line about Doomsday pumpers and jettisoning the karaoke bar should have been a big red flag on first viewing. Shame on me for not spotting it. Especially since he couldn’t meet Amy’s eyes on the screen – when she she couldn’t even see him.
  • “Come on Rory, it’s not rocket science… it’s quantum physics.”
  • The Macarena? Really?
  • “How about Amy One speaks first?” Oops…
  • The awkwardness of older Amy flirting with poor Rory while younger Amy watches.
  • Older Amy slicing her way through the Handbots a la River Song.

Posted by Jo the Hat

5 Comments

Filed under Dr Who

5 responses to “Doctor Who (6.10): A killing kindness

  1. Corumba Love

    Hey ho Hat & Jo

    Not really watching Dr Who much these days but Favourite Younger Son made me watch this episode and I’m so glad I did. Can’t really contribute much to the conversation, though, other than saying “Apalapuchia” sounds rather like “I’ll pull up a chair” which is quite apt for a good story set on a popular planet.

    Ooh and my favourite line, the Doctor to Rory: “I don’t know, it’s your marriage,” when the latter was dithering about the two Ames.

    • Hat Jr also liked the planet name and kept repeating it in quiet moments. According to her this was 8 out of ten and the best bit was the robots getting their heads chopped off.
      And, yes, I liked that line about Rory’s marriage too. Well reminded!

  2. .::Big.Bang::.

    According to BBC subtitles, it’s spelt Apalapucia. And I really do fear Rory is going to be killed by River in episode 13 – ergo her hating weddings. God, I hope I’m wrong!

  3. Tim

    An absolutely magnificent episode – a simple sci-fi concept with a genuine moral dilemma and a shining human heart.

    I’m not sure the Ponds are heading for a sticky end, but I do wonder – even though it seems a bit TOO obvious – whether this episode gives us the solution to the conundrum of the much older Doctor being killed at Lake Silencio. Food for thought.

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