Doctor Who (5.7): Back to reality

I haven’t seen enough zombie films to be sure (the first twenty minutes of Shaun of the Dead three times doesn’t really count as proper experience, anymore than my intention to definitely see 28 Days Later), but I can’t help thinking that Amy’s Choice was the DW team’s sly dip into the genre.

It’s a hard episode to pin down in many ways – overly simplistic or quite clever? A dig at the show’s critics or a love letter to the Doctor? Or perhaps both (twice – as it were).

The premise is that the Doctor, Amy and Rory are sharing a dream – but which experience is reality? Is it Upper Leadworth, five years in the future where Rory is now a doctor and Amy has, in the Doctor’s words, “swallowed a planet”.

Or is it a dead TARDIS drifting towards a cold sun that will freeze them to death before the ship plummets into it?

The Dream Lord commands them to choose a reality (each of which contains something potentially fatal) and die in it, in order to wake up in reality. Of course, if you die in reality, then you, well just die.

So, which is real? Simon Nye has his work cut out. This isn’t eight hours of Ashes to Ashes, it’s 45 minutes of TV for kids (and their parents). Both realities could be real (I wouldn’t put it past Rory to grow a ponytail that awful), but both have anomalies too. Choices, choices… all made harder by the Dream Lord popping up as they switch randomly between realities to taunt them (especially the “flop-haired wuss” of a Doctor:  “If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open up a tawdry quirk shop.”).

Upper Leadworth is filled with very, very old people. The Doctor smells a rat: “Something doesn’t make sense. Let’s go and poke it with a stick…” The ‘rat’ is, naturally, a bunch of vengeful aliens living inside the OAPs, and turning humans into medium-sized piles of dust. (Incidentally, the second Red Dwarf allusion here.) Rumbled by our time-travellers, the pensioners shuffle menacingly on sticks and Zimmer frames through the village intent on making our heroes look more like the content of a dustbuster…

Back in the TARDIS, the ice fairies have coated everything and everyone in a thick layer of ice, and the Doctor tells Amy and Rory that the three of them must decide which reality is really real. He thinks the TARDIS is real, Rory thinks Upper Leadworth is the real deal. “Yes, but are we disagreeing or competing?” asks the Doctor. “Competing?” asks Amy. “Over what?” Really – for a smart girl, she really can be dense sometimes… Although I like that she wants to die “looking like a Peruvian folk band”. I’m not that quick-witted under normal circumstances, let alone facing near-death.

Proving that you should always be careful what you wish for, the Dream Lord divides them up: Amy asleep in Upper Leadworth, her ‘poncho boys’ asleep in the TARDIS.

Poor Rory barricades himself and Amy into their unborn child’s nursery as the slow, but determined pensioner/alien/zombies try to break down the doors. Meanwhile the Doctor makes a mad dash in a beautiful VW camper van to save the villagers and his companions. And back in the TARDIS the Dream Lord goads Amy to make a decision and tell ‘her men’ which world she’s choosing.

When Amy wakes up in the nursery, Rory – bless him – makes the ultimate sacrifice and cuts off the awful ponytail. Only to be zapped by Mrs Poggit’s alien parasite and turned to dust. Amy, distraught and under the misapprehension that the Doctor always saves everybody, decides that life on Earth is the dream, because  “if this is real life, I don’t want it”.

Having ‘killed themselves’ in Upper Leadworth, Amy and the Doctor wake up in the TARDIS, where Rory is waking up too. The Dream Lord restores power to the ship and professes to have lost… so the Doctor, naturally, decides to blow up the TARDIS. It seems the Dream Lord was not offering a choice between reality and a dream, but between two dreams. We can blame overheated psychic pollen apparently, and the Dream Lord? It was the Doctor – his own dark side working against him. To which, frankly, I say hmm.

Finally, let us gather up the rest of the best bits:

  • How could Rory possibly mistake the sound of the TARDIS for leafblowers?
  • The Dream Lord taking the mick out of the Doctor’s bowties (apparently back in our reality, sales of bow ties have rocketed over the last six weeks or so… stick that in your psychic pipe and smoke it.)
  • The Dream Lord telling Amy that he’s seen her dreams, some of them twice, and they’d make him blush if he had blood vessels – or a real face.
  • Amy’s revenge (faking labour) for the Doctor calling the rural reality dull.
  • The homemade generator for the TARDIS – made out of a whisk and god knows what else.
  • “Where are we?” “In trouble”  – this week and every week.
  • “I’ll deal with this one, Chubbs” – there is no planet in the universe where it is a good idea to joke about a women’s weight when she is pregnant. What was Rory thinking? And why didn’t he pay a heavier price for it? (I can only guess because it’s for kids and before the watershed.)
  • The little old lady tumbling from the porch roof. Fabulous!

So, holes that eat people next week then. Marvellous.

Posted by Jo the Hat.

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One response to “Doctor Who (5.7): Back to reality

  1. chumbles

    Oddly, though probably made to scare children, this episode scared the proverbial out of me. Like “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, however much you think ‘aah, back to reality’ you’re never quite sure you’ve made it all the way out. Like when you’ve had a nightmare and think you’re waking up to find that you cannot move your body or scream. Genuinely terrifying for me!