11
Sep
2011
Dr. Who: Season 6, Episode 11
The Girl Who Waited
Michael Richardson
Hello all, and welcome back to the Doctor Who roundup. I mentioned last week about how the new incarnation of Doctor Who has set itself up for a lot of different genres and story. Last week's straightforward horror movie plotline gives way to romantic drama with a smattering of action. And to the show's credit, it never seems jarring; we've come to expect the adventures to be completely different from one another, and the characters are often strong enough to act as our anchor even when everything else is upended. The show could sometimes be accused of glibness, but its characters are real enough (time-travelling aliens notwithstanding) that what might be sterile still has enough heart to stay satisfying. Even more importantly, these characters are so well written that we can predict how they'll react to certain situations, say, if Amy were abandoned once again for a few decades.

The plot kicks off when the Doctor brings his companions to the second most popular vacation planet in the universe, but they must take a wrong turn, ending up in a facility right out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The clichéd maliciously sterile room is actually part of a facility for people who have contracted the one-day plague ("You have it for a day and then you die"), and Amy has been transferred to a room for victims. Luckily, the plague only affects organism with two hearts, so our heroine is not afflicted. But there's a problem all the same - the time streams between the two sections are misaligned. The time stream for the victims is seemingly elongated - in a 24-hour period, they can live a whole lifetime, living in "real time" only while being watched by the visitors in the normal time stream. That way, in the day that the victim has to live, they can experience a full lifetime of entertainments. It's a brilliant concept, playing with time the way the best Doctor Who episodes are capable of.

It all goes badly when Amy is found to be carrying "unknown bacteria" and is subsequently pursued by the faceless robots who act as protectors of the medical facility, trying to inject her with alien medicine that would likely prove deadly (their constant reassurances that "This is a kindness" are suitably upsetting). Meanwhile, Rory tries to locate Amy to rescue her, but when he does, it seems he has taken a bit too long in the normal time stream. She's aged decades, and somehow found a badass katana and the skills to survive the deathtrap. Let's say this about Doctor Who: even when it struggles to make perfect sense, it always adheres to the rule of cool.

As anyone would be, Amy's a bit bitter about being left to fend for herself for 36 years. She's come to hate the Doctor, resenting him for his seeming indifference (even if it was a mistake). It is worth talking about Amy Pond here, because this episode acts as a perfect culmination for why she's such a fan favorite. She's often angry, distressed, and quick with a comeback, more so than the previous companions on this show. Where does it come from? This episode seems to focus on abandonment, which is appropriate for the character. Don't forget, the Doctor abandoned Amy Pond for a decade before, back when she was ten-year-old Amelia Pond and he told her he would be back in ten minutes. This is not the first time she's been called "the girl that waited." Because of this, she often seems like the most well-rounded of the last few companions, less of a one note character than Martha or Rose. And her mistreatment at the hands of the Doctor in the face of her affection for him always bubbles beneath the surface.

So when Rory find the elder Amy, he faces a choice. Does he save the young Amy, or the old? The old makes her point that if he rescues the younger Amy, it's as good as killing the older Amy. If he saves the older Amy, the younger must wait 36 years to be saved, growing more and more bitter. On it's surface, it seems like a rip-off of last season's "Amy's Choice," but this episode hits a far more resonant note. The scenes in which Rory and the two Amys speak to one another are incredibly touching, taking a philosophical turn. Though not an action packed episode, the problems the show brings up are stimulating enough to keep the viewer absolutely enthralled.

I don't even want to spoil the ending, which is excellent. I will just say that there is a cheesier-than-they-thought-it-would-be action sequence and a gut wrenching twist that the actors handle admirably. It's one of the season's best for sure.

Grade: A-

Miscellaneous
Amy is right to be bitter, but the episode doesn't address that this bitterness should be how every companion has ever felt about the Doctor. That's what he does. He leaves people behind.

The universe's most popular planet is apparently a planet of coffee houses.

A lot of good quotes in this one:

"Good question! A Bit Sinister!"

"If anybody could defeat predestiny, it's your wife"

"Come on, it's not rocket science! It's quantum physics!"

"We've created a massive paradox, and the TARDIS hates it."

Next week's episode looks frightening as shit, in the sense that I had to turn off the coming attractions when a clown in a dark room showed up.
Tags: Dr. Who
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