Sunday, September 11, 2011

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited

Doctor Who never used to do this. Seriously, there would be all sorts of stories presenting all sorts of menace with varying degrees of effectiveness. But to genuinely have a story that messes with the idea of time travel and does interesting things as a result was more than a rarity – it barely happened. Now, in the era of Steven Moffat, it is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Which is the biggest flaw The Girl Who Waited has. In just about any other era, this would have been a little gem of an episode. A lovely little rarity. A quiet classic. In this era, it is almost a case of plus ca change. A story where the companion effectively dies? Yep, Rory has comprehensively covered that off. A story where a companion waits for ages for the one they love? Yep, Amy is once again chasing her husband on this one. Put this story in Tennant’s first season and you have a classic. Put this in Smith’s second season and you have something that feels a bit too familiar.

Am I being curmudgeonly? Of course. There was so much to like here. The handbots were a great idea; they want to help, but in doing so are just as lethal as Daleks. The one converted into an ersatz Rory (the “disarmed” one) was a nice touch. The older Amy was perfectly realised, both in terms of the make-up and Gillan’s bitter performance. And that final scene for Older Amy – where she was effectively put to sleep by the robots – brought a lump to my throat. We now know the extent to which Amy loves Rory, (and it is Rory she loves, not the Doctor).

Furthermore, this was a Doctor-lite episode that did not let it show. The Doctor was constantly present, guiding Rory and being at the heart of the show despite the fact that the lead actor was mostly elsewhere (performing in Episode 12, in case anyone is interested). And he should wear his new(ish) coat more. It works for him. Hell, I’d like a coat like that. Much more so than a tweed jacket… But not only was this a Doctor-lite episode, but it was also one where clearly the cash was strapped and only really the leading trio were available – yet it still worked. And that is no mean feat. Don’t believe me? Well, just picture a 45 minute story that just contains the Sixth Doctor and Peri. If you’re anything like me, you’ve just been a little bit sick in your mouth.

So should I be griping at this episode? Possibly not. It was a stab at originality that worked on so many levels. In fact, its biggest problem was that it is in what I would strongly argue is a golden era for the show. Put this episode just about anywhere else in the show’s history and we would all be praising it for its story-telling ability and its desire to confound expectations. Put it in an era like this one and it becomes a little bit less special. But that’s fine. It is praising with faint damnation to say that this episode is not quite as original or as good as some of those that have preceded it. It may well be true that it isn’t as good as, say, The Doctor’s Wife or Let’s Kill Hitler. But so what? Very few Doctor Who stories are that good.

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At 9:14 am , Blogger Mark Wadsworth said...

Well I liked it, I thought the basic dilemma at the end was cleverly done, the acting and everything.

At 10:33 am , Blogger Pavlov's Cat said...

Like Mark, I liked it as well

But I'm also a petty person and kept wondering after 36 years, couldn't she have found another thigh pad and where did she get the katana from.

Also if I was Rory every time old Amy mentioned waiting nearly 4 decades, I'd have to bring up the 2000 years I waited.

At 2:12 pm , Anonymous Andrew said...

I liked the episode a lot and thought that the old Amy character had a lot of potential as a recurring enemy of the Doctor (so was slightly disappointed to see her killed off). She had every reason to hate the Doctor before Rory turned up and even more reason once she had the TARDIS door slammed in her face.

There were several unanswered questions at the end of the episode, particularly how she had been able to make her own sonic screwdriver (probe!) but as a whole it worked well.

At 7:45 pm , Anonymous Andrew Zalotocky said...

Amy's mysterious ability to construct a "sonic probe" might be a part of the season's story arc, in which case it will be explained later on. Alternatively, she just asked the Interface how to do it. I do agree that if it's not a story arc thing it should have been explained or not introduced at all.

But the one thing that this episode did that is very rarely attempted in Doctor Who is to show how utterly, lethally dangerous time-space travel really is. Even when the locals aren't hostile you are walking into an unknown environment with no real idea of what the hazards are.

The whole story depends on Amy unknowingly pressing the wrong button. One tiny mistake that she couldn't even have known she was making results in terrible consequences.

That's the stark reality of travelling freely through time and space. One false move and you're dead and you probably won't even know why.

At 6:58 am , Anonymous Billy the Fish said...

I disagree, young sir. For me, this was the highlight if Smith's entire run so far. The AICN fanboys appear to concur, too.

It had humour, pathos and emotion in spades; not to mention Gillan finally proving she can do more than 'bunny-in-headlights' as far as acting goes.

Loved this one - a bona fide classic. Right up there with Tennant's 'Girl In The Fireplace' and 'Blink'.

Oh, and you could easily have had a great sixth Doctor episode containing forty-five minutes of Peri. Just her standing there in her bra would've worked for me back then. I was fourteen...

At 12:22 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Just to emphasize a point that I thought would have been obvious - I did like this episode, and I thought it was very strong. The point is it would have felt more special in just about any other era of Doctor Who.


At 10:44 pm , Blogger Jim said...

Top episode - satisfying, moving, clever, and hugely effective. All the things that Let's Kill Hitler wasn't. Well, except for clever. A bit.

At 5:51 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

I have to say I preferred Let's Kill Hitler. But that doesn't mean The Girl Who Waited wasn't great though.


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