More deserving of the word than last week, Amy’s Choice was: classic.
I’ll get it out the way at the start so that I’m not accused of an agenda but recognised as having one – I love this sort of Who. To me, episode 7 deserves to be given an award as cult classic of the series so far.
It’s the messy sort, the weird-trippy sort – the sort that leaves you at the end of the show triple-guessing everything that just happened, that could happen and will happen.
I’m going to have to come right out and say it: for me, this was easily the most ‘Who’ Who this season or that there has been since Midnight – there were no show-stopping endings with massive aliens, there was a real sense of actual mortal danger and it was thought provoking, fun and truly very creepy.
“There’s something that doesn’t make sense. Let’s go poke it with a stick.”
At first we can’t help but presume that – obviously – it’s the TARDIS interior scenes that are real…I mean, aren’t they?
Well, no – actually, it’s not that simple.
Thankfully Simon Nye gave us an excellently-paced episode with an ending of multiples: multiple dreams in which ‘Dream logic can’t have an effect on reality’ and the Doctor blew up the TARDIS…casually!
“Ice can burn, sofas can read…it’s a big universe.”
What I liked most about this episode is that it provoked thought by not giving an simple answers. It achieved this – oddly against what many popular fans of Who have come to expect – by denying all the big-explosions and space-effects stuff and setting Who right where it should be: in a boring place full of hidden horror.
More than that, it didn’t even give simple answers in its ending – I still posit that Toby Stephen’s character is the Black Guardian because The Doctor was lying about the end in order to protect Rory and Amy. Take for example the line that’s incongruous with his ‘psychic pollen’ explanation, “I don’t know how you can be here but there’s only one person in the universe who hates me that much.” Even if this is the explanation and all there is to the explanation, we’ve seen what The Doctor thinks of himself again – a thing under-appreciated, especially when done well.
This open-ended possibility in the ending reflection of Toby Jones in the TARDIS console – and the episode as a whole – is an excellent microcosmic example of the macrocosmic approach Stephen Moffat is taking with the series: no more Deus Ex Machina Doctor [RTD’s ‘makeitupasyougoalongeum‘] but a flawed, fully-realised “I can’t know everything – WHY DOES EVERYBODY expect me to -” Doctor who has more thoughts, more scars, more enemies in the universe than we have seconds in our human lives.
Even The Doctor’s explanation of the psychic pollen was another insightful example of the way this series is going – “Psychic pollen from the Candle-Meadows of Karass Don Slava” is an almost throwaway line in a twisty-ending but it is the focus away from the, already excellently imagined, Candle (of) Meadows and onto our character-driven understanding that it is a BIG Whoniverse.
“The oncoming storm…Him in the bow tie.”
Let’s talk Toby Jones: the man was made for Who villainy. What was it I quoted from Moffat in my Whispers of Wonder? “A goblin.” Toby Jones was brilliantly playful, dark and sneering – I loved his mockery of the Doctor’s most serious moments.
The ‘Dream Lord’ was funny, wasn’t he? Not just in a ‘Look at his funny face’ and mocking gestures way but his lines, his shifting form and clothes were belly-laugh funny. The line where Amy and him were alone and he said “Anything could happen…” in a dressing gown had me spurting out my coffee and having to pause the thing for fear of missing another.
From his character as the [supposed] alternate dark-side of The Doctor, we got some of the best lines and some of the best forwarding – not only of excellent episode specific stuff but – of series-arc exposition. Suddenly the Rory-Amy-Doctor question got questioned without sentimentality.
Rory’s competing got him nowhere [and it wouldn’t] but his dying solidified what a good few of us were hoping for – less Torchwood sexual tension, more fun.
“If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open a tawdry quirk shop.”
Though I can see how a lot of people might be disappointed in the [practically] home counties setting where our characters fall asleep in a silly fashion, I think it was the ideas behind the horror that got me – I’ve always had a bit of a creepy, spine-tingle around really really really old people and now I wouldn’t trust them with a large, electrified barge-pole.
Nye practically compared old people to vampires – life suckers with a grudge, wanting to take down others a peg or two – but then also compared The Doctor to a social vampire.
That’s the adult scary done with – kids…well, kids might well be afraid of waking up…or worse…what about finding out what perpetual waking in dreams is and then being scared of ever dreaming?
“Don’t talk to me when I’m cross!”
There wasn’t a moment where I thought badly of the episode – even the orchestration was timed well and enjoyably weird – however, I did have a moment of ‘Oh, this wont go down well with the general public fans’ when I realised that we weren’t going to get anything further than well-directed dream-reality play.
By holding it just long enough, the direction led me to believe – in the frozen aftermath of the Campervan crash – that it was entirely possible they’d made the wrong choice – that they were dead.
Now that’s good Who.
Teasing us. Forcing us to consider that dream/reality nature. More than that. Forcing us to consider that The Doctor would have died.
Sometimes – and seeing as how the show depends on him, it’s difficult – there really were and are [thanks to Nye & Moffat but I never felt it with RTD] moments when The Doctor seems done. For ten whole seconds I had the thought ‘But…but how will they clean up THE REST OF THE SERIES?’
“Nice look.” “Oh this? No, I’m not convinced.”
I wanted to find fault with this mid-season episode, I did.
Pregnant Amy Pond and pony-tailed Rory seemed at first like they might become annoyances but when she waddled and shouted ‘Can we not do the running thing?’ The self-referentiality of the show kicked in and I warmed to Chubbs. So too did I warn to the Dr. Rory Williams that cut off his ponytail – an important gesture from a man who considers tranquillity to be better than adventure.
Th silliness of falling asleep and waking up over and over might have got tired but Amy & Rory abandoning The Doctor with Rory’s words “He’s Mr. Cool” only for it to cut to prancing, mincing, falling Matt Smith were fun warmly done.
I wanted to find fault with this mid-season episode, I really did.
Instead, I found a classic.