Doctor Who Review, Series 6, Episode 10: “The Girl Who Waited”
Written by Tom MacRae
Directed by Nick Hurran
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on BBC America
This week, on Doctor Who: Amy gets stuck in the whitest waiting room ever
Last week, Doctor Who had limited success with a standalone episode. This week, they went for it again and pretty much nailed it. The episode was helped by a strong premise and excellent dual performance from Karen Gillan, but the single biggest reason it succeeded when “Night Terrors” didn’t is that it focused primarily on character rather than twists, scares, or atmosphere. The best storytelling is derived from character; it doesn’t matter how strong the production values are if the audience isn’t invested in what’s going on. Not everything in the episode worked (Amy building a sonic probe? That interface must have one hell of a how-to section), but enough did that any quibbles can be overlooked.
The decision to slow down for a week and spend the time to really examine Amy is a wise one. After two seasons of what has often felt like an unbalanced relationship, we finally see her devotion to Rory. Rory has grown tremendously during his time in the TARDIS but Amy’s growth has been far more subtle, to the point where many feel she hasn’t changed at all. In episodes like “Amy’s Choice”, we see her make pronouncements of her love of Rory, but though Gillan has delivered these moments well, there was never any examination of why she feels this way. The audience may like Rory, but Amy hasn’t seemed to value his particular strengths in the past and he’s felt taken for granted. Though the Amy we met in “The Eleventh Hour”, scared of the future and running away from her wedding, has long since matured, this is the first time since then that the audience has been granted a look into her mind.
While Gillan is strong as OldAmy, her best moment is as RegularAmy, speaking with her future self of Rory. This scene rings absolutely true and demonstrates, in case any viewers have forgotten, just why the Doctor keeps flying around with her. Each Companion-centric episode prompts consideration of the previous Companions and how they would react in the situation. What would Martha’s “Turn Left” have been like? Would Sarah Jane have been able to walk the world for a year in “Last of the Time Lords”? Here, once again, it’s Amy’s compassion that saves the day, her ability to know just what to say to get through to OldAmy. Rose and Martha would have probably survived the robots (not sure how Donna or Sarah Jane or the other non-Leela classic Companions would have fared), but they might not have been able to change their minds. It’s nice to get a reminder of just why Rory and Amy make such a strong pair.
Speaking of Rory, his conflict with the Doctor reemerges and it’s just as fitting now as it was in “Vampires in Venice”. It’s good to see that, while he has grown to enjoy travelling in the TARDIS, he isn’t blind to its effect on him either. Perhaps we are seeing the seeds of what will eventually lead Amy and Rory to leave the TARDIS at the end of this season or the next. Also, as a side note, Rory using the Mona Lisa to take out a robot? Fantastic. Art fans needn’t worry- it was probably a copy anyways (NuWho fans, check out the fantastic ClassicWho story “City of Death” for that reference). While we’ve seen Rory and Amy change due to their time with the Doctor, we’ve yet to see much change in the Doctor due to his travels with Amy and Rory. Hopefully this is yet to come. The Doctor has been a dynamic character in series past, shaped by each of his Companions. That aspect of the character/show seems to have fallen by the wayside with the change from Russell T Davies to Steven Moffat as showrunner, but it’s one that hopefully will return before too much longer.
The production design of the episode is fantastic. The garden is beautiful, an image right out of Alice in Wonderland, and the contrast of the stark, clinical white of most of the set works well. The music is once again strong, though not spectacular. Murray Gold’s music is often overwritten and played, but in the past several episodes, it’s been far more restrained, and this is a welcome change. Also worth a note is the makeup- Amy’s aging up works surprisingly well. There are several nice comedy moments (such as the Doctor and Rory’s hilarious simultaneous reaction to news of the quarantine) which help check the pain and anger of Amy’s storyline, and the pacing is right on. It would have been easy for this story to drag or become monotonous, particularly given the one-trick aspect of the robots, but the performances from Gillan and Arthur Darvill keep the momentum going and while Matt Smith isn’t given much to do, what he has he delivers well.
This is definitely the strongest of the second batch of series six episodes so far. The first was too focused on arc and sacrificed pacing. The second was too devoid of continuity and lacked depth. “The Girl Who Waited” gets its porridge just right and, with another standalone on the way next week, hopefully that trend will continue. It’s great to have Who back and firing on all cylinders.
What did you think of the episode? Did it change your opinion of Amy? Post your thoughts below!
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Looking for more “Girl Who Waited” talk? Check out the SoS Doctor Who podcast episode on it!