Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited Review (or “Rory’s Choice”)

The reviews are coming thick and fast now as I write my fourth one in the space of two days.

Or to put it another way; I’ve just finished a work deadline and have plenty of time on my hands right now.

But that’s ok, as the next story – The Girl Who Waited – is another good one.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited Review: What’s This One About?

Separated and living in different time tracks, The Doctor and Rory must rescue Amy.

But they are 35 years too late.

Thoughts – Whiteness

The first thing that strikes you about The Girl Who Waited is the look of it.

Instantly this story stands out because of the stark whiteness of the set

Instantly this story stands out because of the stark whiteness of the set

It’s bright, it’s white and it’s clinical.

And that sets it apart from pretty much every other Doctor Who story Moffat has overseen.

So it immediately makes you sit up and take notice.

The funny thing is, when you watch a Classic Doctor Who story, and especially a Peter Davison one with the commentary on, the cast always moan about how it’s all so brightly lit.

I don’t really see the problem if it’s in a setting like this. Doctor Who has become so moody in its lighting under Moffat that it can become a bit off-putting.

Certainly when watching the episodes transmitted earlier this year (2013, for anyone reading this in the future) I felt that they all looked almost identical to each other and that they suffered as a result.

But I love the brightness here. The combination of the location, the brilliant whiteness and the design of the robots is a real positive for me.

It’s especially good coming straight after the wonderfully murky Night Terrors.

Another Ethical Dilemma

And thankfully, for the second story in a row, the plot matches the quality of the design.

Launching straight into the story without  any faffing around and wasting time, The Girl Who Waited moves along briskly from beginning to end.

And though I felt the science behind their separation was a bit hokey and difficult to comprehend, and also I didn’t really understand why the robots would be wanting to kill Amy if the point of the place was that people with the One Day Plague were there to die in comfort, I enjoyed it a lot.

Much like The Rebel Flesh, this is a Doctor Who story that poses an ethical dilemma.

What should The Doctor & Rory do? Take the 35-years-older Amy with them, or allow her to die (or to be more precise, make it so that she never existed) and save a younger one instead?

Old Amy: Looks older, but is still the same mediocre actress

Old Amy: Looks older, but is still the same mediocre actress

The obvious answer is to rescue the young one, but as the writing so effectively explains, they are the same person. And the older one has made it clear she wants to be the one they take.

In the end, the Doctor screws the old one over by locking her out of the TARDIS, and as he explains, he did it because he promised to keep Amy safe, and he felt that was the best way.

Now that I like, but where it possibly weakens a bit is that it’s really the older Amy who makes the choice in the end, telling a conflicted Rory not to let her back in.

Is that a cop-out? Does that absolve The Doctor and Rory from what would otherwise have been a callous decision?

Possibly.

But in the end, it doesn’t sully a great plot.

Old Amy

I’ve made no secret of my thoughts on Karen Gillan.

I just don’t think she’s a particularly good actress, or at least not compared to the likes of Catherine Tate and Billie Piper who have come before her (remember: I never thought Piper was a bad actress; I just didn’t like her Psycho Stalker character). Furthermore, in a TARDIS crew of three, she’s the weakest link by some distance.

If anything, this story highlights that The Doctor & Rory work better and more amusingly as a double act.

But getting back to Gillan, I’ve never felt she’s been able to handle drama all that well. She does loud brashness fine, and can even do some of the comedy ok, but transplant her into something like Planet of the Ood, Fathers Day or Journey’s End and I think she’d be shown up badly.

So here, where she’s acting the embittered old Amy, left alone for 35 years, she struggles.

Hiya!!

Hiya!!

She does well by her own standards, but I can’t help but feel other actresses would have portrayed the scenario far more effectively.

Luckily, she’s saved on two counts.

The first is that the makeup on her to age her is brilliant. It doesn’t look unrealistic at all, and is streets ahead of the “elderly” makeup worn by Mark Gatiss in the Lazarus Experiment. And you know what? In terms of movement, Gillan does well here. She walks as if she is older.

The second reason is that once again, Arthur Darvill carries the scenes to make them impactful.

He just might be one of the most underrated actors in Doctor Who history.

Random Observations

  • You probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know it, but this is a Doctor-lite episode. By filming his scenes all in one place and at one time, Matt Smith was able to take some time off.
  • The way he keeps in the thick of the action, thanks to the glasses Rory wears, therefore, is clever.
  • Would being hit on the head by a painting knock someone out? Probably not, and even less so a robot. A knock to the head should affect a robot at all.
  • I can understand Amy becoming embittered after 35 years, but would she also not have gone mad too?
  • Even if she was left alone for 35 years though, how exactly did she manage to build her own sonic screwdriver? Even if she got the technical know-how from the helpdesk computer, where did she get the materials?
  • Seeing as she hadn’t laughed for 35 years, I assume she never went to the cinema or rollercoaster world.
  • I could argue a Grandfather Paradox style issue here, but I don’t think I’ll bother.
  • The reception area of The Centre looks like the reception area in Disney’s Contemporary Hotel.
  • Why did Amy press the red button? I imagine if you asked 100 people to open a door by “pressing the button” – and there was a choice of a red one and a green one – they’d either ask which one or press the green one, seeing as green is the internationally recognised colour for “Go”, while red means “Stop”. Ach well.
  • Old Amy must stink to high heaven by this point.
  • She also seems to have kept her hair at the same length. Impressive.
  • Sorry, but I’m going back to the crappy pre-credits intro that the US and Australian markets had to watch; you know, the “When I was a little girl…” one. The line about how the Doctor is from “somewhere else” really winds me up for some reason. It’s just so trivialising and written for the lowest common denominator.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited Review: Final Thoughts

There are issues, including one or two things that don’t add up so well and a reliance on a dodgy actress to step up, but on the whole, I think The Girl Who Waited is an enjoyable story; possibly the best story of the season.

And it looks great as well; something different for a change.

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