Doctor Who: Series 6: Episode 10 – The Girl Who Waited

My thoughts on last week’s episode are a whole seven days late but how fitting that you, dear reader, should have to wait for the summary of an episode that had our favourite ginger time traveller waiting for decades. On the plus side you can now have a double dose of the Doctor over the next couple of days. Please forgive me?

I may already be stretching the waiting analogy too far by saying this but The Girl Who Waited was worth waiting for. It comes second only to The Doctor’s Wife in this series so far in terms of quality and emotional impact. Interestingly after last week’s average spooky tale which tasted better with second helpings, the wow and wallop factor was most potent here the first time round.

As Dan Martin’s series blog for The Guardian points out, this story married both “hard” sci-fi and the sometimes sickening softness of grand romance. Both approaches to an episode can turnoff viewers as well as delight them. There are legions of fans longing for the sentimentality of the RTD era to return but also thick ranks of those, myself included, who mostly cringe at his contrived emotional spectacles, especially after an astoundingly awful and dismal climax to the latest Torchwood series.

Thankfully writer Tom MacRae has produced something closer to the brilliance of Moffat’s budget episode Blink, with minimum screen time for the Doctor, despite embracing the extremes of science fiction and adventure. How refreshing it is, whatever the intriguing intricacies of Moffat’s plotting, to be enjoying episodes with self contained stories, centred on interesting ideas. Two key elements of The Girl Who Waited highlighted why I love the Moffat era as a whole though.

Firstly the virus that has forced the universe’s second most popular and beautiful planet into quarantine can only kill two hearted beings like the Doctor, not Amy and Rory. Moffat has somehow taken a character that is infinitely experienced, wise and intelligent, not to mention protected by regenerations, and made him vulnerable again and again. Secondly the ethics of time and space travel in the TARDIS are scrutinized once more, along with the real, negative human consequences on our Time Lord’s companions.

Rory goes through hell in this episode, watching his wife age in the blink of an eye and suddenly resent him. Amy of course is the real star, enduring isolation and hopelessness. Karen Gillan convinced me with her performance that she has the makings of a fine actress. Until now I saw her only as a capable, limited companion. But here she had to convey the essence of two people who are different but also the same. No easy task but she succeeds really convincingly. Old Amy sounds different, acts different, feels different, with naivety and youth stripped away to a mere glimmer. Young Amy is the one we know but she’s different too, also touched by the near miss, moved by a visual representation of her true love for Rory.

I was talking with a friend last night who didn’t enjoy this episode. She thought the Handbots were naff opponents and didn’t see what the fuss was about; leave old Amy, who she found grumpy and irritating, and the whole mix up would never have happened. But it did happen. Old Amy had real reasons to be a bit pissed off with the Doctor. I felt my friend was missing the point, even if I agreed with her partially after a second viewing.

Yes the whole setup was a little forced and yes some of the dialogue was far too mushy. But the Handbots were never the real enemy. The Doctor’s lifestyle is the baddie here. His “whimsy” can drop his friends into extremely damaging situations. In the Moffat era the sheer impact of the man on tiny humans has been illustrated more plainly. Amy’s childhood was shaped by her imaginary friend, her baby stolen from her, her husband forced to wait for 2000 years outside what must have felt like her tomb. The Ponds have a range of reasons to loathe the Doctor as well as love him. Might the whispers from earlier in the series about Rory turning to the dark side be true, and what’s more, justified, after the unforgivable manipulations of this episode?

Also anyone think the Green Anchor/Red Waterfall buttons might crop again? Or just an irrelevant random detail?

Tonight The God Complex looks like it could be even better, with David Walliams, the Weeping Angels, a creepy hotel and a script by the writer of Being Human. Bring it on.

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