Review by Mark Bousquet
“AMY’S CHOICE” – Series 5, Episode 7, Story 208 – Written by Simon Nye; Directed by Catherine Morshead – The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory are having a shared dream of living in Leadworth. There’s an old, nerdy dork with a bow tie who calls himself the Dream Lord and he won’t tell the crew whether their TARDIS life or their Future Upper Leadworth life is the real one. They keep bouncing from world to world, trying to figure which is the real life and which is the phony one. Amy has to choose which is real – the Doctor’s life or Rory’s life. It really sounds pretty predictable and dreadful, but it doesn’t totally suck. Although, it gets more interesting when it’s over and you think about it than it was when you were watching it. Because Eleven Has A Self-Loathing Streak A Country Mile Wide.
AMY’S CHOICE starts off like a snooze and then somehow manages to build some actual momentum by the end of the episode, even though almost everything that happens is pretty obvious. Give some credit to Simon Nye for turning in a structurally sound, highly competent script and a bunch to director Catherine Morshead for giving this story some real energy and tension.
So we’ve got the Doctor, Amy, and Rory bouncing between two realities and the Dream Lord tells them they have to choose which one is the real world and which is the dream world. Of course the TARDIS is the real world, but then, ah-ah!, you see BOTH worlds are dream worlds! Gotcha! The Dream Lord is actually some negative dream version of the Doctor, brought about by psychic pollen. In the process, Amy figures out she really, really wuvs Wowy and not the Doctor, so at least we’re saved from suffering anymore Unrequited Lovesick Companion Fatigue.
I’ve about had it with Companions being lovestruck for the Doctor. I mean, sure, it’s gonna happen every so often, but when it happens (Rose), then happens again (Jack), then again (Reinette), then again (Martha), then he gets split it half and it still happens (Joan), then appears to take a break (Donna), but repeats itself (Martha), then appears in a new form again (River), then reappears some more (Martha, Jack, Rose), then takes a break so the Doctor can admit his Companions go away and break HIS heart, then gets a new face (Amy) and a returning face (River) … Unrequited Lovesick Companion Fatique. I mean, yeah, I get it. He’s got a time machine. He fights farting aliens. That’s sexy. Who wouldn’t fall for that?
But … enough, you know? Enough.
We’ve got to sit through one more episode before the promise of ULCF goes away for a bit.
AMY’S CHOICE is not a bad episode. It’s not a great episode, either, but I was surprised at how much I got sucked into the story even though you can pretty much see everything coming a mile away. I’m gonna give Smith a lot of credit for making this story work because Rory isn’t any good here and Amy isn’t any good here. The Dream Lord has a really stupid title but he’s kind of an interesting bad guy when he’s twisting the psychological knife.
Unfortunately, the best part of the episode is what we don’t see, so I’m just gonna cut right to it. See, if the Dream Lord is the Doctor and the Dream Lord is culled from the darker aspect of someone’s personality, then that means everything that happens in the story is, in some way, some darker aspect of how the Doctor views the world and himself. Now, Amy and Rory also influence the dream, but the darker aspects of their dreams come across pretty simply – Amy as pregnant and bored, and Rory as … well, he’s got a ponytail and he’s a doctor in a really boring town because he’s actually a nurse, jealous of the Doctor and probably any other doctor, and worried that Amy will choose the Doctor or Jeff or anyone exciting over him, so he does that dick thing guy’s do when they think the way to stay in a relationship is to isolate the woman from contacting anyone else.
The more interesting parts involve the Doctor, so let’s take a look at some aspects of the episode and see what that tells us of the Doctor’s self-loathing.
One – Old People Are Evil. The villains of Boring Town are old people who have aliens living in them who kill young people and turn them to dust. Okay, that’s an easy one. The Doctor clearly sees himself as an old man who looks human but is actually an alien (the alien looking parts of him are inside) and hangs around with young people, putting them into danger and sometimes causing them to die. Or be mind-wiped. Or get locked away behind an Invisible Plot Wall.
Two – I Hate Me. The Doctor tells the Dream Lord that he knows who the Dream Lord is because “no one hates me more than you do.” Do I have to explain this one? Obviously, the Eleventh Doctor listens to too much Robert Smith. Also, Mr. Oncoming Storm, Daleks on line 1, the Master of line 2, Cybermen on line 3, and that woman you didn’t marry in Old Mexico on line 4.
By the by, Doc, we’ve only got four phone lines.
Three – Old People Are Jerks. The Dream Lord is the Doctor and the Dream Lord is totally impressed with his own cleverness. There is no truth to the rumor that the producers tried to get the Tenth Doctor to play this part.
Four – Sleep is Evil. The way the characters get from one world to the next is that they fall asleep. What have we never seen? The Doctor’s bedroom. Draw your own conclusions.
Five – The Doctor Can’t Resist The Sweet, Sweet Joy That Comes With Eating A Burger. The Dream Lord taunts the Doctor for being a vegetarian even though he’s not. But he once said he would be a vegetarian and thus the Dream Lord is telling the Doctor that he knows it’s right to be a vegetarian.
Six – It’s Amy’s Choice. – I’m not really sure what to make of this one, but the Dream Lord clearly wants Amy to make the ultimate choice in this episode between a life with Rory and a life with the Doctor. It’s really a pretty dick passive-aggressive thing for the Doctor to do, although, yeah, he’s only doing it because of psychic pollen. So what’s the Doctor’s fear? That Amy will choose a life with Rory? Or that he can’t give her the life she actually wants?
What’s most interesting about this part is that after Amy has made her choice, chosen the life with Rory, and then killed the two of them by driving a VW bus into a house while driving at least 3 or 4 miles per hour, everyone wakes up in the TARDIS and the Dream Lord admits defeat, and then takes off. Everyone is happy.
Except the Doctor realizes that both worlds are dream worlds because the Dream Lord has no actual power in the real world, so the Doctor blows up the TARDIS and they all awaken back in the actual real world. Which is an even bigger dick move, if you think about it. The whole episode is set up to be “Amy’s choice,” but the Doctor still gets to play hero by being all clever and stuff. So, yeah, Amy, it’s your choice and all, but it’s not really your choice, at all.
What bugs me about the episode is that it doesn’t present Amy with an actual choice. Both Rory’s world and the Doctor’s world insist on Amy being subordinate. Either she’s stuck in a town of Rory’s choosing, living a life of Rory’s choosing, or she’s in the world of the Doctor’s choosing, living the life of the Doctor’s choosing. It would have been great if the story had allowed Amy to break through both dreams to enter out into the actual reality by rejecting those two choices are far too limiting.
Not a bad story, but one I’m already tired of talking about. Good thing Amy’s made her choice and Rory’s here. Now, as long as he doesn’t, I don’t know, get killed by the end of the next story, we shouldn’t have to deal with any ULCF anytime soon …
Originally Published April 17, 2011