Review by Mark Bousquet
“THE GIRL WHO WAITED” – Series 6, Episode 10, Story 220 – Written by Tom MacRae; Directed by Nick Hurran – The Eleventh Doctor takes Rory and Amy to Apalapucia, the second most popular holiday destination but when they get there it’s now a quarantined medical hospital, and since Amy can’t be bothered to ask, “Which button?” she gets shunted off into a separate, speeded-up timeline. The Doctor and Rory jump back into the TARDIS, hone in on Amy, and find her … 36 years later, which she’s older, smarter, and frankly, more interesting. So of course she can’t stick around. Because She’s Got To Die So We Hit This Week’s Quota For Yet Another Death Scene.
There’s a lot to like about THE GIRL WHO WAITED, but the episode feels more like a double than a home run to me, as we have to sit through a whole lot of angst to get to a conclusion we all know is coming. Worse, the angst that we have to sit through isn’t particularly interesting angst, and we don’t even get to see the most interesting parts of the episode – the growth of Amy from Present Amy to Future Amy.
Here’s the set-up: the Doctor, Rory, and Amy land on Apalapucia for a vacation, but the TARDIS opens up into a white room with a door. The Doctor and Rory go forward, hit the green button, and enter a room. Later, Amy comes out of the TARDIS and hits the red button and enters a different room that’s traveling in a separate time-stream. Turns out that there’s a big plague going on and if you catch it, you’re dead in a day, so the creators of the facility created this second time stream so the infected could live out their entire lives in a single day.
It’s an interesting premise, and the opening of WAITED works to create a good bit of tension. The Doctor and Rory head back to the TARDIS and Amy enters the facility, looking for a place to hide. She runs into Handbots, the medical operators of the facility who keep trying to give her an injection to “cure” her, but because she’s not infected this shot will actually kill her.
What’s really nice is that, for the first time in a good long time, we get an active, engaged, interesting Amy Pond. (Check out The Oncoming Hope’s post from last week on “The Problem with the Ponds” for a some good thoughts and a good discussion about our current companions.) This is the pre-marriage, adventuresome Amy – and all it takes to get her back is to be separated from the Doctor and Rory and forced to fend for herself.
But she does, and it’s great to watch her talking to the facility’s Interface and avoiding the Handbots. In WAITED (a title ironically borrowing the Doctor’s nickname for her from the beginning of their time together), it’s like watching Amy wake up from a slumber – which in a sense is what’s happening, as for most of this season we’ve had Ganger Amy instead of Actual Amy. (It would be nice if, you know, these episodes would actually address this, but they stubbornly refuse to do so.) When she steps into a steam vent of some kind, the Handbots suddenly can’t see her and even though this is an accidental discovery, if Amy was simply sitting and waiting for the Doctor to save her, she wouldn’t have had this happy accident. She finds out from the Interface where this steam is coming from so she can hide there, and then she goes and hides.
And then does more than wait.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the process, only the result.
The Doctor and Rory jump back in the TARDIS, hone in on Amy in the faster timestream, and then land there, only to find that 36 years have passed. Rory encounters an older, wiser, grittier, more independent and capable Amy who can build a sonic screwdriver (which she refuses to call a screwdriver out of spite for the Doctor not coming to get her), and reprogram the Handbots.
I’d much rather have spent the entire hour watching Amy become this more capable version of herself. I’d love to have seen her figure out how to build a screwdriver and how to use a sword because this kind of journey is just as interesting as the destination. I understand that it’s just not possible for us to see the bulk of this journey, but that makes WAITED a fitting microcosm of so much of what’s wrong with this season – we’re seeing the end result more than we’re seeing the process. In the first half of the season, we got the reveal that the Amy we’d been watching was a Ganger, and that Real Amy was locked away in a hospital, pregnant and now ready to burst as a SURPRISE! moment in THE ALMOST PEOPLE. While it’s a nice surprise, I felt cheated that the Real Amy has been going through all this Hell and we hadn’t been invited to share her pain. We got to watch a stand-in so we could have the veil of adventure, but I think it would have been better storytelling for us to know that Real Amy was in the bad guy’s clutches and what we were watching was a ganger. We wouldn’t have gotten this same big “a-ha!” moment but we would have had better long-form storytelling, I think.
Here in WAITED, we get the “SURPRISE!” moment when Rory runs into Older Amy, but again it’s the process that’s eliminated, and again I think the show suffers for it.
Older Amy is a joy to watch, however, as long as she’s not talking bitterly about the Doctor. She’s capable and determined, but she throws a childish fit whenever the Doctor comes up. It feels false. I can understand Amy being mad at the Doctor (and Rory, to a lesser extent) because she’s been alone for 36 years but because we don’t see that poison slowly develop, it feels wrong and trumped up, designed to create some tension for an episode that doesn’t need trumped up tension to be interesting because we’ve got two Amys running around.
Future Amy and Rory have some decent interaction, but there’s still too much reliance on the Doctor to come up with a solution. DOCTOR WHO could use a good mission episode, where things actually have to be done and obstacles overcome to get to the resolution. Like last episode, WAITED offers some mumbo jumbo theory and a limp solution. The Doctor is mostly a sideline character in this episode (though it doesn’t quite reach the “Doctor-Lite” status) but he does a bit of running around the TARDIS and plugging things in. (Somewhere, Russell T. Davies is weeping in recognition.)
Future Amy doesn’t want to save Present Amy because then that means Future Amy will cease to exist as she will have been robbed of those 36 years. So she refuses to help until Present Amy tells her future self to think of Rory. These scenes are well played by Karen Gillan, and then Future Amy is all in-charge and dominant once she’s made up her mind, and it’s nice to see someone other than the Doctor taking the lead. The two timelines collapse, giving us two Amys together but after Rory delivers Present Amy into the TARDIS, the Doctor locks the door, keeping Future Amy out. Turns out he lied about it being possible to have both of them living in the same timeline, and he puts it on Rory to decide which Amy to save.
The highlight of the episode is barely given any notice, and that’s Present Amy’s manipulation of her future self in order to get the future self to save the younger model but then the episode has Present Amy get knocked out so she doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of her act. It’s a cheap out, but it does show that she’s learned a thing or two from the Doctor on how to manipulate people.
He’s already got Present Amy in the TARDIS but as Future Amy pounds on the outside door, his strength fades and he almost lets her in. Future Amy absolves him of his choice by telling him not to open the door, and then she dies and the TARDIS flies off.
There’s a real choice that Rory has to make but it all feels rather flat to me. We knew this was coming so when it happens it might be effectively played but it lacks any significant impact. Future Amy’s death is a suicide as she simply lets the Handbots kill her. It’s not a bad death as it represents a real sacrifice, but we’ve seen so many people die and come back, die and come back, that another death (and of a character we just met) feels like par for the course.
Still, it’s a decent episode, and very likely the best use of Amy all season. I hope this is a step in the right direction for a strong finish.
Originally Published September 11, 2011