5.7 – “Amy’s Choice”
The Doctor visits a pregnant Amy and pony-tailed Rory in the lovely little village of Leadworth before they all fall asleep and find themselves back in the TARDIS, running out of power and falling towards a freezing Cold Star. The mysterious Dream Lord challenges them to decide which is real and which is a fantasy – if they die in the fantasy, they wake up. If they die in reality…
There is a maxim in storytelling; show, don’t tell. So when an entire episode is just about the telling, it can get a little grating. Only the week before, we saw that Amy loved Rory (of course, Rory loves Amy). Do we have to have a whole episode devoted to telling us that again? To be fair, it’s not the whole episode, the point only starts to get laboured around the halfway mark. Up to then, we are treated to a fairly different slice of New Who.
Us townies know that there’s always something weird going on out in those little villages (for example, The Midwich Cuckoos, Classic Who’s “The Daemons”, Hot Fuzz) and Leadworth, after a suitable bit of superficial charm, is no exception. Just why are there so many old people there? And why are they staring out of the windows of the old folk’s home? It’s a pity that the premise was given away in the previous week’s trailer because it would have been a great surprise to find them flipping back to the TARDIS. However, the flipping between realities is well played and while the events in the village begin to heat up (what with creepy old folk surging after people like a bunch of zombies who’ve decided not to wait until they’re actually dead), it all gets a bit colder and more deadly inside the TARDIS.
Apart from our three leads, the only other main character is the wonderful Toby Jones as The Dream Lord and he really is a great New Who villain. The Dream Lord is that little shit-head that we all knew at school, who would always be able to wind you up no matter what you said to put the little bastard down. No matter how much you ignored him he’d always be there sniping away. Fortunately, that little wanker wasn’t able to place you in different realities where you faced mortal peril – no wonder The Doctor gets so bloody angry with the annoying turd. Full kudos to Toby Jones for making him so loathsome.
I can’t complain about any of the acting or even the script; Gillan and Smith are on fire (as always) but, on re-watching this, I’m again struck by how good Arthur Darvill is and, indeed, how well written Rory is. He could be just a boring little man, a hen-pecked, domineered and lucky-to-be there boyfriend to the fiery Amy, but he’s not. He’s actually the adult here, knowing full well that you can’t run around the Universe forever, even if you have got a time machine. Compare Rory to Mickey, who decided that he couldn’t compete with The Doctor when it came to Rose. Rory is the opposite; he doesn’t give in.
So everything here is good…up to a point. It soon begins to dawn on us (and our chums in the TARDIS) that each reality represents how Rory and The Doctor see their different relationships with Amy – Rory and Leadworth represent a “normal” future, where Rory lives his peaceful little village life with his expectant wife, while the TARDIS (always plunging into danger) shows The Doctor having to work his magic and save the day, like he does, over and again. And once again, Amy has to ask whether she wants the potentially mundane life that Rory represents or whether she needs the thrills and spills of The Doctor’s life. Not really a surprise, the episode is called “Amy’s Choice” after all.
The final revelation, that it was all a few specks of overheated psychic pollen, is a bit of a let-down. Essentially, it all turned out to be a dream. Couldn’t The Dream Lord have been more than just a dark corner of The Doctor’s psyche? This just turns the episode from a weird, psychological adventure which happened to have subtext about the relationship between Amy, Rory and The Doctor into an episode-long group therapy session which is only about the relationship between Amy, Rory and The Doctor.
Give me a villain, give me monsters, give me oppressed peoples for The Doctor to save. If I want relationship issues, I’ll watch Grey’s Anatomy. But we do get a villain, and a damn good one, at least until we find out that it’s just The Doctor under the influence. Still, there’s enough sparky humour and well-paced twists and turns to stop it collapsing under the weight of the angst and we know, without a shadow of doubt, that Amy loves Rory. Are we done with that now? A grudging 7/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes