6.10 – “The Girl Who Waited”
The Doctor takes Amy and Rory to the planet Alapalucia for a holiday but, conveniently for the plot, the place is quarantined because of a plague that affects the two-hearted locals. Amy gets separated and locked into a different time-stream, so when Rory and The Doctor turn up to rescue her, 36 years have passed.
I nearly hate this episode. It has all the hallmarks that I can’t stand in Moffat Who; a so-called story that is just contrived to set up some big, over-wrought excuse for lots of emotional outpourings. It is, essentially, just 45 minutes of the Amy Loves Rory Show. And a bunch of poxy catchphrase “monsters”.
The story starts off reasonably well with a bit of mystery about what’s actually going on with Amy through the big lens. This gives way to irritation with the handibots being yet another faceless threat with a catchphrase (“this is a kindness”). A hospital with bare white walls is hardly an original piece of design work either. This is Series 6’s “Doctor-lite” episode and with a disease that only affects beings with two hearts it couldn’t be more sign-posted. The BBC’s budgetary demands mean they have to squeeze in 13 episodes for the price of 12 so I can let that wee bit of contrivance pass by. Soon enough, we’ve got Rory dropped off on his own to rescue Amy. When Amy turns up, we get the excuse for the contrivances – OMG, she’s been stuck here for 36 years on her own! WTF?!
Wrinkled ninja Amy deals sword death to handibots. She’s clad in scavenged armour and has even knocked up a sonic screwdriver of sorts. Amy always had an undercurrent of latent anger waiting to go off but 36 years left on her own in a world of white walls and killer robots with an irritating catchphrase have made her seriously furious. She hates The Doctor and she can barely look at her husband. Once Rory finds old Amy, The Doctor figures out how he can adjust the TARDIS and they can go rescue young Amy – but it will mean that old Amy will cease to be. This is the BIG emotional crux of the whole thing. This could all be so bloody annoying. A ridiculous set up just so we can have some “serious” friction between the characters and show the audience (once a-bleeding-gain) how The Doctor fucks up his companions.
But Karen Gillan is brilliant. Simply bloody brilliant.
The make-up is superb; of course we know that Gillan’s been made up but if this was the first time you’d tuned in, you would never know. It’s not just wrinkles and lank hair; Gillan’s performance is a physical transformation. She moves without the light step and bounce of her younger self, but she still has the brutal grace that comes from spending your life having to fight and fight and fight. Her face is granite; when Rory first arrives and realises just how wrong The Doctor has got it, she can’t look at him, but she still wants to look good for him. When Rory compliments her, she runs her hand through her hair – hair that has lost its vibrant, alive colour. She fumbles with her lipstick. Her avoidance is part emotional defence mechanism, part warrior coldness and part fragile embarrassment. Gillan has it all. When Rory makes her laugh, you can believe that it really is the first time in 36 years.
Once again, Arthur Darvill holds up his side of the double act. Naturally, Rory is shocked but we all know he’s got strength in spades – only he could make this hardened, bitter woman laugh. He doesn’t care that Amy got old, just that they didn’t get old together. Her pet handibot is called Rory for a reason. The moments when the two Amys share their memories of Rory and his stupid haircut are simply superb. Gillan playing two versions of Amy talking to each other. Great writing, great direction, great acting. It gets even better when the two Amys finally come together, saying the same things at the same time, getting angry at the same rate and Rory stuck in the middle (“Two Amys together, can that work?” “I don’t know. It’s your marriage”).
But the finale with Rory and old Amy on either side of the TARDIS doors pushes it all a little too far – the hand at the window, the declarations of love are all a bit too mushy for my tastes. There’s not too much story here and it’s another sodding reminder that Amy loves Rory, but it is saved by a handful of very good scenes that outshine the contrivances and clichés.
As a character piece it doesn’t reach the heights of “Vincent and The Doctor” – we may find ourselves or loved ones struggling with mental illness, but it’s harder to empathise with getting caught up with a time paradox of old and young versions of our partners. However, take a bow Karen Gillan, who turns in a performance (two performances really) that elevate this episode from over-contrived character piece to something far more emotionally engaging. Let’s not confuse this with previous examples of one actor playing two characters. This is not Sarah Sutton playing Nyssa and Ann or even Troughton playing The Doctor and Salamander – this is Karen Gillan playing Amy and Amy and it’s possibly the best performance that she gives in the show. This is a kindness – 8/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes