What can you say about The Girl Who Waited? Well first of all, it’s brilliant. Secondly though, it’s yet another chance for the cast to showcase just how great they are.
I was speaking to someone the other day who complained that since RTD left Doctor Who hadn’t been the same. They were right. It’s got better. This has been touted as a little bit like Turn Left, but it’s as superior to that as the Original Trilogy is to the Prequels.
This isn’t just look what happens if the Doctor dies, if you make the wrong choice, go through the wrong door. This is what happens if that wrong decision is compounded again and again. None of it malicious. This wasn’t a trick to make things deliberately worse. This wasn’t a world threatening sequence of disasters. It was one woman who pressed the wrong button and ended up in a different time stream. That’s it.
In fact the whole theme of this episode was choices. It opens with Amy making the wrong choice of what button to press (but it was one that Rory and the Doctor could easily have made too), hinged upon Amy making the decision to work with Rory to save her younger self, and ended with the Doctor leaving Rory to make the choice about which wife to save.
At no point did we get a nuclear disaster, a ham-fisted attempt to suggest the rise of the police state, or the off screen deaths of multiple supporting characters. What we got instead was a totally character focused episode which showed just how great Doctor Who can be (again).
It has more in common with Father’s Day than Turn Left for me, in that it depicted an attempt to ‘set right what once went wrong’. Unlike Father’s Day however we are left in a situation where the character we are trying to save is one we actually care about, not one we are introduced to in that episode. There is real emotional heft to the idea that Amy was left for too long, not least because this has been what the Doctor does to Amy throughout her life. From the first time he met her, to leaving her behind with the silence, the Doctor has punctuated their relationship with ongoing bouts of absence, abandonment and silence.
Way back in my review of The Eleventh Hour I described Amy as “a character with real abandonment issues, who is fascinated by the Doctor but also knows that he’ll probably disappear for years at a time without contacting her”. For Amelia Pond there was a chance to grow up without the Doctor, aware of him, but supported by Rory and Mels. When Amy grow up she does so alone.
For the audience it’s easy to see the legacy that the Doctor leaves for all companions, from Jack through to Sarah Jane and Donna. All of them were abandoned by the Doctor because sooner or later, that’s just what he does.
He leaves them behind.
When he left Amelia she grew up to Amy, but when Amy grew up she grows bitter*. The kindness of the HandBots is the most hideously cruel thing imaginable, to leave someone to live out their life without contact, without companionship. Existing on a different time stream to everyone else around them and forever unable to get out. It’s a neat concept which fits into the whole narrative of the Matt Smith era really well.
But above all it gives Karen and Arthur a chance to really cut loose. I really can’t understand how anyone can’t love these two, and as their relationship has blossomed and grown it has become clearer just why these two work.
Maybe as a consequence of being around the Doctor, these are two people who will never give up on one another, who will wait around until the other appears for as long as it takes. Much like Wash and Zoe in Firefly their first concern is one another. It’s interesting to see the way that has been played a lot more this season compared to last, when Amy could often come off as very cold towards Rory. I was very critical of the way they played the kiss with the Doctor in Flesh and Stone but Rory has since grown and grown in stature, to the point when he’s begun to become the action hero that the intellectual Doctor can’t quite pull off.
They have become the poster couple for inseparability. Where the Doctor disappears for years at a stretch they stick together. Which makes the fact that Amy thinks Rory has abandoned her much more tragic. That’s been coming up again and again; from Rory going all Roman to rescue his kidnapped wife, to his break down in The Doctor’s Wife when he thought Amy had forgotten him. When they’re kept apart, they fall apart.
I really like that. I really, really like that the reason they continue to function is because they know the other will always come after them.
Because it means when we get choices like this one, there’s real sadness to it. It’s an easy choice to make, the only real option Rory has, but that choice must kill him. That’s what the Doctor does you see, he lies, he leaves and he breaks good people.
*Also, Amy becomes a badass. With swords, and makeshift armour. I can’t wait to get that figure and have her team up with Rose to blow up/chop up Cybermen.