Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review: Doctor Who 5.7: Amy's Choice

The Doctor is distinctly unimpressed by Upper Leadworth life.
Doctor Who - Season 31, Story Seven - Amy's Choice
Written 17/11/12


And so my Moffat catch-up ends here, a week before I began reviewing Doctor Who on this blog. Ooh. That's weird. It's clear that I was pretty happy with the series up to this point, seeing as it was The Hungry Earth's sheer mediocrity that led me to get writing about it. I don't plan on doing any Revisitations for those rather crappy reviews of the end of Series Five, simply for posterity's sake, but I will say that Amy's Choice was a damn good episode for the simple reason that it combined really good characters with a funky sci-fi idea that calls back all the way to the good bits of Trial of a Timelord.
     Our intrpid heroes Amy and Rory appear to be much older; living in another part of Leadworth in a cosy little house. Amy is preggers and Rory has a ponytail. The Doctor arrives to check up on them, surprised by Amy's desire to settle down. The three then awaken inside the TARDIS, convinced that it's all a dream, before falling sleep again and awakening in Leadworth. They discover that their reality is being influenced by a being known as the Dream Lord (Toby Jones, Captain America) who proposes that one world has the real threat and one is simply a dream, and that they have to choose. After the Doctor and Rory fight as to which scenario is real, each one respectively being their preferred reality, Rory gets "killed", leading Amy to realise the extent of her love for him and kill her and Doctor in the belief that the village is the dreamworld. In the end, it turns out that both scenarios were dreams and they were under the effects of a powerful hallucinogen, with the Dream Lord being a manifestation of the part of The Doctor's psyche that hates himself.
     Toby Jones' Dreamlord is basically a more explicit Valeyard, and Jones revels in the part. The Dream Lord doesn't just highlight all of The Doctor's negative traits, but rather those that Eleven perceives of himself, and the difference between the two is expressed really well by writer Simon Nye. There's something rather telling in The Doctor's near-immediate recognition of who and what the Dream Lord is, and while I'm not a fan of the overall "lets make The Doctor hate himself" brigade that began back in The End of the World, this is a hell of a lot more subtle than "Last of the Timelords" guilt.
The calculating Dream Lord.
     As a fellow sitcom writer, Nye is able to take Moffat's obsession with relationships and pregnancy and turn it into something fun - we wouldn't really start to get tired of Amy and Rory's marriage, pregnancy, not-pregnancy, kid issues and not-kid issues until the dire straits of Series Six. As it stands, it's a foundation for their characterisations in that next series - The Doctor wants to continue travelling until he feels its unsafe for them to continue doing so, wheras Rory wants to settle down with Amy and have a quiet life with her. This kind of inner-TARDIS battle that focuses on love-triangles is not one that I'm really a fan of, and seems like a continuation of the problematic Rose arc that so blighted Season 28, but at least here it's supposedly hit on the head and sorted out, never to be spoken of again. (If that it were.)
     Amy's Choice, on its own, would have been absolutely smashing and if you view it in a singular context it's one of the best episodes in Season 31. It handles its characters in really interesting ways and introduces us to companion dynamics unheard of in Doctor Who. But if you look at it in the context of Moffat's era, it becomes something of a blue-print for Amy and Rory's relationship that instead of being built-upon simply got repeated over and over again. I still love the Dream Lord and all of the advancement of The Doctor's characterisation, but there's something that Moffat's later works have done to its other two characters that makes it feel that little bit more hollow.

Thanks.

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