Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 10 review: The Girl Who Waited

Posted: 15 October 2011 in television
Tags: , , , ,

This is a kindness. Do not be alarmed.

Doctor Who - The Girl Who Waited

It’s always best to be honest in these articles so here goes: for me Tom MacRae’s previous scripts for “Doctor Who” back in 2006 were bloody awful. There, said it. “Rise of the Cybermen”/”The Age of Steel” saw the debut of the silver cyborgs in the revived series in a neutered, pulp sci-fi, art deco-inspired rendering that ignored the spare part surgery concept that drove their creation back in 1966 in favour of a parallel universe premise that saw extracted brains being plonked atop bodies of steel.

Based on Big Finish’s audio adventure “Spare Parts” (which Russell T Davies himself called “some of the best drama ever written for any genre, in any medium, anywhere”) it was not a worthy return for the silver giants consistently voted the 2nd best ever since their debut in “The Tenth Planet” 4 decades earlier. To be fair the scripts did have the fingerprints of RTD’s rewriting fingerprints all over the material.

When Tom MacRae’s return to “Doctor Who” 5 years on from his debut was announced my heart didn’t exactly do cartwheels of delight. Thankfully I was proved wrong in my misgivings and happy to admit so. With hard sci-fi concepts of compressed time streams running at different rates and an alternate existence for one of the main characters, “The Girl Who Waited” was thankfully far away from the Cyberman 2 parter.

The white walls of the medical facility and the garden setting evoked memories of “Warriors’ Gate”, which also featured tricks with time and possible alternate outcomes to situations. Whereas the former was a studio-based affair with many characters, this story had only the three regulars as living, breathing characters. The other characters in “The Girl Who Waited” were all medical HandBots – creations that could kill with their indiscriminate kindness towards sufferers of the fatal disease Chen7. Clearly the idea of Chen7 infecting only two-hearted species was a production decision designed to make this the “Doctor-lite” episode of the year and free up Matt Smith to work on the penultimate story of the series “Closing Time”, in which Amy and Rory make a spit-and-cough appearance.

Three words: “What about Rory?”

At the heart of “The Girl Who Waited” is the endurance of the love between a husband and a wife. Rory doesn’t care that Amy got 36 years older, he cares because he wasn’t there to do it with her. His role is to protect his partner and it tore him apart that he was unable to do that. One of the most massive heartbreaks in life is losing the person that you love more than life through a stupid preventable act. Amy pushing the Red River button instead of the Green Anchor one created an older version of the woman he loved more than life and it tore him apart that she no longer felt the same way.

The initial plan was to have another actress portray the older Amy but Karen Gillan volunteered to undertake the dual roles. Through adoption of different body language, changed vocal range, and prosthetics she was able to convey the aged Amy far more effectively than anyone else would have been able to do. For a start that wonderful twinkle in the eyes would have been absent in the scenes where the humour and love for Rory shine through once again.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have created one of the great marriages of the television age with their interpretation of Amy and Rory’s love. When one of those actors leaves the series there is no way the other can remain – it would totally betray all that has been crafted. Even the Mona Lisa, one of the great works of art from Earth’s history, is unimportant to Rory in comparison to the safety of his wife as he used it to clout a HandBot over the head.

This isn’t fair. You’re turning me into you.

As well as demonstrating the love that the three regular characters hold for each other “The Girl Who Waited” also showed the potential for hate and anger that lies within them. From the moment older Amy voiced her intention to come aboard the TARDIS with her younger self the Doctor knew that it was impossible for the two aspects to co-exist but played along in order to ensure the return of both his friends to the ship. Once again the darkness of a Time Lord and the ability to manipulate is displayed. Every so often it’s good to be remember that the Doctor is not a cheeky chappie from down the pub but an alien of different morals with infinite knowledge that could enslave entire civilisations and topple history. One step to the left of righteousness and he would be the Master in all but name.

Perhaps for the first time Rory realised that the Doctor isn’t at all cautious about what he does and the inherent potential for disaster that attitude brings. Instead of trying to research the current state of Apalapucia the Doctor got caught up in the historical holiday destination nature of the world. He simply freewheels his way through time and space with his confidence becoming as infectious as the Chen7 that would have killed him had he stepped beyond the visitor’s room.

If Rory is pissed off with the Doctor then that is as nothing compared to how Amy came to view him after 36 years stranded alone on an alien world. Every day she had to fight for survival without the help of the “Raggedy Doctor” she had come to love as her best friend. Amy became an embittered and hardened warrior as she fought for survival against the HandBots and their imperatives to assist her with kindness, totally unaware it would mean her death. She came to hate the Time Lord and part of that emotion spills over into the refusal to help her younger self and avert the timeline that lead to nearly four decades of being an embittered warrior.

If Tom MacRae is invited back for a future series I for one will not mind. Just don’t give him Cybermen…

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