The Girl Who Waited
by Tom MacRae
Review and analysis by Damian Michael Barcroft. The following views and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of The Gallifrey Times.
If there are any hardcore fans of the show reading this who are familiar with the classic series then I’m sure you will have seen the third serial entitled The Edge of Destruction or Inside the Spaceship (1964) as it is also known in which the entire story is set on board the TARDIS and only features the four regular characters: the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and original companions, Susan, Ian and Barbara (Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill respectively). The reason that this two-parter was written was because of budget concerns and that the BBC needed to fulfill its thirteen episode run. It was what is known within the industry as a “filler” episode and I suspect that you know where I’m going with this by now.
Yes, regardless of whether or not you rated many of the previous episodes which were packed with elaborate plots and loaded with story arc, it would be difficult to argue that they were not essential viewing but this latest installment simply seemed something of a mild diversion while we wait for the “good stuff” by lead writer Steven Moffat. Indeed, generally speaking, and I believe this was also the case with Russell T Davies, if the episode isn’t written by the show runner, then it rarely contributes significantly to the over-arcing storyline. Of course, one could argue – particularly with a programme like Doctor Who – that stand alone episodes can be equally entertaining and worthy of inclusion. I agree with this, however, I would add that this is all very well and good provided that the quality of the individual story equals that of the continuing storyline and I don’t believe that this was the case with The Girl Who Waited which despite the best efforts of writer Tom MacRae, who previously wrote the ambitious Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, was merely a “filler”.
Essentially, this episode is a tragic love story in which Rory must choose between “our” Amy and a much older version who has had to wait thirty-six years in the hope that her husband and the Doctor will one day save her. This is a perfectly acceptable concept with obvious dramatic and emotional potential so why wasn’t I crying at the end and in desperate need of a hug? Well, apart from the ponderous way in which it was written, the biggest problem was that we have already been here and almost exhausted similar dilemmas for team TARDIS. You may recall my criticism of Let’s Kill Hitlerbecause the effect of portraying the Doctor’s death is somewhat diminished by the shock and emotional resonance of having witnessed him die previously in the very first episode of this sixth series. Well, here we go again in the land of deja vu and recycled ideas, the most prominent of which must surely be echoes of The Almost People which also featured an alternate Amy Pond!
In reviewing that episode, I praised it for its boldness and great dramatic impact but this time I felt somewhat immune to the situation of sacrificing one Amy for another because of its familiarity. Additionally, I couldn’t have been the only viewer who observed that the farewell scene in which Rory and the older Amy are on separate sides of the TARDIS door saying their goodbyes was more than a little reminiscent of the infinitely more powerful episodeDoomsday (2006) with the Tenth Doctor and Rose on either side of the same wall but in separate universes. Furthermore, poor Amy does do a lot of waiting around for men doesn’t she? First, as yet another depiction of Amy as a little girl waiting for the Doctor and then as a married woman waiting for her husband – it’s not so much that Amy is getting old – just this bloody situation and concept! And perhaps we had better just overlook the fact that Rory has also done his fair share of waiting around for his spouse but what a gentlemen he was for not mentioning it during their argument.
My other issue with the episode was the fact that the Doctor had so little screen time. This would be perfectly acceptable if there was a strong enough story (yes story – not just a situation which is the case here) to justify his absence but I believe the script cruelly exposed Amy and Rory’s deficiencies as both actors and characters – they simply do not possess the gravitas to carry almost an entire episode by themselves. Indeed there is a reason why supporting characters exist – they serve to support the main character who is, or should be, infinitely more interesting and entertaining. (And if anyone mentions Sarah Jane Smith and Captain Jack progressing from supporting players to the leads in their own show, I’d have to be brave and say sorry, but those television programmes are hardly shining examples of how to write a great script with sound narrative structure and solid characterisation).
In addition to a weak script, I found the episode to be lazy and unimaginative in many respects – not least the derivative set design which resembled George Lucas’ THX-1138 (1971) with its ghostly white interiors and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) with the outside shots of the garden. Also, we have had some pretty poor antagonists so far this season but the Handbots must surely win the prize for most bland and tedious. However, I must admit I was rather tickled by Amy’s pet Handbot who she obviously enjoyed bossing about; it was well trained and followed her about like a lost puppy. Indeed, the Handbot Rory had about as much interest and personality as its namesake!
You know, I honestly feel as though the writers of Doctor Who keep giving us the same gift week after week – they just wrap it in different paper. Sorry Mr MacRae, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind!
The Girl Who Waited