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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Doctor Who: Amy's Choice

There was an inescapable 'old school'/Classic Who vibe about Amy's Choice as The Doctor, Rory and Amy found themselves popping between two realities - one in The TARDIS as it drifted, powerless towards a 'cold star' and one where a pregnant Amy and ponytailed Rory were living a relaxing life at home in their old village.

In the 'village life' reality, they had left The Doctor and TARDIS five years earlier, were now married with a baby on the way and Rory was the village doctor - only the pensioners in the village were all disguised aliens who decided it was time to 'tuck in' when The Doctor showed up.

All the while, Amy, Rory and The Doctor were being taunted by The Dream Lord (Toby Jones), one of those non-corporeal, reality-shifting sprites so beloved of the sci-fi genre from Star Trek: The Generation's Q to Superman's comic book nuisance Mr Mxyztlk, always goading them to choose which reality was real and which was the dream, telling them if they died in the dream they'd wake up, but if they died in reality... well, they'd be dead, obviously!

The trouble with all these 'it's ultimately a dream' scenarios is the stakes never seem real, even if we are told lives are in the balance, you can't shake that 'Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower' feeling that everything will be okay in the end.

Of course, this is Doctor Who, so generally it is a given that everything will work out in the end, but by bringing the illusory nature of the danger to the fore, Simon Nye's story somehow broke the fourth wall and crumbled verisimilitude.

Nevertheless it was a fun little piece - even (rather gratingly) featuring one of those deus ex machina explanations 'so beloved' of Terry Prachett (only here I could see he really had a point because there was no way anybody could have seen the biobabble - as opposed to technobabble - explanation of what was going on).

Despite excellent performances from the central protagonists, it all just felt ephemeral, as though it didn't really matter, like it was a short story in a Doctor Who annual, rather an actual story from the television show.

As well as the mental games of the Second Doctor adventure The Mind Robber, Amy's Choice also reminded me, in part, of Tony Lee's critically acclaimed Doctor Who mini-series The Forgotten.

The whole raison d'etre for the plot of Amy's Choice was to hammer home the point that Amy really loves Rory and that he has no need to be jealous of The Doctor - and the rest was all (literally) smoke and mirrors, with a few mind games thrown in, to entertain you for 45 minutes. Filler, pure and simple.

Hopefully now, the dynamics of the three TARDIS occupants can settle down and we can get some stories that are more action driven and centre less around soap operatics. Amy has already proven herself a more than capable traveling companion for The Doctor, it's about time Rory was given his moment in the spotlight to really get the audience seriously invested in his character.

Amy's Choice also featured some uncomfortable close-ups of the new TARDIS console and I have to say it still looks like something Blue Peter knocked together with some bits of junk and sticky-backed plastic.

In long-shots the new, larger TARDIS set looks very atmospheric, but the console just doesn't stand up to close scrutiny - much like this episode.

7 comments:

  1. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I loved it. I thought it was clever and dark, and my only disappointment was the reveal of the Dream Lord's identity, as I think it was quite well sign-posted and didn't need explaining.

    You also can't go wrong with doing a Romero zombie pastiche, only with old people; my favourite moment was the Braindead reference with the grandma wielding a lawnmower!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You hit the nail on the head with the Doctor Who Annual quote. It was ok-ish, but not really on a par with the others so far.

    The cast were great (Toby in particular gets stronger with each episode) and there were the usual sparkling lines and scenes - I agree with kelvin, I loved the grandma wielding lawnmowers - but I think that the Dream Lord himself fell flat. He was more of a narrator than anything else. If he's supposed to be the Doctor's Dark Side then I'm a kitten smoking a pipe.

    I'd have rather they roped in the Trickster from Sarah Jane; an all-round scarier guy and this is exactly the kind of things he gets up to.

    Ah well. Can't win 'em all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rory, even. Where the heck did I get Toby from? Must have all been a dream....

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm not a big fan of 'pensioners' as comedy villains - I just couldn't buy into the idea that aliens who could 'steal bodies' in that way would saddle themselves with all the arthritic disadvantages of the old codgers' bodies.

    I could see they were trying to do comedy zombies (when the old dears with zimmers were staggering through the fields) - and yes, I liked the Braindead gag - but really it did nothing for me.

    The Trickster would have been a far superior sparring partner for The Doctor in this one, but then it would have been a totally different story, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It was great episode. The concept was good and well played. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are a great team to travel in the tardis. We really just need to sit back and enjoy the ride now. Not all episodes will be Star Wars quality, but Dr. Who is 100 times better than most rubbish on television.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I generally agree with you (and I'm also not a big fan of pensioners as comedy villains). However, I did think that it was directed well. The cuts between the dream realities and the suspense were well handled. And good use of a Lost-like ominous noise!

    So, although part of me enjoyed it, I thought it was lacking something - especially the ending.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I enjoyed Amy's Choice, the performances were great from The Doctor, Amy and Rory and on the whole everything looked fantastic, but that's what we'd expect from a quality show like Doctor Who anyway.

    The variable factor, from episode to episode, for me is, usually, simply the story and in this case it just didn't gel as a whole.

    ReplyDelete

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