The Girl Who Waited
The Doctor: If anyone can defeat predestiny… it’s your wife.
Production Code: 2.10.
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep10).
Story Number: 221. (Footnote ).
A modern classic for the programme…
Even with the vagueness of the Science Fiction…
HERE COMES THE SCIENCE BIT
There’s a certain format to a 45-minute Doctor Who story, even one as unorthodox as this one. The precredits gives a hint of the peril the TARDIS team will encounter, and over the course of the first act (the first third, the first 15 minutes or so) the narrative will set out the “rules” of the fantasical situation so we the audience can fully comprehend what’s going on in this out-of-the-ordinary what-if.
There’s a very simple Science Fiction idea with this story – Amy is separated from the Doctor and Rory in another room (as the precredits), in which it seems “time is faster”. What it means for Amy is the main consideration – they can communicate through the spyglass, though time seems to be leaping forward for Amy: a week has passed for her in less than a minute of Rory and the Doctor’s time in the other room. For every minute the Doctor and Rory leave her in that place could means weeks passing for her, so that’s what they’re saving her from. A simple idea.
This story will be about the emotional turmoil, the ramifications of the plan to save Amy not going quite as it should, so it’s probably best not to wonder about the Science Fiction of it all and just let this dark fairytale unfold.
It’s not quite so simple as two sticks being dropped into two different streams, one a faster stream, one stick will reach the sea sooner (an analogue for what this situation might be).
Amy doesn’t need to eat, or rather she wasn’t hungry over her week in the room – the Doctor explains that’s because “time is compressed”.
The Doctor then also says then Spyglass is to give the Apalapucians the second choice of “watching them live in a day, rather than die in a day”.
I have to say, because of the Doctor putting himself in the same category as the intended users of the facility and his line “Step into that facility and I’m dead in a day” and thinking it was as simple as “one timestream and one faster timestream” – that line didn’t mean very much. Aren’t the aliens dying after one day which is the whole point of the one day plague?
However, if you forget about what’s rapidly unfolding unscreen and ignore the human drama, with some thought, the fundamental alien purpose of the facility then can be understood, but only obliquely. The Apalapucians will experience the weeks and decades of Red Time and age accordingly, but somehow, because “time is compressed”, things like hunger and Chen7 are running at Green Time. Another bodily process, aging, isn’t running at Green Time though. Somehow.
The spyglass, the Eye theme is continued with this Amy/Doctor exchange…
“Eye to eye?” “Eye to eye to eye”.
The spyglass – the Doctor is locking it onto Amy’s timestream and taking it into the TARDIS.
(“We locked onto Amy’s timestream”.
“Where… is everyone?” asks Rory.
“What happens if we mix the filters?” Wonders the Doctor of the Time Glass spyglass. “Forty thousand timestreams overlapping, Red Waterfall isn’t one timestream. It’s thousands”.
So the timestreams aren’t time-and-places they’re people’s experiences? Hmm. Best not to think about it too much.)
Anyway, as mentioned before – for every minute the Doctor and Rory leave her in that place could means weeks passing for her, so that’s what they’re saving her from; this story will be about the emotional turmoil, the ramifications of the plan to save Amy not going quite as it should.
The TARDIS, with Rory and the Doctor, and now the spyglass (the link to Amy’s timestream, which has somehow been altered “locked” onto her, by the Doctor, so it it’s no longer jumping forward?) materialise out the Space and Time it’s in and tries to appear in Amy’s Space and Time.
However, the correct Space is acheived, the Facility, but the Time – the TARDIS has appeared 36 years later than the Doctor’s and Rory’s last discussion with Amy.
(It’s interesting to note that exactly the same mistake the Doctor made in The Eleventh Hour, but with a factor of 3. The Doctor “popped out” for 12 years as Amy waited, this time 36 years. The Eleventh Hour has a coda in which the Doctor skips another two years of Amy’s life. The mathematics of this ongoing saga means that Samurai Amy is 7+12+2+2 Doctor Who seasons +36 = 59 or something like that. Almost “when I’m 64” as the Beatles song…)
The brilliance of this narrative development – the Doctor and Rory have arrived 36 years “too late” – is the reaction of Samurai Amy, which is wholly consistent with the belligerence of Kissogram Amy of The Eleventh Hour. Science Fiction television programmes often have “alternative timeline” versions of character, and they often collude with their own nullification (I’m thinking as an example Star Trek The Next Generation Yesterday’s Enterprise). The brilliance is, this “alternative Amy” is – literally – kicking and yelling that she has just as much right to exist as any “other” Amy. She IS Amy.
The Doctor is always getting his exact intended-date wrong with virtually every TARDIS trip, and there’s been the not-inconsiderable emotional trauma of Aliens of London and The Eleventh Hour yes, but this takes it to the next level.
Here he is, the “Voice of God”. If Amy of The Eleventh Hour berated the Doctor, unsure if he was a dream or what, over 36 years Amy has become repulsed by the Doctor’s godlike powers…
“No!” This time she doesn’t want to be rescued. “Nothing to say to me” is an echo of The Beast Below.
The large circular wall-viewscreen of the TARDIS console-room is rarely used in favour of the smaller telly version, but it is her, and the Doctor looks so small in front of the huge image of Samurai Amy proudly walking away.
She softens though and that’s when the real dillema of the story surfaces – “You came to rescue me so rescue me”, but Rory has the spyglass and it won’t be as simple as that…
BECAUSE RORY’S WORTH IT
The “Castaway Basketball” that Amy creates for herself: although Rory might consider that a domesticated robot that doesn’t talk back isn’t the most flattering substitute for himself – it’s an expression of Amy’s love for him, it is the choice that Amy’s made, Amy’s Choice. Not “their” cat, “Biggles”, crucially – not “The Doctor”. Like Amy’s Choice that’s really who Amy wants to be with.
Rory’s vow from Day of the Moon “She can always hear me… I will find her” is shown to be true as for the past few years she has been listening and talking to “Rory” or at least the symbol of him.
Amazing performance(s) you can really suspend your disbelief very easily and it’s two different versions of Amy having a chat. Very lyrical is the scene in which Amy describes the rubbish hair, the guitar, how she knew Rory was “the one”, her one, her beautiful one.
“Sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it… if you’re unpredictable”.Foreshadowing for an escape for the Doctor from the events of Lake Silencio?
With this story both Amys are real and with Amy’s Choice, the opposite (both worlds were a dream), and now the two real Amys will be brought together.
“She’s doing the macarena”…
TAKE TWO AMYS INTO THE TARDIS? I JUST – GO
There’s a huge amount of drama (and comedy) to be drawn from Samurai Amy rebelling against the audience’s expectations that she will “sacrifice herself” as she’s “the timeline that should not be” in the tradition of less challeging genre TV shows (mentioned previously). Comedy with Rory saying “you’ve often said at Christmas dinners you’d wished there were two of you” but drama from the sad idea of the other Amy turning up only on certain times of the year to be with Rory (and Amy).
Many Doctor Who stories these days seem to take place “in real time”, Let’s Kill Hitler for example – “you will die in 32 minutes”, it’s a clock countdown that’s just averted before the credits roll.
This story spanning different decades and timestreams is no different as there’s countdown to their possible escape. There’s some amazing Samurai action scenes.
Although it’s Rule 1 “the Doctor lies” – this was harsh.
The imagery of the Doctor dangling Amy out of TARDIS from The Beast Below is reversed, he’s dangled the promise of the TARDIS for Samurai Amy but she’s “floating” in the void now trying to get in.
Older Amy is struggling with herself, and still the wants in – she has to implore Rory not to let her in, from “them”, for “their” sake.
The Science Fiction quibbles earlier in the review are interesting to think about but ultimately in no way detract from this amazing Doctor Who story.
Footnotes (and links)
Amy would definitely have had time to watch all 221 Doctor Who stories.
Amy is The Time Traveler’s Wife in this story. (The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger)