* It turns out that people who wrote 90s sitcoms about differing male and female attitudes towards sex are brilliant at writing format-breaking episodes of Doctor Who. Maybe there’s something about the intricacies of sitcom plotting that translates well to twisty-turny sci-fi stories – both require careful timing of when certain details are revealed to the audience, and both are at their best when they tell us something about the characters and their relationships.
* For example, Amy’s ultimate nightmare is being married to a man with a ponytail. The two potential realities here couldn’t have been more different, so there was a danger of it being too obvious that Upper Leadworth – the place we’ve never seen before, with characters that are suddenly five years older – would be the fake. But the impossible icy sun in “our” reality casts just enough doubt to keep you guessing; I’d forgotten the exact answer in the intervening years, and so the eventual reveal managed to surprise me all over again.
* The Dream Lord is of course brilliant, as you’d expect from Toby Jones, delivering a performance every bit as creepy and unsettling as his recent turn as a Savile-a-like in Sherlock. The clues to his identity are there all along, his costume mirroring The Doctor’s throughout. It’s a shame he never came back – there’s so much potential for him to have been a recurring villain, like The Doctor’s own very-much-personal version of Sarah Jane’s Trickster.
* Wasn’t I just talking about how Amy is in a position of power over the two men? As reflected in the episode title, this is what the whole dilemma ultimately boils down to – it’s clear which reality The Doctor and Rory each want to believe, so it’s her responsibility to make the decision. They can’t survive without her.
* Ladies and gentlemen, introducing…
THE RORY WILLIAMS DEATH COUNTER: 1
* This first death means that Amy’s choice isn’t actually about what type of life she wants, it’s about whether or not she wants any type of life without Rory. His powderisation essentially exonerates her from having to make a decision – she can have her cake and eat it by bringing Rory back to life and waking up on the TARDIS. It would perhaps have made for a bigger gesture of her loyalty if Rory had have pegged it in the TARDIS instead – would she have abandoned her life with The Doctor in order to be with Rory in a world so painfully dull?
* The fact that this was all The Doctor’s dream(s) obviously reveals a lot about the darker side of his personality, but consider this too: if the entire ordeal was the product of his subconscious, then the fact that Amy and Rory are now closer than ever was The Doctor’s act of kindness. Deep down, he manufactured the situation in order to make her realise how much she loved him, and to settle any lingering doubts as to where her loyalties lie, once and for all. Even when he’s trapped in the darkest pits of paranoia and self-loathing, The Doctor is fixing people.