I have an impressive showbiz anecdote regarding this story. The day before it aired, I was in Brian Dowling’s dressing room, recording his video blog ahead of that night’s Big Brother eviction. He had a small entourage of friends and family with him, and as I was setting up, he said “you like sci-fi, don’t you?” (I can’t remember how he knew this, given that it would be another few months before he remembered my name.) “This is my friend Tom, he wrote this week’s Doctor Who“.
“You must be Tom MacRae”, I exclaimed, and he seemed surprised and pleased that I’d know that. I told him I was really looking forward to seeing his return to the series, although secretly I was worried and slightly disappointed that he was back, because I thought his previous episodes were shit. I didn’t mention that to him.
Anyway, turns out I needn’t have worried, because this is a superb episode; one of those that doesn’t necessary spring to mind when you think of the classics, but is still somewhat of a favourite. What I hadn’t remembered in the last six years was that it was the cheapo episode, which says a lot about its quality as a story. It’s perfectly apparent as you’re watching – two sets, a couple of corridors and a garden, plus it’s virtually a three-hander which saves on guest cast – and yet in my head it’s this huge epic tale.
It’s also a Doctor-lite story, but it doesn’t feel like one, as they used their Smith time well to ensure the Doctor is a constant presence, even if he is working from home. And you don’t really notice that he’s taking a back seat, because this one’s all about the Ponds. This is my favourite TARDIS team of the new series, and perhaps even of all time, due to the extra dimension the strength of their relationship gives to the dynamic. They are, as I believe the cool kids say, relationship goals, and most definitely Doctor Who‘s OTP.
You have to say that the Amy from 36 years in the future is looking well on it, and her hair is amazing for someone who’s been living alone in an engine room for all that time. But nevertheless, Karen Gillan does an incredible job at creating a whole new character – a few changes in the voice and posture and suddenly she’s a distinctly different person, while still recognisably Amy. And even when this older Amy is so traumatised that she utterly despises the Doctor, she can’t bring herself to feel the same about Rory, as what they had is still there, deep down.
That’s what makes Rory’s dilemma so heartbreakingly effective. It’s clear what choice he should make, but it’s hard for us as an audience to condone it because of the dire consequences. Obviously you want Amy to be young and happy and with Rory, and to have never gone through this horrible ordeal, but at the same time Older Amy has a right to exist. Who are we to say which life is more valuable, and how dare we make the choice to take one of them away?
I was completely gripped, and so I have but two further notes. Firstly, the Handbots have the same walking sound effects as The Wrong Trousers and the Mondasian Cybermen from Series 10. And secondly, how the hell did Amy and Rory have their first kiss to the Macarena? Apart from anything else, you’re supposed to turn 90 degrees at the end of every chorus. Episode ruined.