Doctor Who series 6 episode 10: The Girl Who Waited

Miles Hamer asks, "Was it worth the wait?"

 

2 stars

 

 

Air date: UK 10 Sept, 2011, BBC One

 

Amy Pond in The Girl  Who Waited

Amy Pond. Strong and independent or surly and belligerent? Sassy and quick-witted or snarky and ill-tempered? Tom MacRae's script teases both perceptions of the character in an episode which, crucially, relies on goodwill towards the plucky rust-haired Scot…

 

It starts out as an upbeat romp, all invention and smart-mouthed exposition, from a remarkably Tennant-like Smith (his initial joyful exuberance is uncharacteristically like his predecessor. Or maybe it's just the coat.).

 

Rather marvellously, however, the early, light-hearted tone wrong-foots expectations; tonally shifting starkly from giggles to regrets carries immediate pay-off. The charmless sterility of Apalapucia as a giant, intergalactic waiting room – all bright white interiors and faux foliage (with just a hint of Tim Burton) – is a perfect visual and metaphorical backdrop for Amy's slow suffocation of vivacity. And though reminiscent of 90's computer interview oddity, Star Test (or perhaps Snog, Marry, Avoid's POD for the younger crowd), Interface's concept is an effective foil to her impatient cheek.

 

A robot in The Girl Who Waited

A shame then that the quality severance is as clear-cut as a katana to an android's bonce the moment the perfunctory and generic white anaesthetist robots waddle into frame. Somehow, their presence feels needless, even in a story that badly needs some action.

 

In a tale whose central villain is not evil but isolation, this is character drama with two big problems: there's very little dramatic tension, and it's difficult to care about the character. Karen Gillan certainly gives it her all; her Bitter Amy, all menopause and misery, is an impressively understated performance; the abandoned spinster's clipped, curt manner in husky, broken tones fleshes out the somewhat skeletal script.

 

Regardless, sympathy's a tall order given her extreme resentment towards the remaining TARDIS two. Let's not forget, Rory waited for Amy for nearly 2,000 years without a word of complaint. Conversely, Amy manages just a tiny fraction of that yet refuses to acknowledge the poor sod. She was already a churlish quip machine - it's like someone lent heavily on her gear marked "contemptuous" and it stuck.

 

The Doctor in The Girl Who Waited

So, with no uncertainty over the episode's climax – current Amy was bound to triumph in lieu of Bitter Amy – the remaining allure of "how?" holds little surprise. Another self-sacrifice? It must be Groundhog Day in script meetings. The Girl Who Waited re-spins the formerly-appealing moral dilemmas of Father's Day and Turn Left through the overly-familiar aspect of the show with which head-writer Moffat is truly obsessed – time travel. Timey-wimey yawny-wawny anyone?

 

There are laudable moments: Bitter Amy's heartbreaking secret consideration of lipstick to impress her youthful husband, the Rory-bot reveal, and the taut direction of the mis-matched pair on either side of the TARDIS doors are all remarkable snatches of brilliance.

 

But these scant seconds of sublime are swamped by the remaining forty two minutes or so of joyless agonising. We're being told to care without a reason why we ever should. Ultimately, in ending in much the same place as it begins, this episode is as barren and featureless as the automatons contained within.

Miles Hamer

 

 

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited
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