Doctor Who #849: Amy's Choice

"My boys. My poncho boys. If we're going to die, let's die looking like a Peruvian folk band."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 15 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Either we're in the TARDIS freezing to death, or we're pregnant in Leadworth. Which is the dream?

REVIEW: If there's something that continues to delight in Amy's Choice, it's that despite the "answers" we're given a lot of it remains ambiguous. We're shown two dreams, both masquerading as reality, but whose dreams are they? We know the TARDIS was infected with psychic pollen which put all three crew members in a shared dream. Nothing else do I take as a given. The Doctor rather glibly states the Dream Lord is HIS dark side's manifestation, with none of Amy's or Rory's, but that's as maybe. It's not in the pollen's best interests to kill off the minds it's infected, so the "danger" posed by the Dream Lord is illusory. I'm thinking psychic pollen is probably used for alien therapy somewhere. The result isn't actually deadly, after all. Instead, Amy works through her mixed feelings about Rory and the Doctor. If that's the result, what's pushing it? Is it really the Doctor's unconscious pushing Amy away, doing in a dreamscape what he failed to do in the previous episode? Or is Amy the Dream Lord, making sense of her feelings, letting go of a crush on a childhood imaginary friend to commit to the man who's actually always been there for her? And yet, the Dream Lord is also their combined dark side, sniping at each of them and revealing their insecurities and self-loathing.

The dreams themselves are interesting. Each is absurd in its own way, but the joke is that they really do fit the Whoniverse. Leadworth 5 years later is Rory's domestic ideal, but it's also a nightmare fueled by the concept of growing old together - a child on the way that threatens to be born every few minutes, seniors as evil aliens turning kids (and Rory himself) into ash - it's rather dark. The Doctor's world is represented by the TARDIS in jeopardy from something he's never seen before and which seems impossible, but isn't it also a symbol of his attempt to cool Amy's feelings for him? And of course, there's the macro-dream in which the Dream Lord plays the Toymaker figure, setting a trap with predefined rules and so on, so of course the "solution" is that the "Doctor's world" was the real one. But even if I can draw these psychological links to each character, the truth is they infect each one another and no reality is one person's doing. We could, for example, say Amy was generating both realities, because she's the one caught between two worlds. Her choice isn't so much between Rory and the Doctor as romantic partners, but rather between two lives she could have, the domestic and the adventurous. And just as the choice the Dream Lord was offering was a false one, so must Amy's be. Her solution is to have her cake and eat it too. An adventure in a domesticated TARDIS.

The episode plays nicely with our expectations. We're programmed to "know" the Leadworth reality isn't the real one because of the time jump, and to accept the Dream Lord's defeat in the "cold star" world. In truth, the cold star stuff is rather slim, and the strong emotional content is in Leadworth. I love moment when Rory dies and she can't take it. I even forgive her the murder of her unborn child (on the off-chance this was the real world). Rory being dead made no sense to her, which invalidated the world's reality. There's no point to it without Rory, whereas there's no point to the Doctor if he can't save Rory. Her feelings become laser-focused. Where the episode is weakest is in the portentous ending, which is a bit like The Vampires of Venice's - a creepy weird ending that seems to herald a sequel, but doesn't go anywhere. Some lines don't ring true, like Amy admitting she never told Rory she loved him. Minor stuff, really, but it bears mentioning.

THEORIES: Leave your Valeyard speculation in the comments; I can't promise I'll care.

SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, 10 and 1 Items About Amy's Choice, features the screenshot of the TARDIS' in-jokey dedication plaque, check it out.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The episode may be all a dream, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen or that it didn't have a lasting impact on the characters. Smarter than it's probably given credit for.


Anonymous said...

How about, it's a half-remembered War Doctor? I can't say that I care a whole lot either, but there's economy in one Moffat concept explaining another Moffat concept.

Jeff R. said...

Even more likely to be not cared-about Valeyard speculations, since you do mention him: shouldn't the Doctor have pretty much no clear memories of the Gallifrey bits of Trial of a Time lord in general, and in specific none of his interactions with the Valeyard? As far as he's concerned, shouldn't last year's finale be the first time he's even heard the name at all?

(I mentioned in the other review that the DL seemed Valeyard-ish, but if the rules of time travel and self-meetings do mean that he won't remember trial until he's experienced it from the Valeyard side, memories of him can't have influenced the Dream Lord's personality at all.)

Siskoid said...

Anon: Well, he definitely considers the War Doctor his a dark episode in his life.

Jeff: Thanks for debunking it at last.

CiB said...

The Doctor does remember him (as shown by a number of references in audio plays- the scripts of which do have to go to BBC Cardiff to make sure they fit "BBC-canon"), and the Valeyard is a much weirder thing than just a future incarnation of the Doctor- remember he's from between "his 12th and final incarnations", incording to the Master.

Anonymous said...

So, the Valeyard could be number 17 or 18 for all we know.

CiB said...

Anonymous: Precisely what the Valeyard is is explained in the audio play "Trial of the Valeyard". While the acocunt there is from the Valeyard (and he's probably lying about bits of it) if there is any truth in it at all (and there probably is a little) then he is certainly not incarnation 17 or 18. As I said, he is a much weirder thing than just a future incarnation of the Doctor.

As said previously, the audio play scripts are checked to make sure they fit in with canon before they get authorised.

Jeff R. said...

I accept nothing not aired on TV as canon, and cannot be persuaded otherwise.

Jeff R. said...

(Well, I guess I can expand to DVD extras/webisodes. But no further.)

Siskoid said...

There are two continuities for me. The one with and the one without. Stories may fit the the latter or both, but not just the former.


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