I Need an Extra Time Stream to Write All These Reviews

Being 10 and 1 things about Doctor Who's The Girl Who Waited. Spoilers included, no waiting.Amy as an aging samurai dressed in patchwork Stormtrooper armor. Do I need to say anything else? Ok, ok, 10 more things then...

It's a love story. I know there are still people who don't think Amy and Rory are a realistic match out there. To you, I say phooey. It's a classic dominant/submissive relationship, made more healthy thanks to both characters growing through their experience of traveling with the Doctor. There's a kind of osmosis at work, wherein Rory becomes more confident while Amy softens her attitude. The second half of the season has explored this relationship, how it began and why it works as well as it does. Rory is a kind of doofus and he HAS lucked out. He's with a girl that probably too pretty and fiery for him, but it also takes a guy like Rory to take said girl's attitude for any length of time. And while such a relationship might breed resentment on both sides, their adventures have insured a measure of respect that will hopefully protect them from it. Compare the Amy of The Vampires of Venice to her now. Perhaps nay-sayers resent the fact that in New Who, companions have taken center stage, but I'm all for it. The Doctor may be a fun character(s), but he is essentially unknowable, alien. If Series 1 was about Rose, and the whole of Torchwood about Gwen Cooper, then surely the 11th Doctor's adventures are about Amy and Rory. In The Girl Who Waited, a very romantic episode indeed, we discover what first drew Amy to Rory, and we see how memories of Rory sustained the older Amy through her 36-year ordeal. Rory, for his part, tries to save the older Amy as well as the younger Amy, his loving eye never repulsed by his suddenly 50something-old wife.

It's a timey-whimey story. And of course, it's also a temporal puzzle, which is one of the Moffat era's favorite tropes. I was worried that it would turn out like something out of Star Trek, which did these kinds of plots to death, but the emotional context and dark edge of the ending kept it from being routine Trek. The fairy tale aspects keep it firmly in this era of Who, with the "magic mirror" allowing the two Amys to see each other and in fact, change their own future. It's Alice Through the Looking-Glass as filmed in the old Blue Peter studio. The idea that ultimately, the TARDIS can't sustain the paradox of two Amys shouldn't be taken a face value, of course. There were two Amys in there are recently as Time and Space, and two Doctors in Time Crash. But those were very short episodes, and in neither case did it overwrite one of the temporal doubles' histories. Doc5 and Doc10 could meet, but Amy+36 couldn't exist if Amy+0 didn't stay in that time stream.

Knowing the future prevents it. Dialog to this effect could be a clue as to how the Doctor gets out of his death sentence on Lake Silencio, though I hope it's not. We've also been told it's a fixed point, so presumably even knowing your fate isn't enough to prevent it. I imagine the answer will be much more convoluted and yet still prove the above axiom true. Knowing his fate, the Doctor will arrange for the appearance of his death to occur as planned. The Flesh is still the prime suspect.
Aging make-up. That is some wonderful aging make-up, I have to say. I can practically imagine Karen Gillen in interviews on Anniversary DVDs (or whatever) in 40 years time looking something like this. Television and movies are cruel to actors, keeping their youths preserved forever while intermittently catching up them so audiences can see the work of time on their faces, bodies and voices. Classic Who fans have seen lots of pretty companions grow old, and though the vast majority remain attractive, in our minds, they'll always be those young thangs. And that's part of this episode's poignancy. Though older Amy would make a fine companion (and by fine, I mean KICKASS), it's young Amy we need. A hard choice in the context of the story (and given how surprisingly well Gillen plays her), but still an obvious once. The format demands it. The rules of the tv universe demand it. TV is a parallel time stream where these characters will always be young, and we'll be on the other side of the mirror where time moves so much more quickly.

Dead again. Another instance of that particular meme, it's not just that one of the main characters dies, it's that she ceases to exist. The romantic osmosis I was talking about earlier takes a more ironic bent as Amy suffers the same fate as Rory in Cold Blood. But that's only one of the ways...

Waiting. Amy was dubbed The Girl Who Waited way back in The Elevent Hour, but she once again is made waiting by the Doctor (more than twice the number of years this time). It's the third time he's missed a rendezvous with her. And then there's Rory, who became The Boy Who Waited in The Big Bang. These two have more in common than Leadworth, don't they?

Rory's choice. And here's another. This episode could just as well have been called Rory's Choice, as there are plenty of similarities between it and Amy's Choice. In that Series 6 episode, Amy is forced to choose between adventure in the TARDIS and domesticity in Leadworth, or in other words, between the Doctor and Rory. And it's the Doctor that asks her to (if not on purpose), in the guise of the Dream Lord. Amy's choice is not to choose, or rather, to choose both. It is a promise of things to come, with a married couple in the TARDIS, both adventurous and domestic. In The Girl Who Waited, Rory is also asked to choose between two people, but both are Amy. Rory was never in a triangle. It's always been a straight line for him. And yet, one can be said to represent adventure (young Amy) and the other domesticity (the Amy he might have grown old with). He too is asked to choose by the Doctor, and he too chooses not to choose. The Doctor takes his choice away, however, perhaps because Rory is unable to choose rather than unwilling to choose like Amy. The Doctor is used to making hard choices. "It's not fair. You're turning me into you," says Rory. How this will tie into the thematic underpinnings of the program remains to be seen, but it makes this episode truly heartbreaking.

Doctor-lite? Episodes are usually made in blocks of four, but a Doctor Who series is 13 shows. To make it work, RTD's reign decided to institute "Doctor-lite" episodes in which the Doctor barely appeared. Love & Monsters and Blink both proved worthy experiments, but in later seasons, it was decided to make a Doctor-lite episode coincide with a companion-lite episode. Not much Rory and Amy in The God Complex trailer, could it be one of the latter? The Doctor plays an important role in The Girl Who Waited, but most of his scenes are in the TARDIS, leaving most of the action to his two companions, a strong defense of the multiple companion format.

Locations and sets and robots, oh my! Spraypaint some walls and furniture in white, and you've got a surreal landscape that evokes a blank existence and foretells the annihilation of a character's timeline. It was striking in The Mind Robber, and it is here too. Arid backdrops and strangely curved balconies, and a little bit of CGI over expansive gardens and you've got a wonderful mix of Alice in Wonderland and classic Star Wars. Sure, the handbots are rubbish, but they're supposed to be nurses, not security.
Don't worry about the Mona Lisa. Even if an alien mastermind hadn't forced Leonardo da Vinci to make lots of copies (later marked as fakes on the back by the Doctor), the real Mona Lisa was painted on wood, not canvas. Like a Romulan I know would say: "It's a FAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!!!!!"

8 comments:

Eric TF Bat said...

That make-up really was superb, wasn't it? The muppets who produced Richard Nixon and his prehensile nose for Watchmen should take notice, and be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

And of course, the situation was resolved because Rory and Amy love each other too much to abandon each other. Rory couldn't deny old-Amy and was opening the door for her, but old-Amy couldn't deny Rory her younger happier self.

The one thing I would have liked was, when Rory said to the Doctor "You knew you couldn't save both all along, didn't you?" the Doctor could have responded "I still had to try." But it was implied, maybe. Or maybe it wasn't. (I seem to recall that the Doctor used almost those same words with the Tennant Sontaran story.)

To me, Amy and Rory aren't dominant and submissive except on the surface: I don't believe Amy expects Rory to obey just because, nor does Rory feel obligated to. It's more that Rory knows not to take Amy's manner as more than it actually is, in other words he doesn't take the bait and turn everything into a contest of wills where there is absolutely no need to. Just my take on what these two fictitious characters are "actually" thinking.

Siskoid said...

And I would contend that that is EXACTLY was healthy dominant/submissive relationships are all about.

Anonymous said...

I think we have differing definitions then, because a dominant / submissive relationship, to me, requires one party to be "in charge" while the other is "obedient" ... which you would classify as merely the unhealthy variety of dominant / submissive.

Mind you, I'm dealing with friends in bad relationships right now, so I may currently be miscalibrated.

Siskoid said...

Perhaps it would help if I said that everyone is either dominant or submissive in relationships (not just S&M extremes).

Therefore, you only have three possible configurations:
-Dominant-submissive
-2 submissives
-2 dominants

The first may lead to abuse and resentment. The second is peaceful but perhaps a little passionless. The third is firey and explosive. Each has its healthy and unhealthy aspects, of course.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that's the root of it: I don't believe that people are necessarily either dominant or submissive in relationships. (Almost always you'll find that one partner is more expressive of wants and needs than the other, but I don't believe that's what you're talking about.)

Siskoid said...

Obviously, it's all over-simplification.

I find it interesting that you would take the part of the dominant as "most expressive of needs and wants". My instinct is to go the other way and explain the submissive as "most focused on the other's needs and wants". Guess which one I always turn out to be.

I realize "dominant/submissive" sounds pejorative. It's not meant to be. Amy is not a selfish person (as Rose perhaps was). She cares and sacrifices for Rory. It's just that Rory is more focused on her than she is focused on him, at least in Series 5.

Anonymous said...

See, looking after the other person strikes me as closer to dominant than submissive, in that it's protagonistic in nature. (Just don't neglect your own needs in the process!) But I don't think I'm good at using this particular filter.

 

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