Sunday, 11 September 2011

'The Girl Who Waited' Review

'Doctor Who' Series 6 Episode 10 - 'The Girl Who Waited'
Written by Tom MacRae - Directed by Nick Hurran

I've made no secret about my hopes for this episode, in fact it's been my most anticipated of the sixth series. My favourite episode of last year's series was the fabulous 'Amy's Choice' so the thought of another Pond-centred tale excited me beyond belief, but were my expectations met?

Plot Outline:
The TARDIS arrives on the planet Appalachia; a place The Doctor has told Amy and Rory is wonderful. However, on arrival the trio are welcomed to sheer white emptiness. It's soon revealed that Appalachia is a therapy facility in which the ill come to stay and eventually die. Amy unfortunately manages to lock herself into a different time stream to The Doctor and Rory which begins an eventful and emotional ride which is a struggle to overcome.

 'Doctor Who' is that rare television show that still after all these years, is able to shift and side-swipe it's audience. You could be thinking one thing but actually it's something entirely different. This is one of the areas where the show strives and 'The Girl Who Waited' re-enforces this idea completely. 

 What starts out as a intriguing Sci-Fi plot soon turns into a gripping, taut and harrowing exhibition of love, human rights and equality. Nothing is as it seems and consequently the plot reflects this to the viewer. One moment you could be laughing at another classic line from Rory before being shot back down to reality by an emotional bullet to the heart making this 45 minute tale is an extraordinary example of scripting, performing and above all else, television.

 Some of the show's best episodes have been 'Doctor-light' such as 'Blink' and 'The Girl Who Waited' rightfully joins that list. That's not to say The Doctor being absent is better, far from it and he is certainly more frequent here than in 'Blink', but it's nice to see that previous Cyberman writer Tom MacRae focused his story on Amy and Rory. It's rare to have two companions who are so intrinsically detailed and designed so it makes sense to give them an episode to express that, and what a better way of digging deep into a character's psyche than to have the particular character in question meet an older version of themselves?

 Old Amy had been through so much in her 36 years alone and isolated in her long-lost time stream - she has spent her days hiding and fighting off the 'friendly' Handbots and hoping that Rory and The Doctor would save her. Once Rory finds her, she is devoid of emotion and pity, and unsurprisingly has a sheer hatred of our Gallifreyan hero. The contrast between the Amy Pond we know and love, and the fearless and tormented elderly version forces an incredible weight onto Rory and indeed the viewers. Old Amy has basically lived her life for death, and for young Amy to be saved would shift her timeline once again causing the older version to have never existed. 36 years of solitude just to be wiped out for 'another' version of yourself is a heavy and monumentally unfair burden to face. 

 The gravity of Amy and Rory's situation is enormous and tests their relationship greatly, and it's here where 'The Girl Who Waited' shines brighter than the piercing white light from The Interface. Karen Gillan's performance is simply spellbinding - it's easily her best to date, and considering she's always great, this episode is proof of just how talented she is. Playing both young and old Amy, she snatches every scene and performs with heartfelt emotion, edge and grit, and believability. It was stunning to watch her act so fabulously. Arthur Darvill was exceptional too and nailed the tough decisions he must make for his 'wives'. The sequence at the TARDIS door was the most honestly affecting and powerful scene of 2011 without a doubt and that's not just in 'Doctor Who' - that's the most powerful moment in the year's general TV viewing. Darvill's stress and pity struck such a chord with the viewer - easily enough to make a grown man cry. Smith was very good as ever but as I previously mentioned, this was the Pond's hour and what a magnificently fine hour it was.

 My original hopes for this episode were certainly met and quickly surpassed making 'The Girl Who Waited' the best episode of Series 6 by a country mile. Television rarely meets these heights and manages to blow one away so dramatically. It was visually beautiful in it's set design, detail and production, narratively beautiful with it's perfect scripting, formatting and developing and painstakingly beautiful from the incredibly moving and satisfying performances. If anybody thought this would just be a 'filler episode', I bet they are eating their hats right now. The Handbots frequently exclaimed "This is a kindness!" and they were right; it was incredibly kind of MacRae and the 'Doctor Who' team to give the world this masterpiece.

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