Entertainment Magazine

Review #3003: Doctor Who 6.10: “The Girl Who Waited”

Posted on the 12 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

One of the things I’ve appreciated the most out of the Steven Moffat era of “Doctor Who” is Moffat’s unwillingness to shy away from the darker side of the Doctor. Much of the time, it’s easy to simplify the Doctor into a benevolent god who runs around time and space righting wrongs. But very often, we’re forced to see the Doctor in a more complex light. Moffat didn’t write this specific episode, but the episode is very much in line with the portrayal of the Doctor that he’s been pushing from the start.

Review #3003: Doctor Who 6.10: “The Girl Who Waited”

I’ve mentioned something to this effect in past reviews, but a pet peeve of mine among many sci-fi shows is their failure to maturely or realistically address the consequences of their concepts, which is often brought on, in part, by the limiting format of episodic television. “Doctor Who” has, more often than not, been well-above average in this regard. The “Rebel Flesh” two-parter gave us a relatively mature story about what it means to be a “person”, with the flesh people being treated humanely by the Doctor, rather than marginalized as being less “real” than their non-synthetic counterparts.

In any episode with a duplicate of a main character, a certain amount of predictability will typically occur in that it is almost inevitable that only one of the versions will be left standing by the end. Worse yet, many sci-fi shows have their duplicate or alternate versions of main characters be strangely content with the idea of being destroyed for the sake of the originals. So I’ll say right off that it was enormously refreshing to see that Future Amy, despite the years of hell that she endured, did not want to be destroyed/overwritten. It struck me as being a far, far more realistic portrayal than you’d seen in many other sci-fi shows (some exceptions that come to mind include “Farscape”, “Fringe”, and even “Star Trek: TNG”).

Of course, the episode still had to deal with the inherent predictability of such a premise. Future Amy does die, and is erased from existence, but writer Tom MacRae does well at making it all feel unpredictable and profound. I was impressed with how MacRae dealt with the subject matter, absolutely refusing to include a convenient, easy fix for the problem. In the end, it’s a messy, tragic solution to a problem that only occurred in the first place because of the Doctor’s reckless behavior; something the Doctor must realize, deep down, but can’t bring himself to openly admit.

And then there’s the acting. I’ve never gravitated to Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond as much as many fans have (I always liked Rory better), but I have to give her some credit here. It’s not easy to make this kind of role believable, but she’s surprisingly convincing as Future Amy. In addition, a lot of the episode’s strongest material occurs during the conflict between Rory and the Doctor near the end. Rory is a voice of sanity here, rightfully calling the Doctor out for being so careless. I’m really going to miss Rory whenever he leaves the show, as he’s quite possibly becoming my favorite companion of “NuWho”.

Though this is very much a stand-alone episode, it fits brilliantly with the established character arcs. Amy currently adores the Doctor, but Rory’s loyalty to the Doctor has always stemmed more from his and the Doctor’s mutual care for Amy. It’s been a uniting common goal for them, but as we see here, it can just as easily cause Rory to direct his anger at the Doctor. In my opinion, the best kinds of companions are those that aren’t blinded by devotion, and are not afraid to stand up the Doctor when he’s made a mistake or gone too far.

The episode does have its weaknesses that keep it from being as great as it could be. The characters had to be rendered a bit more stupid than usual to create the situation. It’s a bit hard to believe that Amy could have somehow turned into a technical genius during her time in isolation. And the science? Well, it’s “Doctor Who” science, so you know what to expect: a blend between light sci-fi and outright fantasy. But that one is hardly a flaw. Time travel (into the past anyway) is probably impossible, but imagining that there was some way to alter past events and create/destroy “time streams” at will, “The Girl Who Waited” does a pretty good job of exploring the realistic consequences of that possibility, and the moral questions it raises.

Overall, the episode is one of the best of the season. (Impressively we still haven’t had a genuine dud of an episode this season.) I think it didn’t go quite as far with its premise as it could have, and probably won’t change the status quo as much as I would like, but it’s a highly admirable effort at telling a thought-provoking, drama-laden sci-fi story. It’s episodes like these that make one question the validity of labeling “Doctor Who” a “children’s show”, when it often takes such a mature approach to its subject matter and its own characters.

Rating: 8/10

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