Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Amy’s Choice written by Simon Nye and directed by Catherine Morshead

This story in a nutshell: ‘Amy’s men, Amy’s choice…’

The Nutty Professor: Highlighting the differences between the ‘never looking back’ tenth Doctor we open this story with the eleventh Doctor visiting Amy and Rory five years after they left him. When he sees Amy’s life in the dullest village known to man he wonders what they do to stave off the self-harm. He threw the TARDIS manual into a supernova because he was cross and he disagreed with it. Not even the Doctor can withstand the charms of a nice old lady who wants you to try on a woolly jumper for size. The Dream Lord is instantly charismatic and insulting, taking the piss out of the Doctor’s many ridiculous nicknames. The madcap vehicle, the cocamene hair, the clothes designed by a first year fashion student…if he had any more tawdry quirks he could open a tawdry quirk shop. He sniffs out things that aren’t exactly as they seem. Why does everybody expect him to always know everything? Fascinating that the Doctor figures out who the Dream Lord is on the strength of how much he hates him and that opens up a whole universe of possibilities about the Doctor’s level of self hate post the Time War. That might have been worth examining further but it is never touched upon again. The old man that prefers the company of the young? Ouch Amy has really put the Doctor on a pedestal and when he cannot save Rory she questions what the point of him is.  Like he is responsible for everybody in the universe. I would have reciprocated that sentiment and aked what the point of her is. Matt Smith’s quiet ‘okay’ as Amy reveals that she wants to kill herself in this reality because she cannot bear a life without Rory is desperately sweet. You just want to hug him. The darkness in Amy and Rory would have starved the Dream Lord because the Doctor chooses his friends very carefully but in over 900 years to choose from the Doctor was a feast. The last shot is very telling – the Doctor still has his own demons to face and the Dream Lord is waiting…

Scots Tart: This episode was the making of Amy for me, the point where I could actually see some potential in the character beyond being aggression and flirtation. It's at this point where she stops being a generic Scots redhead with an attitude problem and over excited libido and actually becomes a character with some degree of consideration. Why is it that the guest writers are bringing this character to life with so much more effectiveness than the showrunner? Amy screams so loud she scares a crow from a tree. How funny does she look with the bowl of pudding mix perched on top of her pregnant stomach and rampantly stuffing her face with mixture? Equally hilarious is her fake pregnancy moment when she manages to turn the Doctor as white as a sheet with a simple scream. It’s fascinating that when Amy has to make her choice before both men she says Rory but doesn’t even look at him. She’s gone from the day before her wedding to telling her fiancé they will get married ‘some day.’ Amy’s casual ‘whack her!’ makes me wet myself. Sometimes her bossiness is amusing rather than annoying. There is more insane humour as she does her little poncho boys dance. The Dream Lord manages to get to nub of this seasons problem: Amy ran away with a handsome hero and would she really give that up to be with a bumbling country doctor who thinks the only thing you need to remain interesting is a ponytail? Interesting that Amy doesn’t like being asked to make a choice of which life is the real one. Both are enticing to her. The big question is does Amy really deserve Rory when she only realises how much she loves him after he dies…and that it takes two attempts at this to really drive the point home? If real life is the world where Rory is dead Amy doesn’t want it and she makes an unforgettable decision to kill herself and make the other world a reality. I do question the sanity of making the nature of Amy and Rory's relationship her choice because she really doesn't deserve it given her behaviour over the past couple of episodes.

The Loyal Roman: Rory’s ponytail has to be seen to be believed (by Amy also it seems who takes a sly look behind his back the first time they wake up in the TARDIS). Rory, bless him, is so deluded that he thinks the Doctor is the gooseberry in the TARDIS. He wants the village lifestyle so badly and he is convinced that it is reality. All of Rory’s dreams are encapsulated in seeing the nursery for their baby and Arthur Darvil captures your sympathies effortlessly as he sags over the crib. Amy’s reaction to him cutting his ponytail gets me every time, it's such an oddly tender moment.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’ve swallowed a planet!’
‘When worlds collide!’
‘You can’t spot a dream while you’re having it…’
‘Time to sleep…or are you waking up?’
‘It can be the night before our wedding for as long as we want!’
‘Loves a redhead our naughty Doctor. Has he told you about Elizabeth the First? Well she thought she was the first…’
‘You’re probably a vegetarian aren’t you, you big flop haired wuss!’

The Good Stuff: Straight away we are back in a lovely green environment – this really is the season of the scenic country landscapes and villages and I just happen to find charming. I love the camera shot that comes over the side to slowly reveal Amy’s pregnancy, that’s some clever camera work that expertly reveals a plot point. I also like how the pollen falls through the Leadworth scenes almost imperceptibly (you could almost mistake it for light rain most of the time). You have three distinct personalities in the TARDIS now; Rory thinks of their life in a sweet little village being married to Amy as a dream come to true, to the Doctor it was a nightmare and as far as Amy was concerned she was the size of a house. It's brilliant to spend so much time in the new TARDIS giving the audience a chance to get used to the feel and size of it and it is interesting that when the ship loses its power and is plunged into darkness it is far more atmospheric than the last time they tried to do this (Rise of the Cybermen). Without a doubt Toby Jones gives one of the finest villain performances since the series came back, he’s a delight to watch and sports some very witty dialogue. Jones is such a strong performer anyway but matched with Nye's sharp dialogue they are practically untoppleable. Nice to see that the Doctor is still concocting weird devices out of household objects (this time a corkscrew and a whisk) ala The Time Monster. A cold star is another simple but effective fantasy idea in this fairytale season, the Ship is literally drifting towards a cold sun. There is a magical shot of the TARDIS approaching the star with ice crystals bursting on its shell. The march of the octogenarians is very quirky, I was cheering upon the first broadcast. Ice can burn and sofas can read dont’cha know? How funny is it when the Doctor knocks that old woman off the roof – it’s so wrong but I can’t help but laugh! The cut from Amy driving the van into the cottage to the snow crusted console room is one of the best scenes of the year and the imagery is unforgettable.

The Bad Stuff: People bemoan that the psychic pollen explanation is disappointing but the method for whipping up their dream state isn’t important. It’s the character work that is important. I still find Amy an irritant, despite the good work that is done here. It's probably irrational on my part but I just cannot warm to this character.

Result: Nice to see the old ‘sideways’ adventures leaking back into the series and this is a particularly good example. The premise is so simple; two worlds and one of them is a dream and our heroes have to figure out which one is which. It brings to the surface a whole universe of feelings that exists between the three main characters and finally puts to rest the three in a bed tack that has been plaguing the last few episodes. Murray Gold provides a memorable score and the episode is full of unusual imagery but what really impressed me was the wealth of quality dialogue that Simon Nye conjures. This is only Doctor Who to mention self-harm, feature old ladies being up, ends in suicide (twice over) and explores just how much the Doctor might hate himself. It wont be to everybody’s tastes because there is a distinct lack of traditional elements but I found the character work enchanting and the layered plot one of the most successful of the year. The direction is occasionally stilted and I am naturally irritated by anything that has 'Amy' in the title but those were the only issues I could find with this oddball piece. I would love to see the Dream Lord back again: 8/10


Ed Azad said...

The back and forth between Amy and Rory is very nice. It's clear that Amy is having second thoughts about settling down early; her hell is Rory's paradise. And that nicely frames the Doctor has an infinite well of possibilities that she would be shutting the door on.

I'm not sure Amy was well-handled as a character, though. Her arc, if it can be described as such, was resolved with her wedding and the revival of her family. But her storybook romance to her childhood friend (predictably?) falls apart so she is basically is forced to settle down at gunpoint, losing any gains she had previously made (her modeling career, her resurrected family). I'm not sure what the takeaway from all this is.

I still prefer Amy to Clara. With Amy and Eleven, it felt like they were on equal footing despite the quips about Amy wearing the pants around here. With Clara you sense that she's the real star. Maybe this is Moffat's idea of mission creep, gradually get people used to the idea of a Female Time Lord so you can eventually cast one.

Peakius Baragonius said...

Glad to see you acknowledge your irrationality concerning Amy ;) also, I thought you at least viewed her characterization in the (*still* incredibly underrated :P) Beast Below as a positive?

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David Pirtle said...

This is one of Eleven's better stories, and I entirely agree with the review. I'd also love to see the Dream Lord return, though I'm not sure how that'd work now. But that's never stopped the writers before.