amy's choice

They’re either going to love this one or hate it. I’m pretty sure I loved it.

At first, taken in parts, it really seems a bit naff. You’ve got two realities, at least one of which may be a dream, each appearing to reflect the fantasies of one of “Amy’s boys.” You’ve got the Dream Lord, a weaselly little impresario reminiscent of Q, the omnipotent plot device from Star Trek: The Next Generation who amuses himself putting the Enterprise crew into period costume and “unintentionally” helping them demonstrate the resourcefulness of humanity. And you’ve got the choice itself, which amounts to Amy choosing Rory or the Doctor. “Contrived” is too mild a word.

And yet, as a whole, it’s great fun, starting as always with the dialogue and delivery (“I’ve crushed your flowers.” / “Amy will kill you.”), but even the Doctor Who-in-miniature of the two realities is pretty terrific. The freezing TARDIS you saw in the trailer is the lesser of them, perhaps, but features an impressive spectacle on the scanner and a spooky Silent Hill: Frozen Memories mood when the console ices over. The monsters in Leadworth (excuse me, Upper Leadworth) seem like standard stuff at first — comfortable familiar objects/people who open their mouths to reveal what look like eyes (rather than teeth, as in “The Eleventh Hour,” “The Beast Below,” “The Time of Angels,” “Flesh and Stone,” and “Vampires of Venice” — but they’re deadly eyes, at least). But as the Dream Lord’s plot becomes clearer, the symbolism of these old people capable of turning young people into dust hits home.

Some fans will most likely find the symbolism obvious or familiar; the series began asking these kinds of questions about itself back in the Seventh Doctor’s era, possibly earlier, and I recall finding them a bit contrived even then. Not that I didn’t think it made sense for the Doctor to have a dark side, or that I minded a bit of mystery coming back, but I wanted it to feel natural and authentic. (The revelation of the mystery, in Marc Platt’s novel Lungbarrow, was just godawful nonsense as far as I was concerned.) Here the contrivance of the plot doesn’t matter so much because the dark side it explores feels perfectly natural and authentic. As does Amy’s actual choice.

The strength of a show like this, the freedom that allows it to feel fresher than ever 47 years after its birth in 1963, is that it can be anything it needs to be. Fending off menacing aliens might be its stock in trade, but in the back room you can always find the underrated gems: space/time riddles (“Castrovalva”), psychological/philosophical parables (“Kinda” and “Snakedance”), sociopolitical satire (“The Sun Makers,” “The Happiness Patrol,” “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” and more recently “The Long Game” and “Bad Wolf”), and even commentary on itself (“Love and Monsters,” a tough pill to swallow for many reasons). These are the episodes that really stand out and stick with me after they’re over. I’m happy to rank “Amy’s Choice” among them.

Oh, P.S.: what I’ve been saying about Amy and Rory being no Rose and Mickey? It’s true, they’re not, but I finally like them just about as much. They’re great here and it almost makes me sad to think they’ll be just fighting monsters in the next episode. Then again, considering who the monsters are, this could be fantastic.


  1. Jeffrey Lampert · May 16, 2010

    Haven’t seen this yet, but of course, because it’s me, I’m already fully spoiled.
    Any possibility that the Dream Lord is a reference to a certain foe of the Sixth Doctor? (Alternate realities…sounds like he’s enjoying his role as the Keeper of the Matrix…Considering the overall arc of Nu-Who, especially the end of The Waters of Mars, it feels like they’re driving toward such a manifestation)

    [Although from the clip I saw, the Dream Lord kind of reminded me of the assistant of the Celestial Toymaker, who was a lot more Q-like, come to think of it]

    I’m curious what “Amy *will* kill you” is in reference to…I’ve seen some fan speculation that a certain recurring guest star is actually Amy (River…Pond…get it? There’s also some rather interesting lines that the Doctor says to Amy [about her name and fairytales for example, in the Eleventh Hour] that River says back to him in the recent two-parter. Could be a red(head) herring, but it’d be interesting if Moffet goes this route. (And if I’m right about the true identity of the villain in the first paragraph, look who gets to kill him)

    I’m a little wary of Moffet’s choices thus far to focus on retreads of the RTD era (both good and bad points). I think Moffet preferred Eccleston, because Matt Smith’s doctor feels very similar; besides the obvious Rose/Mickey parallels, the doctor stands around while Amy saves the day in the first few episodes (particularly The Beast Below; compare to Rose in Dalek/Rose), the doctor is far more caustic and condescending (which is a plus, in my book), cracks-in-wall == Bad Wolf. And is it just me, or did Amy and Doctor’s initial excitement about running into vampires remind you or Rose and the Doctor’s giggling during Werewolves of London? (yes, I know, that’s Tennant-era)

    Moffet also seems to be following RTD’s schedule: create an arc for the season that gets hinted in bits and pieces: 1st episode is an intro, 2nd episode is the far future, 3rd is historical, etc.

    Mind you, I’ve enjoyed the new season, and I already like Smith’s general portrayal better than Tennant (though the latter was brilliant in the last “season”). But I worry that most of this feels like a retread of things we’ve been though fairly recently.

    (And BTW, one quibble I’ve had with Nu-Who overall. Yes, I know this is probably due to the episode length, but does *every* episode have to involve a big monster? Can’t we have an episode where the Doctor just meddles in historical/future politics? Too old school?)

    • encyclops · May 16, 2010

      Dream Lord as V-man: I doubt he’s intended as a direct reference, though he’s explained in almost exactly the same way. Seems more like a tip of the hat or a borrowed idea than anything with larger import, though who knows?

      “Amy will kill you”/Pond-River: yikes. I was going to say “it was just a funny line,” but the emphasis might indeed be more than just funny delivery. This never for a second occurred to me. I hope it’s a red herring, but again, who knows?

      Nine/Ten stuff: I think Smith is more like Tennant than Eccleston in terms of persona, but I see where you’re coming from. Nine got excited about danger too in much the same way, if you go back and check (“The Unquiet Dead” and “Aliens in London” are just two examples), so it still fits your theory as well as “Tooth and Claw” (Amy gets to that point faster than Rose did, is all). Agreed also about the pattern of the season. It continued with the two-parter about the showrunner-created aliens.

      I feel the same way about Smith. I liked Eccleston and Tennant a lot, but Smith is really, really engaging and endlessly fun to watch. It helps that he’s getting good scripts, though; in “Victory of the Daleks” he was as dull as everyone else, really.

      Historicals: I’m sure you know that the only pure historical since the sixties was “Black Orchid,” which was only a little longer than a New Who episode. Personally I loved that story, but it’s reviled by fans. That might be one reason you never see them anymore. I also don’t think many of the new writers are really qualified to write historicals, since they require both facts and insight. 😉 But I hear you on the future politics thing — there’s no reason we couldn’t have a story about a future society that doesn’t have some lurking CGI menace. Arguably “The End of the World” and “Gridlock” came close; their monsters weren’t absolutely crucial to the plot, at least. I’m trying to recall a future-politics monster-free story from the Classic era too, and I’m not sure I can come up with one. “Vengeance on Varos,” maybe? Surely there was a monster in there I’m forgetting, apart from Sil.