Originally written for ace tellysite TV Pixie
The Doctor doesn’t have a job.
He’s effectively a student on an extended gap ‘yaah’, gallivanting through time in his over-privileged bow-tie and post-ironic hipster tweed jacket, which possibly explains why his timekeeping is so very, very bad: he needs more structure in his life. Regular appraisals, that kind of thing.
Being a timelord and all, you’d think he could correct any tardiness with his… er… Tardis. But that doesn’t seem to be the case as he’s left Amy Pond waiting more times than an overpriced British train franchise.
In the inaugural Matt Smith-as-Doctor episode ‘The Eleventh Hour’, he pops away for ‘five minutes’ when Amy is about eight years old and when he nips back she’s in her mid-to-late twenties.
Almost 20 years… a long five minutes by anyone’s standards. Almost as long as five minutes spent watching Emmerdale.
As if that weren’t enough, in Saturday’s episode: ‘The Girl Who Waited’ – (see, Amy even has her own epithet based on being kept hanging around) – the Doc does it again. This time, it’s not 20 years, oh no. It’s 36. And Amy isn’t left on Earth to carry on her normal life. Oh no. She’s trapped in a murderous quarantine facility on a planet at the far end of the Universe.
Understandably, when Rory and the Doctor catch up with her she’s a bit bitter. Very bitter, in fact. More bitter than a lemon stuffed with Haribo Tangfastics. What was supposed to be a holiday on a tourist planet turned into decades spent hiding in an engine room trapped in a lonely, artificially speeded up time stream.
Well, lonely-ish. In true Robinson Crusoe fashion, she’s created her own fake companion: a bit like Wilson, Tom Hanks’s friendly basketball friend in Castaway. Or possibly Milky Joe from the Mighty Boosh. Amy’s faux chum is (tellingly) called Rory. Although rather than a ball or a coconut, she constructed it out of a murderous, hypodermic syringe-wielding medi-bot.
But of course.
Although the initial set up with the plague, the futuristic ‘two streams’ holding facility and the garden is fun and intriguing; the episode doesn’t really get going until Old Amy appears. Playing an unnaturally aged, butt-kicking, angry version of herself gives Karen Gillan the chance to experiment with the character. Ok, so it’s not a huge stretch: instead of a grumpy, shouty young Scottish woman who over enunciates, she plays a grumpy, shouty older Scottish woman who avoids eye contact, clumps around in homemade armour and looks a bit gruff.
However, she fills her performance with enough tough, pained poignancy to plaster over any cracks. And by ‘cracks’, we clearly mean ‘badly executed plastic wrinkles’. She’s so used to staying alive that she can’t bear the thought of helping Rory and the Doctor rescue her younger self. If they do, she’ll no longer exist.
Selfish Old Amy (as we’ll call her from now on) isn’t so much haunted by the past as infuriated by it. The Doctor stole her life and she’s not happy with him at all. Over the years, she’s somehow managed to create a sonic screwdriver out of things she’s found lying around like some kind of ginger Macgyver. Or a one woman A-Team. But she won’t call it a screwdriver, a word that reminds her of the Doc. Instead, she insists it’s a ‘probe’…clearly not aware that it sounds, um, dodgy.
She’s not particularly kind to Rory at first: although it’s probably not that easy to reconnect with an ex after 36 years, especially one who’s taken to wearing oversized Pixie Geldof hipster specs. Her fury with him is a tad unfair: after all, he guarded Amy for 2,000 years or so while she was imprisoned in the Pandorica. 36 years isn’t much in comparison. Yes, she’s been in solitary confinement but at least she didn’t have to live through two world wars. Or a rerun of the 80s. The 80s were rubbish, no matter what Ashes to Ashes would have you believe.
But love wins out yet again. It’s Selfish Old Amy’s love for Rory that gives her the strength to defy causality and help bring the two time streams together. After a brief motivational talk from her teary-eyed, younger version (lucky they had that handy temporal lens, eh?) old Amy decides to help rescue, er, herself.
For all that this episode seems to be about Amy, it’s not. It’s about Rory. They should have called it ‘The Boy Who Dealt With The Ramifications Of A Time Lord’s Repeated Failure To Get Anywhere On Time’. Rory’s the one who has to deal with a furious older version of his wife holding a sword to his neck; who has to try and win her over, breaks through her barriers; shares a kiss with her and – ultimately – has to make the terrible, shattering decision to leave her behind in order to save her younger self. It’s like Sophie’s Choice, but with robots. Robots with needles in their faces.
Arthur Darvill has always been the unsung hero of the series reboot, but in this unexpectedly powerful episode he shines. He’s dealt with repeated, Kenny-from-South Park death, the loss (and subsequent rediscovery) of his daughter, waiting 2,000 years for a box to open… all in the background, playing second fiddle to the Amy-And-The-Doctor show.
Here’s hoping for a spin-off series: “Rory: Temporal HR Officer”, in which our hero follows the Doctor around the multiverse handing out warnings for poor timekeeping and eventually firing him for being 80 years late for his annual appraisal.