Amy's Choice – A Review

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My Favourite Peruvian Folk Band

Okay, okay, I know that I have missed a week and failed to post up a review of the Vampires of Venice. It is coming soon I promise, but first I wanted to get my thoughts about the latest episode that aired at the weekend, Amy’s Choice. And in the words of the Doctor himself… this is going to be a tricky one. Events kicked off with a very Jam and Jerusalem opening. There was rolling countryside, picture postcard cottages, free-range geese and sit-up-and-beg push bikes. There was even a distracting Miss Ellie-style soft focus shot of the very pregnant Amy, while she baked her cakes (which sounds like a euphamism but isn’t). It was interesting that there was no preamble to this story, no indication of why we had jumped in to the future Doctor and Amy’s relationship. It all made sense in hindsight but put me out of step and feeling quite uncomfortable with Simon Nye’s story from the offset. There was plenty of comment dating back to The Eleventh Hour that the village of Leadworth had a weird timelessness about it and here too, it was, if anything, even more to the fore. During the episode itself, the Dream Lord described it as “…the village that time forgot” and never a truer word was said. There is definitely more to this Gloucestershire (?) village than meets the eye. Other opinion is that this programme  is simply being Doctor Who and therefore everything appearing strange, or may be it is a stylistic choice and no more on behalf of the production team but I’m not so sure. When Rory and his anachronistic pony-tail was explaining that the village felt real to him, I was silently shouting “It’s anything but real” but my reverie was cut short by the fact we were suddenly beset by scary grannies

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Of course, the creepy nature of Leadworth formed only half the story. It has been a long standing plea from certain elements of fandom to set a whole tale right inside the TARDIS and I can imagine it turning up in some fanfic or a comic strip but I never expected to see it unravel on the telly. However, after a fashion, that is exactly what we got. It seemed to be a perfect opportunity to explore some other hidden, off-screen spaces within the time machine but budgets, or some other necessity meant that the TARDIS action was limited to the (still rather wonderful) control room. The scene, or rather the two scenes, were then set. On the one hand, The Doctor in his TARDIS with promise of adventure and danger and an unimaginable life, and on the other hand, Rory in his chocolate box village and domestic security. Amy, on almost every level imaginable had to choose between them.

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Simon Nye is a writer of some repute and I think it is fair to say that his most famous work is Men Behaving Badly, a series known at the time for bringing a more edgy, adult-themed comedy to prime-time BBC1. Some of that edginess came to the fore here as well. It’s hard to imagine any other show aimed primarily at children (and big kids like me) coming up with a line like “What do you do round here to stave off the self harm?” and then having the main character knock a granny off the roof after hitting her with a lamp-stand. All of this resulted in a very different feel to this episode and it was unlike any other post-2005 story that I can remember. And that is no bad thing at all. Although it meant that I, as a viewer, still couldn’t be entirely comfortable with it. The script was sparkling throughout though with a deluge of quotable lines: “Did I say it was a nightmare? No. just more of a really good… mare”.

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Every good drama requires an interesting bad guy and Toby Jones’ Dream Lord was just suitably and spookily portrayed. As soon as it became clear that he and the Doctor had some kind of shared history, my mind began racing as to whether this was going to be the reintroduction of another classic villain. Toymaker, Master, Monk, all fleetingly crossed my mind and were soon dismissed but I never really made the leap to the truth before the reveal at the end of the episode. Perhaps the most significant line of the story was when the Doctor said to the Dream Lord. “There’s only person in the universe who hates me as much as you do” but I still didn’t get it after that either.

Anyway, the story ploughed on with dilemma’s presenting themselves in each reality. The TARDIS scenes seemed to have the most immediate sense of peril thanks to the inability of the crew to do anything about their fate other than bunging on a few ponchos and fashioning a wind-up power supply from a whisk and a bottle opener. I began to lose faith in the episode when we got to Rory’s death. As harrowing as it undoubtedly was, I couldn’t buy in to the fact that The Doctor and Amy so readily sacrificed themselves after their friend died. I could see Amy’s motivation but it seemed like a really out-of-character act for the Doctor.  Also, if the object of the exercise is to kill yourself, then driving a camper van through a garden wall and in to a cottage at no more that 20 mph would probably leave you badly bruised with a bit of whiplash. #suicidefail as they would say on Twitter. What could have been a Thelma and Louise moment turned a bit Ferris Bueller.

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However, the right choice seemed to have been made after the Dream Lord conceded defeat and left the scene and the three friends cold but alive in the TARDIS. But I was feeling a little empty. I couldn’t for the life of me see the point of the last forty minutes. My despair was amplified when (after the Miss Ellie opening) we got the Bobby Ewing ending. It turns out that both halves of Amy’s Choice turned out to be dreams after all. Everything was quickly dismissed as being the fault of some “Psychic pollen from the Candle Meadows of Craston Slavva”. It was all a bloody dream! Who wrote this? A twelve year old?! I was on the verge of throwing a slipper at the plasma screen. But then, the stroke of genius. In an almost throwaway line, the Dream Lord was revealed as being the dark-side of the Doctor himself. Brought to “life” by a mind parasite that feeds on the darkness of one’s soul. Hang on. This was the Dark Doctor’s way of forcing Amy to make the choice between him and Rory. And what was all that about the only person in the universe who hates the Doctor as much as what turns out to be the Doctor? The Doctor, for all his wonderfulness, hates himself. And when we are back firmly in the real world and Amy has made her choice (Rory), then the events of the dream take on a serious milestone in the overall narrative of Amy’s story. Now that is really clever. It suddenly makes a second viewing an enormously more enjoyable experience than the first.

Good television should challenge the viewer, and I have rarely felt more challenged by Doctor Who than this one.

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