Doctor Who: XI and the Tawdrily Quirky Nightmare

June 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm (BBC, Geekery, TV) (, , , , )

Amy’s Choice – written by Simon Nye

Oh. Dear. On this one I’m divided. Half of me hated it, and half of me admired it greatly. And even the half that hated it only hated it because it cut too deep, and too close to the bone. One question first – has the companion-actor’s name ever been featured before the title along with the Doctor-actor’s? Amy/Karen Gillan’s is (though Rory/Arthur Darvill’s is not). 

Nice kitchenAmy and Rory in their very cute kitchen hear a familiar sound – well, familiar to Amy;  Rory: “-  Leafblowers! Get a rake!”   – as the Doctor materializes in a quiet – very quiet (too quiet) village of Leadworth.  The difference in their reactions to the sound is perfect.  He is more surprised than most viewers (who, after all, saw the previews) at Amy’s girth.

Doctor: Well, I wanted to see how you were – you know me, I don’t just *abandon* people when they leave the TARDIS. (line here I couldn’t catch even by rerunning it five times and turning it up louder each time) (*goodsearch* Ah!) This Time Lord’s for life. You don’t get rid of your old pal the Doctor that easily!
Amy: You came here by mistake, didn’t you?
Doctor: Bit of a mistake, yeah. But look, what a result! Look at this nice … bench. What a nice bench. What will they think of next?

On the surface, this is at least the second great thumping whopper to come out of 11’s mouth, the first being the whole Prime Directive spiel in “The Beast Below”. To quote himself, what’s with that? One thing about 10, he saw himself quite clearly – and was quite hard on what he saw. (“Sweet, maybe. Passionate, I suppose. But don’t ever mistake me for nice.”)  The number of ex-Companions he ever sees again went up quite a lot during the 10 years, but that’s mainly because Rose tried her hand at saving the world(s), and because he accidentally ran into Sarah Jane, and so forth.  So – is he fibbing to make himself feel better, to put on a good front for Amy and Rory, or does he really believe what he’s saying?

“I’m getting on a bit, you see – don’t let the cool gear fool you.”
– Because, of course, bow ties are cool. But … Huh. I’d like to check back and see how often 10, much less 9, mentioned his age. I don’t think they did it as often as 11. And what does *that* mean?

“Did I say nightmare? No, more of a really good … mare…”
– The fact that his eyes drifted down to Amy’s belly right around then gave that last word a couple of meanings, or a couple of shadings to the same meaning … Origin: Middle English, a female demon that afflicts sleeping people : night + mare, goblin (from Old English; see mer- in Indo-European roots).  Heh.

I actually rather like that it took him five minutes to say “Are you pregnant?” A) he wasn’t listening to her, completely distracted by her belly (not that he usually listens); and B) how often does he see pregnant women, really?   

“Hold on tight – this is gonna be a tricky one.”  
He smiles

 “Stop talking to me when I’m cross!”
– My new motto.

Doctor: I told you – trust nothing you see or hear or feel – look around you, examine everything, look for all the details that don’t ring true.
Rory: OK, well, we’re on a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside –
Amy: With a bowtie-wearing alien –
Rory: – so maybe “what rings true” isn’t so simple.
Doctor: That’s a point.
– – Yes, but it doesn’t mean to altogether not do as the Doctor said. Then again, was there anything in either scenario that did have a tinny sound to it? The only thing I can think of is the Doctor’s helplessness in the face of the TARDIS drifting toward the frozen sun – I’ve never seen him just step back and walk away from the console. Or if he ever has done it it’s only been to crawl around in the innards a bit – he always finds SOMEthing. And then again again, they *were* a little busy much of the time running for their lives and fending off the nasty little man.

The Doctor, in a nutshell: “There’s something there that doesn’t make sense. Let’s go and poke it with a stick.”

The Dream Lord: “Last of the Time Lords, the Oncoming Storm, Him in a Bowtie…” of Rory “And what about the gooseberry here?”  So much awfulness, and even worse in retrospect.  I want to go watch it again now to see it knowing the ending – and I really, really don’t.  See?  Divided.  It was in there, I believe, he figured out who the Dream Lord was.  After that, he did seem a bit more stolid about what was said to him.  It still hit home, but knowing the source made it … harder, and easier… Divided, see? 

“If we’re going to die let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band.”
 – What I want to be my last words.

“Poor Amy – he always leaves you, doesn’t he, alone in the dark. Never apologizes.”
” He doesn’t have to.”
— Oh.  Dear.

“Friends? Is that the right word for the people you acquire? Friends are people you stay in touch with. Your friends never see you again once they’ve grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?” – The fallacy of the “just stopped by to see how you are this Time Lord’s for life” whopper.  And also another touch on his age – the youngest looking regeneration of them all, feeling his centuries. 

— And here’s where the episode stopped being any fun at all …
Amy: This is the dream.
Doctor: How do you know?
Amy: Because if this is real I don’t want it. I don’t want it.
— Karen Gillan’s delivery of this line was one of the best I can think of, anywhere, from anyone. It’s utterly not what I expected from a line I did expect, and throbbed with brand new pain. Wow. This girl’s good.

A little of the fun comes back:
Rory: “Was it something I said? Could you tell me what it was so I can use it in emergencies, and maybe birthdays?” 
— TwoP was haughty because Rory was all happy that, in another reality, his very pregnant wife committed suicide over him – and I don’t understand why.  He’s been really, really uncertain about her feelings for him, probably before the Doctor ever came back.  Since the bachelor party, he’s been having a miserable time of it – but now, now he knows.  She tells him what happened, and he understands why she did what she did.  Yeah, he’s happy.  Idiots.   


Doctor: Sorry, wasn’t it obvious?  The Dream Lord was me.  [pause for shock waves to roll] Psychic pollen, it’s a mind parasite. Feeds on everything dark in you, gives it a voice, turns it against you. I’m nine hundred and seven. It had a lot to go on.
Amy: But why didn’t it feed on us too?
Doctor: The darkness in you pair, it would have starved to death in an instant. I choose my friends with great care.
— There’s a lot in that exchange to ponder.  “The Dream Lord was me.”  Whoa.  Didn’t see that coming.  Should have, maybe, but didn’t … No, sweetie, it wasn’t obvious, to me at least.  “I don’t know what you’re doing in here, but there’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do” – – whoa.

I really do need to watch this again soon – the spin the ending will give to a great many lines, like that, and – – OH! Ick – I just thought of the costume change relating to “anything could happen” – oh.  Dear.

One thing that puzzled me immediately, largely because of the previous episode, was that the Doctor’s “darkness” in this episode centered on Amy, and on his treatment of Companions in general.  And on his inability to know everything and save everyone, also, but mostly – Amy. Is this supposed to mean that the blame he’s carried for the extinction of the Time Lords has been laid to rest?  And then there’s the Saturnynians – but that was done to save Venice; so many other deaths on his conscience … I would very much have expected that to be a heavy weight – a heavy darkness.  Not that Amy wouldn’t be weighing on his mind a great deal lately.  Just, you know, deaths of entire races versus where a Scottish girl’s affections really lie … Seems to me the former would squinch out the latter, just a smidge.

“I choose my friends with great care.”  Oh.  Wow.  That moved Amy, at least, and me, and I believe Rory too – I think the appropriate Briticism here is “chuffed”.  That was a very chuffing thing to say – in a typically Doctorish almost backhand and impersonal (i.e., not specifically “Amy and Rory, you are good people”) manner.

One shame of the episode was when the Dream Lord *shudder* was going off on the Doctor’s tawdry quirks – (“Gaudy and cheap in nature or appearance”) (“If you had any more tawdry quirks you could open a tawdry quirks shop.”) (Once again, count the minutes till there’s a blog named that.  Those: both “Tawdry quirks” and “Tawdry Quirk Shop”) (*changes title of post*) (where – ? – oh) – he said he was surprised “you haven’t got a little purple space dog” just to ram home how quirky he is.  I‘m surprised, very, that it wasn’t “a little tin space dog” – because, well. 

“If you had any more tawdry quirks you could open up a Tawdry Quirk Shop. The madcap vehicle, the cockamamie hair, the clothes designed by a first-year fashion student… I’m surprised you haven’t got a little purple space dog just to ram home what an intergalactic wag you are.”

What, if anything, did the two dangers represent?  Possible: On the one hand, the extreme danger of travelling in space and time, as represented by an icy sun; on the other, the extreme dullness of life without the Doctor in it, which dullness – well, can’t put it better than “is given a voice and turns against you”.  On the one hand, a complete loss of control – of the ship, of themselves – and helplessness, and cold; on the other, dullness punctuated by a short, sharp shock.  The Doctor’s awareness that the flip side to the thrill of venturing where no one else goes is a unique death. The underside of the dullness that is life without the TARDIS is the fact that a great many of his rescues on Earth have been in the midst of dull normal life. One minute the village is plodding on as it always has; the next minute the old folks are sprouting deadly green stalks out their mouths. So much for the whole “chips” thing.  (Amy’s graphic illustration that the Doctor needed to stop calling her life dull was brilliant.)

It’s interesting how the light and shadow has shifted in this regeneration. Where 10 was solid and confident, 11 is tentative; where 10 wasn’t any too sure, 11 plunges in and splashes about. I don’t know what it is about this season that makes me want to do in depth comparison studies between the two Doctors, the two actors… Had I but world enough, and time.

Aside: Songs played while this post was being written: Gary Wright: “Dreamweaver” (*shudder* – not for the song, but the character) and Pure Prairie League: “Amy”. (“I think I should stay with you For a while, maybe longer if I do…”)

I was looking for a good shot of the Dream Lord to add to the post, when it struck me – I really, really hated him, and I don’t mind at all if I don’t have a picture of him here.  Really, really hated him.  (“What’s his name?”)  Which is troubling … Funny, there was so much other pain and horror in this one that the horror of the children being reduced to little piles of dust didn’t even blip on the radar.  Taken all in all, this was an extraordinary episode; it felt somewhat more like Torchwood than Who.  Who doesn’t usually put its hero through quite this brand of hell.  Usually.  (This was more like Jack being buried for two hundred years, or … just about everything Owen went through in the last few episodes.)  I will watch it again – but I won’t like it. 

Not purple without PhotoShop

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