Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
It all started because there were two buttons.
Expecting “sunsets, spires, and soaring colonnades,” the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to the planet Apalapucia, which unbeknownst to him is quarantined. Specifically, they land in a Twostreams “kindness facility,” where 40,000 two-hearted beings infected with the “one-day plague” (a bacterium that kills its host after one day) are, with the aid of time manipulation, given the opportunity to live out their entire lives in the span of 24 hours. Here’s where it gets “extra wubbly”: The facility has a visiting room which exists in parallel timestreams running at different speeds. A loved one can, from the “normal” timestream, in the same room, observe the afflicted patient (whose timestream runs faster) live life and grow older. It is this somewhat confusing plot device that sets the story in motion, as the Doctor and Rory find themselves on the visitor side (the “Green Anchor” area), while Amy, lagging behind, unknowingly enters the patient side (the “Red Waterfalls” area). When her boys finally get a chance to infiltrate her timestream and rescue her (a matter of minutes to them), they find an embittered Amy who has advanced in age by 36 years.
It’s a positively “timey-wimey” plot, classically Moffat-esque, but the script was actually written by Tom MacRae, of “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” fame. I wasn’t much a fan of those two previous DW episodes, but this one was an absolute cracker. In a way it acts as a mirror to Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” from the first half of series 6; whereas with that, we got to see the Doctor heartbreakingly meet an impossible manifestation of a loved one (the TARDIS), here Rory meets an impossible version (by way of a paradox) of his own wife. This episode might well have been called “Rory’s Wife” (or the more clever “Rory’s Choice,” as I’ve read in another review). I’m a fan of symmetry, so appreciated that much. (I must say though, I wonder how much of the script was actually rewritten by head writer Moffat himself; there were albeit very welcome references to “The Eleventh Hour”; also, the idea of an older version of someone watching a younger version of himself and his life and memories change in front of him is very “A Christmas Carol”).
Kudos to Karen Gillan, who truly shows her acting chops here. I grew fond of her older Amy; so much so that I rather wish Rory and the Doctor decided in the end to forego the younger Amy and instead steal away with the older. Through the years of waiting, the older Amy became not just a survivor but also a genius hacker, resourceful sonic screwdriver maker, a battleworn action heroine (having to face down through the years the faceless robotic maintenance staff, or the “Handbots,” as the Doctor calls them) and eventually, in an impossible and funny way, a cougar (seeing her flirt with Rory in the presence of her younger version incited giggles from me–the thought of a menage a trois between a man and his two wives!). The older Amy is well-designed as a character, down to her makeshift armor and her samurai sword and staff (which she got presumably from the facility by way of the Apalapucians being cultural scavengers). I can only wish my older version of myself were that kick-arse! Her transformation–from having grown to despise her Raggedy Doctor for abandoning her, to rediscovering how to laugh and love again (the kiss between older Amy and Rory was hot–the Doctor is not the only cougar cub in the TARDIS!) to being selfless enough to let her younger self live a full life with Rory–was ultimately narratively satisfying.
I love how this episode, even as a stand-alone, enriched our view of and also advanced Amy’s and Rory’s relationship. We find out endearing and funny tidbits about their young love, i.e. that their first kiss was set to the ‘90s song “Macarena,” and Rory’s brush with guitar-playing. (I actually think it’s this aspect of the episode that makes me wonder if Moffat had rewritten much of MacRae’s script, as Amy and Rory are Moffat’s characters).
There were many whacky scenes–like Rory cutely and absurdly marching out of the TARDIS with his Rory-cam glasses and a giant magnifying glass, or Rory decommissioning a Handbot with a replica of the Mona Lisa–interspersed with heartbreaking scenes throughout–like the scene in which older Amy considers (and ultimately foregoes) putting on lipstick for Rory, while Rory meets his “disarmed” Handbot substitute. And of course there’s the tearjerker of a scene in which the Doctor locks the older Amy out of the TARDIS and leaves it up to Rory to make the decision about which Amy he wants to save. Murray’ Gold’s beautiful music further bolstered the episode.
Overall, “The Girl Who Waited” is a beautifully and cleverly told stand-alone story. It’s lush, on a budget. An episode that I highly recommend be given numerous repeat viewings on one’s iPlayer.
Doctor (and later, Amy): “Eyes front, soldier!”
Check-In Girl: “Or try our roller coaster zone, authentically modeled on the famous Warpspeed Death Ride at Disneyland-Clom.”
Older Amy: “You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself for a boy?”
Older Amy: “I’m going to pull time apart for you.”
Doctor: “Sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it. Especially if you’re bloody-minded, contradictory and completely unpredictable.”
Doctor: “If anyone could defeat pre-destiny, it’s your wife.”
Rory: “Two Amys together. Can that work?”
Doctor: “I don’t know. It’s your marriage.”
Doctor: “Perhaps, maybe if I shunted the reality compensators on the TARDIS, recalibrated the doomsday bumpers and jettisoned the karaoke bar, yes, maybe, yes. It could do it. The TARDIS could sustain the paradox.”
Doctor: “Come on, Rory. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s just quantum physics.”
Younger & Older Amy: “Which one’s Amy 1? I am. No, I am.”
Rory: “I’m not on my own. I’ve got my wives!”
Rory: “Amy, you always say, cooking Chrismas dinner, you wish there were two of you.”