Developments So Far:
Last week’s “Night Terrors” was crafted as kind of a standalone episode, which, as a follow up to the very mythology-laden “Let’s Kill Hitler” left the panoply of previous questions largely unanswered. One point of popular concern that has risen up involves specifically “the Ponds,” Amy and Rory Williams, and how they will be reacting going forward to the current state of their daughter Melody Pond/River Song, who is now a fully grown adult and living off on her own in the distant future. After no reference during the last episode (which, it’s pretty well understood, was written for the first half of the season and then produced later), many have wondered if there will be attention paid to their state of mind, or if it will be awkwardly ignored like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.
Let’s talk about Amy Pond, shall we?
For those not yet familiar with the history of Amelia “Amy” Pond (Karen Gillan), she has been the constant companion to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) since his first episode (Season 5’s premiere “The Eleventh Hour”). Introduced initially as an eight year old (who mysteriously doesn’t seem to have any immediate family), she first meets the Doctor when his TARDIS (damaged by the energy given off by his regeneration) crash lands in her backyard. After promising to return “in five minutes” and lead her off to a great adventure (which would be a cover to find out why she seems to be at a convergence for a major temporal event called the Fall), the quick jaunt in the TARDIS “to get the kinks out,” propels him instead twelve years into the future. When he returns, Amy Pond has grown to adulthood after a lifetime of believing in the “Raggedy Doctor.” After helping the Doctor save the world, however, her childhood dream finally comes true: she becomes the Doctor’s new companion, following him throughout space and time, and helping him fight monsters and save the world (as any good companion should). Because of how long she ended up waiting for him to come back, the Doctor has often referred to her as “Amelia Pond – the girl who waited.” After a few episodes as the sole companion, in a move that was considered a little controversial, Amy’s fiancé, the good-hearted but awkward Rory Williams, became a third companion (and sometimes, admittedly, a third wheel). Last season culminated with Amy and Rory’s wedding, and as a couple have been with the Doctor for the entire season so far (well, not counting the fact that Amy was kind of clone…but you get the idea).
There are kind of two general perspectives on Amy Pond. One is that she is a precocious, stubborn, strong-willed, fiery, and sexy young Scot whose sarcastic wit, coy flirtatiousness, and modern cynicism plays well off the Doctor’s ebullience and hyper-intellectualism. The other perspective is typically far more critical, seeing her initially as somewhat too oversexualized for a family show and/or as a young woman of around twenty without a career and now married who may not represent an ideal female role model for the show’s youthful audience. Also, since her marriage last season, and given that she was a prisoner and a clone for the first half of this season, many see her recently as having become too much of a “damsel in distress.” Last week’s episode may have been the pinnacle of this fact, as she and Rory essentially spent the entire episode on the run from the Gigglers until she was ultimately captured due to her own stupidity. Personally I enjoyed the character a great deal at first, and certainly like Gillan’s charm as an actress, but certainly this season she has almost entirely been a passive victim and almost a complete afterthought. Once upon a time Amy Pond helped save the world, now she’s the one who always needs saving, and the difference has become very noticeable. She and Rory are still funny, sympathetic, and likable, but significantly less compelling, and as I said last week, they sometimes have a tendency to suck up a lot of the oxygen in episodes where far more interesting things are going on. Right now, the character is kind of at a crossroads going forward: is she going to remain a victim to be saved constantly by her husband and the Doctor? Or will she go back to being the one who pushes the Doctor to save the world?
And with that, we have tonight’s episode: “The Girl Who Waited”
The Episode begins with the Doctor telling Amy and Rory that he they are arriving on the resort planet Appalapachia for some rest and relaxation (Amy, of course, has fun with THAT name). And naturally, upon their arrival, the Doctor finds that the planet is not exactly how he expects it to be: instead of a welcoming resort area, they find a white, sterile hallway with what appears to be a pair of sliding doors at the far end. While the Doctor and Rory step toward the doors to investigate, Amy suddenly decides that she needs her phone (The Doctor: “I bring you to a paradise planet 2 billion light years from Earth…and you want to update Twitter?”), and steps back aboard the TARDIS to retrieve it.
The door in the hallway has two buttons, a green one with an anchor and a red one with a waterfall. Rory presses the green one, and he and the Doctor step through the door into a bright, white room with a glass table and what appears to be a large, standing magnifying glass on the table. After getting her phone, Amy knocks on the door, asking to come in. Rory: “Push the button!” Amy, in response, presses the red button instead of the green, and ends up walking into a completely different room. After a few moments of confusion, the Doctor and Rory discover that they can see Amy in her room through the magnifying glass, and vice versa. Just as the Doctor is speaking to Amy, another door opens, and a strange white robot with weird, lifelike hands and a blank face steps in. The Doctor tries to use his sonic screwdriver on the magnifying glass to figure out what’s going on, while the Handbot advances on Rory asking, over and over, “Will you be visiting us long?” When the Doctor gets the magnifying glass working again, Amy reappears, asking, “Where have you been?” As it turns out, Amy has been trapped in her room for a week, while the Doctor and Rory have only been in their room for only a matter of moments.
After the credits roll, we return to find the Doctor still trying to figure out what’s going on. After interrogating the odd Handbot, it reveals that Appalapachia is under a medical quarantine for a disease called CHEM-7, which immediately fills the Doctor with dread and causes him to cover his face. CHEM-7, he explains, is known as the one day plague – you get it and you die in a day (though it only effects races with two hearts, like Time Lords). The Handbot then tells them that “visiting hours have begun…now,” and then promptly vanishes in a flash. The Doctor quickly surmises that the two rooms, which are located in a place called the “Two Streams” facility are periodically synced in order to let the healthy watch the diseased die quickly. Rory: “That’s horrible.” The Doctor: “No Rory, it’s kind…you have a choice: You can sit by their bedside and watch them die, or sit in here and watch them live. What would you choose?”
The Doctor takes the magnifying glass off the table, and tells Amy that he is taking it into the TARDIS so he can figure out how to save her. He tells her to go into the facility and make sure that they don’t try to treat her, as they don’t know she’s human (and therefore immune to CHEM-7) and their “kindness can kill you.” Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor arms Rory with a pair of stylish horn-rimmed glasses (a good look for him, actually), which will allow him to see what Rory sees. The Doctor then tries to take the TARDIS into Amy’s time stream to rescue her.
After leaving the facility, Amy is contacted by the computer system, called the Interface, who learns her name and tells her that she now has access to all the entertainment zones in the facility “provided for you, with kindness.” After stepping outside, Amy tries to get the attention of a Handbot. The Handbot scans her and determines that she has “unauthorized bacteria,” and then tries to “cure her.” He tries to inject her with medicine, but she runs instead. She then discovers that they have a projectile injection as well. When more Handbots teleport in, Amy runs for it. Finding her way into a darkening underground corridor, she runs into a small cage-like grating filled with steam, and desperately tries to climb out. Though she doesn’t, the cage hides her from the Handbots, who them wander off, confused.
The TARDIS then materializes in Amy’s timestream and within the same red room she was in “moments” ago. Rory steps outside (since the Doctor can’t), and has a look around. The room is filled with replications of art from throughout the universe. Rory: “A bit of Earth, a bit of alien, a bit of…whatever the hell that is.” Meanwhile, Amy escapes into room filled with doors, and contacts the Interface. The room, it is explained is called the Gate, and allows access to the entertainment zones in the facility. Amy chooses the one called “Garden,” which takes her to a beautiful garden facility. Amy begins to ask the Interface for a place to hide, and after some circulatory questioning, learns that it was the exhaust from the time engines that protected her from the Handbots’ sensors. She finds the room with the time engines and, using her lipstick, writes “Doctor…I’m waiting” on the outer door. She then steps inside to hide…and wait.
Rory, back in the other room, begins wonder ing where everyone is. The Doctor tells him to use the sonic screwdriver on the timeglass, which reveals that 40,000 timestreams are going on at once. When Rory lowers the glass, a strange figure with red hair, homemade armor, and a mask is holding katana on him. It says to him only, “I waited.” The figure takes the mask off, revealing her to be Amy Pond, but not the one we remember: this Amy Pond appears to be decades older. Telling Rory to “duck,” she stabs one of the Handbots in the head. Within seconds after it falls to the ground, she pulls out a homemade sonic probe (similar to the sonic screwdriver) to reprogram it, describing it in technical and specific fashion, explaining that she’s “survived this long by convincing them I don’t exist.” Rory, still surprised, asks how this has all happened, to which Amy replies, simply and bluntly, “You didn’t save me.”
Rory tries to convince Amy that they are here to save them, but Amy informs them that she’s been trapped there for 36 years, and no longer holds good thoughts and feelings toward the Doctor. She even goes so far to say that she hates him. After escaping two more Handbots (revealing her earlier discovery that their touch can knock a person, or each other, unconscious), Rory tries to convince Amy that he still loves her, but she’s indifferent to him and cold. Rory asks the Doctor (who is listening in on “speakerphone”) if they can just go back and rescue Amy earlier, but the Doctor tells him that this is the timestream, and they are stuck with it. Amy, now painfully stoic, further explains that the timestream was supposed to let people live, but it ultimately killed her, leaving her dead to the world. She again challenges the Doctor, who asks how she got a sonic screwdriver. She replies, “I made it,” and she refuses to call it a screwdriver.
Amy leads Rory down to where the temporal engines are, passing the same door where she wrote her now faded message to the Doctor long, long ago. Entering into her “hideout,” one of the Handbots, reprogrammed and with a face drawn on it, stands up to greet her. She says, “Sit down, Rory,” and in a funny and painfully bittersweet moment, both Rory and the Handbot comply. “You named him Rory?” “I needed company.” “So he’s like a…” “Pet.” After clarifying that the Handbot is disarmed (as in, Amy cut its arms off), Amy plays down the emotional significance, and then again chides the Doctor, bitterly. Though bitter, she’s also astute, pointing out that while he usually does things out of impulse and whimsy, with the most powerful technology in the universe at his disposal, she’s had to live 36 years in a living hell just trying to stay alive. The Doctor promises that he will try to set it right, and asks to speak to the interface, but Amy ignores him again, and asks Rory if she’s coming with him. After she gives him a lingering, longing look, he agrees to go with her.
Back in the garden from earlier, Amy informs them that she’s long since hacked the Interface, which reveals to the Doctor the technical specifications of the time engine. The Doctor asks Rory to give his glasses to Amy so he can see the Interface better. After he does, Rory cracks a joke, and Amy laughs, and then states that it may have been the first time she’s laughed in the last 36 years. Realizing that he’s made things awkward for her, Rory decides to leave “you two geniuses alone,” and the Doctor tells Amy that “there is still time to fix everything.” While Rory is wandering off, a Handbot sneaks up on him and touches him, knocking him out for a moment. As it tries to administer the “treatment,” Amy slices its head off with her sword. Rory comments that she has clearly been crying, and she, again, blows him off and gives him back the glasses. The Doctor, meanwhile, enters one of his “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” rants, explaining that he has a plan to merge the two streams and save Amy. Amy however, refuses his help with a firm, “No!”
Amy marches back into the time engine room, ignoring their pleas to help. When the door shuts behind her, Rory happens to notice through the timeglass the message she wrote the Doctor decades earlier. In the engine room, Rory continues trying to convince Amy to help them save “herself,” but she refuses, stating that she is going to die and another Amy will take her place…one who will get to have everything she never did. And most especially, a life with Rory. Amy then says that the only way she will go is if they take her instead of her younger self. Rory refuses, saying that he promised to protect her, and that the only way he can is to save her spending even an hour in this place, let alone 36 years. Amy walks out, back into her hideaway…
Rory then gets into an argument with the Doctor, blaming him (again, rightfully) for everything. Rory: “Maybe you want to look in a history book every once in a while?!” The Doctor: “That’s not how I travel…” “Then I’m done traveling with you.” Rory then tears off the glasses and throws them to the ground. After a moment of loaded silence, the Doctor begins to hear crying, and determines that he is hearing Amy through the still active timeglass. Telling Rory to use the glass, he sees the Amy from 36 years before, outside the machine and weeping. He then approaches the modern Amy, “Look me in the face and tell me you won’t help her.” “I won’t help her.” Holding the timeglass up and using the sonic screwdriver, Rory shows the two Amy’s to one another. The Rorybot hands Rory his glasses again.
The two Amy’s then have a poignant conversation. The old Amy explains to Amy why she’s still there, and that she stops Rory from saving her younger self. The old Amy states that it is a set fact, as she remembers the conversation, and that the young Amy will not convince the old one. The young Amy manages to convince the older one by playing on her love for Rory. “Please, do it for him.” “You’re asking me to fight destiny and the Nexus of Time for a boy?” “He’s Rory, you’re Amy…and yes I am.” The old Amy is then convinced. She then finds Rory and tells him that she will “blow time apart for you.” Rory and the old Amy then kiss, which becomes awkward (especially with the Rorybot looking on).
Old Amy and the Doctor then talk as she leads Rory out of the engine room, and the Doctor admits, contrary to the rules of time travel, that changing time is possible, and even drops the potential hint that “knowing your own future enables you to change it.” Old Amy then tells Rory that she has a condition: that she will go with them, too. Rory ask the Doctor if two Amy’s are possible, leading the Doctor to deliver the greatest line of the episode: “I don’t know, it’s your marriage.” The Doctor then states, cautiously, that yes, the TARDIS could handle the paradox of having two Amelia Ponds on board at the same time.
The Doctor, then tells them how to bring the two Amy’s into the same timestream using the two sonic screwdriver, the timeglass, and shutting down the facility’s time engine. The Doctor tells the two Amy’s to think the most important thought they ever had, which is of their first kiss with Rory. It works, which is initially weird, as they continuously talk over each other. Rory: “Amy 1, go first.” The Amy’s: “Which one’s Amy 1?” The temporal distortion of the two Amy’s causes tremendous temporal feedback, shorting out Rory’s glasses and causing the TARDIS’s engine to go crazy. Rory ditches the glasses, but not before the Doctor can tell him that “he’s on his own now,” with ten minutes to make it back to the TARDIS before the two streams are separated again.
A group of Handbots appear on cue, and Old Amy leads both Rory and Amy through them, fighting them off and helping her younger self do the same. As more show up, Old Amy leads them through a shortcut. Cornered in the main interface room, Old Amy hacks her way through the door to get back to the TARDIS. Before she can do this, though, another legion of Handbots show up. Old Amy hold the Handbots off so that Rory and Young Amy can escape. Though they are lucky at first, the two are cornered and, just like last week, Young Amy gets zapped by a Handbot and rendered unconscious. Rory fights off the Handbots and snatches up Young Amy in his arms and carries her toward the TAR’mDIS. The sight of this gives the Old Amy pause before she fights off another Handbot. Making it aboard the TARDIS, Rory places the unconscious Young Amy on the ground. The Doctor then runs toward the TARDIS door and makes eye contact with the Old Amy for the first time. He tells her, “I’m sorry…” and then shuts and locks the TARDIS door on her.
Rory is, of course, quite upset, but the Doctor explains that he was lying, and there can’t be two Amy’s aboard the TARDIS. He tells Rory that he has to choose. Rory: “You’re making me into you!” Outside, Old Amy places her hand on the window in the TARDIS door and pleads for Rory. Rory places her hand against it. Old Amy says she forgot how much she loved being the younger Amy. Rory becomes overcome by emotion, and begins unlocking the TARDIS door, but Old Amy tells him that if he loves her, he can’t do that. Rory then tells the Old Amy, “I love you.” Old Amy asks him to tell her younger self that she’s “giving her my days.” Rory relocks the door, and Old Amy turns to face the Handbots, with Rory listening on the other side. Amy asks the Interface to show her the Earth, her home, one last time. A Handbot then touches her, and she collapses. The TARDIS then dematerializes as the Handbot gets ready to administer the “treatment,” leaving us to assume that she will die. Note, I said “assume.”
Later, aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rory have a brief conversation, and the Doctor leaves them alone. Amy wakes up, and the last line of the episode is her asking “Where is she?” Then, off the Doctor’s driven but pained expression, we fade out.
Some interesting things here, especially as it pertains to the Doctor going forward (even if he was somewhat off screen for much of the story). First off, the Doctor’s statement that time may be more malleable than previously established may be setting up something in regards to his own demise. We also saw his character become much darker, and really almost coldblooded, in the way he treated Old Amy. It was also shown through both Rory and Old Amy the first realizations that while the Doctor may be a savior, he certainly is not a saint; this episode really revealed, and quite nicely, I thought, that for all of his brilliance, the Doctor’s irresponsibility is his greatest weakness. The entire adventure, with the creation of Old Amy, was completely his fault for leading Amy and Rory aboard a planet where the slightest bit of reconnaissance would have indicated that it wasn’t safe to go. I’m actually beginning to wonder if, at the end of all this, that the Anglican Marines and the Silence may be correct, and the Doctor may become the greatest evil of all.
In regards to Amy and Rory, while there was again no indication that there was any lingering psychic residue of having lost their daughter (and there were certainly plenty of times where one would think that it might have come up), this episode did tease potential developments in their characters. First, it showed that while Amy is something of a helpless damsel now, she does have the potential to become a formidable woman and, to put it bluntly, a genuine stone badass with a brilliant mind. And as mentioned, we may be seeing Rory’s disillusionment with the Doctor begin to develop into something truly meaningful after this entire experience. And certainly, one wonders whether this will change anything with the Ponds. Since Old Amy was so much stronger a person than Young Amy, will Rory miss her more?
Perhaps most intriguing: Is this the last we’ll see of Old Amy? As touching and poignant as this episode was, I personally hope not. She was a great character, and though heroic, she would make a formidable future opponent for the Doctor either as an opponent on her own, or perhaps as a companion herself to one of his enemies: perhaps a reincarnated Master, or even, dare I say…the Valyard? Certainly, though she loves Rory, she would have every reason to despise the Doctor, and a hero’s most formidable adversary is the one who knows that they’re right.
Well, we’ve finally had a poignant Amy episode this season, and what an episode it was. Clearly, this was something of an acknowledgment that her character had gotten a little too passive, though it will only remain significant if the character begins to change into something more significant here on out. And Karen Gillan, too, deserves a great deal of credit for her performance, and her makeup was extremely convincing. It was also nice to see Rory become more of a proactive character, as well.
All told, I thought this was a great episode and an excellent bit of science fiction, with a unique and creative scenario that derived a genuine emotional response. After all, if you were given the choice Rory was…how would you choose?
Next Time – “The God Complex”