After the sub par 'Age of Steel/Rise of the Cybermen' this was a real step up in quality from Tom MacRae. This is the kind of episode that Doctor Who excels at: a girl lost in time, waiting for the Doctor. ('The Girl in the Fireplace', 'School Reunion', 'The Big Bang'.) If the highlight of the first half of the season was 'The Doctor's Wife', then this must surely be the zenith of the back six. If there's better still to come, I'll eat my fez.
After last week's trailer, I was unenthusiastic about tonight's offering. Visually it looked uninspiring; the cast size looked limited, with its locations restricted to either sterile white rooms or CGI-ed exteriors; and the robots looked like budget versions of Marvin the Paranoid Android. But the contrast between the featureless interior of the Twostreams facility, and the beauty of the Shill Governor's mansion, emphasised perfectly a world out of balance. A world where kindness could be deadly. Shallanna's exquisite surroundings mirrored one of the episode's main themes: that beauty is more than skin deep. Despite its idyllic gardens, and the saccharine cordiality of the Handbots, Apalapuchia was as dull as a brick.
All of the principle actors shone tonight. Karen had the most screen time, and delivered a mesmerising performance as future-Amy. Everything about her was unfamiliar: her voice was gruffer, her face older—even her posture was different. She was more intelligent, too. I can't imagine our Amy bandying about words and phrases like 'nexus of time' and 'causality'—not without us suspecting that she'd been possessed by aliens anyway. Would she really have had the know-how to build a sonic probe, though? Probably not. I liked that she refused to call it a sonic screwdriver, as if the name itself conjured up memories of the Doctor: her betrayer, the man she hated most in the whole world.
Despite being essentially a character piece exploring the enduring relationship between Rory and Amy, the story idea itself was complex enough to warrant multiple viewings to appreciate its intricacies. The mechanics of the two time streams was a little dense, but I liked the concept of the 'kindness facility', the Handbots, and the giant magnifying glass which enabled them to see between time streams. (Reminiscent of the device used in Fringe to peer between worlds). It's rare we get more than a veneer of sci-fi in Doctor Who—it's more a fantasy show at heart—but this was probably the most sci-fi-heavy episode thus far this season.
My first moment of ocular seepage came when the two Amys first met. Them bonding over Rory was impossibly touching. Rory is beautiful in all the ways which matter most. Despite Amy's initial coldness towards him—and her seeming lack of concern at the thought of him dying—he still refused to walk away. He still had her back. Tom MacRae did a great job of making Amy and Rory's relationship feel epic. Rory's already waited 2000 years for Amy. Admittedly, Rory was a willing participant in his bimillennial wait, whereas Amy's 36 year stint was more an unexpected glitch, but Rory sprawled helpless, on the ground, seemed to reboot her feelings for him. Not that she ever stopped loving him. Why else would she name a robot after him? A handless, non-talking, balloon-headed robot... with no genitals.
I knew future-Amy would refuse to help. Why would she agree to a scheme which would result in her non-existence? Yes, her younger self would live on, but she'd become a different Amy. The events which formed her would never happen. Those closing moments outside the TARDIS were so moving. Despite the Doctor's lies, and Rory's indecision, it was Amy who chose to let go. She begged Rory not to let her in. She knew that, despite it meaning the end of them, if Rory had opened the TARDIS' door, she'd have walked through. Such was her desire to live and her love for Rory. Her giving Amy her years, the years she could never have with Rory, had me in tears. (Yes, I am that soft.) Despite rescuing Amy, tonight's episode felt like such a failure. The Doctor's insistence that future Amy wasn't real would have felt a whole lot more convincing had she not been outside, banging on the TARDIS' door. Lovely slo-mo of future-Amy's face on seeing the Doctor again. Her animosity and distrust seemed to melt away—only for him to betray her again. Yet still she sacrificed herself for them. For the Doctor. For Rory. For a future she'd never have.
What it means to be alive was briefly explored in 'The Rebel Flesh' and 'The Almost People', but the moral implications of wiping future Amy from existence were far more complex. Flesh Amy was nothing more than a simulacrum. Destroying her broke the mental connection between her and the host, leaving Amy essentially unharmed—but, abandoning future-Amy meant leaving her to die. I thought Arthur Darvill handled the emotion of those scenes perfectly. Rory couldn't deal with it at all. It was like Sophie's Choice... but, with identical wives. And robots. And nobody was called Sophie. And no Nazis.
The Doctor always knew they could only take one Amy with them. The paradox would have torn the TARDIS apart. (Despite the TARDIS accommodating two Amys in the Comic Relief episode 'Time'—making for one epic continuity error). Rule number one: The Doctor lies. I loved that last shot of the Doctor's face after Amy asked 'Where is she?' He looked so guilty. For once, the decision of who lives and who dies wasn't his—it was Rory's. I think everyone hated the Doctor midway through tonight's episode. Rory hated him for making him choose, Amy hated him for leaving her behind, and I dare say the Doctor hated himself for what he had to put them through, not to mention his inability to act in their stead.
The Doctor sticking his tongue out at Amy, and her smile in response, felt like normality restored, yet the events of this episode must surely have future ramifications—for them, if not for the story. Rory got a taste of what it feels like to be the Doctor, and hated every minute of it; Amy got to peek into her own future, and saw what she might one day become; and the Doctor got to experience the agony of leaving his best friend behind—again! Can things ever be the same?
—Amy and Rory's first kiss was during the Macarena. Shame Amy was so terrible at it. I was looking forward to seeing her dance, too.
—There's a Karaoke bar in the TARDIS! I'm guessing 'The Doctor and I' by John Barrowman will be on there. And maybe 'Doctorin' the TARDIS' by The Time Lords. Frazer Hines' 'Who's Doctor Who'. Pertwee's 'The Doctor'. I'm sure I'm missing a few.
—Rory-cam felt a little like the contacts in Torchwood, but cooler. Glasses are cool!
—Chen 7 is a one day plague effecting only two hearted races.
—They have a Disneyland at Clom. Imagine a roller-coaster full of Abzorbaloffs. There's one episode I hope they never make.
—Breaking a paper thin Mona Lisa over a robot's head deactivates it how? A paper cut, maybe?
Handbot: 'Will you be visiting long?'
Rory: 'Good question. Bit sinister. What's the answer to not get us killed?'
Rory: 'Bit of Earth. Bit of alien. Bit of... whatever the hell that is.'
Future-Amy: 'You didn't save me.'
Rory: 'But this is the saving. This is us saving you. The Doctor just got the timing a bit out.'
Future-Amy: 'Eyes front, soldier.'
Rory: 'Still can't win, then?'
Amy: 'I hate him. I hate the Doctor.'
Amy: 'They look ridiculous.'
Rory: 'That's what I told him. Still, anything beats a fez, eh?'
Amy: 'Woman with a sword. Don't push it.'
Doctor: 'Time is always a bit wibbly-wobbly, but in Twostreams it's extra wubbly.'
Amy: 'Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met.'
Future-Amy: 'You're asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself, for a boy?'
Amy: 'You're Amy. He's Rory... and, oh yes, I am.'
Doctor: 'Yes, 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: 'It's not rocket science. It's quantum mechanics.'
Both Amys: 'I don't know what to...'
Rory: 'Amy, you always say cooking Christmas dinner, you wish there were two of you.'
Rory: 'Can you unlock them?'
Future-Amy: 'Yeah, just give me a minute and your cutest smile. That's the one.'
Rory: 'Can you stop flirting with me?'
Future-Amy: 'I've know you my whole life. How many games of Doctors and Nurses?”
Rory: 'This isn't fair. You're turning me into you.'
Future-Amy: 'Tell Amy, your Amy, I'm giving her the days. The days with you. The days to come.'
Rory: 'I'm so, so sorry.'
Future-Amy: 'The days I can't have. Take them, please. I'm giving you my days.'