Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor Episode. Today is the Eleventh Doctor adventure Amy's Choice...
Amy's Choice is an odd little Doctor Who story. It's less about things happening and more about relationships. Yes, there's aliens. Yes, there's the Dream Lord. Yes, there's psychic spores but really it is a good, old-fashioned conversation about love, trust and being a gooseberry.
It's written by Simon Nye, who is best known for writing Men Behaving Badly, but there are probably less comic moments in this than in the average 'New' Doctor Who story. I think he's experience juggling the relationships in Men Behaving Badly obviously helped with this.
The story starts off in the peaceful village of Ledworth...sorry Upper Ledworth. Rory and Amy are married. Amy is heavily pregnant. Into this story pops the Doctor who was passing by. Sort of. This rural idle seems to be Rory's idea of paradise, less so Amy's. But then the three wakes up in the TARDIS. Talking about their weird dream. Before popping back into Upper Ledworth. And back. It's all a bit dreamy-weamy. (Sorry)
Then up pops the Dream Lord, played with a fantastically sharp nastiness by the never less than brilliant Toby Jones. (Toby Jones following Helen McCrory following Iain Glen is a joy to be savoured. Doctor Who really is getting some master acting crafts people in this Series) This mysterious figure, cosplaying the Doctor when he first appears, has control of the TARDIS. And its occupants dreams.
One of the two scenarios outlined above is real. One is a dream. In both the TARDIS crews’ life is at risk. They must decide which is real and which is the dream. In the dream your death will just mean you're waking up. In reality, of course, you're dead.
In Upper Ledworth the TARDIS crew are besieged by a gang of alien infested old people. Inside the TARDIS meanwhile a failing ship is heading towards an icy doom. Which one is real, which one is fantasy. I'm just a poor boy etc.
The story turns on Rory and Amy's relationship. Once more Arthur Darvill is brilliant, although this time everyone seems to raise their game. Matt Smith is great, particularly when he realises who the Dream Lord is (that's a spoiler I'll let you discover for yourselves). He does play the Doctor as a sort of modern day version of the Second Doctor with a dash of excitable toddler. It works for me. I like it.
Karen Gillan too is better in this than in the rest of the season so far. The scene when Rory is killed her anger and sadness is genuinely pretty moving and she gets to be cruel to the Doctor as a result. That 'then what are you for?' line is really, horribly unpleasant and feels like grief.
But it is the loss of Rory that decides for Amy which is the real reality, and which is the dream. Or at least pushes her to the point of not caring either way. A universe without Rory is not one that Amy Pond wants to live in.
It's all rather sweet. It manages, just, to avoid turning into the sort of saccharine horror that we might come across at other points. Amy and Rory are the first 'real' couple to inhabit the TARDIS so undoubtedly their relationship will crop up again. And the Doctor's role as gooseberry/rival too.
I do like Amy and Rory. They feel like a real-ish couple. Not just an artificial creation. It's not perfect and I'm not sure how Doctor Who it is but then, as I've said before and I'm sure I'll say again, the format of Doctor Who allows you to put a lot of stuff in it that might not fit comfortably in to other series. Why can't Doctor Who be a science-fiction romantic comedy occasionally? Well, it can. Like it can be a Western, a soap opera, a space opera, a surreal unworldly thing, a historical drama, a War film or any other blessed thing. The joy - and greatness of Doctor Who - is its utter ability to absorb pretty much any genre into its DNA.
That you've got to love.
This is a step up from Vampires in Venice. Next week, our second two-part story of the series: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.