‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Girl Who Waited’: Let the right one in

Senior Television Writer
09.10.11 85 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Doctor Who” coming up just as soon as I jettison the karaoke bar…

“You didn’t save me.” -Amy

“The Girl Who Waited” was in many ways a very familiar tale, both in terms of the Steven Moffat era of “Doctor Who” and science fiction in general. Moffat has told many stories about characters who have traveled through time the long way while waiting for the Doctor to come back. And practically every sci-fi series at some point or other does an episode featuring an apocalyptic future (or otherwise alternate) version of a main character, usually with a lot of conflict about whether it’s okay to erase the alternate from existence in favor of the shinier, happier version we know so well.

But in spite of those familiar qualities, “The Girl Who Waited” turned out to be a very strong episode – one of my favorite non-Moffat scripts from these two seasons, in fact.

There’s an old saying that what a story is about isn’t as important as how it’s about that, which was certainly the case here. There wasn’t much new, yet Karen Gillan’s performance as the older Amy(*) was perhaps her best work of the series so far. What I liked about that Amy was that she was so clearly the character we knew in terms of her spirit and pride and stubbornness, but the fun-loving spark of our Amy had long been extinguished, and she seemed mainly surprised and sheepish when Rory gave her cause to smile. Terrific work from Gillan – and from Arthur Darvill, for that matter, who’s more than risen to the occasion now that the writers are letting Rory be more than Amy’s dweeby tagalong fella.

(*) With some credit to the makeup department, who did a very convincing job on her face, even if they ultimately decided to leave the rest of her skinny after 36 years of running from Hand-Bots and not eating much.

At the same time, a lot of what made the story interesting involved the character who got the least screen time of the episode. One of the themes of Moffat-era episodes is that the Doctor, while seeming like a fun and exciting guy when you first meet him, can be kind of a bastard. He’s had to make a lot of tough choices over the years just to preserve the timestream, but I loved the moment here where Rory complains about the Doctor never bothering to research the place/time they’re about to visit. (“That is not how I travel,” the Doctor insists, and Rory yells, “Then I don’t want to travel with you!”) Older Amy has to become more like the Doctor to survive, figuring out how to elude and/or destroy the Hand-Bots, building her own sonic screwdriver/probe and generally counting on no one and nothing but her own cleverness, but she’s a much less happy and open person than the Amy we know. And in keeping the TARDIS door locked at the end, even if it’s what the future Amy asked him to do, Rory also unfortunately has to become more Doctor-like than anybody wants him to be.

Couple the high emotional stakes and strong performances with some tremendous production design on the facility and the Hand-Bots, and you’ve got yourself a rare standalone episode that doesn’t seem extremely wanting in comparison to the Moffat-penned arc episodes.

What did everybody else think?

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