The Good: Engaging character work, Wonderful performances, Good direction, Wonderful blend of action and humor
The Bad: None, actually!
The Basics: Arguably the best Doctor Who episode of Matt Smith's tenure,"The Girl Who Waited" tells a simple but powerful Amy and Rory-driven character story!
One of the problems with presenting horror in serialized television shows is that there is the high potential for the show to burn out the audience on its suspension of disbelief. For example, on Doctor Who Amy Pond is transformed into a doll in "Night Terrors" (reviewed here!) and then immediately thereafter is put into mortal danger in "The Girl Who Waited." While it is virtually impossible to believe that a Companion will actually be killed off in a one-shot horror episode with creepy doll characters, the "put Amy in a situation where is seems like she will die" trope becomes played out by doing back-to-back episodes where Amy is put in peril. In other words, it is hard for fans of Doctor Who to believe that Amy Pond will be killed in "The Girl Who Waited" when she appears to be in peril yet again.
On its own, "The Girl Who Waited" is both scary and psychologically unsettling, as it features Amy Pond literally running for her life in a giant, apparently abandoned hospital where everyone has been slain by a plague . . . and then when Rory encounters a bitter, aged Amy who resents being abandoned by her men. And, despite the difficulty in suspending disbelief about Amy Pond in jeopardy, director Nick Hurran and writer Tom MacRae manage to create one of the all-time best episodes of Doctor Who with performances that rise to their script and direction!
The Doctor, Rory, and Amy visit the Two Streams Medical Facility on the planet Apalapachia. The Doctor and Rory enter a room and when Amy, distracted, attempts to return to them, she presses a button that puts her in the same room, but in a different time period. Realizing this, and that the plague that the has infected the Two Streams Facility would kill a Time Lord, The Doctor sends Amy out of the room and moves the TARDIS to a different point. Returning to Two Streams and outfitting Rory with the tools he needs to find Amy, Rory is sent into the care facility.
At the facility, Rory encounters Amy, who has been trapped in Two Streams for thirty-six years! Cunning and able, Amy has become older and bitter about The Doctor. Rory appeals to Amy, who has built her own sonic probe and reprogrammed one of the facility's medical droids. As The Doctor tracks down the clues, he discovers a moment when Amy Pond was newly at the facility and the team has to debate altering time and un-making the aged Amy Pond. Rory is forced to choose between rescuing his wife in the past and taking the bitter version of Amy back to the TARDIS.
"The Girl Who Waited" is an acting tour de force for Karen Gillan. Gillan is given a crucial scene where she plays opposite herself and there is something very impressive about her ability to act and react across obvious cuts. Gillan is able to play both emotively and very physically, based on which version of Amy Pond she is playing at a given time. Gillan's ability to portray sadness is powerful in "The Girl Who Waited" and it is heartbreaking and impressive to watch.
The Doctor sits out of most of "The Girl Who Waited" and that allows the episode to develop Rory and Amy incredibly well. It also allows what humor there is in in the episode to flow organically, as opposed to stand out. Rory is given one of his most substantive and complex roles in "The Girl Who Waited" as he recognizes his actual disdain for The Doctor's methods and bonds with the future version of his wife over that.
Despite being somewhat dark and moody, "The Girl Who Waited" is so tight and well-executed that it is overcomes its initial simplicity to become one of the best Doctor Who episodes made.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!
For other works with Imelda Staunton, please check out my reviews of:
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Alice In Wonderland
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Shakespeare In Love
For other television episode and season reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!
© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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