Doctor Who – Amy’s Choice (S05E07) – Episode review

Even from last week’s preview, you knew [[Amy’s Choice (Doctor Who episode)|Amy’s Choice]] was going to be a cracking episode of [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]].

A character calling himself the Dream Lord hijacks the [[TARDIS (Doctor Who)|TARDIS]] and plunges The Doctor and his companions into two separate realities. In one, the three are stuck in the village of Leadworth five years in the future with an eerie band of pensioners roaming the village reducing the young folk to dust. In the other reality, the TARDIS systems are disabled and the blue box is drifting toward a frozen sun with less than a full episode’s length before it crashes.

The Dream Lord’s ultimatum is mischievous and deadly: to escape his trap, they must ‘die’. If they die in the fantasy, they will awake in reality. If they’re in reality and they die, “You’ll be dead, stupid. That’s why it’s called reality.”

The rest of the episode is spent flipping back and forth between the TARDIS and Leadworth. Cue much wonderful comedy between the primary characters as they battle to work out which is the real world and which is the dream world. Whether it’s [[The Doctor (Doctor Who)|The Doctor]] being forced to wear tacky knitwear or Rory’s ridiculous mullet, there’s plenty of light entertainment in this episode. And again, just like last week’s [[Vampires Of Venice (Doctor Who episode)|Vampires Of Venice]], there was finally plenty of time for character development.

It must be said, Toby Jones is brilliant as the impish Dream Lord, taunting and teasing The Doctor and his companions at every turn.

Of course, the main thrust of the episode was on the emerging decision [[Amy Pond|Amy]] would have to make. I loved how the two realities were polarised between deep space and Leadworth – surely each one being a representation of The Doctor and Rory respectively? Certainly, that’s how it felt as the episode progressed.

How do we feel about another episode that pits the Time Lord against another of his companions’ boyfriends? Well, it was a very cleverly written end to a mini story arc: at the end of Flesh and Stone, Amy tries to seduce The Doctor. Then in Vampires Of Venice, he takes the two on a romantic break to Venice as a distraction for Amy’s affections. Amy’s Choice forces her to face up to the unspoken choice between an eccentric time traveller and a stable-but-boring future with Rory. And when Rory dies in the dream world, she’s finally forced to confront her feeling for him.

It feels in a way that this mini-arc kills off the notion of romance between Amy and The Doctor. But it’s exploited the dynamic of Doctor/companion/companion’s boyfriend in a very interesting way. Do you think it’ll be the end of the Human/Time Lord love stories for a while?

Other things to rejoice about:

  • Series arc: no talk of cracks in the universe for one episode. Good to get a break from that notion, but does the Dream Lord tie into events of the finale?
  • Less London: I love London, but Doctor Who has spent far too much time in the city, between London and Cardiff over the last few years. It’s nice to see the TARDIS landing in Leadworth with regularity. It’s no less British, but it’s refreshing to be in this sleepy village. It’s escapism for the rest of the country.
  • The Dream Lord: A fantastic new character that has us clamouring to identify him. Is he the Valeyard or some other form of trickster The Doctor has met before? The fact that he appears reflected in the TARDIS console is either a sign that he’s part of The Doctor, or some other entity hanging around. And if he’s still hanging around, is this a dream world too? And does that tie into River Song’s statement that they’re all fairytale characters at the end of Flesh and Stone? Sorry, just randomly speculating.
  • Continuity: Regular readers will know that I’ve worried about Steven Moffat cutting ties completely with the reign of Russell T Davies. I was glad to see this episode acknowledging the themes of guilt and even self-loathing that the Time Lord might experience at the abandonment of his companions over the years. It’s nice to see those themes didn’t completely disappear with the regeneration.

Negative reviews

I was shocked to read negative reviews of Amy’s Choice on Den Of Geek and Shadowlocked respectively. Both give a lot of attention to the ‘low budget’ nature of the episode, but complain bitterly about everything from the shooting in terrible lighting conditions to the underwhelming appearance of the Dream Lord:

…in spite of the clear potential here, the character of the Dream Lord never particularly intrigues enough to have us requesting a return for him in the future. We’ve had the immense pleasure of seeing Toby Jones on stage, and he’s genuinely an outstanding actor. But here, he gets a role that never quite falls the right side of slightly annoying (not helped by the overuse of him cutting in and out of scenes in different places). Certainly the script does him few favours, and by second half of the episode, we felt that the Dream Lord seemed to have outlived his welcome, if not his purpose.

And from Shadowlocked:

Amy’s Choice could scarcely have had a lower budget or been filled with a duller and greyer English light and location as the village in which half of the action, such as it is, takes place. Several of the scenes seemed to have been filmed when the average cinematographer would have packed up their light-meter and headed for the emergency set reserved for bad weather. Amy’s Dream, aesthetically, is one of the most tedious-looking episodes of Doctor Who since the series re-booted, and if it harkens back to the years of John Pertwee shivering through the mid-winter mud of Middlesex with the bores of UNIT, for once it’s not in a good way.

And for the second week running, I find myself at odds with other reviewers. I only have minor criticisms of this episode. Continuing on from Vampires, Rory just doesn’t know The Doctor well enough to be making major critiques about his character. Neither does Amy, really. The reason for this is that in episodes 2-5, there really wasn’t much camaraderie between Amy and The Doctor at all. Suddenly, it feels like they’ve been together for ages, and we’ve somehow missed the development of that bond.

Quotes from this episode

  • Amy: You threw the manual in a supernova? Why? The Doctor: Because I disagreed with it! Stop talking to me when I’m cross!
  • Rory: Well, we’re in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside. Amy: With a bow-tie wearing idiot…
  • Rory: Listen mate, if anyone’s a gooseberry around here, it’s The Doctor. Dream Lord: Now, there’s a delusion I’m not responsible for.
  • The Doctor: Where’d you pick up this cheap cabaret act? Dream Lord: Me? Oh, you’re on shaky ground. If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open up a tawdry quirk factory.
  • The Doctor: You’re a doctor, help her. Rory: You’re a doctor! The Doctor: It’s OK, we’re a doctor!
  • The Doctor: There’s an elephant in the room. Amy: I have to be this size, I’m pregnant. The Doctor: Isn’t anybody going to mention Rory’s ponytail? (To Amy) You hold him down, I’ll cut it off?
  • The Doctor: Loves a redhead, our naughty Doctor. Has he told you about Elizabeth the First? Well, she thought she was the first…
  • Dream Lord: You’re probably a vegetarian, aren’t you, you big flop haired wuss?
  • Rory: Oh, a poncho. The biggest crime against fashion since leiderhosen. Amy: My poncho boys. If we’re gonna die, let’s go out looking like a Peruvian folk band!
  • Dream Lord: You ran away with a handsome hero. Would you really give him up for a bumbling country doctor who thinks the only thing he needs to make him interesting is a ponytail?
  • Dream Lord: Your friends never see you again once they’ve grown up. The old man prefers the comapny of the young, does he not?
  • Amy: Save him. You save everyone. You always do. It’s what you do. The Doctor: Not always. I’m sorry. Amy: Then what is the point of you?
  • Dream Lord: I hope you enjoyed your little fictions. They came out of your imaginations, so I’ll leave you to ponder on that.

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4 Comments

  1. The Roberts Clan

    I’ve just caught up with this and to be honest I’m not sure if I liked it or not. I did enjoy seeing the comedy element was still there again this week. Telling Amy she’d swallowed a planet did make me chuckle!

    It was nice to see a different story and it’s nice to see the relationship building between Rory, Amy and the Doctor but it doesn’t have the same feel as the dynamic that the Doctor Mickey and Rose had yet maybe it’s slower to develop.

    I’m going to watch this one again I think to make my mind up. I’m not normally so indecisive.

  2. redblu

    After weeks of not agreeing with you this seems to be the one review I do agree with word for word. Wonderfully imaginative, unique and completely different to what you saw the week before.

    To my mind this is an example of Doctor Who at it’s most memorable, like the Mind Robber before it and what the Celestial Toymaker *should* have been.

    The negative reviews have had me confused also, especially Den of Geek who claimed this was lacking in humour, an episode with a Granny wielding a lawn mower lacking in humour? Normally I’d not be a fan of such things, but in a dream world it felt like a cheeky nod of realisation as to just how far credibility has been stretched, with the Doctor unable to say for sure either ridiculous scenario is not true.

    The atmosphere was superb, and the dream lords performance incredibly memorable. A pleasant surprise after the negative previews I’d read, and competing for my spot of favourite episode this season, perhaps not flawless (the ending was lacking in impact, and fairly predictable, however it was by no means bad and did not detract from the thrill of the ride) but it’s been such a long time since we’ve seen an episode this quintessentially who that I’m inclined to give it bonus points.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I’d agree that it wasn’t completely flawless, but when you’ve had a solid 45 minutes of entertainment, it hardly matters!

      And I also agree about the ending – space pollen being the ultimate culprit was a bit of a cop-out. Well, as far as Rory and Amy know, that’s the explanation. The question is – was The Doctor bluffing them with his explanation, and was the reflection in the TARDIS console coming from The Doctor himself or was the Dream Lord still lurking in the TARDIS somehow?

      Funny character, the Dream Lord. Even though he was clearly a foe, it was hard not to like his meddling with the dynamic between the companions. And he got some of the best quotes of the episode, too! Bottom line: we need more of this stuff!

      By the way, thanks for stopping by for a natter about the episode each week – I do enjoy the discussions, even if we’re bitterly arguing!

  3. do me a melon

    I enjoyed this episode.  It wasn’t what I was expecting (though I’m not entirely sure what that was!), offering enough funny moments, plot twists and turns, and character development to keep me satisfied.

    I like the fact that we’ve removed the Mulder and Scully element of the Doctor and Amy’s relationship.  We’ve seen that before, no need for repetition thanks.  I find myself liking Rory, although I’d prefer him to be played a little more seriously.  Maybe now he’s got the girl, he won’t be seen as the comedy relief…?

    It is beginning to grate on my nerves though that the Doctor and Amy have suddenly assumed this amazing camaderie, though – haven’t they only just met, really?  Seems a bit rushed, to me.

    In terms of the Doctor’s character development, I like Matt Smith’s Doctor.  A lot.  I love the way his intellect essentiallly overrules any other conversation when he’s in full flow, yet he carries on as if his companions are still talking.  I like the contrast between Smith and Tennant – both eccentric and capable of dark moments, yet Smith achieves this in an understated way, rather than Tennant’s ‘centre of attention’ style.  And in terms of this episode, I love the insight we get through the Dream Lord that the Doctor hates himself for his past actions.  ‘There’s only one person in the universe who hates me that much’ indeed (or however that line went!).

    This Doctor is different.  Embrace him.

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