It’s standard fare in a Doctor Who tale when a companion gets separated from The Doctor and consequently has to be rescued. Those stories are almost universally filler episodes and since 2005, none have been particularly riveting.
The Girl Who Waited should have been one of those forgettable stand-alone episodes of Who. However, some deft storytelling from Tom McCrea uses a tired old trope to look at The Doctor’s relationship with his companions when he fails and it comes under serious stress.
When they accidentally land on a planet that’s under quarantine, Amy gets separated from The Doctor and Rory and quarantined in a different time stream. It’s actually a fantastic concept – people under quarantine are held in compressed time, allowing them to live out their lives where ordinarily they’d be dead within 24 hours. Not only is the quarantine facility an intriguing concept, but it provides us with two Amy Ponds and a fantastic culture clash when the eventually meet!
Initially, Amy is full of her usual faith that Rory and The Doctor will show up to rescue her. However, the premise of The Girl Who Waited is to show us what happens when The Doctor lets her down. And cruelly, Amy is made to wait for 36 years for her heroes to arrive.
Now, technically, it’s not The Doctor’s fault, but the aged version of Amy doesn’t know that. And over the years she becomes increasingly bitter that she was left behind. When Rory eventually catches up with her, it’s a much harder version of Amy that he encounters. She hits out at the Time Lord in the most unambiguous way:
In fact I think I can now definitely say, I hate him. I hate The Doctor. I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anything in my entire life.
Were Karen Gillan a better actress, I think she could’ve delivered her lines with a more savage, unhinged tone. She’s been alone for 36 years, that’s bound to hit the psyche pretty hard, right? More spitting and venom, less ‘cold’ monotone. But still, to see Amy cold and bitter and hating The Doctor for abandoning her is a fantastic thing. He’d already made her wait 14 years as a girl, and now it’s 36 years.
Though the older version of Amy initially refuses to be ‘saved’, she’s talked around by her younger self. But Rory is faced with the reality of either saving the older Amy and making the younger Amy wait 36 years to be rescued, or saving the younger Amy and wiping out the 36 years the older Amy was alone. It’s a tad confusing, but a rich enough concept. Either way, Older Amy decides she wants to be saved as well.
That’s right: two Amy’s in the TARDIS. As The Doctor says to Rory: “Hey, it’s your marriage!”
And in the true spirit of the last two years of Doctor Who, concepts arise which don’t get neatly tied up by the end of the episode. The Doctor lies. He tells his companions that he can rig a paradox to allow both Amys to inhabit the same space. But when the Amys are united, he locks the older version out, causing Rory’s heart to break in choosing between the two. It’s actually Arthur Darvill who owns the Doctor-hating as he yells at the Time Lord that he doesn’t want to travel with him if he’s so reckless. When he rages that The Doctor is making Rory be like him, it’s quite compelling. And though the companions survived the episode, it’s probably not the end of that particular theme for these companions.
The Girl Who Waited – in short, it was an episode that explored some unusually deep themes, and gave Rory and Amy a chance to shine for once. Gillan and Darvill both had some touching scenes, including Gillan’s old and young Amy reminiscing over their shared past. Matt Smith did have his moment to shine as well, at the end of the episode, when The Doctor actually looked quite wretched after lying to Rory. For a split second, as Amy asked where her older counterpart was, The Doctor looked distinctly dislikeable. Dirty liar.
- Anyone notice that The Doctor said that knowing your future can enable you to change it, “especially if you’re bloody minded, contradictory and completely unpredictable.” I thought this might be interesting as we approach the series finale in just three episodes time…
- Amy made her own sonic screwdriver? Does anyone want to explain that one to me? How did she get so intelligent that she knows how to assemble a sonic device from spare parts lying around a quarantine facility? I didn’t know she was that technically gifted.
- On the other hand, Amy’s scene where she cut down a bunch of handbots was pretty cool, wasn’t it? Brought back shades of River Song fighting at Demon’s Run, and Karen Gillan was quite convincing battling the robots.