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Who Review: The Girl Who Waited

September 12, 2011

Last week we were treated to a decent but companion-light episode of Doctor Who. This week we got the exact opposite in The Girl Who Waited. This adventure was more-companion focused, and it wasn’t decent. It was amazing. This episode was easily on par with Vincent and the Doctor in terms of emotional punch and incredible performances. Spoilers ahead!

I initially thought upon viewing that The Girl Who Waited had a higher budget, reflected in the costumes, impressive CGI and makeup. A little digging proved me wrong: this was apparently a budget-saving episode, having few sets and no guest stars. This is a credit to the creative team and the old-school Who spirit, being able to turn in an episode that makes so much out of so little.

Due to an outbreak of a a plague that affects Time Lords and not humans, the Doctor disappears to the safety of the TARDIS and is little more than a voice for much of the episode. You’d think you’d miss him. You might think that this would be a lame adventure and that the companions wouldn’t be able to carry an entire episode without the quirky title character.

You’d be very very wrong.

Karen Gillan is destined for greatness. Her performance in this episode was amazing and brought tears to my eyes. Her range as an actress honestly surprised me, and her portrayal of an Amy in her 50’s was understated, believable, heartbreaking, and just plain perfect. My favorite of her scenes was so brief yet spoke volumes: where old Amy contemplates putting on lipstick. The look in her eyes, the ability to portray what was going on in Amy’s head without saying a word was brilliant.

Amy being lost in time, waiting for her boys to save her reminded me of what happened/didn’t happen to Rory in The Doctor’s Wife. This is the first time we’ve had married companions, and I’m glad to see the writers exploring what it means to travel with the Doctor along with one you love.

Speaking of Rory, how cute did he look in those silly spectacles? Arthur Darvill also did a terrific job in this episode, particularly when he had to leave one of his Amys behind. “You’re turning me into YOU!” he spat at the Doctor, as usual always able to say the most painful truth to him. (See Vampires of Venice for another.)

Leaving Old Amy behind destroys yet another double Doctor possibility. As Rory and two Amys were running back to the TARDIS, I thought to myself, “Well, great. Maybe the Doctor when back and picked up another version of himself to die while he went on living.” Thankfully, the TARDIS can’t handle that big a paradox, to the possibility of his picking up another him is right out.

Remember Rule #1. The Doctor lies.

The villains, the handbots, were an interesting concept and rather well executed. The theme of “killing with kindness” could be applied to the Doctor himself in many cases, such as in The Beast Below, as well as here. He lied to then killed Old Amy to save her from ever having to live that life.

So that leaves us with this question, and you have to take any Gaiman fangirling out of the equation. Is The Girl Who Waited better than The Doctor’s Wife? Tell us what you think in the comments.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    September 12, 2011 1:55 pm

    I think The Doctor’s Wife was SLIGHTLY better than The Girl Who Waited. Slightly. The ONLY reason I give it the #1 spot for my favorite episode this season (and all time) was because TDW had a lot more laughs and humor in it.

    But yes, this episode almost squeaked ahead just because of how !@#$ing awesome Rory was. I love the fact that Rory will call out the Doctor on his failings without fear or hesitation. When he screamed at the Doctor for never CHECKING where they’re going before they arrive (SO VALID A COMPLAINT), and threw the glasses to the ground, I was ecstatic. He’s my favorite companion EVER, and Amy went ahead and cemented herself as a fantastic companion in this one episode alone following a spotty record over the last season and a half. (She was sooooo annoying when she first started, but now she’s awesome.)

    When Old Amy saw the Doctor in the doorway, and started running at him, in my head I was going “No… No, no, he can’t… Don’t shut the door…” even though I KNEW he was going to slam the door shut on her, and it freaking broke my heart when it happened. I love the fact that despite his far more carefree and happy attitude, this Doctor is much more manipulative then the last two… He’s a chessmaster, and he always does what he does for good reasons, but… No, no. He’s not a good man.

    In fact, when I think back on this episode, I only have ONE complaint. How does ripping the Mona Lisa over a Handbots head deactivate it? C’mon, writers. He should’ve used the purple goo thing.

    • September 14, 2011 11:08 am

      Yeeeah, the Mona Lisa bit was a little silly. But maybe the handbot was a huge fan of art and just folded over in despair at the destruction of a masterpiece? That’s okay, though, if you know your Who history, there’s a few dozen more Mona Lisa’s out there.

  2. September 12, 2011 2:45 pm

    I also loved the lipstick scene! So well acted by Karen. I totally did not expect the Doctor to close the door on Old Amy- silly me I guess. And of course, Rory did steal the show. While I agree with Chris above that how to deactivate the Handbots was rather inconsistent, I did enjoy them as a baddie. I’ve had issue with things using their hands to see since Pan’s Labyrinth. I have it saved as I must watch it again! ~R

    • September 14, 2011 11:06 am

      That shocked me as well. I thought Old Amy might sacrifice herself to save someone to eliminate having to deal with two, but I was shocked when he shut that door.

  3. The Exile permalink
    September 14, 2011 1:05 am

    I thought this was not only the best episode of the season so far, but the best episode of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who.

    Both Ms. Gillan and Mr. Darvil blew me away with their performances, and Mr MacRae’s script was just amazing, so much power in it.

    I have my own theory about the events on shores of Lake Silencio (which I haven’t wrtitten down anywhere yet online.

    I had a very interesting thought at one moment watching this episode, and listening to Amy talk about being abandoned, and I thought about poor Peri. I’d love to see something of a resolution there.

    Big Finish dabbled a bit with it, but it never felt right to me. They response Amy gave to the Doctor was always more what I would expect. I mean at least Amy knew what was going on, Peri was just left there. Sure it was not the Doctor’s fault. But he never even tried to go back and bring her home.

    • September 14, 2011 11:09 am

      Thanks for the comment, and yours was a terrific article. Yes, poor Peri. She had both a tragic first adventure where he DID go through hell to save her, and then her last was just heart breaking.

  4. Bob. permalink
    February 5, 2012 9:21 pm

    I know this is way late, but for some reason I thought of this episode today and the lipstick scene was one of the most powerful emotionally that I have ever seen on this show. Amy is bitter, but seeing rory brings back all her feelings ( if conflicted now) she almost acts like a young girl, putting on lipstick for him, remembers she is now an old woman, etc. It reminds me of the book Immortality by Milan Kundera who is so charmed by an old woman he sees wave to her swimming instructor. He describes it as the wave of a young girl, she has forgotten for a moment that she is no longer young and beautiful. In this scene it seems amy forgets for a moment, too, and then remembers. I found it heart breaking.

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