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Review: Amy's Choice


Amy's Choice is the seventh episode in the 31st Season of Doctor Who.

Review

“Dark, intriguing and almost too clever for its own good” could be a description of the Dream Lord who turns up to torture our erstwhile heroes in “Amy’s Choice,” but this is in fact more of a comment about the whole episode. As the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves locked in a choice between dreams and reality, with the TARDIS in the present or Leadworth in the future being the options, I was pretty much settled on a view that the episode was OK but nothing special, but the last five minutes changed that completely as the twist on the identity of the Dream Lord is revealed as the Doctor himself.

The Dream Lord is played by Toby Jones who is simply fantastic. He really does convey all of the intelligence and wit of the Doctor, all of his eccentricities and oddness, and his sharp perception – you could imagine him as the Doctor. Yet Jones’ delivery is wonderfully creepy and dark, and it really helps to make the Dream Lord a villain. There is a subsequent debate in fandom about whether the Dream Lord is really the Valeyard (a personification of the dark side of the Doctor which emerges between the 12th and 13th regenerations and who tries to eliminate the 6th Doctor). Personally, I’m hoping that it’s not the last time we see the Dream Lord. There is great chemistry between Matt Smith and Toby Jones as hero and villain, and certainly the Doctor going up against a version of himself would make for an epic battle of wills -- more so because Smith managed to convey very subtly that the Dream Lord, his inner demon, scares the Doctor -- especially in the final shots where the Doctor looks down at the console and sees the Dream Lord reflected for a moment, rather than himself.

The story takes on new meaning with the revelation that the Dream Lord is the Doctor. I had to go back and rewatch just so I could better appreciate the scenes between them and the nuances in the Dream Lord’s needling of the Doctor because with the reveal, the importance of these exchanges is suddenly trebled. This is the Doctor effectively taunting himself. At one point, the Doctor comments that he knows who the Dream Lord is because only one person hates him that much; and that confession of the inner self-loathing the Doctor has is BIG in terms of character exploration.

The other character truly explored in the episode is Amy. I’ve been praising Karen Gillan for her acting since the start of the season and I really have to do it again here. This story calls on her to show a wide range of emotions, especially in the scenes following Rory’s demise (nicely played by Arthur Darvill) in the Leadworth dream. Her delivery of the line, that she knows it isn’t the real world because Rory isn’t in it, is touching and heartbreaking and perfect. But here again, more is revealed in these scenes about Amy and her view of the world than is appreciated on first watching: how the Doctor is someone who she’s placed in the box of hero who saves the day, how real life to her is Rory and the constant of him which is a sharp comparison to the Doctor’s sporadic appearances.

If I have one complaint about the whole Amy-choosing-Rory aspect of this episode is that I was kind of under the impression that we did all this last week. Wasn’t “Vampires in Venice” meant to show that Amy would choose Rory, and that her jumping the Doctor was just a matter of convenience? Apparently not. I think the flow from a series’ arc here could have been improved. Perhaps more of a signal that things weren’t resolved at the end of the last episode might have ensured this revisiting didn’t feel so jolting. As it is I much prefer this resolution where Amy is forced to confront her true feelings for her fiancé. It’s just much, much better than the whole she-just-kissed-whoever-was-handy explanation.

The more I think about this episode, the more excited I get because there is so much character revelation, so much going on under the surface to enjoy and rhapsodize about. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really all that excited during the actual watching of the episode itself. The dream versus reality aspect has been done before on TV (Life on Mars comes to mind as the best example), and the two scenarios presented are very standard as Doctor Who plots go; despite best efforts with the monsters hiding out in old people and the idea of cold star, there wasn’t anything new or interesting in them. And given the jokey aspect of Rory’s ponytail and Amy’s pregnancy in one, and ponchos in the other, the more serious undertone is skirted over until Rory’s death. On one hand, I appreciate the mystery of who the Dream Lord was and the big reveal. On the other, I think I may have woken up and paid more attention had I known the importance of the Dream Lord being the Doctor earlier.

“Amy’s Choice” ends up being a really thought-provoking and compelling episode but more so in the rewatching than first viewing where the plan to have this appear as though this is just another episode works a little too well. But it does give me the urge to hug Simon Nye and hope that the Who team invite him back to write again.

Previously published at Geek Speak Magazine.

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