Now, that was an episode.
Timey-wimey? Check. Mind-bending SF concepts? Czech. Tour De Force performance by the Gillan? Verily.
If nothing else this episode managed to make me prematurely miss Steven Moffatt. If this is the quality of story that we can expect whilst he’s running “Who”, our collective Saturday nights viewing will be the poorer when he eventually decides to move on – may that horrible day be many years away. I’m holding out for decades, frankly, but reality will out.
Written by Tom McRae (“Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” in season two) and directed by debutante “Who” helmer Nick Hurran (whose credits include the recent revamp of “The Prisoner” – oh dear – and ace, underrated nineties UK teen flick, “Virtual Sexuality”), “The Girl Who Waited” is a chuffing masterpiece and one of the best episodes since the series returned under Russell T. Davies’ stewardship.
And Matt Smith’s only in sparingly – this is all Gillan, all the way, as the title implies. If you didn’t like Amy Pond beforehand, I can imagine that the episode would have been pegged as an ordeal to match the Slitheen eps in RTD’s run.
How, then, to review “The Girl Who Waited” without having to blanket this post in [SPOILER] tags?
We’re on an alien planet, which has a dramatic effect on the Doctor, causes our heroes to be separated by time streams and featured a security staff of lethal bots so industrially designed that I was expecting to see a close-up of a ‘Made in Cupertino’ panel on one of them.
So far, so much that you could glean from the trailer.
What you might not have gleaned from the trailers for this episode was that this was all about relationships – most particularly the Amy-Rory marriage. Separation, loss, the primal drive to be with somebody you love and defy all obstacles – all themes present here and used to brilliant effect. The climax, especially, was a gut-punch, and neatly echoed events in “Amy’s Choice” from last season – a choice was made which any casual fan of SF could see coming from a thousand time-lines away. And that’s the genius of this show – it’s not the big things and the show-boating which make “Who” what it is as much as the moments where frail, normal human beings have to make the decisions that nobody would ever want to make.
There’s been criticism in some circles of “Who” fandom that Moffatt’s run on the show has been far more interested in Amy than it has been in the titular hero – a criticism which I’m fairly sure was also aimed at Donna’s time as companion, at Martha and at Rose. Spotting a theme there?
I won’t say that this was the episode which would silence the haters – because haters function on being irrationally negative towards something and won’t embrace that which they have publicly decried – so I’ll instead just say that Karen Gillen was better in this episode than she’s been in any episode to date. Moffatt has previously taken flak from blogs like I09 for perceived and implicit misogyny in his work and public utterances. This is guy who created “Press Gang” and Lynda Day – it’s a stretch for me to believe that he hates women.
Loved this episode – but you probably guessed that by now. And next week’s episode, “The God Complex”, looks sweet…