02/10/2011

Pond's Life

Anthony Malone & Mike Morrison cannot agree about the Doctor Who episode `The Girl Who Waited`

 Another popular internet based cult media site recently suggested that “The Girl Who Waited” had been greeted by unanimous critical praise on its transmission and was by some distance one of the best Matt Smith episodes yet. Really? Two reviewers for the show with two Amys seemed like an amusing idea for this site at first. Then “The Girl” made planet fall and with it came two very different points of view. One of us believed this to be the best Matt Smith episode yet; the other thought “Night Terrors” trumped it for spooky thrills. One saw this episode as a classical fairytale, dripping with enchanted gardens, magic mirrors, wizened old women and reluctant heroes. The other saw this episode as 45 minutes of banality about a relationship he wasn’t interested in starring a Doctor that wasn’t David Tennant. One of us watched this episode in a state of shock that it was so good. The other remained totally unmoved. This is how (flame) wars are started, people. This is not a kindness. Observe. 

"I've been waiting for this bus for 35 years, dearie"


“The Girl Who Waited” bored some viewers rigid. It also riveted others to their flat screens. This is instantly – rave reviews notwithstanding – the most Marmite story of its era, Matt Smith’s “Ghost Light”, the episode that, more than any other this series, exposed how deeply conformist we all are; how much we want others to have the same opinion as ourselves and how upsetting it can be when a dissenting opinion brings us down from our endorphin high. Still, even the pro-“Girl” lobby must concede that Amy turning into a fossil and “Worwy” farting about with a magnifying glass wasn’t going to stop primary school children from wandering in and out of the room but hey, that’s cool, there was a minotaur coming up and it would be scary next week. On the other hand, those of us attuned to pathos were finally mortally wounded by the Amy-Rory axis of womantic evil and Karen Gillan got something to show future casting directors.

 It’s funny – to the not-we, in-fighting over particular Doctor Who episodes must seem bizarre, like arguing over whether a Hazelnut Whirl is better than a Strawberry Creme when there are plenty more chocolates in the box and we’ve all read the same uncomprehending forum response when “The Blah Of The Blah” doesn’t float our boats: “Why do you watch it when you clearly hate it so much?” Well, because we support the team. I may not agree with the direction, their gameplay, the manager, but it’s my team. Good or bad, you want to be a part of it. Doctor Who. It’s a funny old programme.

 What your dissenting reviewers both agreed on was – hypodermic needle guns, notwithstanding – the Handbots were not going to get crowds swarming to Olympia Two anytime soon and even if we’re polite and see Kubrickian influences on the set design, perhaps harking back to “Warrior’s Gate” and further to Cocteau’s “La Belle Et La Bête”, the national institution that is Doctor Who has not been insulated from economic peril and the Moff is having to jump through some serious storytelling hoops to ward against this. But so what? They managed it on the classic series. JNT’s battle was against the BBC, Davies’ battle was against his own waning chutzpah, the Moff’s is against the forces of global economics. We get the Who the age deserves and this incarnation – by design or fluke – is perfectly in tune with the ramshackle sensibilities of our time.

 Valkyrie Amy appears to have picked a trick or two up from Tom Hanks and his friend Wilson in Castaway and should thank her lucky stars her teeth have lasted 36 years intact. She survives in a subterranean world of colourful shadows, has to insulate herself when she journeys into the world of colourlessness and ends up dying on the floor, literally eaten up by the lack of colour in her life.



Young Amy, faced with the brilliant colours of the gardens is completely out of her depth – managing a humble “It’s beautiful” then instantly retreating back into her hard girl persona: “I mean freaky hedges…”. Your sceptical reviewer would like to balance this by pointing out that of all the entertainment zones Young Amy could have chosen at the Gate she went for…the garden, there was no moment to match the doll transformations in “Night Terrors” and this episode would have been more impactful if the show itself had abandoned Amy for three or four weeks and then returned to pick up the story with shocking effect. Now there’s an arc.

Whichever way this episode rubbed you up, rumour has it a certain Scottish man Mr Moffat had a hand in the script, which may be doing Tom MacRae a disservice, but the line “I’ve got your back” – said with accented, Culloden Moor, verve – would not disgrace the Clan McCrimmon.

But…no consensus. Is there ever? If you think “The Girl Who Waited” absolutely validates this era of Who, if you loved “You’re making me into you”, the look between the Doctor and Amy, Queen Of Scots and then the TARDIS doors slamming in her face – one of the very few moments of electrifying character drama recently and bollocks to “I’m Melody” – then this review is for you. On the other hand, if you found your attention wandering, wished you’d watched Red Or Black, were impatient for the spooky chills of the Overlook Hotel, or just straight disillusioned with the show as a whole then you are the rebel alliance and we need to talk. In the end the compendium nature of the show comes to our rescue and we are all one, avidly discussing the peaks and troughs of our favourite series; straining to see the clips of next week’s episode, wondering where in blue blazes the TARDIS will take us next:

Next Time: Doctor Who Confidential is manifested as a person, a stunning Gaimen-esque twist. A Handbot marches up to it, drones “This is a kindness” and then puts it out of its misery once and for all. Its place in the schedule is filled with repeats of that evening’s actual episode and the budget once used to inform its audience what the catering van does fed back into the parent show itself. Crash zoom on the Doctor. Roll credits.      

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