The Girl Who Waited Review

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Clint Hassell reviews The Girl Who Waited, the tenth episode of Doctor Who Series 6.

At the Two Streams hospital, patients are given two options: they can press the green button and become “anchored” in the present where they will die within a day, but do so surrounded by family. Alternately, they can press the red button, which will allow them to “flow” forward in a separate time “stream” where they will live out their days in an awesome resort setting, but do so alone, quarantined even from other patients. (“Anchored . . . flow . . . stream.” See what I did there? It wasn’t until my second viewing that I decoded the secret meaning of the two buttons.) It’s an interesting premise that raises questions about the “kindness” of patient care, and about whether a life lived in isolation is preferable to death, but the story only works as long as you don’t examine the details.

For example, if time is compressed in the “red waterfall” areas to the point that patients don’t get hungry, then why do they age? And, since they do age, why do they not die from the effects of the disease? And why can’t the Doctor enter the Two Streams facility? Yes, Chen7 would be fatal to him, but all of the infected patients are separated into different time streams, which, ostensibly, is a more-effective quarantine than your average medical-grade barrier. (And, why the sudden fascination with ways to kill the Doctor that bypass his ability to regenerate? This is the third time in ten episodes!) It’s all a bit silly – and normally, the flimsy premise would bother me – but this time I can look past it because, really, “The Girl Who Waited” is more about how Rory and Amy(s) react as their relationship is tested.

When the couple become separated within the Two Streams facility, the Doctor is able to guide Rory to Amy, but not before she has aged 36 years. Rory must make a choice – leave with the now-59-year-old Amy, and abandon the hope of growing old with his wife, or convince this older Amy to somehow break the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (which, surprisingly, does not get a mention) and change her own relative past (future?), thus causing her own existence to be rewritten and erasing all of her accomplishments from history.

I love that, after 36 years of waiting, Amy hates the Doctor for failing to rescue her. It’s a fair sentiment considering Eleven’s capriciousness, and the fact that this isn’t the first time he’s abandoned Amy – it’s the fourth – a plot point I am shocked (and disappointed) was not mentioned.

How true to her character was it that Amy not only named her robot “Rory,” but that she also referred to it as her “pet”

My favorite moment – and the one that got me this close to tears – were the seconds Amy debated putting on lipstick for Rory. Even after 36 years, she wants to be pretty for him! It gives credence to her later line that she’d “forgotten how much [she] loved being [young Amy],” Rory’s new bride. I am genuinely proud of Doctor Who for allowing Rory and older Amy to share an honest, loving kiss. It’s all Amy wanted (and, after 36 years, she deserved it!), and it demonstrated again Rory’s amazing capacity to love Amy through impossible, dire circumstances.

Though the episode ends with the expected conclusion, each of the relationships within the TARDIS trio has been redefined. Probably the best example occurs when Rory confronts the Doctor’s irresponsible behavior:

“This is YOUR FAULT! You should look in a history book once and a while [and] see if there’s an outbreak of plague or not!”
“That is not how I travel,” the Doctor responds.
“Then I do NOT want to travel with you!”

Honestly, at this point, I do not see how Rory and Amy can continue traveling with the Doctor. In the classic series, companions usually left for one of three reasons: 1) they found love, 2) they felt they could do more good in the world by staying behind, or 3) they disagreed with the Doctor over some fundamental tactic or philosophy regarding his adventuring. While I love the idea of having companions stay for longer than one or two series, I feel that this episode provides a perfect reason for the Ponds to part ways with the Doctor.

Beyond the amazing character interactions – and, truly, Arthur and Karen turn in career-defining performances – “The Girl Who Waited” looks beautiful. Amy’s old age make-up is seriously awesome (even if Samurai Amy is a total fanboy manifestation). I loved the overhead shot of the sparse, IKEA-inspired hospital lobby and the panoramic reveal of the practically-Seussian garden. Moreover, this episode will forever be remembered for the symbolic dual shots of young/old Amy, and of old Amy/Rory. Not since Rose and Ten shared stunned goodbyes from opposite sides of a cement wall, in “Doomsday,” has Doctor Who used an artistic shot so effectively.

Another stunning sequence occurs when Rory jokes about the Doctor’s fez, and Amy laughs for “the first time . . . in 36 years.” As the two share a moment, the scene cuts to a shot of the Doctor, standing awkwardly inside the TARDIS – a visual cue that he is metaphorically coming between the couple.

I do have one GIANT quibble with the episode: I do not believe that Amy is capable of building a sonic screwdriver (er, . . . “probe”). Toshiko Sato had the schematics to build a similar sonic device, and even hers was flawed. Tosh was Torchwood’s computer genius and a technical expert; Amy was . . . a kissogram. Even worse, all of the actions performed by Amy’s sonic probe could have been performed by the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which was usually in the same scene (though carried by Rory), making this unbelievable plot point completely unnecessary.