This review may contain spoilers.
There is something incredibly entertaining about seeing the Doctor run around a small English village clubbing pensioners, throwing them off roofs and try to run them down in an old Volkswagon.
Okay, so “Amy’s Choice” wasn’t quite the “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz” of “Doctor Who”, but it was pretty damn close.
The premise is sound: the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are forced to face an alien uprising in the form of pensioners. Yes, pensioners. You know, those old wrinkly people that tell you not to walk on their grass. Or do they? As narcolepsy would have it, the trio are also on the Tardis and are plummeting towards the heart of a cold star.
Only one world is real, but which is it?
The script had the potential to be terrific but stumbles in the beginning, devoting more time than necessary to Amy’s pregnancy and Rory’s ponytail (because those are apparently the only two things that can convince an audience that time has passed). The Dream Lord could quite conceivably have been the creepiest human villain yet but he always seemed somewhat restrained at every turn.
Toby Jones was brilliant as the Dream Lord, delivering eerie dialogue in a very ghostly atmosphere (especially when it starts to freeze inside the Tardis). His greatest line is without a doubt, “Ask me what happens if you die in reality … you die stupid, that is why it’s called reality.” There were some equalling well crafted scenes of surrealism, such as pensioners hunting children in the ruins of a castle located in the middle of a village.
It’s not quite a “Sophie’s Choice,” but “Amy’s Choice” is an episode of genuine heart that deals with the dynamic of the three characters in a very entertaining way.
The very idea that the villain of the outing was the Doctor is intriguing to say the least. We know he has his dark side (he did annihilate countless Daleks and Time Lords during the war) but, even in the most otherworldly situations, he has managed to maintain his composure. This episode was a chance to see the darker Doctor without actually witnessing anything that could compromise his character.
In much the same respect, the insults directed towards the Doctor by the Dream Lord show exactly how the Doctor views himself; as something less than magnificent. Given all the crimes and acts of cruelty demonstrated by humanity, the Doctor still regards us as being something to by admired. But not himself, he is something less.
The village was the perfect setting for the episode, encompassing some of the fun that “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” carried. Especially as the village oldies hobble through the fields like something from a Romero flick. And, as luck would have it, the big freeze that occurred during the filming period only helped make the sleepy little village seem that little bit more surreal and mirrors what is taking place inside the Tardis perfectly.
And, once again, Arthur Darvrill proved to be brilliant as bumbling Rory. Whether he’s calling Amy “chubs,” or battering an old lady with a plank of wood, he is simply hilarious. Then there are also the intimate looks of disappointment, rejection and heartache when it comes to the unique relationship between the Doctor and Amy.
What Didn’t Work
The twist that the Dream Lord is actually a reflection of the Doctor himself was both an interesting turn of events and a slight disappointment. Interesting because it opens up so much scope on what kind of a person the Doctor is, and disappointing because the reason for his appearance was not revealed until the final second … and it had no connection to the events taking place or past adventures. The revelation simply came out of nowhere.
There was also something a little off-putting about the Doctor’s greeting towards Rory at the beginning of the episode. After discovering Amy is pregnant, our time travelling hero gushes with congratulations and hugs, only to offer Rory the point of a finger and a playful slap of the face. The same holds true after the trio awaken in the Tardis, proclaiming that he’s so glad Amy is alive and embracing her in another hug. Rory gets nothing.
More than anything it shows he thinks of Rory as more of a tag-along than a companion in his own right. Maybe even the downside to Amy’s companionship.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “Amy’s Choice” was written by Simon Nye and directed by Catherine Morshead.
“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 6.20 p.m. on BBC One in the United Kingdom and at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.