Promising Amy and Rory a glimpse of the second most popular vacation destination in the universe, the Doctor miscalculates slightly, landing the TARDIS in the right place at the worst possible time: the planet is in the thrall of a global plague, and robotic medics have been mobilized to contain and treat those with the illness. A system of vast temporal engines has been set up to keep the victims alive by altering the speed of their timestreams. Amy is separated from the Doctor and Rory, and worse yet, when they go to rescue her, the Doctor can’t step outside the TARDIS due to the brute-force temporal engineering taking place. Rory has to find Amy himself, and indeed he does: she has aged 36 years since she last saw her fellow TARDIS travelers, and she’s not happy about it. The Doctor devises a plan to go back and undo this timeline, but the older Amy objects strenuously: if Amy Pond is going to resume her travels in the TARDIS, it’ll be Amy in her fifties, not Amy in her twenties. The Doctor leaves it up to Rory to make the agonizing decision.
written by Tom MacRae
directed by Nick Hurran
music by Murray Gold
Notes: This episode summons memories of numerous iconic Doctor Who adventures past: the Doctor and his companions were accosted in a blank, all-white space by all-white robots in 1968’s The Mind Robber, while the TARDIS toolbox (a fixture dating back to Tom Baker’s era) was last seen in the 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann. That movie was also the last time that the TARDIS was seen to have an alarm-clock-style split-flap display was seen roaring backward or forward in time at full speed. The free-standing gateways to other dimensions are slightly reminiscent of the Iconian gateways in Star Trek lore (TNG: Contagion, DS9: To The Death), though anyone who’s ever been to Narnia can attest that Star Trek was hardly the first SF or fantasy epic to use the device.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: This episode would’ve been amazing in the 2010 season. The only problem with it appearing in the 2011 season is that, by now, we’ve already seen Rory wait two thousand years – in a goofy Roman centurion outfit, no less! – to be reunited with Amy in the 2010 season’s two-part finale.
The episode really belongs to Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan, with the Doctor sidelined in the TARDIS, and truth be told, it’s a much more effective treatment of the “long wait through time” storyline than The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang was. The robots are a stylish threat with an obligatory Moffat-style creepy repeated catchphrase (“This is a kindness!”), and the stark white settings accomplish the task of being unsettlingly surreal (just as it was in The Mind Robber). We’ve traded Roman Rory for Joan of Arc Amy in the obligatory strange costume choice. And the whole star-crossed-lovers-moving-through-time-at-different-speeds is an old favorite of Moffat’s too, isn’t it? Not just referring to last year’s finale, but dating back to The Girl In The Fireplace in David Tennant’s first season as the Doctor. (The similarities must be slipping past most people though: both Fireplace and Pandorica / Big Bang have won the Hugo Award. Maybe this episode will too.)
Not to crap all over The Girl Who Waited – it’s actually the best version of this same basic story out of the three, by far, with a temporal paradox that plays the heart strings as skillfully as it tickles the geek gene. But when the same concept keeps recurring in a fairly short space of time, Who a la Moffat is starting to seem like it’s got a very limited box of tricks.