My Bijou Who Review • 16 May 2010 • The SnowBlog
My Bijou Who Review
My verdict (for what it's worth) on this week's Doctor Who episode, Amy's Choice:
One or two additional [spoilery!] thoughts... I was pretty caught up in this episode. Intellectually it was great because you were trying to solve the puzzle, process the clues and figure out what the real rules were. What I found strange (but good) was that it was also very emotionally involving. The thing is, I don't really understand why.
Any good screenwriter will tell you that you need 'jeopardy' in your drama. The characters have to be in danger of losing something so that the tension or conflict in the story (which you should also remember to include) has some consequences. But that's a rather banal statement when applied to Who, because in most episodes everyone's lives are at stake - plus sometimes the whole planet - plus sometimes the entire universe. The thing, is that millions can be imperilled, including the regular cast, and I might not care. On this occasion, the stakes were much lower than usual: even if they just took a guess, there was a fifty percent chance of the principals surviving (or so we initially thought) and yet it was exciting in a way that (ho-hum) the universe might end often isn't. What I can't work out is: what clever thing was Simon Nye (the writer) doing that, say, Toby Whithouse wasn't doing last week. Any suggestions, all you writing experts out there? I want to say the acting was just better - because I think it was (Matt Smith's even!) - but I'm certain that the writing made the real difference and I really want to understand how.
My slight niggles with the ep involved some pacing here and there. I'd have liked a little more time and a little more emphasis given to the revelation that the Dream Lord was the Doctor and how the psychic pollen was behind it all. I actually found the idea that the Dream Lord wasn't real to be a slight anti-climax, because he was such a great villain (played so brilliantly by Toby Jones). So rather than a throwaway explanation, I would have preferred his non-existence to be part of solving the riddle of what was going on. Discover that he wasn't real in order to banish him. Then I might have felt a bit more triumphant about being deprived of such a wonderful character. But that's probably nit-picking. I might have also liked Rory's death scene to have been rejigged a little. Karen Gillan is badly lit and has only a few seconds to register her sorrow at Rory's demise. It didn't feel quite like the pivotal moment for the season that it was.
Why light the chest of drawers and the wall but not Karen Gillan's face? Why stay wide when we're supposed to be registering her surprise and pain?
(And it might have been nice if the Doctor and Amy killing themselves had looked more deadly. Their camper van looked to be doing seven miles per hour when it hit the cottage. I reckon they were looking a broken headlight rather than death.)
But how brilliant was the plot? Choosing between two realities was a great idea. But making those realities represent not only Amy's two choices for her future but the two men in her life was inspired. It meant that all the detective work in analysing the two realities was also laden with emotional significance for all of them. I'd read that Simon Nye was great with character minutiae and dialogue, so I was expecting a slow-moving but poignant episode. The poignancy was there, but it was strapped to a rocket. I think this was as exciting as The Time Of Angels and hopefully it was made for a fraction of the cost. The locations were the Tardis set plus a muddy playground and a country cottage. The extras were pensioners. I like to think that in terms of excitement per pound spent, Amy's Choice set some sort of record.
Update: I recently read that this was the last episode to be filmed (despite being written as the midpoint) so it's possible the acting really was more bedded-in and practiced, so maybe that helped make the whole thing work.