Previously on Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice.
I know who you are. There’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do.
And who would that be? Anyway, here we are, the Doctor has just stomped his TARDIS foot down on Amy’s beloved flowerbed, which has Rory quite convinced another regeneration lies ahead — fortunately, the Doctor even survives his very charming “You’ve swallowed a planet!” first thought. I love how he blurts about five minutes later, finally registering: “Are you pregnant?!” — Yeah, uber-Doctor, what the hell else has Amy been saying in this entire conversation? *snort* Well, he’s no OB/GYN. Well, not that we know of. Well…
The three doze off on a bench in Upper Leadworth, wake up in the TARDIS, argue a little, doze off again, wake up back on the bench, enter the old people’s home, doze off again — cue first appearance of the Dream Lord.
He is rather wonderfully played by Toby Jones; gets a bit annoying after a while, but he makes a great villain. Damn — does that mean the Doctor makes a good villain? Echoes back to the series 1 episode Dalek, where the Doctor gets told that “[he] would make a good Dalek.” Another aspect of the Dream and Time Lords’ quarrels is his treatment of his companions, how he uses and then abandons them, and how he never apologizes; which rings back to Journey’s End, when Davros asks Ten how many people/creatures have sacrificed themselves for him — which is ironic, really, because one of Ten’s most used catchphrases was “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” That’s a lovely personality quirk — wait: quirks? While the image of the Doctor owning a little “tawdry quirk shop” is certainly entertaining: there’s no point in giving him self-confident-about-my-own-madness issues, Dream Lord. However, what sheds the most interesting light on these observations by the Dream Lord and the Doctor himself is that the Dream Lord is the Doctor or, rather, all the dark that there is to find in him. And with 907 years of life, there’s a lot darkness to put up with.
The Dream Lord is the Doctor’s dark subconscious, so it’s not really encouraging that he tells him right out that there is only one other person/thing/whatever that hates him as much as his own dark subconscious does — which, of course, set off the search for the Doctor’s other deep dark secret: the Valeyard. Oh, dear. Well, aside from the reflection of himself that the Doctor sees in reality and from which the Dream Lord is nastily smiling back at him — which is basic filmmaker code for “Prepare to see that bugger again”, isn’t it? — , the dark in the Doctor has, in this episode, become a half-manifest… hallucination or something, but he’s now as firmly conflicted with it as few times before. Again, the writers have made something that was only ever alluded or made a plot element of about 90 seconds screen time the subject of an entire episode, toying with the Doctor’s own head. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see the Valeyard again some time soon. Or we won’t, but Moffat and his companions just like reading all the forum threads across the internet.
The explanation with the naughty psychic pollen: Well. It was certainly unexpected, if a bit rushed, but nevermind.
This was a stand-alone episode, and a really good one. There wasn’t much in the way of the bigger scheme: no cracks today, no forgetting stuff that they should remember (speaking of it: mind the poll!). Something that continues to throw me off, though, are the eyes everywhere. You know, the Atraxi eye in The Eleventh Hour, the eye that I think I saw on the monitors in Flesh and Stone, and now those eye… thingys that were spouting deadly green stuff on humans, out of Very Old People’s mouths. Ugh! Anyway, it’s a stand-alone, and this was set up rather nicely in order to
- a) freak out the Doctor about his inner tragedy and self-loathing
- b) give the characters some more room to develop and find their footing with and about each other; but eventually…
- c) get the love triangle out of the way for good
The fact that, actually, both weird worlds were dreams gave Amy’s choice as well as Amy’s Choice a bit of a safety net. They were always going to wake up in reality since they’d either commit willful suicide or get killed by the immanent mortal danger; but the Dream Lord created an environment were Amy would still feel forced to make a decision. I was tickled at first by how the Doctor’s dark side seems proud of his, well, prowess — Queen Elizabeth, I. really is becoming the all-time Hey-look-at-that-the-Doctor-is-a-bad-bad-boy joke for reference, isn’t she? — and how he goads Amy; and not only when he was in that ghastly outfit while the Doctor and Rory were asleep in the TARDIS…
I’ve seen your dreams, some of them twice, Amy… blimey, I’d blush — if I had a blood supply.
But on second thought, I think that the dark side of the Doctor might well be a bit (or a lot) attracted to Amy, but the reason for him winding up her up is exactly that: He was winding her up so she’d reevaluate whom she really wants — because the motor behind the Dream Lord is his own self-hatred, his own disgust of himself, so the Dream Lord toys with the Doctor always having his female companions (well, Jack, too) falling for him. Apparently, he blames himself for it — though we all know the poor man can’t help it. Who wouldn’t fall for this strange “intergalactic… wag”? Also, his dark side thus made sure that he wouldn’t get the girl. Which he wouldn’t want anyway, but maybe, just a little, he would… Confused? I mean, it’s possible to read this development as the Doctor’s dark side punishing himself by pushing Amy away. Punishing, eh? Ugh, this time, it isn’t the implications of time travel that call for the invention of new grammar, it’s the labyrinth that is the Doctor’s hearts. Also, the comment that probably stung the Doctor the most aside from all the goading of his inner douchebag:
Amy: Then what is the point of you?
There was the disappointment that Prisoner Zero already toyed with when he presented the Doctor with a replica of himself and little Amy clinging to his hand. He’s the Doctor, it’s alright he doesn’t always “know everything — why does everyone expect me to, always!?”; but he should be able to help, to save his friends. It must be his biggest fear that, at some point, he always fails; and he hates himself for it because, after all, he’s the bloody Doctor!
The Dream Lord: I love it when he does that: tall, dark hero; ‘Leave her alone!’
There was an old doctor from Gallifrey,
Who ended up throwing his life away;
He let down his friends,
Yeah? How was that sentence gonna end?
Anyway, the love triangle’s out of the way now, we can go back to saving planets and lots of running without too much personal business getting in the way — or we could just rename the series to Doctor Who and the Happy Couple. I mean, the Doctor’s subconscious basically went through all this trouble to assure he’d have a lot of domestics around the TARDIS from now on… Although he did classify the dream of Amy and Rory in Upper Leadworth as a nightmare at first. What exactly was a nightmare about that, dear Doctor? Hm? It is remarkable that neither dream held anything dream-worthy for the Doctor, only for Rory and Amy, which set the scene for the Doctor being the voice of reason competing with Rory — who, after years of dressing up as the raggedy Doctor, now finally “passed some exams” — over which Amy is the real one. There were a few good lines in there, and this time it wasn’t about size…
The Doctor: But I can’t feel my feet and… other parts. — Rory: I think my other parts are fine. — The Doctor: No competing!
Where was I?… Ah, the mortal dangers. A cold star? Okaaay… And Very Old People Impersonated by Ecnodeens? The Doctor throwing one old lady off the roof using a bedside lamp?! Cheers all around! As last week, the whack-the-alien plot did take a kind of backseat to the character development, but it was tied in with Amy’s choice nicely enough to bear with it this one more time.
As it is, I continue to like Rory a lot. Not only is his character enjoyable and promises further development of self-confidence, providing future assistance valuable to the Doctor; Arthur Darvill has great comedic timing — which could be why he’s getting all the slapstick and physical comedy. The scene were he rushes face-first into the rose as he’s entering the house to get to false-alarm Amy in the Village that Time Forgot — oh, glory.
- That must have been the most melodramatic cutting of a ponytail ever. Also: “You hold him down, I cut it off?” Teehee!
- I love how Amy took revenge on the Doctor for calling her life in Upper Leadworth “dull”… “This is my life now and it just turned you white as a sheet, so don’t you call it ‘dull’ again, ever.” Yes, Ma’am.
- The Doctor really has to work on his social skills: “You’ve swallowed a planet!” / “You haven’t changed a bit, apart from age and… size.” / “You’re incredibly old, aren’t you?” Unlike Ten, though, he doesn’t apologize or ask his companions whether that was, in fact, rude. He’s just rude (and still not ginger).
Favourite quotes: Actually, one could just quote the awesome entirety of this week’s dialogue, but I’m going to try anyway…
The Doctor: It’s okay, we’re doctors! *crouching down in front of Amy’s legs to, erm, catch the baby as it plops out?*
The Doctor: There’s something here that doesn’t make sense. Let’s go and poke it with a stick.
Amy: You threw the manual in a supernova? Why?! — The Doctor: Because I disagreed with it! Stop talking to me when I’m cross!
Rory: Well, you do have a history of being.. very lovely.
Next episode: The Hungry Earth. Promises to pick up the old thing with the Doctor being the stuff of nightmares… Little boy: “Are you scared of them?” — the Doctor: “No. They’re scared of me.”