Dear, dear Chris. I’ll be honest with you. It wasn’t completely boring, it didn’t have me look at the clock thinking ‘Oh, how long is this gonna take to get over with itself’, and the question of how they were going to manoeuvre themselves out of the dead sister thing did have me genuinely worried. Needless to say, I cried and cussed when Rory, poor Rory, caught the figurative bullet meant for the Doctor, died in Amy’s arms and, just to top that off, got removed from time and history by the Time Field behind the crack; effectively wiped from everyone’s except the Doctor’s memory. Oh, bloody wonderful. As I said, it wasn’t completely horrible, but this two-parter was the weakest of this new series, when it comes to wonky writing and not-so-sparkly-as-we’ve-enjoyed-before dialogue.
I’ll just get the plot and the writing and acting over with before I come to what’s this episode actually telling and, in some ways, teaching us.
Well. Twice in this episode, people are saved from dissection or execution by someone pushing a button and calling out ‘Oh, wait a moment, we don’t have time for that!’ Also, when Eldane walked in on Restac almost executing her prisoners and ordered her back to her quarters, the first thing that came to my mind was: Crimson Tide, a movie with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, dealing with a battle of convictions between the two highest-ranking officers on an American submarine in the middle of the Cold War. Denzel basically displaces Gene, confines him to his Captain’s quarters, only to be mutinied upon by the old geezer, but then revolting back.
Oh dear, really? There’s always a military, isn’t there?
So, Restac gathering loyal warriors to continue “defending [her] species against the apes” was an easy one to call. Killing off Malokeh wasn’t — stupid cow! What wasn’t expected, too, was that debating session with Eldane, Amy and Nasreen. The Doctor didn’t want to mediate, he wanted to let them have it out themselves. What I found myself at odds with, though: Apparently, the debate had gone on a while, when we cut back to them from the Doctor and Mo fetching Elliot, since Amy’s resting her head upon her arms seemingly exasperated and, well, the narrator bloody says so — what on earth have they been discussing all that time until they finally got to the point of resources and the Silurians’ advanced knowledge and, of course, the oh-so human ‘What’s in it for us, then’ ? If there were that many similarities more than differences, as the Doctor points out when he comes back, why’s the ‘You give us space to live, we give you a way to avoid destroying the planet all on your own’ the first thing they can agree on? I liked the idea of actually discussing things like this (apart from the obvious problem that such things as discussed at the round table are rarely accepted by the masses involved, but what the hell), but the actual thing disappointed me a bit. Apart from that, cliché watch: It’s always the elder of a tribe, perhaps one of them the fascinated and good-natured scientist — very alike the Doctor, who seems to have seen something of a kindred spirit in Malokeh, having tinkered away underneath the earth for a few hundred years — , who seek the peaceful approach, isn’t it?
Amy: The Doctor would know. The Doctor always knows.
Everybody knows except ME! (The Doctor)
In the end, the whole thing resolved in a rather anticlimactic way: Eldane pushed a few buttons, practically ready to poison the Silurians Restac had gathered and put his race into hibernation for another 1,000 years — though, actually, none of the awakened warriors died, except for Restac, who’d followed them back to the TARDIS, trying to kill the Doctor from her crawly position on the ground (very Sergio Leone). Also — Nasreen and Tony just stay down there? Waking back up in 1,000 years, Tony being decontaminated. I wanna see how well that is gonna work…
Next point: Ambrose. Another easy call. ‘course she was going to be the one who killed Alaya, she was the most antagonistic towards the Doctor and distrusted him openly throughout both episodes. And she was the most angry, the most confused and desperate. I know, I know, the instincts of a desperate mother defending her family, but this was just plain stupid. This woman was single-minded and selfish to a point where it got ridiculous, even for us stupid apes. The storyline about her continued to bite its own tail, until she had that little heart-to-heart at the end, with the Doctor — always outsmarting the Silurians in terms of bargaining chips, emphatically opposing their return to the surface. Considering her and Restac’s stances, this episode was, basically, one big cat fight. Wonderful. Oh, and again: We have a deadline! 15 minutes until the drill hits the settlement.
A bit more nit-picking: Shouldn’t have Elliot had a somewhat more violent awakening? If his metabolism had been slowed down to a millionth of its normal rate, shouldn’t the sudden jumpstart of thousands of bio-chemical processes catapult him into wakefulness rather than just… let him wake up? Well, I’m no biology professor, but it doesn’t make sense to me.
What else? Well. The crack, apparently, is either a means of passage between universes/worlds, as in The Eleventh Hour, when Prisoner Zero used it to cross into Amy’s house; or it is a time-devouring Time Field hungry for complicated time events such as the Doctor or a thousand Weeping Angels (Flesh and Stone). So, why could the Doctor just rummage around in the crack, and make it seem as if it was only a passage way this time; but then the crack suddenly decided to take Rory? Duh? (What’s the crack anyway? And why does it keep harassing Amy (and the Doctor)? Mind the poll!)
Other than that, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith’s acting again really got me. They were great throughout the episode, but Rory’s death killed me, and the scene right after was Mazza and Kazza at their most powerful yet. (What’s going to happen to the engagement ring, by the way?) What makes the whole thing worse for Rory: The only things Amy said to him before he died were “What, ’cause I got sucked into the ground; you’re so clingy!”, “Just keeping you on your toes..” and “Other way, idiot!” And, as the fans who are not exactly excited about the pair are bound to point out, she didn’t get the words ‘I love you’ over her lips again. I willingly concede that Amy does have abandonment/commitment issues and that her cynical or seemingly harsh remarks (especially the ‘clingy’ one) are most likely just her way of expressing gratitude and affection (I’m an arse to people I love, I know what I’m talking about; and I recognized Amy’s shyness to tell Rory she loved him at the end of Amy’s Choice as my own queasiness when it comes to sincerely expressing affection that’s not wrapped into a caustic remark), and I really don’t think that she doesn’t love Rory for who he is — but it would’ve been nice to hear the words actually said, for once. For Rory.
The fact that the Doctor still remembers Rory and Amy doesn’t will provide for lots of awkward moments, I’m sure of it. Also, this was the first time someone actively sacrificed himself for the Doctor in this series, if I remember correctly. Thus, the Doctor is in an even more tight spot: He desperately wants Amy to remember “fantastic Rory, funny Rory, gorgeous Rory”, but isn’t it a comfort to know Amy won’t know that her fiancé died to protect him? Then again, he’s now alone with his guilt and terror and can’t tell her, can’t tell anyone. And Amy can’t do what Elliot did: forgive him.
(I’m now moving on to the parts of the episode and the writing that I appreciated.) Elliot told the Doctor two things he needs but never, or rarely, gets to hear:
I forgive you.
I get you.
There are fixed points through time where things must always stay the way they are. This is not one of them, this is an opportunity. A temporal tipping point: whatever happens today will change future events, create its own timeline, its own reality. The future pivots around you, here, now.
Exactly. Rory’s suddenly gone from that point in the future — this is the first proof that we have that time can be rewritten. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new reality; Amy’s timeline has been changed forever. Thus proving that it’s really Amy (not the Doctor and River dressed up as them in an effort to go back on timelines as the Pandorica opens, as some speculated) standing on that hill opposite the mining site. That still leaves one question, though: Why that particular point in time? Why is that point so significant? Could the Doctor have told her future self that this was the last time she saw her fiance alive? But why would she still (or again) be standing there a day later? And why wave, why provoke attention?
“Where there’s an explosion, there’s shrapnel!”
The most important thing of this episode, though, is the shrapnel that the Doctor dug out of the crack. It is revealed that the TARDIS is at least part of the explosion — which means that the vortex inside the console gets opened or even scattered, which could likely cause the “rips in the continuum”, as the Doctor called them. If the vortex explodes, then so does time — the universe? “… and the greater losses that were still to come.” Ooh, dear.
Random thoughts — today: A few nice bits I found endearing underneath all the rest.
- The Doctor asking for a stick of celery — ’cause, as we’ve learnt from the Fifth Doctor, celery is excellent at detecting poisonous gases and provides a valuable restorative; after decontamination, in this particular case.
- Again, I liked Nasreen’s interaction with the Doctor before her and Amy’s discussion with Eldane. There was this sort of casual flirtation between two like-minded scientists that still strongly reminds of River.
Next episode: Vincent and the Doctor.