September 11, 2011
(Possible MINOR SPOILERS. I posted about 9/11 yesterday. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey...)
One of the things that classic Doctor Who has never been afraid of has been the occasional foray into the surreal, whether it's The Mind Robber, Warrior's Gate, or Kinda. Current Who has also been willing to head into familiar territory, using it as a way to reveal character and relationships - last year's Amy's Choice did just that, focusing on the Amy/Rory relationship while delivering a pretty solid story.
The Girl Who Waited is another really strong story, mixing elements of surrealism, romantic fantasy, and fairy tale. I was quite honestly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It does go a little OTT, but quite frankly, it's a very welcome change of pace.
Much of this episode's playing with time lines is reminiscent from the "Space" and "Time" shorts from this past year's Red Nose Day. However, The Girl Who Waited uses it to much more melodramatic effect, but thankfully, there are two things that help alleviate some of the more obnoxious elements of the script.
The other thing that makes this episode work - Arthur Darvill as Rory. Everyone else may look to Amy Pond as the Eleventh Doctor's companion, but it's Rory who serves not only as the Doctor's "conscience", but who is - let's face it - the most down-to-earth companion the Doctor has ever had. Most companions have a quality where people might want to be them; Rory's the only companion whom I (and I think, anyone else) would simply want to hang out with - there's a humanity and believability that this Doctor sorely needs.
Ironically, this episode came a day after the finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, and I think each series shows a fundamental difference in Davies' and Moffatt's approach. (There's even a slight nod to Torchwood in the context of this episode). For Davies, storytelling means that the ending has to be bigger, that the consequences have to be massive and external. Miracle Day ended as a crashing disappointment, with episodes of varying quality, and a conclusion that I honestly couldn't tell you the nature of "the Miracle" as described in the episode. (I'm not being coy or avoiding spoilers - I'm honestly confused). For Moffatt, the interest is more in personal stakes - it's not so much an external "big bad" as much as people's lives and experiences being at stake. But I could be wrong in this perspective.
The Girl Who Waited reminded me a lot of The Doctor's Wife as an exploration of a critical relationship. I won't go into the usual "instant classic" hyperbole, but something tells me...I'll like this episode more upon a second view. And a third.