THE GIRL WHO WAITED
First broadcast 10/09/11 starring Matt Smith
This beautiful episode was most definitely one of the highlights, if not the highlight, from the sixth series all those years ago back in 2011. It was a minimalist treat with no guest stars (not in the flesh anyway) and saw a triumph on the direction and production front with a terrifically timey-wimey story and a wonderful performance from leading lady, Karen Gillan.
Doctor Who can be truly amazing and original when it takes on time travel and its ramifications (though, oddly, stories with “time” in the title, in general, tend to be less than well-received) and Tom MacRae’s story of parallel time streams was exquisitely simple as we watched Amy ripped apart from her boys, Rory and the other bloke, forced to live out a life alone and battling the menacing Handbots.
The Handbots were a magnificent addition to the Doctor Who canon of robots, utterly chilling despite their helpful demeanour. And what a fantastic design, so elegant – much like the whole episode itself, evoking films like A Space Odyssey (complete with creepily friendly computer voices) and the other George Lucas sci-fi flick, THX 1138. Designer Michael Pickwoad certainly put in a shift-and-a-half on this one and, along with director Nick Hurran, performed
the magnificent task of making simplicity utterly gorgeous yet
terrifying at the same time.
Hurran’s direction on Who, as we’ve seen more than once, has an eye all to itself. His visual approach is always welcome; using unusual
shots, motion and speed to highlight the tension – not to mention the use
of some neat Star Wars-esque wipes. Best of all is the “in camera” effect of the room changing time streams early on in the episode. Again simple, but massively effective.
Before I get to the denouement and the more serious tones of the plot, there are some delightful lighter moments to appreciate such as The Doctor and Rory mucking around with the Time Glass (itself a great invention) giving Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill much to play with. The latter gets even more laughs as he has to deal with older Amy and her robot Rory “duplicate” (a device that also suggests other questions I shan’t address here).
The ending is a kicker. A very powerful and emotional kicker. I must confess, on first viewing I did wonder if the older Amy would, in fact, end up traveling in the TARDIS (now that would have been odd – but interesting). But her expulsion from their lives, and indeed her own, showed a nastier side to The Doctor than we’re used to. Amy might not have died in “reality”, but it really felt like she did.
The Girl Who Waited is both a beautifully told and realised story. Between them, writer MacRae and director Hurran produced intelligent Doctor Who art; a very science-fictiony episode for mind and heart.