The Doctor takes Amy and Rory for a relaxing break on the planet Apalapucia, not realising that the planet is ravaged by a deadly disease. Amy wanders into the wrong part of the facility, and becomes trapped…
Sometimes it is nice to be out of step with the world, and sometimes it isn’t. I’ve already seen reviews on the Internet about how brilliant this episode is, but it has been balanced by an almost equal number that disliked it.
Yet again, I fall into the group that didn’t like it.
Why? Well, despite all its nice production values, it still fails in to many ways. Yes, it looked good; the white sets worked very well. But the obvious location shots in contemporary Wales lose all the exciting possibilities of an alien world. It is ironic that the so-often studio-bound 20th Century series presented us with a much more imaginative view of the Universe.
At first I was going to lament the absence of any sound effects in nuWho, but they are there, just so subtle as to be silent. Again, the 20thC series stirred up ‘alien-ness’ with the work of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. What sound effects we have now are tepid in comparison.
Then there is the Doctor, reduced to an observer in this episode. Somewhere in this revitalized version of Who, someone decided that the Doctor “knows everything”. It’s a stupid idea. The Doctor is approaching 1,000, so he would have covered a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of this Universe in one moment in time, let alone through all Eternity. It also negates the whole reason the Doctor left his own people in the first place, to explore.
We have the awful line this episode, “Don’t lecture me, blue box man, flying through time on whimsy…” and that sums up this series. It’s all whimsy. What’s extraordinary is that the programme seems to acknowledge this, on many an occasion, and yet continues to make the Doctor into some kind of mercurial character. He has no authority except his arrogance.
That whimsy is also reflected in the characters’ approach to a new world. They leave the TARDIS, wander off and get separated. where’s the menace? Does the music reflect this? No, it goes blithely on, loud and jolly, and ruining any credibility that the characters might be a little bit frightened – apart from Amy opening her eyes wide a lot. I would say that the music is destroying the drama about 50% of the time. At one point Rory is worried about giving the right answer to the robot’s question. He’s worried, the Doctor isn’t even bothered, and the music deflates the power of his worry. It’s sad…
Now this episode is quite a nice idea, even if it is yet another story involving time paradoxes. Rory’s (Arthur Darvill) character is developing nicely, and at last he is standing up to the Doctor, if not Amy, who continues to treat him like a doormat, however old she is. I just don’t get that they are a happily-married couple. And Karen Gillan proved that she can act! Her older self was played well, if not very well thought out. I would have thought that Amy, even with the voice to keep her company, would have become, at the very least, somewhat eccentric after 36 years of solitude. Her character was, shall we say, a bit whimsical.
As for the idea that everything can be “put right”, there are various problems to deal with. Would the older Amy have just ceased to be, never existing, or perhaps just branched off into another, inaccessible, timeline? This was never considered. Neither was a long-established rule of the series about time travel, the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, which stops a time traveller going back to the same point in time to “have another go”. As for two Amys meeting? Well, the Doctor’s met himself quite a few times..
So instead we had the Doctor more or less tricking the older Amy, rather than, like the scientist he used to be, explaining the consequences of her travelling with them (which would have been an interesting idea).
This was an interesting idea, but the plot was slight, the tone whimsical and the Angst forced. Yet the episode was so close to getting it right; a stronger plot, more appropriate music and better characters would have produced something worthwhile. Sadly, that hope that they will improve is about all that keeps me watching the programme.