REVIEW: Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited

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The Girl Who Waited is not only one of the strongest episodes of this season of Doctor Who, but one of the most enjoyable of the series history. I enjoyed it so much, I’m having trouble articulating all my thoughts on it. It strips away the epic storyline we’ve been following this year and gives a powerful story about the characters. From a production standpoint, the episode hits all the notes I love. The Two Streams Facility combines visually striking images or stark white walls that give way to dank boiler rooms, and lush Tim Burton-esque gardens. The music was haunting and the sound effects are perfect for the episode. I don’t normally discuss these elements of the show, but they really did appeal to me on every level and I can see myself watching this one many times.

It’s a fairly self contained story that, much like this season’s The Doctor’s Wife, gives Blink a run for its money as my favorite stand alone episode since the series returned in 2005. The only thing that keeps it from that honor is ironically its greatest strength. Instead of introducing us to the Doctor’s universe through a new character’s eye as Blink did, we get a story that’s entirely focused on the three characters we’ve been traveling with lately: Amy Pond, Rory Williams and The Doctor. This is by no means a bad thing, but so much of the power of the episode comes from knowing and caring about all of them and their relationships.

Each actor has their share of powerful performances, but Karen Gillan is brilliant here. Her expressions, her movements, honestly every element she brings to the “old” Amy who wasn’t saved is amazing. Her samurai look is just great and her anger and bitterness are palpable. It’s easy to believe this is what Amy Pond would have become after decades in the facility spending every day convincing the system she was never there while waiting to be rescued. Matt Smith had a turn at playing two versions of the Doctor earlier this season in The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People and for that performance’s greatness, this is in every way it’s equal if not superior. It’s perfect and tragic and heartbreaking.

The Chen7 plague allowed the Doctor to step back a bit being trapped in the TARDIS and give all the action to Amy and Rory. The view screens in the TARDIS and using the glasses to communicate also made for a fun dynamic as well as some brilliant visuals. While Karen Gillan absolutely stole the show in her dual roles, Arthur Darvill may have turned in his best episode as Rory here. It’s amazing how the character has grown on me and this is an episode where you can’t help but connect with him. Matt Smith also uses every moment he’s on screen to show us some of the darkest aspects of the Doctor in very subtle ways. Even though the plague and the robots manning the facility drive the action, they’re not the enemy so much as fear, miscommunication and bitterness are.

As much as this episode was about characters, there are statements and reactions to situations that are very telling of the larger story of this season regarding the Doctor’s death. The Doctor directly states that sometimes knowing your future is what allows you to change it. Did the Doctor bring them to the facility knowing there was potential to test the idea of creating a temporal anomaly and its stability? We may have seen another means of cheating death for the Doctor. Has he been spending time all season trying to find ways to save himself from his death at Lake Silencio in The Impossible Astronaut?

My only complaint is that BBC America botched the episode with its clumsy commercial placement, particularly at the show’s end. The commercials broke up a lot of beautifully tense and emotional moments and really felt more out of place here than normal. Again, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to purchase these episodes through iTunes. It’s not worth losing the transitions and cut aways for any of the ads or even the Doctor Who Insider that appeared during one of the breaks. The worst offense comes as the final scene lost nearly all impact as it made an awkward cut to a promo for next week completely eliminating the chilling stare the Doctor leaves us with that tells us that he was not behaving as the man he aspires to be.

Next week changes gears to a larger ensemble cast as our heroes visit a hotel where every room contains a personal horror for the guests. There are clowns, marionettes, a minotaur, Weeping Angels, and what looks suspiciously like a Dalek eye. With only three episodes remaining in the season, waiting for more gets harder every week particularly after a gem like The Girl Who Waited.

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  • Angelique said,

    No mention of the show’s underlying anti-hipster attitude? Everyone agreed in the episode the glasses looked stupid. Hipsters…are you wearing them ironically because you know you look silly?

  • ptb said,

    Haha! The episode was also decidedly anti-fez and I would have appreciated hearing a counterpoint somewhere.

  • theoncominghope said,

    Rory is gorgeous in hipster glasses!

    I think the question of “right” is essential to looking at the episode. I’m grateful that the episode didn’t make light of the consequences of the decision, but I do believe the Doctor went too far, which could potentially be fantastic for the narrative.

    A few too many thoughts on the latest Doctor Who:

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