Doctor Who: Amy's Choice – series 31, episode seven
Some viewers may be less than impressed – and the episode is certain light on FX – but there's plenty to like in this cunning character piece
Dan Martin's episode six blog
"No no no, ice can burn, sofas can read, it's a big universe, we have to decide which battle to lose."
Amy's Choice is what's known as "the cheap one". Every year, either because they've spent all the budget or are saving it up to splurge on the finale, there's an episode light on sets and FX, and big on ideas. The process can result in howlers like Boom Town, or tour de forces such as Turn Left. And this Simon Nye-penned curio is at least partially successful. Not everyone will like it, I'm sure, but for me the episode stands up as a cunning little character piece.
So we find two worlds: one in the Tardis with the crew approaching death by freezing star, one five years further forward with Amy and Rory expecting their first child. The result is by no means perfect. Where most Doctor Who episodes feel like the 45-minute running time is overflowing with ideas and storylines, Amy's Choice feels as if it could be over and done with in half an hour. Then there's the dialogue – so sitcom stylised that this time it begins to grate. And while it can't be easy to act falling-asleep-on-the-spot, much of the time those (many) sequences look silly.
But here's the thing to remember: if Doctor Who is silly anyway, these two realities both turn out to be dreams, and the magic-realist state of a dream can support even dafter images. Both an army of marauding pensioners, and Amy donning a poncho and telling her boys "if we're going to die, let's die looking like a Peruvian folk band" can be completely plausible.
"I don't know what you're doing in here, but there's only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do"
Where most episodes stand up to repeated viewing, rewatching this week's instalment would be absolutely necessary. For the most part, it feels like a fun Shaun Of The Dead-style romp, all murderous pensioners and lashings of jolly innuendo. Then you get the sting in the tail and the more accurate reference is Fight Club – the revelation that the Dreamlord is actually the Doctor's own self-loathing seems obvious once it's revealed, but also creates the kind of "whoosh" moment that gives a story new gravitas. And the Dreamlord really is deliciously mean, calling him out on his every character flaw; his love of showing off, his clothes, the way he turns people into weapons (to quote Davros), the way he leaves people behind. It's pretty heavy stuff and, at the mid-season point, gives us the first instance of the character opening up and beginning to unravel. Then there's the merciless teasing of Rory … well, that says a lot for this increasingly tangled set of relationships.
"If you can't save him, then what is the point of you?"
Amy's Choice of course is between her two men, the feckless fiancé and the heroic adventurer. It takes Rory's "death" in Leadworth to make her realise what she really wants. Earlier this week we were discussing how Amy hasn't had much in the way of emotional storylines, but the climax here finally proves that Gillan is capable of more than one-liners and physical comedy – and brings something to your eye, too. The comedy's still good though – pregnant-Amy's waddle as she tries to run is a brilliant echo of The Eleventh Hour, when she couldn't run properly because of her skirt.
This kind of resolution, though, is the kind of thing that would normally happen at the end of a series as the character is waved off. Now we're only halfway through and they've sorted out the love triangle. But surely there's no way they're going to just have a happy couple together in the Tardis, and in any case I'm not sure I want Rory there the whole time. So where are they going with this? And shouldn't there have been a line where Amy expressed some kind of grief over the child she thought she was having?
It pays to think of watching this as a child. Not only has the series freaked them out over cracks in walls, monsters under the bed, the dark, statues and blinking, this introduces the notion that your dreams might actually be real. So now a generation of children are going to be scared of waking up. Horrendous!
This was the final episode to be filmed and editing on it finished this week. That means that nobody who wrote previews got to see the finished episode.
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