Written by Simon Nye
Directed by Catherine Morshead
The Doctor stops to visit Rory and Amy after being away for five years. They have settled in Upper Leadworth and Amy is now quite pregnant. Meanwhile, The TARDIS is about to crash into a cold star. Two realities, but which is real? And who is the mysterious Dream Lord?
“Did I say it was a nightmare? No, more of a really . . . good . . . mare.”
This episode is a bit of an improvement over the previous and it deals more effectively with the tension between The Doctor, Rory, and Amy than Vampires of Venice did. That episode dealt more with Rory confronting The Doctor, but aside from sharing an adventure, nothing much was settled. Here, the focus of the tension becomes abundantly clear, and it is in the title. Amy must make a choice. The Doctor represents fun and adventure and not growing up. Rory represents adulthood, responsibility. In truth, while we can understand Amy’s reluctance to choose Rory, she is being selfish and unfair to him. Even her comments about Leadworth being boring reflect that. But let’s not forget that if she chooses The Doctor, she chooses a man who also ran from responsibility. He is a man who has spent most of his life running. Thus, The Doctor also represents instability and unending drama. Rory represents stability and moments of peace. Perhaps this is why so many of the female companions of the New Series, are young and fall in love with him. The Doctor of New Who stands at the pivot of childhood and adulthood. He can show you responsibility, but he can also hold you back if you decide to cling. Thus, the women who fall in love with The Doctor are betraying their own desire to stay young and not face responsibility. To a degree, Martha Jones realized this, the damaging aspect of being with The Doctor, and she walked away. She got out. In New Series terms, death isn’t The Doctor’s constant companion, childishness is.
What makes The Dream Lord so interesting here (and yes, he is The Doctor’s unconscious) is that there seems to be an aspect of The Doctor that recognizes this and hates it. The Doctor cannot truly ask Amy to choose in any other circumstance because it wouldn’t be fun or stroke his ego. The Dream Lord, however, can because he recognizes that the childishness in The Doctor can get himself and everyone else killed. And truly, why should Rory be subjected to death in this way? He is innocent, his only crime is falling for Amy. The portrayal of The Dream Lord is compelling and chilling (no pun intended), and I can’t help but think that by playing this part Toby Jones has unofficially played The Doctor, but a side that we rarely see. Yes, a lot of fans bandied the word “Valeyard” around after this episode, but I don’t think this is so extreme. Maybe in some ways you could interpret this entire episode as a metaphor of the conflict between Old Who and New Who, with The Dream Lord representing The Old Doctors and Matt Smith being The New Doctors.
Amy’s fear of what Rory represents is evident in the second antagonist, the elderly who are possessed by aliens. There is nothing left of their humanity and they feed off the young. Basically, Amy sees settling down and growing old as a type of death, the replacing of her fun-filled, youthful self with something unusual and alien. All she once was will cease to be, replaced with something new, different, and fearful. A fairly obvious metaphor, when you think about it, but somewhat easy to miss in the taboo-breaking violence against the elderly. We see them hit by boards, pushed off buildings, and even hit by a van. It reminds me of the scene in Hot Fuzz when Nicholas Angel kicks an old woman in the face. In both the movie and here it is meant for humorous effect, but the humor distracts a bit from the metaphor in Amy’s Choice. In some ways, this episode reminds me quite a lot of Hot Fuzz, not that there are many parallels between the stories, but in HF the antagonists are primarily elderly, they are taken down violently, and both stories have a swan.
While it is hard to imagine this episode working without the context of what has come before, I think it has proven to be one of the best thus far in series five. Sure, I liked The Angel two-parter, but it is a different type of story to this one. Amy’s Choice needs the build-up of the previous episodes because it deals directly with that build-up. It is a well-crafted character piece that is dressed as an experimental science fiction episode. It puts to rest the tension between the leads and elevates Rory to an indispensable status. His character is a bit subtle, not obviously important, but by choosing him, he has altered Amy’s character a bit, and we will spend the rest of the season shaped by his presence or absence.