Written by Tom MacRae
Directed by Nick Hurran
Arriving on the planet Apalapucia for a brief holiday, The Doctor and Rory become separated from Amy, who finds herself in a different time stream.
After a couple of weeks with episodes that made me feel underwhelmed with the current direction of Doctor Who, The Girl Who Waited was an episode that made me say “Finally.” We finally got off Earth, even if it was inhabited by temporally displaced people who only appeared as blurred figures in one shot. Amy finally got some much needed character development. And I was finally able to sit and enjoy an episode without feeling irritated or disappointed. The initial trailer for The Girl Who Waited filled me with concern that it would be a re-hash of Amy’s Choice (Rory’s Choice?) with visual references made to The Mind Robber. That wasn’t entirely the case.
In a way, I feel that The Girl Who Waited revisited an idea from The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords and did it better, namely the idea of paradox and alternate time-lines. The scale was much smaller in Girl, but the emotional consequences much more effective. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amy and Rory’s eventual exit from the show has been set up here, and if it isn’t, it should be. It is hard to see how Rory will be able to recover from what he faced here, hard to see how he will be able to trust The Doctor after being made to kill an alternate version of his wife. In truth, if The Doctor had made the choice for him, the divide between these two male leads would have been worse, but there was really no way for the relationship between these two characters to recover.
If I had any criticism of the episode, it would be that the setting was largely inconsequential. This entire episode was a character piece. The setting existed solely to instigate the characterization. While this isn’t a bad thing, per se, it is a further reinforcement to me that setting is becoming less important in Doctor Who. World-building is less important. As I discussed this episode with my wife, we realized that our favorite episodes from the Moffat Era are character-driven. These seem to be the most-effective episodes. I believe this is the limitation of the 45 minute running time. It is difficult to do effective world-building and strong plot in 45 minutes. It is much easier to do escapist spectacle or character development. Or, I suppose, overly-preachy, shallow social commentary as Star Trek has often proven. While I enjoy that Doctor Who has done some wonderful character-driven pieces since the revival, my biggest concern is that the show cannot be sustained on character alone. We cannot have major revelations about Amy or Rory each week, nor are we able to insist that The Doctor is mysterious when the focus of the show is character (although I rather think we should admit that the “mysterious” nature of The Doctor has been long abandoned).
As it stands, however, I am perfectly happy adding The Girl Who Waited to my list of Moffat-era successes.