Aired 10 September 2011
In an era where story arcs are becoming more and more commonplace, it’s telling that two of the most memorable stories from this series so far have been standalone entries, first with ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and now with Tom MacRae’s ‘The Girl Who Waited.’
The TARDIS lands on the holiday planet Apalapucia near a door with two buttons alongside it, and it is soon discovered that the planet is under quarantine. The Doctor and Rory exit the TARDIS and press one button before proceeding through the door, and Amy then follows and unknowingly presses the other button before going through the same door, entering somewhere completely different. The multiple time streams in the different environments soon become apparent, present to allow farewells to those affected and Amy’s area running at a much faster rate. What follows, as the title aptly suggests, is a story very much about Amy Pond, and Karen Gillan again delivers an incredibly strong and moving performance.
In a fascinating reversal from the young and innocent Amelia Pond who presented in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ as the one person the Doctor hadn’t screwed up yet, the older Amy who has been caught in time as she struggled to survive for so long is essentially the complete opposite. The Amy here is a bitter and brutally angry soul, blaming the Doctor for leaving her in her own personal hell for some thirty-six years. Gillan does a superb job in portraying the two different versions of Amy, her younger self still in contact with Rory through a clever magnifying glass prop that can look into the other time stream. After toying that Rory was more devoted to Amy than she was to him for much of the last series, the true love and commitment they both hold for each other is resoundingly effective throughout the tale.
With the Doctor conveniently out of action due to the presence of a pathogen deadly to two-hearted organisms, it’s up to Rory to save his wife that he inadvertently abandoned so long ago while challenging the rules of time in order to save his original version. With the two Amys face to face at the end, Gillan emotionally portrays the conflict that the older Amy is feeling, knowing that only one version can rightly survive. Her line that she’d forgotten how much she loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS speaks volumes, leading to her heartbreaking final scene.
Given the premise of the story, the script could have easily devolved into a lengthy and convoluted exercise in paradoxes and cause and effect, but the tale is kept refreshingly simple and straightforward. The ominous handbots Amy has battled against for so long as they strive to kill with kindness are given a rather touching perspective at the end, setting the scene for Rory’s ultimate decision between which Amy to properly save. As if emotions had not been heightened enough at this point, the Doctor’s alien nature reinforcing itself as he refuses to admit to a devastated Rory that he’d known all along that both Amys could not be saved surely puts them past the tipping point.
While some may have wished for more action sequences to balance out the more talkative nature of the scenes, ‘The Girl Who Waited’ is an emotional tour de force that wonderfully examines the relationship between main TARDIS trio and reinforces beyond a shadow of a doubt the undying love that both Amy and Rory possess for each other. For a standalone episode that doesn’t need to tie into the underlying plot threads- other than reinforcing the fixed date of the Doctor’s death- nothing more can be asked.