TV REVIEW: Doctor Who 5.07 – The Doctor, Amy and Rory are living the dream
Writer: Simon Nye
Director: Catherine Morshead
The One Where It’s five years in the future – Amy’s pregnant, Rory’s rocking a dodgy ponytail and the Doctor’s paying a visit. Or is it? At the same time our intrepid time-travellers are on the TARDIS where they meet Dream Lord (Toby Jones), who has a wicked game for them to play.
Verdict After a brief jaunt to 16th century Venice it’s back to sleepy (Upper) Leadworth for mid-season single parter “Amy’s Choice”. Although writer Simon Nye might be best known for blokes & beers situational comedy Men Behaving Badly , his work here is less broad comedy than creepy noggin scratcher, or at least we suspect it was at the script stage.
The direction’s a little squiffy you see, never quite striking the right balance between absurdist humour (Grannies with lawnmowers!) and sinister nightmare. Add to that a Despair Squid-style “it’s all a dream/hallucination ending” and it all starts feeling a little Red Dwarf . The laughs come thick and fast, including a satisfying running gag about Amy’s ample belly, but moments of despair – such as Rory’s “death” – or abject horror – such as a playpark full of vaporised kiddies – never shock in the way you might expect. The camera work, too, is a little flat. The transitions between dream worlds are handled nicely, but the largely static lens, with the odd crazy angle chucked in for good measure, fails to instil a sense of the strange a story set in the mind should.
Not that there isn’t a lot to like here. It’s a great concept which, presuming you don’t guess the ending five minutes in, will have you in two minds from start to finish. The use of birdsong as a warning before we jump between dreams is inspired – finding the terrifying in the everyday in much the same way “Blink” did for stone statues. We imagine there’ll be quite a few confused young ’uns in the morning as they wake up to the early bird chorus.
The idea of an OAP uprising had us shivering in our slippers and throwing those care home brochures in the bin, but with old folk knocked for six with giant planks, sent tumbling off rooftops and generally manhandled there are guilty giggles a plenty. Fortunately they’re only wrinkly meat suits for an extra-terrestrial threat with an oddly similar backstory to last week’s fish from space. It makes sense once you know the final twist, but there’s a disappointing sense creature design has been set to autopilot.
Guest star Toby Jones continues this season’s top tier run of guest stars with a performance that’s part game show host, part slimy insurance salesman. He’s a lot of fun to watch but as the “voice” of everything dark inside the Doctor it doesn’t fit that he’s a playful soul. With such a tortured past (not least of which genocide, a worrying amount of times) you’d expect the Doctor’s dark side could cook up something worse than spitting eyeballs and a collision course with a cold star.
One day we might stop saying this, but Matt Smith is on blindingly good form in an episode that allows him to play up the Doctor’s quirkier traits. Every hand gesture, line delivery and moment of fumbling footwork is compulsively watchable. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are also fast becoming the most likeable companion couple in Doctor Who ’s history. The zippy three way banter is a treat, while Amy puts the Doctor in his place again with a double bluff that exposes just how self-centred he can be.
While it doesn’t quite live up to the potential then, “Amy’s Choice” has enough intrigue, humour and emotional beats (in particular the Amy’s choice scene itself) to mark out Simon Nye as a welcome addition to Doctor Who ’s writing team. It seems Moffat’s Choice was spot on in this case too.
Lack of crack In a pleasing turn up for the books the crack didn’t appear in this episode at all. Expect plenty of crack next week then.
Dream logic Could this be the only episode of Doctor Who with no plotholes whatsoever? It was a hallucination/dream after all.
LMAO The Doctor might look cool in a bow tie but that jumper is a fashion disaster one step too far.
Deep pockets After last week’s enormous fluorescent torch, this week the Doctor pulls a red and yellow ball from his pocket to lob at the Dream Lord.
Stage left Toby Jones had more outfit changes than your average Whitney Huston concert. Our favourites: the creepy Elvis suit and the random race driver outfit.
Canon? The Doctor threw the TARDIS instruction manual into a supernova, lets hope he doesn’t start to get senile in, err, old age.
Freeze Frame Wondering what it said on the black box under the TARDIS control panel? Here it is, word for word, except the last line which was too small for us to make out:
TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimension In Space
Build Site: Gallifrey Blackhole Shipyard
Type 40 Build Date: 1963
Authorised for use by qualified Time Lords only by the Shadow Proclamation.
Amy: “Oh, my boys. My poncho boys. If we’re going to die let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band.”