Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S5E7 - "Amy's Choice"

It'd be nice to think that after the Doctor's companions leave his company they all go on to live happy lives and all.  While this episode teased such a fate for our latest companion, ultimately it doesn't serve to answer that question at all. 

AMY'S CHOICE

by Simon Nye

Directed by Catherin Morshead

The Doctor comes to visit Amy and Rory in the future, about five years after they stop traveling together.  Amy is great with child, Rory has adopted an arty ponytail, and everything seems delightful.  Well, THAT can't last.  After a brief walk about Leadworth, they sit on a bench and all drop off to sleep to the tune of birds singing.  They re-awaken on the TARDIS, The Doctor assuming that what he'd experienced was a "terrible nightmare".  But Amy is feeling her stomach, and checking Rory's neck for a ponytail...it's quickly obvious that they all had the same exact dream, albeit Rory didn't quite consider it a nightmare.  They realize that although they thought they were back on the TARDIS, they hear the same birds they heard in Leadworth...and they suddenly find themselves back there, on the bench, finishing a sentence that started back on the ship.  The Doctor warns the pair that they can't trust anything they experience, as they're obviously in some sort of trap, and one that might serve as a challenge to escape from.

Back on the TARDIS again, they try to figure out what's going on as the ship goes dead and the birds begin to sing again.  Awakening in Leadworth again, a old lady passes by and calls Rory "Doctor".  He's become a Doctor, not a nurse in the past five years, just like he's "always dreamed", noted The Doctor.  Noticing the old folks' home, The Doctor decides to investigate it, but they pop back to the TARDIS just as he gets interested.  The TARDIS is getting colder with the heating off.  The Doctor realizes that someone or something is overriding the TARDIS...just as the man responsible makes his appearance.  A small man appears behind the three, mocking The Doctor for taking so long to notice.  He calls himself "The Dream Lord, and explains that the three are indeed in a trap.  He explains that one experience they're having is real, the other a dream.  There will be a deadly threat in both worlds, only one of which is real.  If they die in the dream, they'll wake up fine; if they die in reality...well, duh. 

The deadly dangers begin to evidence themselves - on the TARDIS, the ship is orbiting and slowly falling towards a Cold Star, a star that draws heat in from its surroundings as opposed to generating it, which is why the ship is getting progressively colder.  On Earth, all the old people are hosts for a race of aliens called the Eknodine, who keep them alive by absorbing life energy  from other beings.  Jumping to each experience and back, Rory begins vehemently insisting that the life in Leadworth is the "real" one, while Amy maintains that both feel real.  Rory praises their life in Leadworth as "tranquil" while Amy complains that the only reason she became pregnant in this life is to have something to do, as their home is paralyzingly dull after their adventures with The Doctor.  Rory declares that "Nothing bad could ever happen here" just as The Doctor lets them know that the aged aliens have killed an entire class of children.  

The team splits up - Amy and Rory head for their home, The Doctor heads into town.  The aliens follow The Doctor and trap him in a butcher's freezer as the birds sing again, waking them all up in the TARDIS.  They can't agree on which world is the real one, which makes it difficult to come up with a strategy.  The Dream Lord appears and puts only The Doctor and Rory to sleep, allowing him to have a chat with Amy.  Rory wakes up in Leadworth and hastily drags the sleeping Amy up the stairs of their home.  The extraterrestrial pensioners are surrounding the house, and their cottage is a poor replacement for Helm's Deep.  The Doctor awakens in the freezer, and distracts the Eknodine by blowing up a light fixture above them, making his way back outside.  He commandeers a VW Microbus and drives through town, trying to save anyone he sees being chased by the elderly, drops them off at a church where they can hole up, and makes his way to Amy and Rory's Cottage.  Back on the TARDIS, The Dream Lord is talking to Amy, trying to break her confidence, but her faith in The Doctor is unshaken.  He makes it more and more clear that Amy needs to make a choice, not between worlds, but between the men in her life.   

As she awakens back in her home, The Doctor is outside trying to get up to them. Rory, to show how much he loves his wife, cuts off his ponytail.  The Doctor makes his way up into their window, Amy thinks her labor pains are starting, and Rory takes a glancing shot from one of the aliens, and begins to disintegrate in Amy's arms.  In an instant, Amy decides that this world is the dream, because if Rory isn't here, it's no place she wants to be.  They make their way outside, climb into the microbus, and drive at top speed into their cottage, presumably killing themselves...

...and they wake up in the TARDIS. Now covered with ice, and with Rory alive and fine (and nearly frozen)  The Dream Lord calmly concedes, restores power to the ship, and vanishes.  Rory and Amy hug and kiss, happy to be back together, and the Doctor prepares to blow up the TARDIS.  He realizes that the Dream Lord set up a false deal - he was in fact offering two dreams to choose between, so to escape this one, they have to destroy themselves and wake up properly.

Which luckily, they do.  The Doctor finds spores of psychic pollen that floated into the console and induced a shared dream state for the three travelers.  The "Dream Lord" was the Doctor's own dark side - the pollen is a parasite that takes your own negative thoughts and feelings and turns them against you.  And as he said - "907...had a lot to go on".  So with the pollen expunged and everyone safe, they set off on their next adventure...but The Doctor can't help noticing that in a mirrored surface of the console, The Dream Lord looks back at him.

Quite a change of pace for the series so far - solidly emotional, serving to cement the importance of Rory and Amy's relationship, which was The Doctor's desire in the first place when he went to pick Rory up.  The subtle battle between Amy and Rory throughout the episode over which world is the real one is equally well played - Amy is hoping the time on the TARDIS is the real bit, while Rory is making the case that their married life is the real one.  Amy's not quite ready to settle down yet, until the end of the episode.  And even then, she's not ready, she just wants Rory to be a part of her adventures.

The real action was not in defeating the Eknodine or even out-thinking the Dream Lord but rather in the interaction between the three main characters.  The subtle tug-of-war between Amy and Rory as each quietly hope that opposite worlds are the real one.  Rory is still terribly unsure of himself throughout the episode; when Amy tell the Dream Lord that she's already chosen between Rory and The Doctor, Rory has to actually hear her say it's him she chose before he relaxes.  Even Amy's not sure which life she wants until the choice is violently taken away from her. 

And it's very interesting that in both worlds, they have to leave the dream not by winning against the deadly threat, but by losing, and dying.  The Dream Lord literally tells them that if they think the pastoral Leadworth is the false world, they can leave by jumping under a bus.  The Doctor takes chances with his life every day, but to make such a choice for his friends is horrific.  And for him (or his dark side of the Dream Lord) to make AMY make that choice is jarring indeed. 

GUEST STAR REPORT

Toby Jones (Dream Lord) is quite well known to genre fans as the voice of Dobby the House Elf in the Harry Potter films.  He's played Truman Capote in the (other) biopic Infamous, he's one of many Who-lumni in the St. Trinian's movies, and played Karl Rove in W.  He's got a role in the upcoming Tintin movie (written by Steven Moffat and some bloke named Edgar Wright) and he's just been cast as headless Nazi cyborg Arnim Zola in the upcoming Captain America movie.  If nothing else, we know he'll fit in the suit...

Simon Nye (writer) is best known for creating the British series Men Behaving Badly.  He's recently written a remake of the classic Britcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. He's done a number of sitcoms since including Hardware and Savages.

MONSTER REPORT - The Dream Lord is not the first time The Doctor met an evil twisted version of himself.  In The Face of Evil, the computer god Xoanon was programmed with a copy of his brain patterns.  Still unsettled from his regeneration, they became corrupted over the centuries and played havoc with the descendants of Survey Team 7.  In the Trial of a Time Lord stories, we learned that The Valeyard was in fact the evil side of the Doctor's mind, separated from him and become flesh at some point after his twelfth regeneration.  Meglos, the last of the Zolfa-Thurans, impersonated The Doctor to achive his own goals in the episode of the same name.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

The episode's title is an obvious tip of the cap to the Meryl Streep film Sophie's Choice, but both are references to the somewhat antiquated phrase "Hobson's Choice", which specifically refers to a false choice that really only provides one valid selection (as in "you get this or nothing") but is colloquially misused to refer to an impossible decision between two unpleasant outcomes.

NOT A DREAM, NOT A HOAX, NOT AN IMAGINARY STORY - Russell T. Davies put an absolute moratorium on the old "oh, it was only a dream" cliché in his run of the series, so Steven Moffat thought it would be quite the delight to finally do such a story in his series.  We've seen The Doctor in a variety of artificial realities, similar to The Matrix in The Deadly Assassin.  The Doctor was caught in a massive planet created by Block Transfer Computation in the first Davison adventure Logopolis.  Even Donna Noble and Sarah Jane have been trapped in fake parallel realities by various members of the Trickster Brigade. 

ICE ICE BABY - The frozen TARDIS was done by coating the entire set in wax.  One can only imagine what it was like getting it all off...

"You know me, I don't just abandon people when they leave the TARDIS" - Well, yeah, pretty much he does.  Save for Sarah Jane in the new series (and Jo Grant (Katy Manning), who will be appearing in an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures this season) we very rarely see companions again.  Quite a few came back for The Five Doctors 20th anniversary adventure, and more again returned for the 30th anniversary Children in Need fundraiser Dimensions In Time, but rarely elsewise.  Jamie McCrimmon was part of The Two Doctors but since the second Doctor was still traveling with him when they appeared, it can't really be called a return.  About the only exception would be Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart who has made several appearances on the show (both DW and SJA) long after the crew from UNIT stopped appearing regularly, and at a period much later in his life.

"I'm surprised you haven't got a little purple space dog" - Well, now that you mention it...

"There's only one person in the universe that hates me as much as you do" - Considering the things The Doctor has had to do in his life, there's no surprise he holds a bit of bad feeling for himself.  Chris Eccleston played that facet up quite a bit, playing the Doctor as quite tortured at times, as he remembered the things he did to his own people at the end of the Time War.

"Friends...is that the right word for the people you acquire? - The relationship of the Doctor to his companions has been a point of discussion for a while now, certainly since Dalek Caan's observation in the finale of last season.  Even as recently as last episode as Rory challenges The Doctor about how his friends want to impress him; it's something that's in the forefront of The Doctor's mind certainly.

"Fell in the Time Rotor..." - I'm still researching, but I believe this is the first time the term "Time Rotor" has actually been used on the show.  Often mentioned in various blueprints of the TARDIS and endlessly used by fans, the Time Rotor is the central column of the TARDIS control console that rises and falls as the ship is in motion.  Like the rest of the ship, it's gone through endless redesigns over the years, now taking the form of the lovely blown-glass sculpture on the latest set. 

BIG BAD UPDATE - Whether or not the Dream Lord will re-appear as part of the finale of the series is unknown, but the role he played was quite important to the narrative of the season.  Considering the goal of bringing Rory onto the TARDIS was to make sure Amy realized that her relationship with him was far more important than hopping about in space and time.  Indeed, considering that it seems The Doctor figured out what was going on rather early in the episode, it almost seemed that he chose to put Amy in charge of the choice to allow her to come to that realization herself. Considering that he takes all their lives in his hands at several points in the story, he's taking some incredible risks.  Rory will be playing a major role in the next story, and the effects of that role will play directly into the series climax.

"Sarn"? - There was a planet Sarn in the Davison adventure Planet of Fire, and the Sisterhood of Karn were the makers of the Elixir of Life in The Brain of Morbius.  Likely I'm digging too deep here.  But given RTD's use of acronyms in the name of Professor Yana, any name that seems a bit odd raises an eyebrow.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO - A classic Pertwee-era villain makes a return as The Doctor and company try to help against a drilling operation gone wrong.  Alas, no oil is involved...

 

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