Season 31, Episode 7 – Amy’s Choice, by Simon Nye

May 16, 2010

Review by Martin Odoni

Well, all things are relative, but this was certainly a whole lot better than the crummy fare from the last two weeks. A ‘trapped-in-a-world-made-from-your-own-dreams’ story isn’t exactly original, but the ‘guess-which-one-is-real-and-guess-right-or-you-die’ tangent is an interesting new twist on it. The Dream Lord was a new-ish variation on the legends of the Sandman too. Perhaps he’s another of those Dr Who villains who’s just a bit too much of a smart*ss to be especially engaging, but he isn’t one-dimensional either. I’m sure all of us were waiting for the most predictable revelation in history, which thankfully never happened i.e. he would turn out to be the Master. That suspicion was heightened by the Doctor saying that the Dream Lord was the only person in the universe who hated him that much. Glad to avoid that one though, it really would have been a return to the worst aspect of the Peter Davison era. And I suppose it’s convincing to say that, at least partly, the Doctor hates himself, he destroyed his own world after all. But if the Dream Lord is a reflection of the Doctor’s dark side, could this possibly be the birth of…? Nah, I won’t bother saying it, I’m sure you’ve all guessed who I mean. And yes, that ending suggests we will be seeing the Dream Lord again, so it could well be… *ahem*.

The two worlds that the TARDIS crew have to choose between are in fact a great deal less interesting than the choice itself.

To address the village first, the pensioners pursuing them across the countryside are a great deal less fearsome and a good deal more laughable than intended; the effect with their mouths is a bit leery perhaps, but anyone who’s watched the Sliders episode The Breeder will have seen an almost identical effect of a tentacle appearing from someone’s mouth. And I’m sorry, it’s just not frightening to see our heroes being chased by someone on a Zimmer frame. In 1999, a Dr Who parody for Comic Relief called The Curse Of Fatal Death saw a decrepit Master chasing after the Doctor on a Zimmer frame croaking, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” That was not scary, but then the whole thing was a send-up, it wasn’t meant to be scary. Doing the same thing here as a real attempt at terror suggests that Simon Nye either didn’t see The Curse Of Fatal Death or just didn’t realise it was meant to be a joke.

As for the cold star scenario, it’s a weird idea, and probably impossible, but I suppose we can forgive that, seeing it’s part of a dream-world. But it might have been a nice concept to explore a bit further. Missed opportunity perhaps? The Doctor’s dismissal of the whole idea at the end appears to close the door on that. Oh well. But there’s nothing else to that scenario, given the TARDIS is dead there. Nowhere to go and nothing to do but get cold and make rather silly remarks about Peruvian musicians. Stuck-in-a-lift plots can be interesting, but only as a platform for developing relationships between characters. There isn’t really much of that going on.

But there are some interesting developments character-wise once the dreams are over. Rory seems to be turning into a more positive individual, although I still see little to distinguish him from Mickey at the corresponding stage of his own arc. Amy realising where her heart lies is a positive step, and I guess it says worthy things about the difference between love and a crush that she chooses Rory over the Doctor.

Production values are a bit cheap here. Maybe the CGI effects for the alien stalk-things cost too much. That would explain why almost nothing else seemed to cost anything at all; even the TARDIS set spends half the episode without any lighting. Pregnant Amy looks like, well, a red-headed actress with a large balloon stuffed up her T-shirt; they should’ve worked a bit harder on that. And Rory’s head-tail – not large enough to be a pony-tail – really does look badly 70’s. About the most expensive physical object on display was therefore the Doctor’s Noel Edmonds sweater. And does it really need pointing out that that’s money wasted?

On the other hand, some of the music in this episode, especially the surreal, twisting chords as the action transitions between the two worlds, is very effective. Again, it’s the music that doesn’t go bananas that is best. Murray Gold appears to be learning. And the bird-song effect became surprisingly ominous. Good episode for sound then, just not for visuals.

To sum up, it’s a worthy episode that has its depths, and it has the benefit of genuinely being something that hasn’t been tried before in this particular way. But a lot of the inner details don’t work too well on close inspection, and it’s as shabbily-produced as NuWho has ever been. 6 out of 10.

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