Posted 1085 days ago in Doctor Who by Catriona
We open on a lovely, idyllic English scene—green pastures, waving trees, clouds (obviously), and a little English cottage with ivy growing up the walls and incredibly small windows.
When we pan inside this cottage, we find Amy, with her hair pulled back off her face, incredibly pregnant, humming and mixing something in a bowl.
She’s still wearing quite a short skirt, though.
She puts the bowl down, starts panting, and screams “Rory!” loudly enough to startle nearby birds. It doesn’t seem to startle Rory, though—although his new fluffy hairstyle and ponytail certainly startle me—who comes cycling up to the door, past a flock of geese. He hears Amy calling his name in a tone that suggests she’d called it several times already, and throws his bike aside.
He gets smacked in the face by a rose as he hares in through the door—and, again, tiny little moment that it is, there’s something in the action that suggests this is more or less a daily occurrence. Turns out, though, the screaming is a false alarm: Amy says she’s never had a baby before, so how would she know how it feels?
Then the TARDIS materialises in their garden: Rory thinks it’s a leaf-blower (“Use a rake!” he shouts), but Amy know immediately what it is.
DOCTOR: I’ve . . . crushed your flowers.
RORY: Amy will kill you.
DOCTOR: Where is she?
RORY: She’ll need a bit longer.
DOCTOR (shouting): Whenever you’re ready, Amy!
Amy comes waddling out of the door, to much delighted shouting from both her and the Doctor. (And “waddling” is not meant to be offensive; it seems the best description for that late-pregnancy gait, where the baby’s shifting into all sorts of interesting positions.)
DOCTOR: You’ve swallowed a planet!
AMY: I’m pregnant.
DOCTOR: Look at you! You’re huge.
AMY: Yeah, I’m pregnant.
It speaks volumes for Amy’s delight in seeing the Doctor again, I think, that she doesn’t just smack him when he keeps going on about this, especially as he immediately lays both hands on her belly. She must cope with that on a daily basis, especially in a tiny village.
And, Doctor? You had at least one child yourself. Well, not yourself, unless there’s something I don’t know about Time Lords. You’ve seen this before. Unless Time Lords incubate in tubes. Do they?
The Doctor tells us it’s been five years (five years since they left the TARDIS, presumably, not necessarily five years since “Vampires in Venice”), and then they all put their coats on to take a walk around the village, as you do when an old friend drops in unexpectedly.
The Doctor makes a few mocking comments about the village, and Amy says it’s quiet but it’s healthy: “Loads of people round here live well into their nineties.”
DOCTOR: Well, I wanted to see how you were. You know me: I don’t just abandon people when they leave the TARDIS. That’s not what Time Lords are like. You don’t get rid of your old pal the Doctor so easily.
AMY: You came here by mistake, didn’t you?
DOCTOR: Yeah, bit of a mistake.
He asks what they do for fun and while Amy indicates (to Rory’s horror) that she is a bit bored, Rory says that they relax, they live, and they listen to birdsong. Not much birdsong in the good old TARDIS days, he says.
True, says the Doctor, clutching his head—and then they all fall asleep, still sitting on the park bench.
They wake in the TARDIS, the Doctor completing the sentence he’d begun on the bench.
The Doctor leaps up from the floor and, as Amy and Rory wander in from other parts of the TARDIS, says happily that they’re safe, because he had a terrible nightmare about them. Amy’s rubbing her stomach and glancing at the back of Rory’s head, so it’s quite obvious she’s had the same dream. But the Doctor just hugs her and rambles on obliviously.
RORY: Doctor, I also had a, um, sort of dream thing.
AMY: Yeah, so did I.
RORY: Not a nightmare, though! Just that . . . we were married.
AMY: Yeah. In a little village.
Clearly, this is more nightmarish for some than for others.
AMY: And you had a nightmare. About us. What happened to us in the nightmare?
DOCTOR: Well, it was a bit similar. In some aspects.
AMY: Which aspects?
DOCTOR: All of them.
AMY: You had the same dream.
RORY: You said it was a nightmare.
DOCTOR: Did I say nightmare? No, it was more of a really good . . . mare.
He deflects the situation, pointing out, quite rightly, that the fact that they all had the same dream is more important than whether or not he’s secretly judging Rory’s desire for domestic bliss and Amy’s uncertainty about her future.
He tells them not to worry about, that they just had some kind of psychic episode—“Probably jumped a time track, or something”—but they’re back to reality now.
Then why, asks Amy, can she still hear bird song. Yes, says Rory, “the same bird song were heard in the . . .”
“Dream,” he finishes, waking up on the park bench, forehead to forehead with the Doctor. (From the way they both spring apart, I think this Doctor needs to spend more time with Captain Jack.)
Amy and Rory think this is reality and they’re dreaming about being back in the TARDIS, but the Doctor tells them to trust nothing they see or hear. This is a lovely shot, with the three of them in sharp focus in the street, and the camera spinning around them, with the village faintly blurred, as though it’s not quite real.
“This is going to be a tricky one,” says the Doctor.
Credits? Seriously? I’d better stop typing so much, or this is going to take me all day.
They wake up back in the TARDIS, and the Doctor is freaking out. He kicks the console, hurts himself, and declares, “Never use force. You only embarrass yourself. Unless you’re cross, in which case—always use force.”
AMY: Shall I get the manual?
DOCTOR: I threw it in a supernova.
AMY: You threw the manual in a supernova. Why?
DOCTOR: Because I disagreed with it. Stop talking to me when I’m cross.
At least in this shot, as the Doctor runs down to look at the underside of the console, we see the value of that see-through floor: he’s wagging his finger at Amy through it right now. This episode makes excellent use of the full range of the console-room set. It reminds me of that ship-in-a-bottle episode with William Hartnell, “The Edge of Destruction.”
Amy and Rory, again, are convinced this is reality and the village the dream, but the Doctor reminds them that they thought that before, and reiterates that they’re to trust nothing, to look for what doesn’t ring true.
RORY: Well, we’re in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside . . .
AMY: With a bowtie-wearing alien.
RORY: So maybe what “rings true” isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Then the console dies.
DOCTOR: It’s dead. We’re in a dead time machine.
There’s a glorious echo on that line, as though the voice is echoing back through all the TARDIS’s corridors.
Then the bird song returns and they wake up once more in the village.
Rory’s particularly keen on this being reality: we find out from a passing greeting in the street that he’s a doctor now (no longer a nurse), and the Doctor points out how dreamlike all this is: Rory’s dream job, his dream wife, probably his dream baby. Rory insists it’s Amy’s dream, too, and she agrees a little too readily.
Then the Doctor notices the old-people’s home, with windows packed with peeping old people.
DOCTOR: You said everyone here lives to their nineties. There’s something here that doesn’t make sense. Let’s go and poke it with a stick.
AMY: Oh. Can we not do the running thing?
The Doctor’s shanghaied into helping one of the old women with her knitting, but before he can do more than lean far too close to her and say, “You’re incredibly old, aren’t you?”, they’re back in the TARDIS.
(Honestly, the Doctor has no sense of personal space. Was it back in last year’s Easter special when he complained, “Humans on buses: always blaming me”? but you really wouldn’t want to sit next to him on public transport.)
In the TARDIS, it’s still dark and increasingly cold (since the heating’s off), and the Doctor’s expressing dark forebodings about the people in the old-people’s home, to Rory’s astonishment. But just as he complains about someone over-riding his control of the TARDIS, a little man in a bowtie pops up on the stairs and tells the Doctor it’s about time he realised.
The man introduces himself as the Dream Lord, and the Doctor asks Amy if she’d care to guess what he does.
DREAM LORD: And how about the gooseberry here? Does he get a guess?
RORY: Listen, mate. If anyone’s the gooseberry here, it’s the Doctor.
DREAM LORD: Oh, now there’s a delusion I’m not responsible for.
He tells Amy she needs to choose, and Amy says she has chosen. Rory looks terrified, but Amy—who can’t even see his facial expression from where she is—reaches back to slap him on the stomach and say, “It’s you, stupid.”
Lovely moment—it shows a synchronicity and a sympathy in their relationship, that she knows how he’s reacting without even looking.
DOCTOR: Where did you pick up this cheap cabaret act?
DREAM LORD: Me? Oh, you’re on shaky ground.
DOCTOR: Am I?
DREAM LORD: If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open up a tawdry quirk shop. The madcap vehicle, the cockamamie hair, the clothes designed by a first-year fashion student—I’m surprised you haven’t got a little purple space dog, just to ram home what an intergalactic wag you are.
The Dream Lord tells them that one of the worlds is real and one is fake. In both, they’ll face a deadly danger, but only one of those dangers is real. And then the bird song swells again, and they all fall asleep.
They wake in the now-deserted nursing home, and the Dream Lord wanders in with scans of the Doctor’s brain, saying it’s bad news: “Your brain is completely see-through. But then I’ve always been able to see right through you.”
He tells them that if they die in the dream, they’ll wake in reality.
DREAM LORD: Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
RORY: What happens?
DREAM LORD: You die, stupid. That’s why it’s called reality.
Amy demands to know where the Doctor has met the Dream Lord before, but the Doctor distracts her by pointing out that all the old people have gone. Outside in the village, some screaming children are being herded up to a historic castle by their teacher.
The Doctor rants about how the boredom of the village is slowing his brain down, and then Amy goes into labour.
DOCTOR: Help her: you’re a doctor!
RORY: You’re a doctor!
DOCTOR: It’s okay, we’re doctors. What do we do?
He squats down to catch the baby (which isn’t going to be a problem, since Amy’s wearing tights), but Amy says the baby’s not coming.
AMY: This my my life now, and it just turned you white as a sheet. So don’t you call it dull again. Ever.
Amy’s genuinely furious—she stalks off, sits on a swing, and crosses her arms across her chest—until the Doctor teases her gently about Rory’s ponytail. As soon as she’s laughing, the Doctor points out the old woman following the children up to the castle.
Then they wake up in the TARDIS again. Amy’s freezing, Rory’s cranky, and the Doctor’s snapping at everyone, trying to spot the “tell” in the dream world.
RORY: I want the other life. Where we’re happy, and settled, and about to have a baby.
AMY: You have to wonder—if that other life is real, why would we give up all this? Why would anyone?
RORY: Because we’re going to freeze to death?
See, Rory, there’s your problem: you react flippantly to these questions, because you don’t want to hurt Amy’s feelings or push her any further away. But you have a genuine dissonance here in what you both want, and you can’t address it with flippant comments.
But he doesn’t: he just keeps reiterating his vision of what they’re going to do (not taking into account this massive change of circumstances that is travelling in the TARDIS), until they’re both angry.
AMY: You are always so insecure.
RORY: You ran off with another man!
AMY: Not in that way.
Nothing is resolved—nothing is ever resolved with these two, as Amy points out that she doesn’t see why they have to grow up. But, more importantly, the Doctor cobbles together a generator from an egg-whisk and a bottle opener, and they see on the monitor that they’re drifting towards a cold star—that’s their deadly danger for this reality.
The Doctor seems quite excited about the cold star, even though they have fourteen minutes to live, and Rory’s furious that this is how it’ll end, when he just wanted a nice life in a village. Then the Dream Lord turns up again, and his rude limerick is only just stopped in time by birdsong.
“Don’t spend too much time there,” the Dream Lord says, “or you’ll catch your death here.” This is the danger with both realities running on the same time track.
They run up the steps to the castle, where the children are nowhere in sight. Rory says this is definitely the real one: it’s so tranquil. But Amy question whether she would settle down in a place with a pub, two shops, and a really band amateur dramatic society.
AMY: That’s why I got pregnant, so I wouldn’t have to see them doing Oklahoma! Doctor, what are you doing and what are those piles of dust?
DOCTOR: Playtime’s definitely over.
What happened to them? Well, the old people happened. But as the Doctor’s striding towards a confrontation, the Dream Lord pops up again.
DOCTOR: I know who you are.
DREAM LORD: You don’t.
DOCTOR: Of course I do. No idea how you can be here, but there’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do.
Oh, Doctor: I can think of at least three.
Rory’s still convinced these are real old people, until the man who used to run the sweet shop picks him up by his collar and throws him six feet into the mud. then we see that they’ve all got eyeballs in their mouths.
The Doctor tells Amy and Rory to run, while he asks the old people—or the creatures living inside them—what they’re doing.
The creatures say they were driven from their planet by upstart neighbours, and now they will humbled others as they themselves were humbled.
Then they kill a postman.
Amy and Rory, running through the village, see old people steadily approaching across the fields. This leads to Rory calling Amy “Chubs” and whacking an old woman with a fence post.
They make it home, where Amy collapses on the stairs.
Amy frets about abandoning the Doctor—“We don’t see him for years, and somehow, we don’t really connect any more, and then he takes the bullet for us”—but Rory says the Doctor will be fine, as he shoves a coffee table against a door.
The Doctor’s not fine: he’s staggering down the street, because the birdsong is ringing in his head, and he takes refuge in a butcher’s shop—but the Dream Lord is behind the counter. The Doctor frantically forces himself to stay awake long enough to lock himself in the fridge room, just before the old people get him.
The three of them wake in the TARDIS, where it’s colder.
The Doctor tells them that they must all decide, now, which is the dream.
Rory, of course, picks the TARDIS as the dream, and Amy agrees because the cold star is scientifically impossible. The Doctor, of course, thinks the TARDIS is reality.
DOCTOR: No, no: ice can burn, sofa’s can read—it’s a big universe.
He wonders if he and Rory are disagreeing or competing. “Competing over what?” Amy asks, a bit disingenuously, and snorts disgustedly when they both look at her.
She thinks it’s more important to find out how cold it is.
DOCTOR: Outside? Don’t know. But I can’t feel my feet and . . . other parts.
RORY: I think all my parts are basically fine.
DOCTOR: Stop competing!
The Doctor wishes they could split up, to have a presence in both worlds, and, since the Dream Lord thinks this is a marvellous idea, the Doctor and Rory fall asleep while Amy stays awake in the TARDIS.
In the village, the old people are breaking into the house, so Rory drags Amy upstairs, apologising at every bump, into the nursery. He watches from the window as the old people rock the TARDIS and prepare to batter down his front door.
The Doctor wakes in the fridge room. He finds the frequency that will cause the aliens to temporarily retract, dashes past the old people, and throws himself into a passing Combi van with a cheerful “It’s okay—it’s only me!” They hare through the village, picking up various people being menaced by old people.
The TARDIS drifts closer to the cold star. Everything and everyone is covered in frost, and the Dream Lord seems to be trying to seduce Amy. I don’t know which is more disturbing.
AMY: The Doctor knows who you are, but he’s not telling me. And he always does. Takes him a while sometimes, but he always tells me.
DREAM LORD: Oh, is that who you think you are? The one he trusts.
AMY: Yes, actually.
DREAM LORD: The one girl in the universe to whom the Doctor tells everything.
DREAM LORD: So what’s his name?
Does that make River the one woman in the universe to whom the Doctor tells everything, then?
He tells Amy she needs to choose.
DREAM LORD: You ran away with a handsome hero. Would you really give him up for a bumbling country doctor who thinks the only thing he needs to be really interesting is a pony tail?
In the village, the Doctor tells his passengers to barricade themselves in the church, and hares off in the van to find Amy and Rory. The Dream Lord appears on his back set, telling him to choose.
DREAM LORD: Friends? Is that the right word for the people you acquire?
The Doctor parks outside Rory and Amy’s house as, inside, Amy wakes up. Rory demonstrates his devotion by cutting off his ponytail, though he looks stricken as Amy, tearful, says she was starting to like it. Luckily, they’re distracted by the Doctor climbing in the window saying, “Sorry: had to stop off at the butcher’s.”
Then Amy goes genuinely into labour, someone throws something through the window, and Rory, investigating, is struck by the glowing green gas . . . stuff.
Rory starts disintegrating as Amy watches, telling her to look after their baby. The Doctor covers his eyes. And Amy says, “Come back” in a completely uninflected voice, which just kills me.
She looks up at the Doctor as the last of the dust falls onto the ground. She’s rocking and her eyes are bright, but she’s not crying.
AMY: Save us. That’s what you do. You save everyone.
DOCTOR: Not always. I’m sorry.
AMY: Then what is the point of you?
She puts her hands into the dust, though the Doctor takes an involuntarily step forward. When she turns her back on him, he moves up to her and his hands hover over her back, but he doesn’t quite touch her.
Then Amy declares that this is the dream. The Doctor asks how she knows, and she says because if this is real life, she doesn’t want it.
She heads to the Combi, and the Doctor tells her to be very sure, because this could be real life. She doesn’t care: she’s crying now. She says she just wants Rory, and she honestly didn’t know until this minute.
The Doctor drops the keys into her hand, and they clasp hands briefly.
She says that she loved Rory and she never told him. What, even though you’ve been married for five years and are having a baby? I mean, you don’t need to be in love to fall pregnant, but somehow this makes me sadder for Rory than his death did.
Then she drives into a house.
They wake up in the TARDIS, all of them. Everything’s thick with ice, but somehow they’re not dead yet.
The Dream Lord congratulates them on choosing the right world with only seconds to spare, as the TARDIS pulls back from the cold star and the console room comes back to life.
The Doctor leaps to the console as Rory asks what happened to him. But Amy just leans forward and hugs him, and he’s so delighted it might as well be the only time she’s ever just spontaneously hugged him.
AMY: What are we doing now?
DOCTOR: Me? I’m going to blow up the TARDIS.
Rory’s stunned, but the Doctor insists.
DOCTOR: Notice how helpful the Dream Lord was. Oh, there was misinformation, red herrings, malice, and I could have done without the limerick. But he was always quite keen for us to choose between dream and reality.
Instead, the Doctor says, they were choosing between two dreams.
AMY: How do you know that?
DOCTOR: Because I know who he is.
He blows up the TARDIS. The screen goes white, then black—and we’re back in the console room, with the Doctor examining the palm of his hand, and Amy and Rory coming down the stairs.
The problem, says the Doctor, was caused by a speck of psychic pollen, which must have been hanging around the console room for ages. When it heated up, it caused a dream state for all of them. He blows it out the open door of the TARDIS.
So that was the Dream Lord? asks Rory.
No, says the Doctor: “Wasn’t it obvious? The Dream Lord was me.”
“Duh duh duh,” says Nick, who wanders in at that point.
He says the pollen feeds on the darkness within you, gives it a voice, turns it against you: “907. Had a lot to go on.”
Amy asks why it didn’t turn them against themselves, and the Doctor says, “The darkness in you two? It would have starved to death. I choose my friends with great care.”
Amy asks the Doctor if he really believes what the Dream Lord said about him, but he deflects her: “Amy, right now a question is about to occur to Rory. And, seeing as the answer is going to change his life, I think you should give him your full attention.”
He spins her and pushes her towards Rory, who asks, of course, what happened in the village dream and, when Amy tells him, how she knew it was a dream and she wouldn’t just die. She says she didn’t, and he snogs her. Then she snogs him. Then the Doctor, at his most manic, pops up behind them, applauds, and asks where next—“Or should I just pop down to the swimming pool for a few lengths?”
Rory says it’s Amy’s choice, and as the Doctor starts the TARDIS, we see the Dream Lord smiling up at him from the reflective surface.
What? No cracks? Or did I miss it?
Next time: mysterious holes in Wales.