by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Girl Who Waited"

Posted 19 September 2011 in by Catriona

ME: I’m sure this is at least the third episode called “The Girl Who Waited”.
NICK: It does seem like that, doesn’t it?

And in that spirit, we approach this episode. Stay tuned after the live-blogging for a public-service announcement.

They’re heading towards a planet that I can’t pronounce, let alone spell. But, apparently, it’s a beautiful world and a beautiful word. And it has soaring silver colonnades. Which would be nice.

But it’s mostly doors, though the Doctor has time for a bit of a bitch about Twitter and a reference to the pile of DVDs on the counter.

NICK: Ah, the domestic TARDIS.

Of course, the doors are accessible through two different buttons: Rory and the Doctor push one, while Amy pushes the other. And yet they can see Amy through some kind of giant, steampunk magnifying glass.

They’re already freaking out about this before the robot with human hands turns up.

Rory freaks out about the mildly sinister robot-with-human-hands, while Amy spends a week in her alternate room in the space between heartbeats. Two time streams, says the Doctor, running parallel but at different speeds.

Sounds like time for the credits.

Oh, after the patronising voiceover.

Back in the alternate time streams, the Doctor explains that the robots see through their hands, though, as he points out, it would be easier to give them eyes. And then Rory realises that Amy has pressed the wrong button, though no one ever told her which button to press, and the Doctor realises that they can’t follow her directly into the red waterfall room.

Basically, the planet is under quarantine, because of a plague that only affects two-hearted people. Amy’s in the infected part of the planet, while the Doctor and Rory are in an alternate time-stream that allows the families of the infected to watch their family members live out the twenty-four hours they have to live. It’s all a bit sad and strange, and I wish I had more time to cover it.

But I don’t.

The Doctor sends Amy out into the facility, just for a bit. I don’t really understand why, actually. But he has a permanent lock on Amy’s signal through the steampunk magnifying glass. And he tells Amy not to let the robots-with-human-hands give her anything, because they don’t accept that she’s an alien, so it will kill her.

So why is she going out into the complex? Did I miss the reason for that?

Anyway, Rory’s heading out to find Amy, while Amy is wandering around the facility and bonding with the interface, which allows her access to multiple entertainment facilities available to her as a resident.

Of course, that’s not going to help if that robot-with-human-hands touches her and infects her against some kind of presumably necessary Earth bacteria.

There’s much running in this scene. I like running. It saves my fingers.

Running, and creepy robots. That’s pretty much what’s happening at this stage. Until Amy leaps into some kind of—I don’t even know what that is, but the robots can’t see her as long as she’s behind that chickenwire.

Meanwhile, Rory and the Doctor are in red-waterfall time, but Rory isn’t sure that it’s the same red-waterfall time as Amy’s in.

I sure hope you’ve all seen this episode, or this live-blogging is never going to make sense.

That garden is lovely. I hope Nick learns topiary at some point. I’m certainly not going to be able to master it myself, so it’s all down to Nick.

Amy’s asking the interface where she can hide from the handbots, and realises that they can’t detect her when she’s near the temporal engines. Luckily, since two handbots turn up right then, she finds a way to disable them, and then hides near the temporal engines, leaving a note for the Doctor in the interim.

In passing, those pants are really unflattering. Karen Gillan is a lovely, slender girl, and those pants are really unflattering.

Then Rory is ambushed by someone who turns out to be his wife—but slightly older than she was when he left her behind.

He asks the Doctor what’s going on, and the Doctor says that the time-stream lock might be a bit wobbly.

This Amy knows how to make the handbots ignore her existence, how to disable them, how to make their disabling look like an accidental death. She tells Rory not to let them touch her with their hands, because it’s an anaesthetic transfer and will knock him out.

This Amy’s deeply angry. She waited for thirty-six years, alone, struggling to stop the handbots from recognising her existence. And now she hates the Doctor, more than she’s ever hated anyone else in her life.

RORY: Hey. I don’t care that you got old. I care that we didn’t grow old together.

I love Rory.

But Amy is uncomfortable around Rory: she’s reluctant to let him touch her.

NICK: She gets even more Scottish as she gets older.
ME: Something to look forward to.

In her bunker, Amy has a pet robot called Rory: she cut its hands off, so that it’s no longer a threat. She’s a strange, bitter, lonely, fascinating woman. But the Doctor’s troubled by this.

AMY: Don’t you lecture me, blue-box man, flying through time and space on whimsy. All I’ve had for thirty-six years is cold, hard reality.

Amy takes Rory to the gardens, so that the Doctor can talk to the interface. He needs Amy to wear the glasses for this.

AMY: They look ridiculous.
RORY: That’s what I told him him. Still, anything beats a fez, eh?

They laugh together, but Amy stops abruptly, because she realises that this is the first time she’s laughed in thirty-six years. Then Rory wanders off, and gets ambushed by the handbots. Amy rescues him, but tells him not to get used to it.

The Doctor says that he has a chance to fold two times together, and bring the Amy of thirty-six years ago into this present.

But Amy doesn’t like this idea.

Rory finds the sign that Amy left for the Doctor, but when he asks the current Amy why she won’t help them, she says that she’ll die. The Amy who grows old with Rory won’t be, in thirty-six years, this Amy who was trapped in the two streams. She wants Rory to take her instead.

Rory doesn’t want to take this Amy, because he can’t cope with the idea that Amy has to spend thirty-six years fighting for her life in the two streams.

RORY: You should look in a history book once in a while, see if there’s an outbreak of plague or not.
DOCTOR: That’s not how I travel.
RORY: Then I don’t want to travel with you!

Rory has a point.

Rory manages to talk to Past Amy through the steampunk magnifying glass, but Past Amy doesn’t cope well with discovering her older self in the glass. Amy talks to her past self, explaining why she won’t help Past Amy. She challenges Past Amy to try anything to convince her to change her mind.

And, of course, what changes Amy’s mind is Rory. Because Amy really loves Rory. Because Rory is adorable.

OLDER AMY: All those boys chasing me. But it was only ever Rory. Why was that?

And Amy explains just why Rory is the most beautiful man she’s ever met. And, I’ll be honest here: I was uncertain about Rory to begin with. But I absolutely adore him now. He’s a fascinating, complex, gentle, lovely character, and I didn’t think they could do that with Rory, as relatively two-dimensional as he was in the beginning.

The swelling music here is lovely.

OLDER AMY TO RORY: I’m going to pull time apart for you.
NICK AND I: Whimper.

Now we have the Doctor’s theme, because Amy plans to take her own future into her hands, to re-write her own history—on condition that they take her with them as well.

RORY: Two Amys. Can that work?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. It’s your marriage.

The Doctor says that, provided he gets rid of the karaoke bar, the TARDIS could sustain the paradox. And we’ve seen it sustain a more complex paradox, so why not?

Rory has to flip some levers, in the meantime.

DOCTOR: C’mon, Rory. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s only quantum physics.

And as both Amys think a deeply important thought—the first kiss she and Rory shared—the Doctor folds time in on itself and brings both Amys into the one time-stream.

As both Amys struggle with speaking at the same time, the TARDIS flips out over the paradox, and the Doctor tells Rory to get back the TARDIS within eight minutes.

Both Amys are pretty good at getting rid of the handbots who are chasing them, but Past Amy is a little uncomfortable with the idea of older Amy travelling with them. Older Amy says it’s fine: she’ll go travelling on her own, and come back for Christmas.

But now the doors into the gallery, where the TARDIS is parked, are jammed, and older Amy flirts a little bit with Rory as they’re trying to open them. Rory (and Past Amy) are moderately uncomfortable with this, but it’s actually strangely sad to see this bitter, lonely woman relaxing in her husband’s company.

Then the handbots attack, and though Older Amy kicks backside, the handbots still manage to touch Past Amy and anaesthetise her. Rory rushes her into the TARDIS—and then the Doctor slams the TARDIS doors in Older Amy’s face.

He tells Rory that it was all a lie: there could never be two Amys in the TARDIS.

Oh, Doctor. You’re a cold man, sometimes.

And just to make it colder, he tells Rory that it’s Rory’s choice: there can only be one Amy in the TARDIS, and he has to choose.

Oh, Rory. You’re too soft for this.

Rory talks to Amy through the door, and Older Amy realises how much she loved all the things she’s been pretending, for thirty-six years, weren’t important to her.

And just as Rory breaks, and realises that he can’t leave this woman, his wife, outside the TARDIS to die, Older Amy tells him not to open the door, if he loves her. Because, she says, she doesn’t want to die. And she’ll come in, if he lets her.

OLDER AMY: Tell Amy, your Amy, I’m giving her the days. The days with you. The days to come.
RORY: I’m so, so sorry.
AMY: The days I can’t have.

Then the handbots arrive.

AMY: Interface?
INTERFACE: I’m here, Amy Pond.
AMY: Show me Earth. Show me home. Did I ever tell you about this boy I met there, who pretended to be in a band?

And the handbots anaesthetise her, and, as she falls, prepare the injections that will kill her.

And Amy wakes in the TARDIS, and asks where her other self is. And we fade out before anyone can answer that question.

Next week: a hotel on the Isle of Wight.

And now, a public-service announcement. I’m increasingly realising that I can’t sustain the live-bloggings. They’re exhausting, and frequently take time away from work I really need to do (albeit, on a Saturday night, that’s usually marking), and I don’t want to come to resent them.

But neither do I want to abandon the weekly space for talking about Doctor Who during the season.

So, readers, what do you think? I have my own ideas about what might replace the live-bloggings next season, but what would you like to see in this space? Are you interested in talking about Doctor Who here? Or interested in seeing what other people say about Doctor Who here? If so, let me know what you’d like to see in this space once a week for the duration of the Doctor Who season.

Share your thoughts [21]


Wendy wrote at Sep 19, 11:32 am

I found this episode very confusing but then I’m not very good at time travel, multiple time streams etc.

I love seeing what yourself and others have to say about dr who…whatever form it might take in the future :-)


Belegdel wrote at Sep 19, 08:47 pm

Just don’t give up live blogging Eurovision! It’s a highlight of our year :-)


Catriona wrote at Sep 19, 09:44 pm

The Eurovision live-blogging is at no risk! That stays, no matter what. It’s only this blogging of high-paced, science-fiction family programming that I’m finding a bit much. I suppose that includes Torchwood, if they ever play “Miracle Day” here.

I really enjoyed this episode, and I’m rather interested to see what other people think.


Nick wrote at Sep 19, 10:52 pm

Man, a cast this good on an American show would be locked to a seven-year contract, but right now we’re still wondering if Amy and Rory will be back next year.

Great episode, and a good decision to focus so intently on the three protagonists (must have been good for the budgeting, too). Tennant was always a million times better when he underplayed a scene, but it’s like he only rarely trusted himself enough to do that. Smith knows exactly when to do a million things with a tiny expression.


Deb wrote at Sep 19, 11:21 pm

This felt like a very ‘grown-up’ episode to me.
I must admit to getting a wee bit leaky around the eyes.
I too love Rory – his character development has been stunning.
I do agree with Nick that this was probably one of the low budget eps for the series, which are necessary to counterbalance the high expense ones.
Although Matt Smith is not my type he does look rather sexy on the cover of the latest SFX mag.

I would miss the live blogging but I recognise that it is a huge commitment – any form of discussion would be greatly appreciated tho.(feel free to skip Torchwood Miracle Day – it was disappointing and made me angry in so many, many ways)


Catriona wrote at Sep 20, 02:35 am

I admit, though I got a little weepy, too, and thought this was a fabulous Rory episode (even more a Rory episode than an Amy episode, it seemed to me), I did wonder what the kiddies would think of it. I mean, last week probably had small children across the globe leaping behind their sofas, but the terror in this one was a much more adult fear—and I don’t just mean the fear of a sudden, unexpected accident that deprives you of your loved one and of the life you thought you were living. I also think the episode’s explanation of exactly why the robots were a threat to Amy might have gone over some kids’ heads. I’m not sure I would have grasped it at a young age.

I’m glad you’e coming round to Matt Smith, too, Deb. Or am I just imagining that you were a little bit uncertain about him when he was cast?


Deb wrote at Sep 20, 04:37 am

I do like him much better than David ‘my mouth is always hanging open’ Tennant. Smith seems to have a greater range of expression and more subtlety. Of course he’s no Jon Pertwee :-) but he will do for now.


Matt wrote at Sep 20, 05:09 am

I’m a sucker for these time travel thought experiment episodes. A few years ago I read a book called Philosophy Through Film and in one of the chapters they discussed Memento and the problem of the relationship we have with our past and future selves. On several occasions since reading that chapter, I’ve considered how we can be angry at a past self for making certain decisions (e.g. getting very drunk) and also how we might cheat our future selves by also choosing short term solutions (e.g. getting very drunk) and not caring about how that future self will feel. This episode added a different spin on that for me.

As for the live blogging, you could take inspiration from Linus Torvalds, the man who started Linux who when questioned about his philosophy towards writing his own operating system, responded that he did it because it seemed like a fun thing to do. He went on to say that he would stop doing it when it stopped being fun (and on occasion he has gone AWOL much to the distress of the Linux community).

I’ll miss the peanut gallery interjections (including your own asides) thrown into the episodes which is what makes them fun for me. I reckon you could scale down the posts to a quick run-through of the plot and some key quotes just to remind people what happened and let the comments roll as usual.


Catriona wrote at Sep 20, 05:50 am

Yes, putting any question about what to do about the live-blogging out on the blog itself is a bit risky, because I know (and was told, explicitly, when I started the blog years ago) that I should be writing what I enjoy writing—just writing for myself and not worry about whether people are reading it.

But that’s moderately disingenuous, no? Because if I were simply writing for myself, I’d keep a diary. Of course I want people to read this and enjoy it. And I do write with that in mind. For example, I write about what’s obsessing me at the moment. But I haven’t written a word about Robin of Sherwood, because I’m about one fangirl moment away from a bottom drawer full of Robin of Sherwood fan fiction, and no one wants to read that kind of blog post. Not even me.

Plus, the Doctor Who stuff is different. Part of what gives me pleasure in doing that—an enormous part of the pleasure in that, actually—is the community of response that developed around it. Those are usually the posts where the commenting is most active, and I love that this is a space to talk about Doctor Who. I get a real kick (remember, fangirl) out of the fact that the blog is, in part, a Doctor Who discussion space.

That’s not to say that the live-blogging hasn’t benefited me as a writer. It certainly has, just as the Strange Conversations subset has given me a much better grip on how to tweak dialogue. But the live-blogging is probably the one aspect of the blog that would feel less satisfying if it weren’t dialogic, which is why I’m throwing it out for discussion.

A quick run-through and some key quotations is definitely one option, but I’d also like the opportunity to be more critically engaged with the episodes. So often, I end up adding something to the live-blogging like “There’s really interesting implications to what happened, in terms of previously canonical information, but I can’t talk about it right now because a CyberKing just rose out of the Thames. Let’s discuss it in the comments.” I’d quite like the time to have a slower, more engaged think about the episodes, and then post that after the episode airs, to leave it open for discussion.


Drew wrote at Sep 20, 10:24 am

whatever form you choose, although I do like the live blogging very much even though I don’t read it live, I like the way it’s written. Maybe you could live blog the opening and closing episodes of the seasons?

Rory: has developed, yes, but he was always fantastic. I have watched The Eleventh Hour more than I have any other Dr. Who episode; I have watched it endlessly. Those final scenes when Smith is putting his Doctor together, Prisoner Zero, the costume etc, they are magnificant but they really only work so well because of Rory. Sure Smith is fantastic, but Rory makes those scenes. Without him they wouldn’t be half as good as they are.


Catriona wrote at Sep 20, 10:31 am

Arthur Darvill’s always been good, yes. But what pleases me about the character is the way they’ve stretched and developed him from what was a fairly flat character type in the early episodes into a much richer character, but one that’s a plausible development from the early episodes.

I don’t know if that description makes any sense. I’ve rather a nasty headache. But it’s the best way I can phrase it.

(And, Drew, I’ve always doubted anyone reads the Doctor Who live-blogging live. The Eurovision stuff? That’s proper live-blogging, with the expectation that people are reading and commenting as it happens. But I’ve always assumed that most people come to the Doctor Who stuff once they’ve finished watching the episode.)


Deb wrote at Sep 20, 11:24 am

Rory could easily have been the ‘tin dog’ character (as Mickey aptly names it) but he has grown beyond that.

I forgot to mention earlier that the garden topiary were very Burtonesque and wonderful.


Tim wrote at Sep 21, 08:35 am

I enjoy the liveblogging, and I’d miss it, but I don’t read it live. You could do a highlights-of-gallery-comments post to capture first reactions and a subsequent more relaxed discussion post, perhaps. Or even just ‘Here’s what Catriona thought’ a day or two after the episode and throw it open for discussion.


Tim wrote at Sep 21, 08:52 am

Re the episode itself: A bit of a contrived start, I’m annoyed to see another potentially Timelord-killing threat casually tossed in, and I don’t think they dealt with where the planetary authorities had gone, but it had an excellent development and a very moving conclusion. Older Amy was very impressive. (Perhaps a touch too gifted — there’s not much indication Current Amy has any scientific gift — but maybe the Interface taught her a lot of that stuff.) I was worried for a bit that there was going to be a heroic sacrifice to avoid having to deal with two Amys, but thankfully the story took the issue through to the end.


Catriona wrote at Sep 21, 09:02 am

I did wonder both where the authorities had gone (well into hiding, I suppose, since they’re a two-hearted race) and why the Doctor needed Amy to head out into the complex: I don’t remember that being made clear. But the ending was really devastating, and I did like the fact that Rory made a point of telling the Doctor that there’s something lacking in his way of travelling, that it forces his companions into really unbearable positions or, in the worst cases, untimely deaths.

Earlier regenerations of the Doctor have faced this issue (the Fifth Doctor, for example, dying on the word “Adric”), but it’s something that I don’t think has been addressed so much in this new series. And, in a way, it touches nicely on the Doctor’s inability to cope with the forms that the TARDIS interface unit took when he was dying of the Judas tree poison—the Eleventh Doctor might, it seems, be coming to terms with some of the devastation that the Ninth and (especially) the Tenth Doctors wreaked.

No, I still haven’t forgiven the Doctor for lobotomising Donna. Why do you ask?


Tim wrote at Sep 21, 09:33 am

Though one might point out to Rory and Amy that they chose to go with the Doctor after their wedding.


Catriona wrote at Sep 21, 10:01 am

True, but I don’t know that that was what you’d call a well-thought-out decision. And I don’t know that Rory had much say in that …

No, I know they made the decision to travel with the Doctor. And I think they know that, too. But coming from Rory, that was an … interesting indictment. Because he’s soft, Rory. And I don’t mean that pejoratively. He’s a soft man, easily hurt, deeply interested in people, deeply interested in the small passages of everyday life and their huge weight and significance for the people who live them. I love that in him (and I think there’s a shadow, there, of the Doctor himself, who, as Nick’s pointed out somewhere else, is fascinated by the quotidian). But it also means that Rory—much more than Amy or even the Doctor—could be badly, badly hurt by the sort of travel that the Doctor revels in. I mean, the Doctor turns up on planets and their entire civilisation immediately combusts. He can cope with that. He loves that. But Rory? Rory’s too soft to handle that sort of travel for long without ending up with some serious scars.

My opinion only, of course.


Tim wrote at Sep 21, 10:07 am

Oh, yes. Also pointed at early in the episode when Rory asks if the other residents are happy.


Deb wrote at Sep 23, 12:58 am

“No, I still haven’t forgiven the Doctor for lobotomising Donna. Why do you ask?”

Nor I – it was unbelievably cruel that, and the poignancy of leaving poor little Amy as a child waiting for years is soul-rending to me and yet seems to be played down.


Catriona wrote at Sep 23, 06:43 am

I do think that the Doctor’s conversation with the TARDIS interface in “Let’s Kill Hitler” touched on his sense that he really did some damage to Amy, because young Amelia is the only one who didn’t prompt a guilty feeling. But I also think there’s a bit of a difference between those two instances, because the decision to lobotomise Donna was a deliberate one, and she was begging him not to, and he took any autonomy out of her hands. I found that really hard to watch. But I don’t think the Doctor really meant to leave Amelia alone for years and years: he should never, perhaps, have agreed to have a child come travelling with him, but I think the consensus was that it was a pure accident, his coming back so late. Still, that’s the difficulty of time travel, and sometimes you’re going to cause a great deal of damage without meaning to.


Deb wrote at Sep 23, 08:08 am

Oh I agree that leaving Amelia was accidental I just think that there is insufficient acknowledgement of the trauma it would have caused.

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