Words: Lauren Johnson-Ginn
SYNOPSIS: “Amy is trapped in a quarantine facility for victims of an alien plague. Can Rory save her before she is killed by kindness?” (bbc.co.uk)
I advise anyone of a sensitive disposition who has yet to watch 'The Girl Who Waited' to do so with a box of tissues within arm’s reach – this episode is a tear-jerker. More interestingly, it also presents some difficult moral questions.
What starts off as an innocuous jaunt to a typically unpronounceable planet (Apalapucia) takes a sinister turn as Amy (Karen Gillan) finds herself separated from Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the Doctor (Matt Smith), and trapped in an alternate time stream, where time passes at an accelerated rate. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the misguided killer robots.
'The Girl Who Waited' - penned by Tom MacRae, who also wrote 'Rise Of The Cybermen' - offers plenty of fast-paced dialogue, nail-biting moments of suspense and perilous encounters. There is, however, a certain degree of naffness that has to be tuned out for full enjoyment - Amy’s dubious ageing prosthetics, and also the fact that the killer robots look like a cross between the eye-in-hand monster from 'Pan’s Labyrinth' and a back-up dancer in the video for Kylie Minogue’s 'Can’t Get You Out Of My Head'.
Once you put these quibbles aside, however, it becomes clear that the episode has real emotional depth. Rory is faced with a heart-breaking decision and the Doctor reveals a flash of that disconcerting ruthlessness which reminds us that, in spite of appearances, he isn’t human. The climax poses the troubling question - without our memories, do we cease to exist?
Arthur Darvill’s performance is particularly noteworthy, blending Rory’s usual comic haplessness with convincing moments of rage and anguish. The central theme of the episode - Rory and Amy’s love story - is genuinely touching, and (don’t judge me!) I felt myself welling up on more than one occasion.
It wasn’t all sap, however, and nuggets of humour were scattered throughout. As Rory seriously contemplates bigamy, the Doctor is less than helpful, shrugging: “It’s your marriage.” Personally, I also found Amy’s '300'-esque slo-mo fight scene hilarious, but I’m not entirely sure that was intentional. Oops.
Next week’s episode, 'The God Complex', looks like a return to the classic scare-fest format, playing on the tried and tested trope of the characters’ greatest fears. The trailer hints at much screaming, so I’ll be adjusting the TV volume accordingly.
What did you think of 'The Girl Who Waited'? Wipe those tears away and share your thoughts below. Watch the episode on BBC iPlayer until 18:59, 8 October '11.