Doctor Who: The Waiting Game

What a sucktastic weekend! First, the coverage of the 9/11 anniversary reached fetishistic levels of sadomasochism this year, with every channel from CNN to HGTV wringing as much drama as they could from the trauma. Second, I chose to mope around all weekend, feeling sorry for myself and resenting my long-distance boyfriend for the unbridled, carefree life he leads, while I mope around all weekend, feeling sorry for myself and resenting my long-distance boyfriend for the unbridled, carefree life he leads. (It’s a vicious cycle, kids.)

One pint of Häagen-Dazs chocolate peanut butter ice cream later, I was momentarily cheered by the thought that a new episode of Doctor Who awaited me on Saturday night. Hurrah! The Doctor will cheer me up, right?

Wrong. So very, very wrong. Watching “The Girl Who Waited” was like being stabbed in the heart with a sonic screwdriver…repeatedly…for an hour. I thought I was going to have to be institutionalized by the end. Now, you all know that I haven’t cried since 2001, when the US Postal Service unleashed this upon my unsuspecting tear ducts, rendering me immobile and sobbing well into 2002. Usually, it’s only “triumph of the human spirit” stuff that can possibly extract moisture from my dry, jaded eyeballs. I guess we can now add “getting left behind by the Doctor” to that list.

In a nutshell, the Doctor thinks he’s taking Amy and Rory to Appalapachia, the second most popular tourist site in the universe (second only to the planet of the coffee shops). He lands them on Appalapachia all right, but instead of paradise, they find themselves in a strange medical facility, built to contain a plague. Amy gets separated from her boys and winds up in a different area of the facility and (oops!) in a different timestream. Rory and the Doctor must then work together to find Amy and extract her from her accelerated future. 

It’s a testament to how much I’ve grown to care about these characters that the emotional elements of the episode succeed despite all my questions about the timey-wimey stuff. Normally, I love the timey-wimey stuff and love having my brain asploded by impossible paradoxical situations. This time, however, I just wanted to know how thousands of people could be sharing the same space, even in two different timestreams, but never actually run into each other. Also, if 36 years for Amy was only a few minutes for Rory, wouldn’t she realize she was in an accelerated timestream when decades passed and she never ate, slept, nor, you know, visited the ladies room?

Steven Moffat has described Amy as a fairytale heroine, often comparing her to Wendy in Peter Pan. In “The Girl Who Waited,” she’s having more of an Alice in Wonderland day, falling down a rabbit hole into a foreign world that defies logic and escape. But what happens when Alice gets stuck in Wonderland, stranded, fighting a never-ending stream of animated soldiers and quietly resenting the unbridled, carefree life of her boyfriend and the Raggedy Doctor? Poor Alice gets bitter. And who can blame her? 

Though Amy has had experience getting left behind by (or taken from) the Doctor before, this time is different. I guess the time she waited between childhood and the Doctor’s first return was still short enough for her to move on. A 36-year wait, wherein the Doctor not only deserts her, but takes her husband with him, is apparently the tipping point for Amy’s patience (though she’s still the same girl who spent a few centuries in the Pandorica, waiting for Rory and the Doctor to arrive). And here, my fellow Whovians, is where things not only get weepy, but also deep-y.

This whole season has had a running theme of duality. The two Doctors (one dead, one alive); the first two Amys (one goo, one prisoner); the two daughters (one River, one Pond) and now this: the second set of Amys (one young, one old). Ah, but there’s also a second set of Doctors in there as well, which we learn in “A Good Man Goes to War.” The two Doctors (one savior, one warrior).

Amy knows that the Doctor can disappear for years at a time. And we know that he’s done it before. Just ask Sarah Jane. Or he may not return at all. Just ask Rose. Or Donna. When the TARDIS shows him his past companions in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” it’s a timely and poignant reminder that the Doctor has a tendency to screw people up. And he’s been a part of Amy’s life for a very long time. It’s beginning to feel like the longer she stays with him, the more screwed up she’s going to be. Her only hope, it seems, is Rory.

Thankfully, Rory stands up to the Doctor, challenging not only his traveling methods, but also his intentions. “You’re turning me into you!” Rory exclaims after the Doctor has given him an impossible choice to make. It’s gut-wrenching and unfair, and it’s all the Doctor’s fault.

Finally, I have to wonder, why did the TARDIS even take them there? Having established that the TARDIS takes the Doctor where he needs to go, not where he may want to go, why exactly did the TARDIS land there? Just to torture everyone for a while? Will Rory be able to forgive and forget? Will Amy? Will the trio be off on their next adventure next week, smiles all around, or is this the beginning of the end of Amy’s fairytale?

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