Judging by the ‘controversy’ stoked up by the previous couple of episodes, I wonder how many complaints this one will get. Considering it featured a message of not trusting kindly OAPs (and one scene where one was whacked with a plank of wood), a suicide scene and even drew attention to the Doctor’s age-gap relationship with his companions (which aren’t so much May to December, but May to a December many years down the line) there’s bound to be at least one complaint about it setting a bad example for children. And frankly, if it means we get more episodes of this standard (although last week’s was definitely a bit of fun filler, I’d say the series has been consistently good for the past four weeks), then Doctor Who can offend as many parents/disturb as many children as it wants.
It might be debatable as to what this episode added to the series as a whole but I found it to be the most consistently interesting one so far. Right from the Doctor’s pre-credits grin on announcing that things could get ‘tricky’, the episode managed to be enjoyably playful throughout (before turning quite touching and heartfelt), and hopefully its character revelations mean that Amy’s now over her crush on the Doctor so we don’t have to go through any more tedious scenes of romantic longing and confusion (if the series was however to feature a plot where the Doctor was attracted to an uninterested companion then I could get behind that, as it would at least be a little different to the norm).
Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye did a good job stepping out of his comfort zone to write the episode. Although, that being said it wasn’t really a sci-fi story at all (as Sir Terry Pratchett mentioned in SFX magazine a few weeks ago, Doctor Who can’t really be classed as science-fiction anyway), being set in a dream world (or rather two dream worlds) meant that half of the story could be set in the very British locations that Doctor Who does so well, and the other half could feature something scientifically impossible. The latter storyline, featuring a broken down Tardis drifting towards a frozen star was intimate and claustrophobic, was really only marred by the fact that despite the Tardis getting covered in frost no character’s breathe misted up, but it wasn’t where the heart of the story lay. This was in the former, a brilliantly ludicrous zombie style siege taking place in the sleepy village of Leadworth (or as Rory pointed out Upper Leadworth as he and Amy had moved up in the world) supposedly five years in the future where Rory was a Doctor with a ridiculous pony-tail, Amy was heavily pregnant and the Doctor was incredibly bored. The setting, gently mocking the supposed pleasantries of the British village, and even including a bit bemoaning the fate of the village shops was pleasantly reminiscent of Nye’s considerably more savage, and sadly largely forgotten sit-com How Do You Want Me?, although as far as I remember that didn’t feature rather robust OAPs inhabited by parasitic aliens sucking the life out of anyone they came past – including a bunch of children they had been entrusted with babysitting – and reducing them to a pile of dust (unfortunately when the Doctor confronted the aliens and used the line that they were a ‘proud race’ and ‘better than this’ it sounded far too much like something that David Tennant already said during his stint in the show).
All of which was presided over by Toby Jones as the ‘Dream Lord’ – always a welcome presence when he appears on screen (although no offense, but I hope that I don’t get to see him in a state of undress again, as he was when sleazily propositioning Amy) – who caused the three to switch between each world at inconvenient moments with the sound of bird song. Although it wasn’t at all, despite the Dream Lord’s claims that one world was real, and the other a dream, and setting them the task of working out which was which so that they could die in the dream world and wake up safely in the real one, it turns out that the whole episode was based around that hokey plot device of it really all being a dream (meaning that once again Doctor Who has bottled out of actually killing children – in the second episode of the series we saw a child supposedly fall to his death but be revealed to be fine later on, here they just didn’t exist at all). Apparently the whole thing had been the product of a speck of ‘psychic pollen’ getting caught up in the Tardis engine and causing them all to have a mass hallucination, however with psychic pollen feeding on the darkest parts inside you, it turns out that this hallucination was all cooked up by the Doctor’s more fiendish side, with the Dream Lord merely being a reflection of the dark side of his personality – and when looking closer there was definitely some sort of a resemblance between Matt Smith and Toby Jones, however where Smith is tall and oddly dashing, Jones reflected the negative of this by being short, and well, just odd looking (apologies again if you happen to read this Toby Jones!). The Doctor stated to Amy and Rory as the adventure came to a close that the psychic pollen didn’t reflect their subconscious at all as they didn’t have dark sides worth speaking of – he always makes sure of this when choosing his travelling companions apparently – but there was definitely some of Amy’s on show, as she struggled to choose between her two Doctors, and spent a lot of the time being generally quite grumpy (fairly understandable when Rory referred to her as ‘chubs’), or faking labour in order to terrify Rory and the Doctor. I’m presuming the manifestation of Rory’s dark side was just the appearance of his hideous pony-tail.
The sudden invention of psychic pollen might be another example of Doctor Who at its worst, at least in Pratchett’s eyes as he complained about the sudden introduction of scientifically impossible things to wrap up its stories, however I was particularly pleased that for once the episode managed to avoid one particular Doctor Who cliché – the frantic running. As Amy pointed out during the OAP attack, she wasn’t fit to run anywhere what with her being so big, and in the other dream world running around wouldn’t have got them far and they instead had to huddle together for warmth. Rory’s death scene after he was attacked by one of the pensioners was a bad example of the common practice in films and TV of showing a form of death being instantaneous for minor characters, but long and dramatic for major ones, but did manage to be rather touching. Particularly in seeing Amy’s reaction to it – first of all her quiet disbelief at Rory’s death, and then her determination to end it all for her and the Doctor as she decided that this has to be the dream world as she couldn’t handle the thought of a world without Rory. Which means that, as the title suggested Amy has now made her choice over which man she wanted to be with, and that we don’t have to deal with this again later on. I do wonder though if either Amy or Rory, seeing what darkness lies within the Doctor, are going to start viewing him with a little distrust, or even animosity at having put them through such an ordeal. It doesn’t look like we’ll find out next week anyway, what with the preview seeming to be for a fairly by-the-numbers adventure, fingers crossed that it manages to not break this run of good quality episodes at least.
Once again, it’s now over to you, what did you all think of it?