A (positive) review of ‘Amy’s Choice’. Because not even I can complain all the time.
Okay, that’s better. The best episode for quite some time. The first really good one since ‘Turn Left’. Nothing major… but genuinely clever and verbally playful, with nice imagery and a texture of ideas, hints and suggestions.
Simon Kinnear called this, with his customary acuity, a “Freudian farce”. The Dream Lord is the truth of the Doctor as an older man, lusting after a young redhead… or at least, lusting after her attention and loyalty and esteem. He and Rory compete over her as though she’s territory. The Doctor wants Amy’s bump to disappear so that the bumpless reality will prove to be real. Meanwhile, the ancient beings inside the elderly Ledworth residents annihilate the village’s children. The aliens are even ‘oral’. “They’re not going to be peeping out of anywhere else are they?” asks Rory pertinently.
This is all played for laughs and, refreshingly, it’s actually funny. (Thinking back, I remember quite liking How Do You Want Me? whereas Chalk just made me want to kick things.)
The unreal tweeness of Ledworth, which was such a bore in ‘The Eleventh Hour’, here becomes the perfect figurative backdrop to a story about people who are negotiating and renegotiating (with themselves as much as with each other) their emotional priorities and allegiances, their desires, etc. In this story, Ledworth manages to be less the unironic cutesy St. Mary Mead / Avengers setting and becomes a bit more… well, it’s funny but here they manage to make it both more real (with the snobbery of “Upper Ledworth” for example) and more genuinely dreamlike. All the more dreamlike for being sparing with the wanton surrealism.
There’s a witty aesthetic connectedness about it, even down to the way the shifts in reality (which seem like multiple awakenings from dazed unconsciousness) are heralded by the sound of birds tweeting, which recalls the cartoon way of signifying concussion as much it reminds us of Ledworth’s rural pleasures. The first instance of this sort of thing even has a neat verbal pun. The Doctor slips into and then wakes from oblivion as he tries to say the phrase “good old days”… or should that be “daze”?
There’s something smart about the way the three characters compare their different interpretations of the same dream. The differences in emphasis are telling. Amy’s “little village” becomes Rory’s “sweet little village”. The Doctor’s “nightmare” becomes, for reasons of tact, “a really good… mare”. These are gags, but also failures to communicate. For once, the constant quipping seems to actually be playful with language rather than just showoffish… and actually serves plot, concept and characterisation (at least some of the time). And then, just as the puns are about to get tiresome, the episode realises this and starts playing them self-consciously, with the Dream Lord complaining that they’re lost on the Doctor (and us).
Toby Jones is excellent… and his character is effective, not least because he seems more like the old Doctor (I mean the old, prehistoric, C20th Doctor) than any of the new fellas, least of all the latest incumbent (who is good, by the way, given something interesting and not-entirely-glib to do). …