When we talk about The Doctor, we’re usually talking about the tawdry quirks and a personality that exists on the exterior. That’s one of the things we love about Doctor Who, it’s a decades-old tale built around a character who, even after said decades of narrative, remains a mysterious intergalactic gunslinger with excellent taste in suits. But with “Amy’s Choice” we are seeing something new — and here’s where our discussion turns to spoilers — we’re seeing inside the mind of The Doctor.
Yes, hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to see where the twist comes in. But first, there are reasons why it all works in the end. Not the least of which is the on-screen dynamic between Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. To this point, the relationship between Amy and Rory has been an odd one. What does she see in that oaf, I’ve wondered to myself? And why does The Doctor keep him around. In this episode, Rory becomes for the first time a legitimate character in this story. He’s three dimensional and important, both as a man who captures Amy’s attention as much as The Doctor, and an additional companion.
And that’s what “Amy’s Choice” is all about, development of the triangular relationship that will define the short-term goals of this season. Simon Nye, known mostly for British Men Behaving Badly, brings a great deal if inventiveness and wit into this episode, one that stands alone among the greater narrative (you know, those cracks all over the place). He also gives the episode’s best lines to the villain, the Dream Lord played by Toby Jones. Perfectly cast and instantly chilling, Jones brings a cheery deviance to the role of The Doctor’s dark side. From bow tie jokes to wry smile, Jones is a perfectly matched antithesis to Matt Smith. And it’s what he represents that is truly scary — he’s the personification of what The Doctor fears about himself. Who knew that all these years later we’d still be learning things about The Doctor.
Here’s the lovely part of “Amy’s Choice” — it’s an episode that hides its hand right up to the end. And to be perfectly honest, even though one of my own “tawdry quirks” is also sniffing out things that aren’t what they seem, I didn’t see it coming. And for an episode that seems to be preoccupied with bonding three characters together, presumably for a return to the furious action for the second half of the season, that’s impressive. The juxtaposition of the two “dream worlds” keeps the pace relatively high and the attention-triangle keeps things interesting. And thanks to some slick writing, the dialog is sharp as ever. And yeah, I was thinking about Rory’s ponytail as well.
By the end of this season, “Amy’s Choice” may not rank among the best episodes. But it has already established itself as one of the most apt filler episodes in the Steven Moffat era. It’s all about learning something before we can move on to the next stage of the greater story. A self-hating Doctor? A strong emotional bond between Amy and Rory? Lines like this: “If we’re going to die, lets die looking like a Peruvian folk band”? Yeah, that’s the Doctor Who I love. That’s the Doctor Who I can’t get enough of.