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Doctor Who XXXII.10: The Girl Who Waited

September 10th, 2011 (08:02 pm)

Instant reaction: not bad at all. The best of this half of the season so far, and with pleasing references to the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Damsel. While the fifty-plus Amy is by no means loathly, she's not the person Rory wanted or expected at first glance. Rory, like Gawain, leaves the choice to Amy; a pity almost that the Doctor has to play deus in machinam and turn the other Amy away, though in the end Amy's agency is restored. The rules of Doctor Who and the legendary roots are like magnetic forces repelling each other.

I also appreciated Amy being on the other side of a glass from the Doctor and Rory, repeating a motif from 'A Good Man Goes to War', but also more obviously reminding me of Cocteau's Orphee films. Amy acquires their accoutrements as if the magnifiying glass concentrates their props on to the Amy in the other time stream. Cocteau wrote an Arthurian play about doubles, too...

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/448927.html.

Comments

Posted by: sharaz_jek (sharaz_jek)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)

with pleasing references to the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Damsel.

I knew it felt vaguely mythic-resonant.

Amy acquires their accoutrements as if the magnifiying glass concentrates their props on to the Amy in the other time stream.

Nice catch (and also provides a plausible explanation for future!Amy's armour - now both of them have had to wait, though under very different conditions)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
ArthurElaineLetter

thanatos_kalos inspired that point as she tweeted much the same idea a couple of seconds before I wrote that bit - the sword and the sonic screwdriver being Rory's and the Doctor's respectively.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

First reaction...wow...I had to sit and catch my breath for a few seconds.
I agree that this was the best in a long time. I ahd not spotted either of the parallels, but the whole thing was deeply archetypal,and was almost advertising that fact by almost completely dispensing with sets.
It was also a tour-de-force from Karen Gillan, but I had expected some more Rory (especially as himself, not just channelling the Doctor).
And talking about channelling - surely those glasses were nicked from Torchwood??!!!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
Torchwood

Most definitely - there is a story about the glasses and the lenses to be imagined by those who want to fill in the ninth Doctor-Rose-Jack era.

I agree about the minimalist set design adding a lot to the atmosphere, which made the garden location the more striking, and the grading brought out its greenness.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

Yes :-)

BTW, over at the Ship (where I've been picking my way through Torchwood ep. 10 spoilers from America...), someone wondered why no-one mentioned Rory's time as a Roman. Good point.
Or has that ceased to have happened since the "reboot"?

Posted by: sharaz_jek (sharaz_jek)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)

Apparently he can keep it behind a door in his brain (reminiscent of how Two dealt with the memory of his family). It's still there, but Rory probably doesn't particularly want to deal with the fact that he's lived for ~1900 years under Stonehenge.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Troughton

Good catch too - the Tomb of the Cybermen comparison hadn't struck me, but it's appropriate.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
MattKarenArthur

There have been allusions to his time as a Roman - it was mentioned in 'Day of the Moon'; he's worn the uniform in a martial context in 'A Good Man Goes to War', and the Doctor addressed him as 'Soldier' in tonight's episode - and there are the 'Rory the Roman' gags every so often.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)

So, either sharaz-jek is right and it is a serious case of repression?, or Rory might have pointed out that 36 years ain't all that long... ;-)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)

That's a point, I wasn't thinking about it in the context of tonight's episode especially. The writing would need to have been handled carefully, for Rory not to appear petulant; but sharaz_jek's point about the memories of two thousand years following the Pandorica being 'behind a door' are relevant here.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

true, true,
I just thought that the point was interesting and worth mentioning (in the absence of anything to actually criticize...).
But I suppose if it is a flaw at all, it is a conceptual one rather than one of script writing. I was very much a stand-alone, independent from the constraints of arc-consistency and played out in its own world - quite literally.

Posted by: sensiblecat (sensiblecat)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)


very much a stand-alone, independent from the constraints of arc-consistency and played out in its own world - quite literally.

Or maybe that's just what they want us to think. If the bots shoot, but Amy doesn't die and finds the Doctor was wrong, she has one hell of a motive for killing the Doctor. Particularly if Kovarian and co turn up to recruit her to Plan B.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
DavidIcon

That's a good idea - I can see Kovarian and the Silence taking that up...

Posted by: muuranker (muuranker)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)

How did I miss the Gawain?

I am guessing that is because I am around the age of older Amy, and do not consider myself/women my age to be loathly.

This was, I think, the flavour that I thought was missing.


To my mind, the things that make the loathly lady loathly are not so much age, as things which are more and more common as women age (such as loosing teeth). None of which Amy exhibited. A bit wrinkly, and that was it. She even fell down like a young woman.


Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
shaolin

she even fell down like a young woman.

To be fair, she had to keep quite fit and agile...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)

I was a little nervous of mentioning the comparison to the Gawain story - and as I say, I don't think the older Amy is 'loathly' - I'm closer to her age than that of the younger Amy myself.

I agree with widsidh on the agility issue, though there is also some impatience with the idea that a little latex is enough to depict ageing, which you get across film and television.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)

also, on average, we age more healthily now than we did in Sir Gawain's time, but as a society are also more likely to interpret a few wrinkles as ugliness - which sort of spoils the effects of the former...

Posted by: muuranker (muuranker)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)

I think that my response to this episode is very personal: I don't, personally see wrinkles (or grey hair, come to that) as ugly. I do see toothlessness as ugly. Upon reflection, I don't think of stiffness as ugly. More as 'difficult'.

Perhaps what they say about archaeologists is true: the older one gets, the more interested in you they become. My practical experiments in this field indicate that this is so, but the sample number (as is always the case in archaeology) is far too low to have any significance.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
widsidh

I personaly have no difficulty with most signs of aging; and quite like my established greys and incipient wrinkles.
I was mostly being morose about agism in society (and facetious about agility - but that comes with being aware that I am probably the oldest active member of my martial arts club...). ;-)
I quite liked the way the older Amy's voice sounded different.

Archaeologists, in my experience, seem to only get interested in people after they have died anyway - there'd better be a tooth or two left for isotope analysis, though...

Posted by: aranelcharis (aranelcharis)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 02:12 am (UTC)
England

I got some Alice vibes from the looking glass...

Is Sir Gawain and the Loathly Damsel another name for Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale? Or did Chaucer borrow from that tale? My English 12 class just started The Wife of Bath's Tale on Friday. Coincidence? :)

I get the feeling that waiting is a huge motif in Doctor Who: Amy waits for the Doctor, Rory waits for Amy under Stonehenge, it appears to Amy that Rory has died waiting for her after they're separated (in "The Doctor's Wife")...this time it's Amy that waits for Rory/the Doctor. The first thing I thought of when I saw the "old" Amy was the dead (really old) Rory that Amy saw actually.

Also, I think this is the first time that I've actually been convinced by the Rory/Amy on-screen chemistry. I'm not quite sure why it's taken me this long.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
Northumberland

They are not quite the same story though share the same motif, or so I am told. The earliest extant version of 'The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell' is later than 'The Wife of Bath's Tale', according to Wikipedia anyway.

It's Amy who gets to explain how Rory became beautiful in her eyes, rather than vice versa...

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)

But... it was toe-curling and horrible and kept trying to force emotion out of us like we're a bunch of sponges who'd been injected with saline solution. At excruciating length, even by the standards of recent episodes. And after it conned me into watching it by starting with a proper sci fi premise and no small children, too.

Perhaps I've been sitting next to Ponder too long, but I'm starting to agree with his demands for 'proper science fiction' again.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
MattKarenArthur

Well, I felt the emotion was real and unforced, and the premise intriguing and well-developed. I prefer this sort of thing to almost any story served up as Doctor Who in the 1980s.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)

I want to prefer it too, because I am a proponent of emotional literacy. But we can't have sobbing every week! You have to build up to and thus earn the sobbing! Amy and Rory will be signed off with stress at this rate.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
Eccleston

I think that's the way Amy and Rory might be going...

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: gwydion_writes (gwydion_writes)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)

Great catch on the Gawain! I was wondering about the samurai- like fighting style- lone samurai etc. But one more thing- why does this episode also feel like Amy and Rory had no child? Was this too part of the interchangeable season order?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)

I felt that the two of them were emotionally more mature than they were last week; a decision has clearly been made not to dwell on the loss of Melody, even though I think it should have been brought up in conversation at least once after 'Let's Kill Hitler'.

I'm not really up on far eastern allusions - manga and anime and Japanese cinema have all passed me by, largely - but given that Amy must feel as if she has been cast out of her order, I can see there is a parallel.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
Me

a decision has clearly been made not to dwell on the loss of Melody

I have seen it argued that the whole episode was hinting at the reason: like Older Amy, River's timeline will be erased if they try to find child Melody before the events of The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (if it is even possible to change that timeline).

That said, I think Amy and Rory would be more upset, their childhood with Mels notwithstanding. As I've said many times before, the child-friendly adventure format of Doctor Who often defeats attempts at emotional realism.

Personally, it is increasingly reminding me of season three of Blake's 7, when they were supposed to be looking for Blake, but never mentioned him between about episode three and the final episode of the season. Nor did they mention why they never picked up Jenna.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)

If the timeline erasure problem was conceived in the context of Melody-River, it might have been mentioned in the programme itself; then again, this is television from and for the digital age and implicit connections will no doubt be savoured later if brought out by later episodes.

Blake's 7 season three is a relevant case; there's a line where Blake or Jenna is reported by Zen to have informed the Liberator that their rescue is not a priority, but they are dismissed very quickly.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
Me

It's Jenna in episode two or three. It is never explained why they never went back for her and I can only assume the Federation turned up before the Liberator and she had to run off.

Avon has a line in episode three or four that they could spend the rest of their lives chasing rumours of Blake's presence on different planets, which led me to expect that several episodes would start that way, but nothing more is said of him until Terminal at the end of the season.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 11th, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)

I think Avon's line was intended as a sign to the audience that they should forget about Blake for a while; there has presumably been a search for Blake in the months between 'Power Play' and 'Volcano', but with diminishing enthusiasm and no results.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
Zen

Yes, I know - I watched it first time around (though I was nine and didn't pick up a lot of the points which I can see now) and a few times in the last twenty years. Terry Nation had wanted the third season to be about the search for Blake, as is still hinted by 'Aftermath' and 'Power Play', but David Maloney and Chris Boucher thought that such an arc was too much of a burden given that scripts always fell through.

Posted by: sensiblecat (sensiblecat)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
awkward moment

I'm not familiar with the Gawain story but I did spot that the doubling reached almost Shakespearian levels at times - right through to a certain gender reversal.

It is perhaps inevitable that by this point in S6 we are constantly reminded of past episodes. I'm not sure how much is intentional and how much just happens. But I saw elements of at least three classic RTD finales. First, the Doctor's apparently callous abandonment of Amy Senior is reminiscent of Jack at the end of POTW. Visually, the very white setting had an Army of Ghosts vibe to it. And the doubling of Amy recalled an earlier doubling of the Doctor.

I feel that there's been enough distance from the RTD era now for a certain amount of deconstruction, or at least examination, to be acceptable. And one thing that occurred to me was that everything Eleven does, we've already seen Ten do at certain times, and it was a lot easier to forgive him when he was as attractive as DT. Which is pretty worrying, in a way.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
DoctorQuillDWW

Of course - I'd not thought of Shakespeare, but the parallels work.

David Tennant and Matt Smith play the role of the Doctor in contrasting ways - one might simplify it to say that Tennant inhabited the Doctor, but that the Doctor inhabits Smith. Eleven is much more distant and less knowable than Ten; something which is apparent in 'The Eleventh Hour' is how the Doctor (who has been the only common link between stories since 'The Next Doctor') is distanced from the audience, as he goes off apparently to have adventures without us (and, importantly, Amy) before coming back. It's a comment on the gap between Survival and the TV Movie and then 'Rose', which RTD used to fill in the Time War, but it's much more potent now because so much of the viewing public have been won over to a fan perspective over the past few years, or so Steven Moffat believes.

A lot of commentators have pointed back to the similarities between this story and The Mind Robber, at least in terms of visualisation, though I never thought of the all-white sets as a void, as they were too well-delineated for that.