So here’s your challenge: two worlds. Here in the time machine. And there in the village that time forgot. One is real, the other’s…fake. And to just make it more interesting, you’re going to face a deadly danger, but only one of the dangers is real. Tweet tweet, time to sleep. Oh. Or are you waking up?
The Dream Lord
Five years after Amy and Rory stopped travelling with the Doctor, they are living in Upper Leadworth. Amy is pregnant, Rory is a doctor and everything seems idyllic. Until the Doctor shows up by accident, leading to Amy to question whether she is really living in Leadworth with Rory or whether they are actually still travelling in the TARDIS with the Doctor.
Amy’s Choice is, in my opinion, one of the highest points of one of the strongest series of Doctor Who. It has some great performances by the three leads and the villain of the week and plays around with the idea of shared dreams quite nicely. It also ties into the fairytale style feeling of this series, with the Doctor feeling like Peter Pan trying to tempt Amy away from his perceptions of domesticity and the associated mundanity. It is surely no accident that Amy left Leadworth at the end of The Eleventh Hour in her nightie, an obvious parallel with Wendy Darling in J.M Barrie’s novel. This story also largely removes the Doctor-Companion romantic angle that had been prevalent since the show’s revival – especially with early companions Rose and Martha.
Look around you. Examine everything. Look for all the details that don’t ring true.
Okay, well, we’re in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside.
With a bowtie-wearing idiot.
So maybe “what rings true” isn’t so simple.
The Doctor, Rory Williams and Amy Pond
This is the first and, to date, only story written by Simon Nye, best known for being the creative force behind the sitcom Men Behaving Badly, but anyone afraid of a sitcom episode will surely have had their fears allayed within the opening minutes. This story opens with an intriguing premise and has two of the leads utterly convinced that one of the scenarios is reality. Nye’s script crackles with some great dialogue delivered with supreme gusto by the cast, highlighted especially well when the Doctor and Rory are bickering about which of the realities is real. There is quite a lot of bickering in this story, but all of it seems believable, especially between Amy and Rory. The dream in Upper Leadworth shows a reality in which Rory has got exactly what he wants, even if Amy isn’t convinced by settling down early. In many ways, this is an important story for them. The conclusion of the episode shows that, if there’s a universe where Rory stops existing, Amy doesn’t want to be a part of it. This sows the seeds of what is to come in this series and also links forward in time to their eventual departure from the TARDIS. Amy does make her choice and that choice is Rory. With other Doctors, this might have been mocked or been subject to angst and jealousy, but the Eleventh Doctor seems genuinely pleased that Amy has made this choice – after all, that’s what he wanted to happen after that scene at the end of Flesh and Stone.
The weakest part of the episode is undoubtedly the Eknodines, although this could be seen to be highlighting the weirdness of dreams. There is something somehow amusing and sinister seeing old people inhabited by aliens shuffling after the cast, almost like a zombie movie. Equally, the image of them tearing up items from Amy and Rory’s front garden in order to break into the house is darkly comic. On the other hand, the star burning cold, whilst an impossibility, is a rather nicer idea and in the context of a science fiction show, possibly more plausible. The reveal that both of these “realities” are dreams is really well executed.
The science is all wrong here. Burning ice?
No, no, no. Ice can burn. Sofas can read. It’s a big universe.
Amy Pond and The Doctor
I’ll make no secret of the fact that I really like Toby Jones as an actor, and he is great here too. Jones has the ability to raise the bar and plays off really nicely against Matt Smith. Whilst Smith’s Doctor is almost immediately affable, the Dream Lord comes across immediately as sneering and evil and the scenes between the two are spiky and great. I spoke earlier about the strength of the dialogue and Jones gets his fair share of decent lines. He is particularly sinister in his scene with Amy alone in the TARDIS and the scene by the castle after the Eknodines reveal themselves. The reveal that this is a manifestation of the darker sides of the Doctor is again something that isn’t surprising but works effectively. As the story concludes, we are treated to a final glimpse of the Dream Lord, a reminder that, despite his external appearances, there is a lot of darkness in the Time Lord.
Verdict: Simon Nye gives us a good story, focusing on the companion’s decision making and Arthur Darvill’s performance is particularly strong. 9/10
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Toby Jones (Dream Lord), Nick Hobbs (Mr Nainby), Joan Linder (Mrs Hamill) & Audrey Ardington (Mrs Poggitt)
Writer: Simon Nye
Director: Catherine Morshead
Behind the Scenes
- The only story in the series not to allude to the Silence or the Cracks, and therefore the only story not to be referenced in the finale. It does, however, link to some elements of the Series 6 arc.
- Nick Hobbs previously appeared in The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon and The Claws of Axos, and operated the Wirrn prop in The Ark in Space.
- Toby Jones would go on to portray Straxus in the Big Finish audio box set Dark Eyes.
The scene with the Doctor and the Dream Lord in the Butcher’s shop.
Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
You die, stupid, that’s why it’s called reality.
The Dream Lord and Rory Williams