It’s a common complaint heard from single women; this guy or that guy not being “worth our time.” In “The Girl Who Waited,” Amy shows us that Rory is quite literally worth her time in the most heartwrenching episode of Doctor Who since Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife.”
The Doctor has promised to take Amy and Rory to a beautiful pleasure planet called Apalapucia, and he does, only it ends up being not as pleasurable as they were expecting. Outside the TARDIS door, they find a blindingly white room with a door that has two buttons beside it. The Doctor and Rory press the Green Anchor button, and Amy, who stopped to get her phone, doesn’t go in with them, and pushes the Red Waterfall button instead. Each button leads to a white room with a large glass scope on a center table, and through that scope Amy can see The Doctor and Rory. A creepy, faceless white robot reveals that they are in the Two Streams “Kindness” Facility, a facility that’s been set up to aid victims of the Chen7 virus, a virus that affects two-hearted species, like Apalapucians (and Time Lords). So, Rory and Amy are safe, and as long as The Doctor stays in the white room, he’s safe, too. (But exposing himself to the virus by going out into the facility proper would kill him in 24 hours.) Meanwhile, Amy’s room is in a different timestream that is moving much faster. Different timestreams allow visitors of loved ones with Chen7 to sit with them for their whole lives. Rather than sitting by their bedside watching them die, they can see them in a slower timestream and watch them live.
This is a kindness.
Trapped in a faster timestream, and relying on her husband for rescue, Amy says, “Rory, I love you. Now, save me. Go on.”
That moment of putting complete faith, not in The Doctor, but in the man she loves, is only one of many beautiful moments in “The Girl Who Waited.” Tom MacRae’s script delves into themes of mortality, trust, and life experience that are wonderfully handled in true Doctor Who fashion. While I had some trouble at the beginning with the set-up of the events (why couldn’t they just wait for her to get her phone? Why couldn’t Rory just tell her to press the green button straight away?), the main thrust of the plot was breathtakingly sad and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen.
Amy and Rory’s Marriage
One of my favorite things about current Doctor Who is the focus on Amy and Rory’s wonderful marriage. I feel like The Doctor learns more about love and sacrifice and compassion from these two than he has in his centuries of traveling, and I think he knows it, which is why he keeps them around. To me, “The Girl Who Waited” is about Amy reaffirming her love for, and trust in, Rory, because he has never given her reason to believe that he wouldn’t keep fighting for her, or looking for her. The Doctor, well-intentioned and brilliant though he may be, cannot be relied upon in the same way. It’s her love of Rory that allows her to survive in her loneliness (even going so far as to name her pet robot Rory), and it is her love of Rory that ultimately gives her the strength to choose despite years of solitude and bitterness to give herself the opportunity to regain those lost years with him. As we saw in “Amy’s Choice,” Amy only wants a world with Rory in it, and any existence without him doesn’t matter. For someone as independent and obstinate as Amy to allow herself to be vulnerable enough to admit that is huge, and a sign that Rory is good for her. He allows her to be a more complete, well-rounded person than she would ever be on her own. He makes her stronger.
They make each other stronger, actually. Rory is a mild-mannered nurse, but he becomes a superhero for Amy. He is courageous for her in a way I don’t think he would’ve been for any other woman. Even as he is disturbed by seeing his wife 36 years in the future, he latches onto her because, no matter what, this is the woman he loves. Even if she is now old enough to be his mother. When The Doctor finally tells him that there’s no way that the paradox of two Amys can exist in the TARDIS, Rory can’t stand to hear Older Amy crying outside the TARDIS door, and almost lets her in. While he wanted to save Younger Amy, he also wants to save Older Amy. He can’t bear the thought of either Amy in pain.
Amy and The Doctor
Another thing I love about the dynamic of the current Team TARDIS is that, for the first time, we have companions who don’t defer to The Doctor as a default. Amy recognizes his genius, is his friend, and cares for him deeply, but she is also not afraid to call him on his mistakes, and doesn’t have to leave the TARDIS to prove that other things mean more to her than The Doctor does. Even Donna, who was The Doctor’s best friend for a while, and was never shy about calling him on his crap, always saw The Doctor as better than her and better than anyone she’d ever met. All of his other companions (and yes, I understand that a lot of this had to do with mundane things like casting issues, but I’m sticking to story here!) had to leave the TARDIS in order to more fully pursue their lives. Amy is the first who is apparently capable of having a successful married life even as she travels with the Doctor. (On television, anyway. I’m not even touching the audio dramas.)
I got chills when Older Amy told The Doctor off, spitefully calling him “Raggedy Man” and “The Voice of God,” and suspect that it’s more than just the 36 years of waiting that prompted her bitter tirade. It’s every time he’s kept her waiting. She wanted him to know that Rory has always been a better man than he is, and I find it hugely interesting that The Doctor is playing second-fiddle on his own TARDIS. Even Rory gets into the act, criticizing The Doctor for never consulting a history book for outbreaks of plague, and when The Doctor tells him he doesn’t travel that way, Rory screams “Then I do not want to travel with you!”
When Doctor Who first came back with the Ninth Doctor, he was a dark Doctor scarred by war and haunted by the death of his entire species. The Tenth Doctor was more of a tragic clown, silly and frantic in the midst of his sadness. I’ve always thought that Eleven combines childlike whimsy and ancient wisdom most effectively of all. However, what I’ve been noticing these past two seasons, as everyone seems to be joining together to constantly tell The Doctor how wrong he is, his childlike quality seems to be taking on a new dimension. He’s like a child who genuinely doesn’t understand why he’s being yelled at. He’s like a puppy who gets rapped on the nose with a newspaper having forgotten that he just peed on the carpet. The Eleventh Doctor seems to be at point where he needs constant checks and balances, because the previous Doctor was approaching megalomania (specifically in “The Waters of Mars”) before he started checking himself. Now, this Doctor has checks coming at him from all over the universe; his companions included.
“The Girl Who Waited” also delves into the issues of a woman getting older. Older Amy is in her late 50s, and she’s gone 36 years alone and without her husband. She’s lived a hardscrabble life of survival, apparently having developed greater knowledge of technology and swordfighting while she was at it. While she was lonely, she also learned to take care of herself, and acquired skills that she might have had no reason to acquire had she not been in this situation. So, why would she want to give that up?
It would be easy to see this as Young Amy winning out over Older Amy, especially where Rory is concerned. Older Amy flirts with him, and he reminds her that she’s now old enough to be his mother. Older Amy looks wistfully at the way Rory looks at her younger self, remembering when she was the recipient of those looks. It would be easy to see this as an example of youth and beauty winning out over experience, but I don’t think that’s what this story was about. As I mentioned earlier, when it came down to it, and after the initial, understandable shock, Rory wanted both Amys. When Older Amy brought up the fact of her age, Rory said “It’s not that you got old, it’s that we didn’t get to grow old together.”
This story wasn’t about Amy wishing she were young and pretty again. It was about Amy not wanting to allow her inability to trust people, which has been a part of her since she was young, to deprive her of happiness. Yes, she made her ultimate choice for Rory, but she also made it for herself; to not allow her lack of trust in Rory’s love to deprive her of a happy life. She says, “Tell Amy, your Amy, that I’m giving you my days.” She wants her younger self to know that she is giving herself this chance, so that she doesn’t waste it. Older Amy does have the benefit of experience on her side, and she knows better than anyone else that a life without love and without friends isn’t worth very much.
Again, despite the questionable set-up, Tom MacRae’s script was gorgeous and insightful, giving the cast and crew a lot to work with, both emotionally and physically. Wonderful, too, that it focused on the main three characters without even a guest star (save Imelda Staunton as the voice of The Interface, a hologram Josie Taylor at check-in, and Stephen Bracken-Keogh as the voice of the handbots) to distract us. Team TARDIS was served well by this kind of emotional focus. Nick Hurran’s direction was lovely, as it defly maneuvered between the intimate character moments, like the tissue-worthy scene between Older Amy and Rory at the TARDIS door, and more spectacular moments, like Older Amy’s stunning-looking fight scene with the robots. The entire cast was at the top of their game here. Arthur Darvill was heartbreaking as Rory, and Matt Smith did so much with mere glances.
But I have to save the most praise for Karen Gillan, whose performance in this episode would be worthy of an Emmy Nomination if Doctor Who were eligible for such things. (Is it?) Ah, well. BAFTA it is, then. I was shocked by the weight of the brittle bitterness she brought to Older Amy, yet maintaining the character’s intrinsic warmth and hard-won vulnerability. Her Young Amy was a bit skittish, and her Older Amy more comfortable in her skin, and both Amys met at the places where her personality remains constant, and Gillan’s balancing of all that was amazing to watch.
“The Girl Who Waited” is, by far, the best episode of the second half of Series 6.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9PM ET on BBC America.
Teresa Jusino would tear apart time for Rory, too. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.