Rory: We have to grow up eventually…
Amy: Says who?
“Amy’s Choice,” the most recent Doctor Who episode to air in the US, marks a turning point not only in this season, nor in this current series, but in the entirety of Doctor Who. For the first time in Who history (and I’m sure one of you will correct me if I’m wrong), a companion was not punished or sent away for choosing life without The Doctor.
In this episode, we find sci-fi’s favorite threesome—The Doctor, Amy, and Rory—caught between two realities. Someone calling himself the Dream Lord (Nice try, dude, but you look nothing like Morpheus) who seems to know The Doctor has given them two life-threatening dangers, one in the “real world”, the other in a “dream.” Only he’s not telling them which is which. If they die in the dream, they’ll awake in reality. If they die in reality…well, they’re dead.
And, of course, it’s all up to Amy.
Before I continue discussing this episode, I’d just like to acknowledge something I’ve got stuck in my craw (whatever my craw is. *Google-searches*. Throat of a bird. Got it.). As someone who reads comics, loves make-believe, wants to write make-believe stuff for a living, and still manages to maintain relationships, fulfill obligations, have integrity, and treat people with respect, the false choice given to us by stories like Peter Pan really irks me. You know the one. The one where you have to choose between make-believe and growing up. The one that says that you can’t be an adult AND play video games at the same time, and if you do, there’s something wrong with you. The one that says that adventure and fun and dreams and make-believe are all things that even the most enlightened and fun-loving adults are supposed to look back on with fondness and nostalgia. I say, Eff That Noise. And it seems that finally, at long last, Doctor Who is saying that, too!
For years, the show’s fans have watched as companions have “outgrown” the TARDIS. They “realize” that what they “really” want is stability, and either ask to be taken home, or The Doctor, in his “wisdom,” makes the decision for them. Very often, the companions are made to forget their adventures with The Doctor, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of making a choice, doesn’t it? If you don’t have to live with the consequences of what you’re leaving behind? And if it’s The Doctor doing the deciding, that makes it all the worse, and is pretty much mind-rape. What gives him the right to take away someone’s memories, even if it will save their lives, without their consent? Being an adult means having agency, and so all of the companions up until now, to varying degrees, have basically been children. I don’t just mean in comparison to a 900+ year old Doctor, but even by human standards.
Allusions to Peter Pan abound in “Amy’s Choice,” even going so far as to have the Dream Lord say things like “Your friends never see you again once they’ve grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?” And like Peter Pan sulking in his hideout as the Lost Boys are seduced by Wendy’s talk of mothers, The Doctor picks on Rory and Amy for even entertaining the notion of another life, even as he’s trying to save the day.
But then, the characters grow up. Not in a superficial way where they all put on jackets and ties and start going to a 9-5 job, but in the ways that matter most. Rory cuts off the ponytail he loves so much to show Amy how much he cares about her. Unlike other things he’s done to show he cares—fighting monsters off, competing with The Doctor—this gesture wasn’t showy, but it was honest, and powerful, and mature. It was something that Amy alone would understand, and you could tell how much the ponytail meant to Rory in Amy’s reaction to his cutting it off.
The Doctor also did a bit of growing up, which one is always capable of doing even when one is over 900 years old, when he accepted Amy’s choice and handed her the keys to the van. He respected her as an adult in that moment, and in doing so, made himself more respectable. Amy’s growth was, of course, the most obvious and the most powerful, and I have to praise Gillan for another knockout performance in this episode. She brought an understated intensity to “Amy’s Choice,” and when after Rory dies in the dream and Amy says, “Then what is the point of you,” I got a chill.
First the characters grew up, then the show grew up. We know now, of course, that both realities ended up being dreams caused by psychic pollen and, armed with the knowledge of the choices made in both, Amy and Rory were able to make the decision I’ve been waiting for ever since I started watching the show: to have their cake and eat it, too! Their security is in each other, and so as long as they have that they can do anything and go anywhere and lead whatever kind of life they like. Early on, Rory says “We have to grow up sometime…” and Amy replies, “Says who?” Says who, indeed! She and Rory stay together and stay on the TARDIS, and The Doctor doesn’t try to second-guess them, or convince them to go home.
True maturity has nothing to do with lifestyle and everything to do with how we treat each other. It’s about knowing that the universe doesn’t revolve around us. It’s about being brave enough to be honest with each other. It’s about understanding and not always coming in first. It’s about pursuing your own happiness while allowing and encouraging others to pursue theirs. Children are immature, because they have a limited world view. They really do believe their problems and concerns are more important than anything in the world, because they have no concept of a world outside themselves.
The thing is, I’ve met people well over the age of consent who have the same trouble. People in jackets and ties who put on a good show and play the Grown-Up game the way it’s supposed to be played, but aren’t really any more mature for it. I also know people who watch sci-fi television and play Dungeons & Dragons who know how to treat people and how to handle themselves and their responsibilities even as they’re having fun! I’m so glad that Doctor Who has acknowledged that idea, and I hope that Amy and Rory stay on the TARDIS together for a long time, and that their relationship deepens even as they’re helping The Doctor fight monsters.
There was one flaw in the episode. Apparently, the psychic pollen that caused the dream state latched onto The Doctor because of the darkness in him, and so the Dream Lord was him. On second viewing, we can see in the Dream Lord’s vitriol toward him that The Doctor really doesn’t like himself very much. He also, apparently, has “a thing” for redheads. (Did he secretly pine for Donna? In my brain, he did.) The thing is, we’ve already had two Doctors in a row dealing with a “dark side.” Yes, we know. The Doctor has killed entire species, before. The Doctor is very old, and has seen and done lots of dark things. We. Get. It.
“Amy’s Choice” was very definitely putting a positive spin on growing up, and so it felt a bit tacked-on to have all of that growth have been caused by the neuroses of someone older. The convention was well-done, but The Dream Lord could have been an actual being that actually put them through this, and it would’ve been the same episode. Is every Doctor from here on in going to brood all the time? Patrick Troughton never brooded. And he rocked bow-ties, too!
Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to PinkRaygun.com, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on PopMatters.com, on the sadly-defunct literary site CentralBooking.com, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Fall 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.