Tom MacRae, writer of the thoroughly enjoyable ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘Age of Steel’ two-parter from 2006, returns to Doctor Who with a tale of very different robots and parallel worlds.
Only this time it’s parallel time streams. The Doctor and the Ponds have landed on the second most beautiful planet in the universe, Apalapucia, but quickly find themselves separated, leading to the boys mounting a rescue mission.
Matters are made problematic by the fact that there’s a one day plague that will kill The Doctor (The Doctor? Dying in Doctor Who? Surely not… *coughs*), so Rory is left to save his wife with the aid of a nifty Time Glass device and some geek specs to connect with the Time Lord, stuck back in the TARDIS.
Injecting the series with vivacious vibrancy and style is director Nick Hurran. His visual approach is a welcome change, using unusual shots, motion and speed to highlight the tension; not to mention the use of some neat Star Wars-esque wipes.
Star Wars isn’t the only film being evoked here, with the sterility of both Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (complete with creepily friendly computer voices) and the other George Lucas sci-fi flick, THX 1138, getting visual nods. Hurran and Michael Pickwoad’s design crew perform the magnificent task of making simplicity utterly gorgeous yet terrifying at the same time.
Amy, as you will have guessed, is the titular ‘girl’ of the tale and it’s very much her story. Karen Gillan portrays her aged Pond with aplomb, with an excellent make-up job to boot (no easy task in these HD days). Arthur Darvill also chimes in on the thesp front, with Rory given some unique marital challenges to face, as well as his usual amusing antics.
Calling the episode Doctor-lite would be extreme as the Gallifreyan’s presence is felt throughout and he casts quite the shadow. Like Rory, he has some tough choices to make, but Matt Smith brings a sinister edge to his Doctor with some incredibly unpleasant moments. Most chilling.
Unusually for Doctor Who, in recent episodes anyway, there’s a very pleasing science-fiction core to the proceedings. Amy’s dilemma comes from science and her salvation, though slightly rushed through in a Tennant-style explanation, is based purely on the mechanics of the situation.
No doubt, tears will be shed more than once during the episode. There are certainly strong echoes on the weep-o-meter of the Series 2 finale, ‘Doomsday’. ‘Current’ Amy and Rory’s relationship is further examined whilst her older version also goes through the emotional wringer with Mr Williams. After the somewhat emotionless first half of the series (with the exception of ‘The Doctor’s Wife’), it’s refreshing to have two heartfelt stories in a row.
‘The Girl Who Waited’ is both a beautifully told and realised story. Between them, writer MacRae and director Hurran have produced intelligent Doctor Who art; an episode for mind and heart.
Airs at 7.15pm on Saturday 10th September 2011 on BBC One.