Written by 'Men behaving Badly's' Simon Nye, this week's episode sees the Doctor, Amy and Rory trapped in a dual reality conundrum. What is real and what isn't? Amy and Rory will have to face up to their relationship problems to find out.
We jump straight in, it's five years "later", Amy and Rory are back home in oddly idyllic Leadworth. We are greeted by fully preggers Amy doing some baking in her kitchen. Rory, now curiously upgraded to a Doctor (from a Nurse), is on his way home on a bike and is rocking a swanky (
s) ponytail. Arriving at the Cottage he hears Amy scream inside, she thinks she's going into labour, but it turns out to be a false alarm. It's then that they hear the familiar sound of the Tardis' squealing breaks outside, the Doctor has landed in the flower bed.
They walk through the village and awkwardly catch up on interim events. The Doctor is a little shocked by Amy's pregnancy and, since he rarely revisits past companions, Amy can tell he's made a mistake and didn't intend for this little visit. Sitting down on a bench, after a few awkward silences, they listen the bird song and find themselves falling asleep. They wake up immediately and find themselves back on the Tardis, but it's five years previously. They dismiss this as all a dream but quickly work out that they all had the same dream, the bird song then returns and they all pass out again, waking up back in the village. Weird eh! This is going to be a tricky one.. (smirk)
The episode goes on to jump back and forth from Village to Tardis. Each of these realities has it's own death bringing peril the Doctor is tasked with sorting out. The Village turns out to be a bad case of “Day of the Living, Body-Snatching Pensioners” and the Tardis is hurtling towards a “Cold-Sun”. Dead and adrift it's getting pulled towards the unlikely star, all the while getting colder and colder. Along with those tiny problems, the Doctor also has to deal with a Q/Mxyzptlk/Gazoo presence. This presence is continually popping up in both realities. Helpfully he does explain what's going on, but he also won't shut up. This “man”, is orchestrating this whole situation, he calls himself the 'Dream Lord' (Toby Jones). He's seriously angry at the Doctor, knows everything about all three of them and is putting them through this little test, seemingly for amusement.
Throughout, the Dream Lord seems to know precisely how to get under the character's skin and inform them of their shortcomings. He questions the Doctor's fashion sense/quirky-ness, Rory's insecurity/gooseberry-ness and Amy's indecisive attitude to her unlikely relationship with Rory. All of these are comments made by viewers of the shows, so it's nice to know they aren't entirely by accident. By picking at Amy's past choices particularly, he drives her to realise what she really wants from Rory and her relationship with the Doctor.
By the end of the episode, naturally the Doctor solves the problems, they all beat up some elderly people and the 'Dream Lord' disappears, apparently gone for good. But he wasn't exactly what he seemed to be and they leave a little clue that he might not entirely be rid of. Nice.
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. For the first time, the guest writer was able to match (almost) Moffat with the quality of dialogue on offer. It was also an interesting story that was used excellently to advance the characters. Also there has now been some closure on Amy and Rory's problems, which is good because that was on the verge of being drawn out too far. On the subject of Rory, since he actually had been given some thing meaningful to do in this episode, I feel I've actually warmed to the doofus. Put against all of RTD's secondary companions, he's definitely less annoying.
Karen Gillan and Matt Smith put in fine performances again. There's really not much more to say on them, Gillan's comedy choices are great. They spark off each other. Thumbs up. The other thing I liked about the episode was the creative use of “slightly” ridiculous Alien invasion story we've seen time and time again (I was complaining about it just last week). Here it's been given a well needed twist. There are only so many times we can see the Doctor deal an alien that's taken human form because their plant got bulldozed. It's nice the writer of this episode took the time to have a good go at doing something different with it.
Next week it's "The Hungry Earth". Which has something to do with holes in the ground eating people, I think.