Cruelty is a Kindness
[Spoilers ahead] The title of this episode was ironically appropriate for me this week since my TiVo failed to record Doctor Who last night (it clearly has no taste). I had to wait until it appeared on iPlayer, which at least gave me an excuse for watching TV in my pyjamas on a Sunday morning, something I’ve found much harder to justify since I left childhood behind me.
Much like last week’s ‘Night Terrors’, this episode seemed to be completely unconnected to the overarching story of the series, which was fine when it was the Doctor and Donna traveling around at random while a prophecy catches up with them, but Rory and Amy have lost their baby and seemed quite upset about it initially, but now seem to have completely forgotten the existence of Melody Pond. It’s possible that this is because it was intended to slot into the series before the showdown at Demons Run, but had to be shunted later when the decision was made to split the series.
Taken as a stand-alone episode, it worked well and the Doctor was more pro-active than in ‘Night Terrors’, despite being trapped in the TARDIS for most of the episode. The premise was more than a little silly, as the whole episode hinged on Amy pressing the wrong button on a door and subsequently having to enter a quarantine facility for no very good reason. After I’d spent the first five minutes shouting at them all for being stupid enough not to clarify which button everyone meant, though, the main plot got going and I was drawn into the story.
Unfortunately for Amy Pond, the Doctor seems to have a regrettable tendency to always turn up late to collect her, accidentally leaving her alone in quarantine for 36 years. On this note, I have to say that the make-up artist did a great job aging Karen Gillan’s face for the role of the older Amy. Somehow in that time, Amy has acquired an attitude, a samurai sword and made a sonic screwdriver — am I the only one who’s wondering how she worked out how to make one of those? I liked the fact that Rory had to go it alone in the quarantine facility to save his wife, and that he and the Amys do most of the active work in saving her. It left the Doctor as a slightly Machiavellian figure controlling the situation from behind the scenes, which harks back to other darker episodes from previous series and gives this incarnation more of an edge than he’s shown so far, but I felt that both Rory and Amy blame the Doctor too easily for all their problems. Certainly the Doctor is in charge of the TARDIS, for a given value of ‘in charge’, but you can’t expect him to always be perfect in these ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey’ situations. Realistically, if Amy had thought to ask which button to press, she wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place.
Apart from my slight frustration with their whininess, I enjoyed the episode. Amy and Rory were showing a bit more gumption than usual and Rory is really growing as a character, getting more to do and better lines. The interaction between the two Amys was interesting and we got to see a different facet of the Doctor’s character that hasn’t been on display much this season. Much as I like Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor, I think it suddenly became more believable that he is a very old alien.