Doctor Who: I swear on fish fingers and custard

KT makes her return to Raked.

DOCTOR WHO:  6.01 “The Impossible Astronaut”

Showing up at a party to find your friends looking like the original cat who swallowed the canary is bound to put a damper on things—but that’s where we find the Doctor about 10 minutes into this episode.  And sure enough, this is a much more somber season premiere than we’re used to with this show.  It’s also a much bigger story, and, as part one of two, we don’t begin to understand what’s going on yet

Neither does the Doctor, who is not at all used to being deliberately kept in the dark by his own companions.  His complaint that there’s no one around to watch him being brilliant—because they’re all conferring just out of earshot—is comic, but he’s quite serious about his point blank refusal to trust River.  She hasn’t done anything to warrant it today, but the little he and we know about her is pretty dicey. Amy, though, he’ll trust, especially when she swears on fish fingers and custard.

Little does he know, of course, that his friends are trying to follow clues dropped by his future self, who in turn was being more distant and secretive than usual.  He seems to have gathered the three companions and his former self by means of TARDIS-colored invitations, and seems to have the moon landing in  1969 on his mind.

We don’t go straight to the moon, though—if you’re in a story about secrets and trust and time-travel, where else would you go but the Oval Office under Richard Nixon?  Happily, we get a rather more plausible Nixon than the Churchill we got last season.  We also get an ex-FBI man played by the fabulous Mark Sheppard of Firefly and BSG.  (To me, there’s something slightly surreal about hearing his—I believe—real American accent in the midst of British actors when I expect him to sound like Badger, but I’m well aware that this is all in my head.)

The appearance of four people with British accents in the middle of the Oval Office causes plenty of amusing confusion designed to distract us from the fact that we still don’t know what’s going on.  I think one of the more daring aspects of the episode as a whole is that by the end of part one, we don’t yet have any solid idea of what the goal of the story is.  There’s no set destination or group of people who need to be saved (discounting the mysterious girl on the telephone) or crisis that must be averted.  Really, we’re left hanging onto a handful of plot threads, and I can’t begin to tell you where I expect them to end up.

  • There’s that mysterious little girl—assuming she is a little girl—in the astronaut suit who calls Nixon for help in 1969 and later wades out of the water to raygun the Doctor in 2011.
  • There are the Roswell-esque aliens that make you forget them as soon as you look away—or blow you up if you’re too persistent.
  • There’s Amy’s announcement that she’s pregnant.  And if a baby puts a damper on your average sitcom, I can’t imagine ever introducing a baby into a run-for-your-lives show like this.  Will this be the first kid raised in the TARDIS—the first kid stuck in day care while his parents run around with the Doctor?  Or, more likely, is this an early warning that Amy and Rory—the first companions since Rose to get a second season—will be leaving the TARDIS before long?
  • And of course there’s the general puzzle of the Doctor’s death.  Did he really gather his friends together knowing he was going to die? Is there a trick here somewhere, or are we going to have to undo that?  Given that this would keep the show from re-casting the role through regeneration, I can’t believe that this timeline will stick.  Either there’s a trick, or Amy is going to win the “time can be re-written” argument she’s having with River.  It may take us the rest of the season, or at least the rest of the half-season we’re getting this spring* to sort this out.

* Change in the usual schedule: as I understand it, we’re getting seven episodes in the spring and the other six next fall.

Doctor Who: Halfway out of the dark

KT is here with an entry of the better-late-than-never variety.

DOCTOR WHO:  Christmas special 2010, “A Christmas Carol”

We had an open thread just a few weeks ago about all the shows that have made an episode based on Dicken’s Christmas classic, and here’s another one to add to the list.  Neither the title nor the episode try to hide the fact, and it actually turns out to be perhaps the best Christmas special the show has made to date. *

The adventure takes place on a very steampunk sort of planet when one grumpy old rich man (Michael Gambon, much better here than as Dumbledore) must be persuaded to go out of his way to use his fabulous sky-controlling machine to enable a crashing spaceship to land properly.  The spaceship is a cruise liner sort of ship — and the passenger list happens to include Amy and Rory, who as you’ll remember are on their honeymoon.  The Doctor can’t get onto the ship to help, but he can get to grumpy Kazran Sardick — a name clearly designed to have the same effect as Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Better than that, though, he can get to Kazran Sardick at any age he wants, because naturally a time traveller is the ultimate Ghost of Christmas Past.  Rather than merely reminding Sardick of his past, he actively changes it, and that’s where things get fun.

There are two world-building elements that really help to make this episode special.  One is that fish swim in the clouds — and when it’s foggy, sometimes they come down, too.  Some of them are just little fish that are drawn to street lamps, but where there are little fish, there are always bigger fish too – and sharks.  But if you’re very clever, you can harness that shark and make it pull your carriage across the sky.

The second is the apparently normal practice of keeping people cryogenically frozen as collateral for their families’ loans.  It’s a creepy idea, and we don’t delve too deeply into the moral or psychological implications, but it is where we find our love-interest, Abigail.  Her family may be poor, but she has the rich, golden voice of classical singer Katherine Jenkins.

Part of what I like about the episode is how carefully it’s balanced.  There’s imminent screaming danger, but there’s also cold grimness, and both are countered by the silly joyfulness of the Doctor’s wild Christmas Eve adventures with young Kazran and Abigail — which in turn eventually sours when Kazran figures out that Abigail’s time is running out, one Christmas Eve at a time.  Just as the emotion seems about to go over the top in any direction, we begin to move into a different mood.

A holographic Amy enters briefly as the Ghost of Christmas Present and shows Sardick all the people on the cruise ship who will die unless he acts — and to push the point home, their holographs show up inside the cryogenic freezer. They’re singing, too, oblivious to the danger.

Sardick persists in his crossness, upset that the Doctor has changed his past and unwilling to make any effort for the crashing ship.  This doesn’t seem like a man who will be perturbed by his own lonely grave or by people rejoicing over his death — until the Doctor reveals that he isn’t showing any Christmas Futures to the old Sardick.  He’s brought little boy Sardick to meet his future self, which finally brings the miser to realize how close he’s come to becoming the father he always hated and feared.  It’s the perfect last twist:  it solves the problem and it provides the right amount of original cleverness into the Dickensian framework.

And from there, everything pretty well sorts itself out.  We figure out how to make the ship land, we get some snow for Christmas, and Sardick and Abigail get their last ride in a shark-drawn carriage at long last.  It’s ridiculously silly, and I loved it.  A
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2010 Awards, Part 2

Alright. So you saw the first set, now let’s move on to more! More awards and more reader picks. Once again, if the award has an asterisk, it’s a Reader Pick, with or without my explanation. If they added one, it’s there! If they didn’t, well, that just leaves me to give a reason <malicious laugh>.

So here we go!

The 2010 Awards!
Part 2

Best Guy in a Suit: Neal Caffrey, White Collar. Step aside, Barney. There’s someone else suiting up now, and damn, he looks good.

Best Woman in Heels: Maura Isles, Rizzoli & Isles. This woman sure gets a lot done in four-inch heels and a pressed dress, even when dealing with dead bodies.

* Most Wasted Potential: Glee. It’s true. For a show with a huge fanbase and mad props for creating a new TV genre, they lost their way by focusing on huge guest stars and a big production instead of a cohesive storyline.

Least Necessary Procedural: Law & Order: CSI edition. Oh, is that not a real show? I thought it was. It’s on every night for two hours at least, right? And it airs on every network? Wait, these aren’t all the same show?

Most Ridiculous Premise for a Procedural: Castle. Ok, I know you fans out there must like it, but the idea that a successful novelist gets to spend his time on all these huge cases as a partner of a detective is rather incredible.

Worst Show We’re All Watching: The Office. Where did the funny go? It’s run its course, but we all still watch it. And most of us don’t know why.

Didn’t I Used to Be an Important Character? Award: Alaric, The Vampire Diaries. Well, it’s true, right? Now he’s arm candy, and occasionally says something smart from a book.

Best Vampire Teeth: The Vampire Diaries. With the eyes and the subtle teeth, yes, the vamps in TVD certainly get the prize.

Worst Vampire Teeth: True Blood. I haven’t tried to watch this series, solely because these teeth are so bad and look so fake. Plus, I hear they make a sound when they come out.

Read more after the jump! Continue reading

Doctor Who: Come along, Ponds

KT thinks that fezzes are pretty cool.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.13 “The Big Bang”

Naturally, there’s no way this show would pick up directly from last week’s cliffhanger; instead we go back to another character I didn’t expect to see again:  seven-year-old Amelia Pond.  But this time she’s with her aunt and a therapist, who are troubled because Amelia keeps painting a night sky with stars, when everybody knows that stars don’t exist.

That’s not all that’s changed, as a trip to the museum tells us.  We see what seem to be fossilized Daleks (although if you think they won’t be shooting people within fifteen minutes, um, where have you been?).  I was also amused by an Egyptian figure who seems to be standing in a snowdrift, but Amelia is following notes that lead her to the Pandorica — clearly a prized exhibit.  She’s far braver than I would be, and hides behind the stuffed Nile penguins until the museum closes.  Putting her hand on the Pandorica makes it glow and start to open — but surprise!  It isn’t the Doctor.  It’s Amy.

From here on out, the episode gets timey-wimey in the extreme.  (You know, I kind of cringed at “timey-wimey” the first time I saw “Blink,” but it’s ridiculously useful for this show.)  Most of it’s because the Doctor has his hands on River’s vortex manipulator, at least until the Great Big Confusing Reset at the end.

At least at first, it’s great stuff.  I really enjoyed watching the puzzle come together:  Middle-of-the-Episode Doctor comes to help Rory open the Pandorica and swap the Doctor for Amy.  The Doctor is then able to jump forward to the museum to meet up with Amy and Amelia.  (Awfully convenient now that Amy decided to shorten her name!)  Rory prefers to take the long way in order to guard Amy through history (in the process creating a sweet little legend about the centurion who watches over the Pandorica), and shows up at an opportune moment as a museum security guard.  By this point, we’re running from that Dalek, of course.

Rory points out that we’ve now reached Middle-of-the-Episode Doctor, so now we see the earlier scenes from this point of view, and while we’re at it, we see the Doctor set up the clues Amelia followed earlier in the day.  Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, indeed.  But to up the stakes, Later-in-the-Episode Doctor appears, whispers something into the Doctor’s ear and apparently dies.  (Whut.)

Amy and Rory are pretty distressed too, but the Doctor distracts them by pointing out Amelia’s disappearance.  Plotwise, it’s a convenient way to get the child out of harm’s way now that she’s played her part, though the story explanation has to do with the way that time and the universe are now shrinking down to nothing, apparently caused by the TARDIS explosion that Van Gogh painted last week.  Handily, the explosion turns out to be right in front of them:  since all the stars have gone out, what’s this thing burning in the sky?  The TARDIS, with River trapped inside in a ten-second time loop that the Doctor tidily pops into and pulls her out of.  (Say, that vortex manipulator’s a lot more precise than the TARDIS often is, isn’t it?)  So now at least the gang’s all back together.

[After the jump:
the episode takes a left turn.]

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Doctor Who: A goblin or a trickster or a warrior

KT graffitied the oldest cliff face in the universe because you wouldn’t answer your phone.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.12 “The Pandorica Opens”

Welcome to part one of the season finale!  Catch your breath now, because we’re about to do a lot of running.  I’ll try to catch my breath now too, because I think I’m going to do a lot of talking about this one.

We open with another humdinger of an opening sequence, revisiting a host of people I didn’t expect to see again.  Vincent Van Gogh moans in bed over a troubling painting he’s just completed.  In the 1941, the picture is discovered in a French attic and gets sent to Churchill, who recognizes it as a message for the Doctor and attempts to phone him – but instead the call goes to River Song, sitting in prison in 5145.  She tracks down the painting in her time, running into Liz Ten in the process, then bargains for a vortex manipulator (procured off a Time Agent, naturally, though not Jack) so she can leave another “Hello, sweetie” for the Doctor.

Amy and the Doctor find River dressed up as Cleopatra, sitting in the middle of a Roman Army camp in first century Britain.  It’s all wild and clever and very funny, except for the painting itself.  It shows the TARDIS exploding, and that’s pretty worrisome – companions can die, the Doctor can regenerate, but there’s really no show without the TARDIS.  (Of course, since there’s no show without it, there’s really no reason to worry, but let’s not get that cynical so soon.)

Regardless, the story quickly shifts focus to the Pandorica that River mentioned back at the end of the Weeping Angel adventure.  Despite the Doctor’s insistence that it’s a fairy tale, they find it in a barrow under Stonehenge:  a massive stone box with runes carved into it.

The writing here is very clever as River and the Doctor explain the Pandorica legend to Amy.  The Doctor describes the feared being inside the box as a “goblin or a trickster or a warrior” that “would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.”  It was tricked into the Pandorica by a good wizard, he says, and then River has a line designed to throw us off:  “I hate good wizards in fairy tales,” she says, “they always turn out to be him.”  But don’t pay too much attention to her:  listen to the Doctor and check out the self-portrait he just painted.

Before you can put too much thought into that, though, our characters realize that they aren’t the only ones who have learned that the Pandorica is opening.  Starting with Daleks, River reels off an impressive list of Who villains that are suddenly waiting in orbit.  But the Doctor realizes the one resource at his fingertips:  the local Roman legion.  That one tripped my “oh, please” meters a little — not that the Romans weren’t an impressive military force, merely that their technology is so ridiculously outclassed by all these aliens with various kinds of ray guns.  But off we go to round up some Romans all the same — and to be fair, the next scene more than mollified my skepticism because it’s a very cool conversation between River and the Roman commander about how barbarians might view more advanced invaders.

[Meanwhile, after the jump…] Continue reading

Doctor Who: Have some rent.

KT likes the occasional evening of pizza, booze, telly.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.11 “The Lodger”

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Doctor isn’t actually human.  This is not one of those episodes.

When the TARDIS starts acting up, the Doctor is stranded in present-day Britain with only his wits and his sonic screwdriver.  Comedy ensues in a story that would easily be wish-fulfillment for the Who fans who’d love for the Doctor to show up on our doorsteps.

This specific doorstep, however, belongs to Craig, an average bloke with an office job, a roommate, and a crush on the pretty girl at work.  Only, his last roommate has moved out, and when he advertises, the Doctor shows up promptly with a paper bag full of rent money.

Fortunately for the Doctor, he does have a little earpiece that lets him talk to Amy:  he coaches her on the TARDIS controls and she coaches him on acting like a normal guy.  He does try, too — he plays football (the World Cup kind, naturally) with Craig and his friends, and he impresses Craig with his cooking.  But as you’d expect, the Doctor trips over all manner of euphemisms and social cues.   Sometimes it gets a little cringe-inducing, but mostly the hilarity continues to ensue. And while it’s a different Doctor and a different flatmate, the some parts of the episode feel a little like getting a glimpse of that period during “Blink” when the Doctor and Martha were marooned in 1968 for a few months.

Meanwhile, the second floor apartment above Craig’s place is attracting a lot of attention from people who are overly willing to help a stranger and insufficiently cautious of their own safety.  If this were CSI, we’d discover a serial killer, but this is Doctor Who, so we actually find a disabled spaceship disguising itself as the upstairs apartment looking for a suitable pilot.  The moment that Amy announces she’s found plans showing that Craig’s is a one-story building is a well-delivered reveal, and one I definitely didn’t see coming.

The aspect of the mysterious second floor that I wasn’t satisfied with was the dark spot on Craig’s ceiling that kept growing and growing.  We eventually learned that it was caused by people burning up upstairs because they couldn’t pilot the spaceship.  In which case, that’s a real chemical reaction of some kind, right?  And even if the second story is an illusion, the spot wouldn’t be, right?  So why does it disappear?  It’s hardly an important point, and I’m sure a spot of technobabble would clear it right up, but I’m a fan of solutions that require a minimum of that sort of hand-waving.

Anyway, that’s my biggest quibble with the episode, which in general was a good one.  Lots of funny, quotable lines, and a good performance out of Matt Smith.  Amy doesn’t get a lot to do, being stuck in the TARDIS, but she gets more screen time here than she did in “The Hungry Earth,” at least.

These thirteen-episode seasons fly by so quickly — I’m always amazed that the end is here so soon.  Next weekend is part one of the big finale, so grab the popcorn and make sure there’s room to dive behind the sofa if things get too scary!

Doctor Who: Adding to the pile of good things

KT finds that there is, surprisingly, always hope.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.10 “Vincent and the Doctor”

This week, we find Amy and the Doctor in a museum again, but this time it’s a Paris art museum and it seems to be at Amy’s request.  “Why are you being so nice?” she asks suspiciously.  Oh, Amy.  We remember and clearly the Doctor does too — even if she doesn’t.

A strange face in a window in “The Church at Auvers” sends them looking for Vincent Van Gogh in 1890.  When they find him, he turns out to be the least popular man in town and even Vincent himself is skeptical when they claim to be interested in his work.

He quickly takes to Amy when she offers to share a bottle of wine, and they bond over red hair and a shared accent. (To our ears, they’re both Scottish, but since we’re pretending that they’re all speaking French, Vincent clues us in:  to the locals, both of their accents suggest Holland.)  Vincent isn’t a flirty character, but he and Amy share a deep mutual appreciation through the whole episode that is very touching.

When the monster turns out to be invisible to everyone but Vincent, the Doctor runs off to dig a handy device out of the TARDIS — a thing that straps to his chest with a rearview mirror attached that’s supposed to identify things.  Fortunately, it can pick up the invisible monster.

We do chase the monster around a bit, culminating in a fight at the church, but the episode really is about Vincent.  By the time we understand the monster, it tuns out to be — in some ways — a reflection of Vincent, and maybe of the Doctor and Amy as well.  Everyone’s alone and a bit desperate, they just don’t all show it in the same way.  Amy doesn’t even remember why she might feel abandoned and is surprised when Vincent points out a tear on her cheek.

Overall, the episode is a character piece — more so even than most “meet a famous person from history” episodes.  Tony Curan’s Vincent is emotionally fragile at times, but also thrills his new friends with the way he talks about color and light. There are a lot of quiet moments, but I think the only one getting bored is the Doctor, who starts to reminisce about other artists he’s met (the Picasso bit cracked me up) and fret about having to let time pass in the proper order.  To the rest of us, the effect is lovely:  there’s a scene in which Amy surprises Vincent with a gardenful of sunflowers, and another in which the night sky turns into “Starry Night” as Vincent describes the way he sees it.

[After the jump: the ending sequence.] Continue reading

Doctor Who: Sharing the planet

KT is all kinds of curious about the end of the season.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.09 “Cold Blood”

When they put the clip of Amy and Rory seeing their future selves waving at them into the previouslies, I figured that we’d find out those are actually Amy and Rory from part two waving at Amy and Rory from part one. I was way wrong — there’s something more ambitious going on here.  But that comes later.

The episode opens with some enigmatic narration about remembering the history of a thousand years ago, which won’t make sense until later, too, and kind of reminds me of the narration for “The End of Time” — never a good association.  Happily, we quickly flip to the Doctor and Nasreen, who have made it to the front door of the reptiles’ underground city and are quickly captured.  Meanwhile, Amy and Mo, who were captured, manage to get away and find Elliot as well.

On the surface, worry continues to bring out the worst in Ambrose, even as leadership is bringing out the best in Rory we’ve seen to date.  Tony’s poisoned shoulder is looking pretty bad, and Alaya prefers to gloat rather than bargain with him.

It quickly becomes clear that the Silurian leaders have some pretty major philosophical differences.  The military leader, Restac, is cut from the same cloth as Alaya, while the scientist and the political leader prove willing to aid, protect, and negotiate with the humans.  The characterizations aren’t terribly nuanced — once we figure out which Silurians are friends and which are enemies, there’s really no middle ground.

That doesn’t mean that friends don’t disagree, though.  There’s a lovely bit of calm in the middle in which it really seems almost possible that Nasreen, Amy, and Eldane might hit on a way to share the planet between the two species.  That bubble pops when the surface folks come down with Alaya’s body.

It’s hard to decide exactly what to think of Ambrose.  She doesn’t act out of malice, precisely, but when her attempt to bargain with Alaya fails, she reacts very badly — although Alaya firsts throws herself on Ambrose’s taser, Ambrose doesn’t hesitate to follow it up with a second hit and maybe a third.  Later, when she admits that she was the responsible party, you’d think it might be a good opportunity to apologize, but instead she’s defensive and even threatening.  Although the audience is pretty tired of her whining and foolish choices, the narrative is merciful towards her in the end — I think more for Elliot’s benefit than her own.

Like Ambrose, Restac is in no way ready for interspecies cooperation, and she calls out her troops, setting off the final countdown portion of the episode.  This week the sonic screwdriver can shock the Silurian guns, making the soldiers drop them, which is random, but handy.  Eventually it’s decided that the Silurians will hibernate for another thousand years, Tony will stay so that the poison can be cured, and Nasreen will stay with him.  Elliot and his parents make it to the TARDIS and then we have a scene that feels like it doesn’t quite belong here.  The countdown seems to pause at about four minutes until disaster when Amy, Rory, and the Doctor spot the mysterious crack again.

Everyone else seems to know something about this crack that he doesn’t, the Doctor points out, and this time the crack is big enough to pull shrapnel out of.  But then, here’s the dying Restac, and here’s Rory, dumb enough and brave enough to take this shot for the Doctor.  And there’s the light from the crack, the time energy that pulls a person out of history entirely.  And despite her frenzy, despite the Doctor’s coaxing, despite a gorgeous, horrible, waterworks-inducing scene in the TARDIS, a jolt breaks Amy’s concentration, wiping out all memory of Rory.  Whoa.

Moffat, I didn’t know we were playing for keeps.  I’m impressed.  But will we see him again in the finale, somehow?

Then Elliot and his parents appear and we’re suddenly back in this episode.  The Doctor has a quiet scene with Ambrose that manages to justify her survial, and we see future Amy waving from the opposite hillside — alone this time.  But most chillingly, we get a look at that shrapnel the Doctor pulled from the crack:  it’s a piece of the TARDIS.


Doctor Who: Lizards and apes

KT knows apes better than you know yourselves.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.08 “The Hungry Earth”

I have to admit, I didn’t realize this was a two-parter until the end.  Suppose I should have, considering the pacing, but maybe I’m getting too used to the sudden, panicky, clock-ticking conclusions of some New Who stories.

As it was, the pacing was really a bit saggy in the middle, wasn’t it?  All of the fiddling with surveillance equipment turned out to be completely useless, which makes me wish that section of the episode could have been put to some more interesting use – especially since the Doctor’s plan as he explained it to Elliot was already more implausible than usual.  You’re going to sonic the bad guys through the security cameras?  Seriously? I give this show a lot of leeway with implausible, but that was too much, even for the increasingly all-powerful sonic screwdriver.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  This week we find ourselves in Wales, as we do periodically in New Who, since that’s where the show is filmed.  And if you’re going to be in Wales, it makes good sense to do a story about mining.  Conveniently, it’s a very small, scientifically oriented drilling operation where we can meet everyone involved in a few scenes. The character who shows the most promise is Nasreen Chaudhry, who describes the drilling project as her life’s work and has a Sherlockian willingness to go along with the Doctor’s improbable version of events.  The others are a family group: mom, dad, grandpa, little boy.

There have been more kids this season than we’ve seen in New Who — I talked about this with a friend recently, and except for the abyssmal “Fear Her” and the prop-like kids in “The Next Doctor,” all the child characters we could think of come from Moffat-penned episodes.  (I wonder if we’re building a theme here.)  Moffat wasn’t the main writer on this one, though, and Chris Chibnall doesn’t manage to make Elliot as real and kid-like as Moffat has in his episodes.  Elliot’s sweet, but he’s precocious in a very TV kid kind of way.  I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that because he’s so very sweet and precocious — and because I don’t think this is a show that can kill off child characters — I think the Elliot’s safe, and I think his parents probably are, too (even though the mom hasn’t been made very likable).  Play along next week and see if I’m right.

Metaphorically speaking, Rory and Amy are still on shaky ground, it seems, which is a little bothersome after last week’s conclusion that Amy really is very much in love with Rory.  Why are they so surprised to see that they’re still together in ten years?  Speaking of shaky ground, though, Amy promptly gets pulled down through some very literal shaky ground.  While she’s out of the picture, Rory gets some time to shine, and he really does pretty well, which is fun.

After the saggy middle, the episode picks up a bit once the Doctor and company manage to trap one of the reptilian Silurians, whose underground refuge has been disturbed by the drill.  Alaya’s make-up is great and so is the conflict she presents.  Entirely hostile, she makes it quite clear that she considers her death a willing sacrifice for the good of her people, while the Doctor gathers the remaining humans and tries to impress upon them her individuality and personhood and inherent right to exist.  Leaving her in the hands of Rory, Mo, and Ambrose, he exhorts them to be their best selves.

The Doctor always does want to believe the best of humanity, but Alaya’s here to be a foil for him.  “One of you will kill me,” she says — which might make part two tense and mysterious.  I think Alaya is probably right, and I’m fairly positive about who it will be… but what do you think?

Doctor Who: Your brain is completely see-through.

Hey, guys.  Just realized that this episode didn’t actually air here in the U.S. this weekend, so we’re a week ahead with this one.  Oops!

KT is ready to start looking like a Peruvian folk band.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.07 “Amy’s Choice”

Ahh, hear the birdsong?  How charming and peaceful.

This is another episode where I really like the way the beginning is set up.  We’re dropped into what seems to be the quiet, settled-down future of Rory and Amy and witness their charming reunion with the Doctor — which swiftly goes a bit sour as tensions begin to surface.  But before that can start to get messy, we’re suddenly back in the TARDIS, in the present, and everyone remembers the previous scene as a shared dream.  From some perspectives, a nightmare.

Although peril is quickly served up in two different flavors, it’s really just a means to an end.  As the title suggests, the real point of the episode is trying to figure out where Amy’s true feelings lie.  Given the choice, does she want Rory and the kind of quiet life he hopes for, or is she more interested in adventuring with the Doctor?

On one level, the answer’s pretty obvious, given her actions this season, and she doesn’t say much to contradict it.  As soon as the Doctor shows up in Leadworth, her dissatisfaction with the sleepy town starts to rise to the surface.  She questions at least once why she would have given up TARDIS adventures for boredom in Leadworth.   Perhaps the one time she defends her settled-down life is her faked labor, and even that (“This is my life now and it just turned you white as a sheet, so don’t you call it dull again.  Ever.”) is hardly a ringing endorsement.  It’s a great moment, though.

But how she feels about Rory and how she reacts to him is less cut and dried.  Although her reassurances of her attachment to him aren’t always convincing, she does make them, and she never suggests that she’d rather he weren’t around.  He takes her sudden galactic wanderlust very personally, but I don’t think she means it that way.

This week’s sudden mayhem turns out to be the work of an apparition calling himself the Dream Lord, who is none other than a representation of the Doctor’s dark side.  There’s a lot of self loathing going on here (which, after living the way he’s done for close to a millenium, is not hard to imagine), and a lot of hard truths.  True, the Doctor rarely returns to past companions except by mistake; instead he makes newer, younger friends.  True, there’s nobody to whom he really tells everything, no matter how strongly his companions may feel to the contrary.  The Dream Lord even pokes fun at the Doctor’s much-flaunted intellect.  At the end, Amy is ready to push aside all of the nasty things the Dream Lord said about the Doctor, but he knows — and so do we — that every bit of it was true.  But despite that, the Dream Lord’s ultimate goal — pushing Amy to sort out her feelings — is not something only the dark side wants.  It’s why the Doctor popped out of that paper cake to get to Rory, after all.

In the end, Amy’s actually allowed to have her cake and eat it, too:  Rory’s alive, they’re still in the TARDIS, and the status quo has been generally maintained — except that Rory and Amy’s relationship has been genuinely strengthened.  Maybe the Doctor’s dark side is better at couple’s counseling than his conscious self.