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The One Episode I Don’t Like

The One Doctor Who Episode I Don't Like Watching: 8/29/15

I’ve watched every episode of Doctor Who, classic and new. I’m admittedly more of a fan of New Who than Classic Who. I’ve watched every episode from the classic era (1963-89, 96) a half dozen times, but I’ve watched the new series more times than I’d prefer to admit. It’s basically always on whenever I’m home. Of all the 716 episodes (obviously I haven’t seen the 97 missing episodes from the early 60’s), there is only one episode that I’m tempted to skip past (though I never do): The Girl Who Waited.

I bring this up because the BBC America is airing the #DoctorsFinest tonight. For the last several Saturday nights, the network has been airing the most popular Doctor Who episodes as a way of gearing up for the premier of Series 9 on Sept, 19. As I write, they’re airing ‘The Girl Who Waited.’ To be honest, I was a little shocked that this was considered one of the Doctor’s Finest. But then again, I’m not a terribly social creature, as you’ll find out in a bit, and I don’t exactly keep a finger on the pulse of Whovian likes & dislikes. To me, the primary tension of the episode makes no sense, and it drives me crazy. No matter how many times I watch it, I can’t get behind Amy’s angry refusal to help herself.

This is the 10th episode from Series 6. The plot goes like this: The Doctor, Amy and Rory have traveled to Apalapucia. The Doctor and Rory are separated from Amy when she mistakenly enters an accelerated time stream. The planet has been infected by a plague that affects two-hearted species, so the Doctor stay in the Tardis while Rory tries to find Amy. Eventually, he finds her when she saves him from a robot designed to inject him with ‘a kindness.’ She removes her mask to reveal that she is old. Amy has been alone for 36 years. Up to this point, I have no qualms with the story. It’s the tension in the rising action part of the plot that kills the story for me - Amy refuses to help Rory and the Doctor save the earlier version of herself. She’s angry because she spent 36 years alone. She’s angry because she’s been in hell. But she won’t help younger self be saved because it will rewrite her timeline. She will not have existed. Her 36 lonely years in hell would be erased and the younger Amy would get to live the rest of her life with Rory.

I understand her anger. But the contradiction of her current circumstances with her refusal to help don’t add up. I understand the hell of loneliness. Eight years ago, I met the love of my life. She had three kids and soon I became a step-father. But six years ago, I filed for divorce. This led me into the shadows of social anxiety. I went to grad school in San Diego hoping to make new friends. In the three years I was there, I hung out with other people, outside of the classroom, twice - Ryan Forsythe and Erica Johnson. This was largely my fault. My social anxieties had grown to the point where I struggled to interact with anyone unless they interacted with me. It was as though I’d forgotten how to make friends, how to socialize. The whole thing was beyond me. Even now, two years since grad school, I don’t have a social life. There are people I’m friendly with at work, but outside of work, I am alone. And yes, it has been hell.  

In the past six years, I have often fantasized about having those years erased. And to be honest, if I was in a similar situation as Amy, where the Doctor was saving me, but a younger me. I wouldn’t hesitate if it meant that those years of loneliness were wiped clean like a dry erase board. The only thing that would save the story for me is if the older Amy realized that her reluctance to help her younger self was simply the human instinct of survival kicking in, because I’d buy that. The human instinct to survive is a powerful force that could drown out the 36 years of hell. And while this can be inferred from her actions, she never admits it.

The episode has a lot of good parts to it. I love that Rory gets angry at the Doctor. This shows that he’s not there for him. I love that Rory doesn’t care that Amy got old, that he only cares that he didn’t get to grow old with her. I love that he’s heartbroken even after they save the younger Amy, as though any death of any Amy was too much. There is a lot to like about the episode, which is why I never skip it. I just wish the tension of Amy’s refusal was more thoughtfully developed. Perhaps the initial mistake that Amy made in entering the accelerated time stream could have been Rory or the Doctor’s fault and not hers. Perhaps she could have met another character during her time in the accelerated time stream, someone who was also abandoned and alone. This would make the rescue of the younger Amy more tragic and more difficult for the older Amy to accept because the initial refusal wouldn’t be selfish, as the rescue would mean that the other character would have their time stream rewritten that they’d be alone for 36 years. Seriously, that’s a much better story.

Or whatever. I don’t care.