15/5/10 “Amy’s Choice”
Rory:“We have to grow up eventually.”
Amy: “Says who?”
I doubt I’m going to have much to say on this story: it was a lovely short experiment of going sideways in time that evoked memories of the Celestial Toymaker and maybe even the “The Mind Robber,” and if you predicted the outcome, you’re wiser than me (though that’s not hard). At the end of it, I don’t know that you can say that it’s more than a clever idea, brilliantly executed, with some interesting characterization. I wouldn’t say you come out of it feeling cheated because the stakes, which you thought were high, were not that high after all—but it does seem like a trick that can only be pulled once, which is entirely appropriate as the Dream Lord and the Doctor chide each other for their cheap tricks. Would it stand the repeated scrutiny of “Blink”? It’s not necessary that it should. It’s just a great example of how Doctor Who can take so many different formats and go crazy with them—‘cause that’s what it did; in places it didn’t feel like Doctor Who to me.
Upper Leadworth, another fairy tale, is evoked with bucolic landscapes and sweet music, which is appropriate as it sees a very pregnant Amy baking cupcakes (and eventually eating the batter, once she decides her labor pains are a false alarm). The Doctor arrives on the pleasant scene with a “Rory! I’ve cracked your flowers.” He can’t seem to come to grips with Amy’s pregnancy—“you’ve swallowed a planet!”—even when she tells him point-blank. He’s acting very avuncular and, maybe it’s the overdose of Pertwee I’ve been fed in the last few weeks, but it seemed Pertwee-esque! Walking around Leadworth, Amy and Rory are convinced “it’s very restful.” They are put to sleep by some insidious birds—“there wasn’t a lot of time for birdsong in those days.”
They wake up (?) in the TARDIS in “present day,” with the Doctor ranting about “I had a terrible nightmare about you two!” They’ve all dreamed the same thing, though, and as the good ol’ Doc said in “Snakedance,” “Dreams are important . . . never underestimate them.” When forced to admit the Doctor’s nightmare was the same dream Rory and Amy had, the Doctor has to backpedal a bit. “Not a nightmare, more of a really good . . . mare.” As they start flipping back and forth between visions, no one, including the audience, is certain what is reality and what is the dream. This kind of story affects everyone because we’ve all had realistic dreams, and likewise, we have had days that seemed dreamlike. Lao-tzu put it quite meditatively when he said he didn’t know whether he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man, but here the unconscious is the perfect goldmine for both desires and fears. The Doctor is concerned because “I never dropped off like that before”—indeed, we’ve always seen that he requires very little sleep. “Look for all the details, things that don’t ring true.”
Leadworth: Rory is a doctor, not a nurse, “like you always dreamed.” The OAPs are sinister—“you’re incredibly old, aren’t you?” TARDIS: they’re drifting into a cold star. At this moment, the self-styled Dream Lord shows up, a prick in the truest sense of the word. “I’d heard such good things,” he taunts the Doctor, wearing a parody of the Doctor’s costume. “Nice look.” “I’m not convinced.” The Doctor is annoyed over the cheap tricks; the Dream Lord makes fun of him, “what an intergalactic wag you are.” He tells them that one reality is real and one is the dream. To die in the dream means waking up to safety; to die in reality is to die. Early on, it’s less a problem of the Doctor’s than Amy’s—“choose, even. . . . You can’t fool me—I’ve seen your dreams.”
The Doctor thinks Leadworth might be the dream because “this village is SO DULL.” Rory is very attached to this vision of bucolic bliss with a settled life and pregnant Amy and Rory’s ponytail. “I want the other life,” he says, as the TARDIS starts to freeze. Amy is incredibly flippant, as all companions are, about reality in the face of a lifetime of wonders with the Doctor. She can’t imagine a better life than the one she’s got in the TARDIS. Leadworth: attack of the old people, who improbably have creatures in their mouths that turn other people into dust. (There’s a cool castle.) I think whoever noted the prevailing eye imagery has yet one more feather to add to their cap. Mary Whitehouse would be foaming at the mouth if she saw Rory hit an old lady with a 4 x 4 (though he did gibber beforehand, “I can’t hit her!”).
The Dream Lord’s darts are very well-aimed, so much so that the Doctor realizes a lot sooner than we do who he is—someone who knows him very well—“only one person hates me as much as he does.” In the TARDIS, the Doctor asks the three to come to a consensus on which is the dream and which is the reality. Rory votes for Leadworth: “Are we disagreeing or competing?” shouts the Doctor. There are some clever dialogue moments from Simon Nye, including Rory apologizing to Amy each time he bumps her (sleeping) up some stairs in their house in Leadworth. The Dream Lord confronts Amy—“he always leaves you alone . . . anything could happen.” The Doctor does let Amy down, by allowing Rory to die. More from blind grief than anything else, I take it, Amy decides Leadworth is the dream and she and the Doctor drive a van into a house.
She seems to be right, as they wake up in the TARDIS—but the Doctor reveals that this, too, is a dream. They all wake up exactly as we left them at the end of the previous story. A fleck of some kind of dream dust got into the TARDIS rotor, which is how they all dreamed the same thing—because it was the Doctor’s consciousness, it assumed a life-or-death outcome, which Rory brings up. The Dream Lord was none other than a facet of the Doctor—I thought this was where the Valeyard must come from—which is incredibly poignant when you think about it. No one hates the Doctor as much as he hates himself? Under his bravado he even thinks his methods are silly, his flaws all-too-visible, a vein of competition over Amy just possible.
“If we visions have offended / think but this and all is mended / that we have but slumbered here / while these visions did appear.”