“Amy’s Choice” was notable for sorting out Amy’s feelings for the Doctor and Rory – a subject under fairly close scrutiny following her attempted seduction at the end of “Flesh and Stone.”
Fans have become almost inured to the Doctor snogging his companions these days, but in the old days that sort of thing was never done (well, not until the Eighth Doctor’s TV movie, at least). In fact, it was sort of becoming old hat: “When will the Doctor kiss this companion?” But Amy’s full-on seduction bid was something new, and it had to be addressed. Was she really willing to be with another man (well, Time Lord) on the night before her wedding? (This sort of thing is done all the time on daytime soap operas, but for DOCTOR WHO it’s something new.) Recall that one of the running gags during season four was people assuming the Doctor and redheaded Donna were married. Well, in typical “Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” fashion, it took Rory dying for Amy to realize that she really does love him. Fortunately, the Doctor has a time machine; unfortunately, that time machine was invaded by entity known as the Dream Lord.
The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) all had the same dream: Five years in the future, the Doctor visits a married and pregnant Amy in a strangely altered version of
Leadworth Upper Leadworth. Or, were they dreaming about being in the TARDIS dreaming about Leadworth? The Dream Lord (Toby Jones) challenged them to figure out which scenario was a dream and which was reality – or die. I absolutely loved the way the camera spun around the TARDIS crew as they puzzled about which dream was real. (A lesser director would have gone with the shameful shakycam.) “Are we flashing forwards, or backwards?” the Doctor asked. “Hold on tight…this is gonna be a tricky one…” The slightly upturned corners of his mouth signaled that the Doctor would not have it any other way. He loves a good adventure. “You can’t spot a dream while you’re having it,” the Doctor observed, yet he later realized the true nature of the challenge when he figured out the Dream Lord’s identity. I wish the Doctor had mentioned the very first indication that Upper Leadworth was fiction of his own mind: the Sarn Residential Care Home. Longtime fans surely recognized Sarn as the titular “Planet of Fire” in the Fifth Doctor story that introduced companion Peri. Also, the Dream Lord actually referred to the Doctor as “the Oncoming Storm,” which is the Daleks’ bogeymen name for him: Ka Faraq Gatri. The Doctor referred to himself thusly in “The Parting of the Ways.”
I have to admit I was hoping that the Doctor had finally run into the Toymaker again, but alas, no… This was the second time that the Doctor has gone up against a distillation of dark side, the previous incident coming when the Time Lord’s evil elements took on the guise of the Valeyard and put the Sixth Doctor on trial in season 23. This is a disturbing trend, amplified by the lingering appearance of the Dream Lord’s reflection in the closing moments.
In addition to getting to the heart of the matter with Rory, Amy’s cutting remark, “Then what’s the point of you?” got right to one of the essential tragedies of the Doctor: He cannot save everybody. He couldn’t save Rory, and he couldn’t save former companion Adric. The loss of companions haunts him. Adric’s death was devastating, but so was watching Rose get relegated to an alternate Earth, and having to return Donna to a normal life with no knowledge of her experiences throughout the universe. The Doctor may be an alien, but he feels loss as keenly as any human.