Previously: Amy doesn’t deserve Rory. Also, fish aliens.
Marines: Countryside. A very pregnant Amy is in her country house kitchen baking. Suddenly, she feels some labor pains and starts screaming for Rory. Outside, we see Rory riding his bike toward the house and dear heavenly father, his hair is awful. Objectively awful. It’s like a mullet ponytail. I want to stop looking at this immediately, but alas.
Anna: It is the worst thing. THE WORST. No amount of wibbly wobbly timey wimey can justify hair that bad.
K: IT IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.
Dani: I feel like I should say I kinda like it, just to offer a dissenting opinion, but dear god MAKE IT STOP.
Mari: By the time Mullet Rory gets into the kitchen, Pregnant Amy is sitting down eating frosting from a bowl because it was a false alarm.
Rory makes it outside first, as it takes Amy a little longer to wobble out. The Doctor makes a ton of remarks about how big Amy is. She keeps telling him that she’s pregnant, but it isn’t until after he’s gotten all his exclamatory hellos out that he asks, “are you pregnant?” I feel like you’ve all made me hate Matt Smith.
Anna: Lay the blame where it really lies, Mari– with Steven Moffat. The Doctor’s always been a bit emotionally tone-deaf and clueless, but Moffat takes that and turns it up to eleven (pun intended). It’s not as bad this season as it is in later seasons, but… you can see the signs.
K: I honestly think the worst part is that Karen Gillan is a tiny person – pregnant belly aside – and he’s all “OH MY GOD YOU ARE THE MOST ENORMOUS PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE. WOW. LOOK AT THAT.” Because hahahaha fatness is soooooooooo funny.
Dani: He’d be wearing that bowl of frosting if I were there. Just sayin’
Mari: Later, they all walk through the town, which we find out is Leadsworth. Amy calls it restful and quiet. People here live well into their 90s. Just then, we see an old woman peer out her window to the gang below and the music goes all spooky. (D: Old women are terrifying.)
The Doctor sits with them on a bench and says he’s here to check up on them because he doesn’t just abandon people once they leave the TARDIS, no siree. (A: Uh….. yeah, you do, Doc. You do that BIGtime.) Amy calls him on having arrived here by mistake. He admits it easily, but it’s fine because now, here they are. Sitting on a bench. Awkwardly. The Doctor asks what people do around her to stave off the… Amy offers “boredom” but the Doctor says “self-harm.”
What a jerk and what a line.
Anna: Yeaaaaaaaah. I remember watching this when it aired– so I was about fifteen– and thinking he was a dick for saying that then, too. It’s so out of character it falls flat with a resounding clang.
K: Made worse by the fact that no one calls him on his dickishness.
Mari: Rory just keeps talking about how they relax and listen to birds. They didn’t get to listen to birdsong on the TARDIS. The Doctor says his head feels weird and they all drift off to sleep in the middle of talking about birds.
The Doctor wakes up on the floor of the TARDIS. He jumps up and Rory and Amy are making their way towards the console. Amy is touching her belly and trying to check out Rory’s hair. The Doctor is babbling about this awful nightmare he had, but it’s no matter. The problem now is that the TARDIS is flashing red lights at him. Rory says he had a dream, too. Marriage, small village, Amy pregnant. She had the same dream! Everyone had the same dream! The Doctor tries to ignore it, but Amy points out that they are listening to birdsong right now, in the TARDIS.
They all wake up again, this time in Leadsworth. The Doctor and Rory were sleeping forehead to forehead, which is one way to do it. This time, they arrive a little quicker at the suspiciousness of shared dreams. The Doctor tells them not to trust anything. They thought they were awake on the TARDIS and they think they are awake now. Are they flashing forwards or backwards? The Doctor tells them this is going to be a tricky one.
DOO WEE OOOH.
After the credits, everyone wakes back up on the TARDIS. The Doctor really doesn’t like this and takes out his frustration by kicking the console. Amy offers to get him that TARDIS manual, but he shouts at Amy not to talk to him when he’s cross.
Anna: I’d forgotten how much Eleven just sort of casually rags on Amy – and in fact anyone who happens to be his way – even in his early seasons. It’s kinda gross. (K: YUP)
Mari: They go back and forth again on what’s real and what’s fake, and agree that looking for the things that ring false probably won’t be so easy when they are in a box that’s bigger on the inside with a bowtie-wearing alien at the moment. The TARDIS powers down. The Doctor says it’s dead. They start to hear birdsong again so the Doctor tells them to remember that this is real. Remember how real it feels. Amy argues that of course she knows it’s real.
They wake up in Leadsworth. As soon as Amy wakes, she insists this is the real one. Everything here is solid. The Doctor starts waving his hand around to see if there is any blur or pixelation that would point toward a computer simulation, but no luck. An old woman passes by and says hello to the doctor, but she means Rory, who is a doctor now. The Doctor thinks that’s suspicious because it’s his dream job with his dream wife and probably his dream baby. It seems like Rory’s dream. (K: I really hope that’s not his dream hairstyle…) Rory says it’s Amy’s dream too and she agrees quickly and insincerely.
The Doctor’s focus has shifted to the nursing home in front of him. He remembers that Amy said that people live ’till their 90s here. That’s weird (K: Is it??), so they should go investigate. The Doctor runs off, Rory follows, and Amy puts her hands on her hips and asks if they can not do the running thing. That would be me absolutely not pregnant, so I feel her.
Anna: Same. Theoretically I’m all about that dashing-around-the-universe-saving-people life, but realistically I’d get a few metres before running out of puff and getting zapped by a Dalek or eaten by a big hairy alien thing. Save the universe? Sure. Just don’t insult me with your offers of exercise.
K: At work today, I overheard a bunch of kids being told to run around the oval. One of them went “Oh, Miss, can I walk? I don’t do cross country…” Running around the oval is, like, 200 metres. It’s hardly cross country. But SAME, GIRL. SAME.
Dani: I can’t stop thinking about that bowl of frosting, so…
Mari: Mmm, frosting.
Inside the nursing home, a bunch of the old people greet Rory warmly. A Mrs. Poggit asks if the Doctor is a junior doctor. They roll with that explanation. Mrs. P wants to borrow the Doctor as a fit model for a sweater she’s knitting her grandson. The Doctor gets all up in Mrs. P’s grill and tells her she is very old (K: RUDE). Just then, though, the gang falls back asleep.
And wake up on the TARDIS. This is certainly not as enjoyable to recap. Short scenes, in general, make for an annoying recapping experience, no matter what the show. Anyway, it’s cold on the TARDIS now, since the power is out. Rory apologies for sweet Mrs. P and the Doctor tells him not to trust the nice old lady act. More to the point, everything is off in the TARDIS and someone has taken over control of it.
Behind the Doctor, a man appears. He says that took the Doctor long enough to figure out, especially since he heard such good things about the last of the Time Lords and the Oncoming Storm. The Doctor asks this person who he is, and he calls himself the Dream Lord. The Dream Lord is wearing a Doctor-esque suit, complete with bowtie.
Anna: In hindsight, they really went overboard foreshadowing their big reveal. Kinda kicking myself that I didn’t immediately get it on the first watch. Toby Jones is deliciously, skin-crawlingly creepy in this episode, though. Bit of a waste of a brilliant actor, now I think about it. He might’ve been better utilised as a big series villain rather than a one-episode throwaway.
Mari: Dude, I wrote about his Doctor-esque suit and I hadn’t guessed the twist yet so…
The Doctor throws something at the Dream Lord and it goes right through him. The Dream Lord says he would be impressed, except it’s kind of in his name. The Doctor asks Amy if she wants a guess at what this thing is. She’s all, “dream lord” and yea guys, we get it. I have a feeling that line was mostly to set up Dream Lord asking if Rory, the gooseberry, gets a guess too. Rory says he’s not the gooseberry– the Doctor is. Dream Lord calls that a delusion not of his making. Rory looks to Amy for backup and she just looks around uncomfortably. The Dream Lord tells her she has to choose and Amy says of course she’s chosen. She smacks Rory and tells him it’s him. He’s relieved. The Dream Lord doesn’t believe Amy because he’s seen her dreams. (D: Ah, it’s our old friend the love triangle again. Goody.)
The Doctor asks where the Dream Lord picked up this cheap cabaret act. DL thinks the Doctor is one to talk, on account of his abundance of tawdry quirks. Basically, though, the deal is that they will face a deadly danger in the time machine and in the village that time forgot, but only one is real.
They wake up in the nursing home and Dream Lord is there with a brain scan, saying that he has always been able to see right through the Doctor. Amy latches onto the bit of information that the Dream Lord has met the Doctor before. DL ignores that and says that if they die in the dream, they’ll wake up in reality and recover nicely. If they die in reality, well they die, because reality. They’ve got a world to choose. The Dream Lord says one reality was never enough for the Doctor. “Take two and call me in the morning”. He blinks out of existence.
K: It’s pretty difficult to feel tense or worried about the characters when the Doctor is wearing a multicoloured knitted jumper with a scotty dog in the middle and only one sleeve…
Mari: Amy has questions, but the Doctor doesn’t know who the Dream Lord is and can only guess that maybe he’s taking his frustration out on them because of his lack of physical form. The more pressing matter is what Dream Lord meant by “deadly danger.” The Doctor notices that all the old people are gone from the room.
Outside, a teacher is herding students on a field trip in the background. The Doctor is trying to suss out what’s wrong in this dream world, but claims his mind isn’t working because this village is so dull. He’s slowing down like Rory and Amy are. RUDE.
Amy thinks so too because this happens:
Anna: Haaaaaaaaaah. A+ to Amy for that fakeout.
Mari: They all settle on swings and the Doctor says they have to address the elephant in the room. Amy thinks this is another pregnant crack, but the Doctor is actually talking about Rory’s ponytail. I’m usual anti-Rory-is-the-butt-of-jokes, but that ponytail has been assaulting my eyes.
Anna: *chants* Cut it off! Cut it off! CUT IT OFF!
K: Part of me wonders if that was improvised because Karen Gillan smirk-laughs in a very non-Amy seeming way…
Mari: Brief jokey time ends when the Doctor sees Mrs. Poggit up by where the children are playing. The Doctor wants to know what she’s up to, but it’s birdsong time.
They wake up on the TARDIS. Amy is very cold and asks for warm clothing. The Doctor snaps that the cold doesn’t matter. (K: Because it never bothered him anyway?) They have to know what Poggit is up to. He apologizes immediately, rubbing his face so that we’re supposed to understand that he’s tired and stressed, but it doesn’t work because he’s always snapping at Amy so.
Anna: Amen. They made the Doctor’s general character so emotionally tone-deaf and kinda arrogant that when he’s supposed to have a (supposedly) rare moment of dickery, it doesn’t have the desired effect.
Mari: Amy runs off to find warm clothes while the Doctor goes back down below the console. He opens a little hatch that has a whisk, rope and a bottle opener. Amy finds blankets. Rory says he wants the other life where they are married and settled and about to have the baby. Amy muses that if that life is real, why would they give all of this up? Rory’s like, “um, because we are about to freeze to death?” Amy is confident that the Doctor will fix it. Rory says that Amy has chosen the Doctor, to which she just calls him insecure. They are in a time machine, which seems to mean to her that they can prolong growing up.
The Doctor has assembled his items into some kind of generator he makes Rory wind. It’s enough power to power a monitor, which reveals that they are hurtling toward a cold star. (D: Maybe create something that powers a heater now??) The Doctor opens the TARDIS door and confirms that yep– it’s definitely cold. By his calculations, they should crash into it in 14 minutes. The good/bad news is that they’ll freeze before they crash. Amy thinks this proves that this is the fake world because stars burn and the Doctor has never seen a cold star. Rory says this is the Doctor then. This is his dream: a weird star no one has seen before, 14 minutes to live and only one man who can save them all. All he wanted was a nice village and a family. (D: And that’s why we love you, Rory dear.)
The Dream Lord shows up but only long enough to bask in their dissent before they are off to sleep again.
K: I feel like Matt Smith is… not great at fake falling asleep? He just kind of looks like he’s sucked on a lemon and is dealing with the sourness…
In the village, the children are gone and all that’s left is piles of ash. The Doctor investigates while Rory tells Amy that he feels like this is the real one. Amy says she feels it in both places, get it, because it’s a ~*metaphor*~. Though, she does admit that this village isn’t really her, though. “I mean, would I be happy settling down in a place with a pub, two shops and a really bad Amateur Dramatics Society? That’s why I got pregnant, so I don’t have to see them doing Oklahoma.”
Anna: I’m… fairly sure pregnant people can still go to the theatre, Amy. Your BS reason for avoiding the am-drams is BS. And the BS-itude intensifies bc it’s a DAMN BABY. Get your dream-priorities straight, girl.
Mari: Anyway, they turn their attention back to the ash, which is all that’s left of the children. And then the army of old people gathering across from them. Amy insists that they are just old people, but the Doctor says they are very old people, and it wasn’t Rory keeping them alive. The Dream Lord arrives to gloat and say an army of old people is ridiculous so this must be the dream. He says Amy should jump in front of a bus and see if that’s true. The Doctor growls for him to leave her alone, and DL says that’s very tall, dark and heroic of him. Rory echoes for DL to leave Amy, but DL says it’s not so impressive coming from Rory. POOR RORY. (K: HE DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER.)
DL keeps pressing, saying the Doctor loves a red head. “Has he told you about Elizabeth the First? Well, she thought she was the first.” (A: Insert general cringing as I remember how badly they handled the Elizabeth I plotline later…) The Doctor tells him to drop it because he knows who DL is. There is only one person in the universe who hates him this much. (D: It’s Kirsti, isn’t it???) (M: A+)
DL smirks and says never mind about that because the Old Army is coming. Rory approaches a Mr. Nainby, who casually grabs him and throws him. Seems this old lot is not themselves, a theory that is confirmed when they all open their mouths and there are eyes inside of them. Mrs. Poggit breathes out a green gas, and the Doctor tells Amy and Rory to run. He stays behind to say he knows Eknodines and pretty much guesses their whole back story of being run off their planet and hiding in all these old bodies, keeping them alive. A random passer-by gets sprayed by Poggit and turned to ash and the Doctor very sternly tells them they need to leave the planet.
Amy and Rory reach their cottage. There is an old lady at the front door. Rory says he’ll handle this, calling Amy Chubs for some reason, first trying kindness and then hesitating to hit the lady. Amy tsks at him and tells him just to whack her. Rory finally does and they run inside. Amy can’t believe they left the Doctor, but Rory tells he’ll be fine. He’s Mr. Cool.
Cut to the Doctor running spastically down the street, trying to fight off birdsong sleep while the old people are chasing him. He lets himself into a butcher’s store, locks the door and hilariously flips the sign over to closed, ’cause that’ll stop ’em. The Dream Lord is there to taunt him. The Doctor keeps fighting his sleep as the old people enter the store. He manages to make it into a closet and lock himself in with the sonic screwdriver.
They all wake up on the TARDIS, colder than ever. The Doctor says they have to decide right here and right now what is real. Rory votes for the village. The Doctor votes for the TARDIS. But he wonders if they are just competing. Amy asks over what and they both give her a look. They keep semi-arguing while Amy makes them ponchos to wear.
Dani: That’s what I’m saying. Like… where’d you put that spacesuit Ten wore in the Mars episode??
Mari: The Doctor thinks that if they could divide up, that would mean a presence in each world, but he can’t determine the logic the Dream Lord is using. The Dream Lord appears and says dividing them sounds like a great idea. The Doctor and Rory fall asleep and Amy stays on the TARDIS.
Rory wakes up in the cottage next to Amy, who is still sleeping in this place. Meanwhile, the Old Army is breaking into the house through the windows. Rory drags Amy upstairs and into their nursery. He pauses for a moment to have feelings over the crib, but then he looks outside and sees the Old Army is arming a full on attack against the house and the TARDIS. Rory jams a chair under the door knob and sits on it.
The Doctor wakes up in the closet. He braces himself, opens the door, uses his Sonic Screwdriver to cause the lights to surge, distracting the Old Army enough to run out. (D: SQUIRREL!!) On the street, a man is trying to get away from an old guy by climbing into a van. The Doctor helps him, jumps into the van himself and starts rolling through town, picking up people and saving them from old folk.
K: Good thing it’s a Kombi van and not, like, a Mini?
Mari: The TARDIS is frosting over. Dream Lord says poor Amy, always left by the Doctor in the dark and he never apologizes. She says he doesn’t have to. DL says that’s good, because he never will. And now the Doctor has left her with spooky ole him, and he instachanges into like a black tango outfit. It makes me want to puke. (A: *hurk*) (K: Pass the brain bleach, please and thank you.) (D: Button that shirt ew ew ewwww.) Amy asks who the heck DL even is, because the Doctor isn’t telling her and he always tells her.
At the cottage, he finds the Old Army attacking.
Upstairs, Amy wakes up. As soon as she does, Rory says he wants to do something for her and he cuts off his horrible pony. Amy is shocked and admits that she was starting to like it. (A: Starting to like it, or just developing Ponytail Stockholm Syndrome? Trust me Amy, this is for the best.) (K: Now he just needs to deal with the weird mullet looking front part!) The Doctor has somehow made his way past the Old Army and is climbing in the window. He says he thought the freezing TARDIS was the real world, but now he’s not sure. Amy starts having contractions. Another noise at the window catches their attention. Rory investigates, and Mrs. Piggies hits him with her breath. The Doctor knocks her away, off the roof, but Rory’s a goner. A slow goner, though, because he’s like all the vampires with lines in Buffy. He has enough time to say he’s not ready and to tell Amy to take care of their baby.
Anna: Oh my god I never made that connection but you’re right. Maybe the universe just knows if you’re a major character and that’s how the unnaturally-slow-and-convenient-for-angst disintegration happens.
Dani: I hope I’m a slow goner when it’s my time because I’m totally gonna fuck with my family and make them promise to do lots of weird shit when I’m gone. #deathgoals
Mari: Over his ashes, a clearly shocked Amy tells the Doctor to save Rory like he saves everyone. The Doctor says not always. Amy: Then what is the point of you?
Amy decides this is the dream. Either it’s the dream or it’s a reality she doesn’t want. She marches outside and the Old Army stands back. The Doctor says it’s either because this is a dream or because they know what Amy is about to do. Amy asks for the van keys and the Doctor hands them over, telling her to be very sure because this could be reality. Amy says it can’t be with no Rory. She didn’t know until just now, but now she knows.
Amy climbs in the driver’s seat. The Doctor heads to the passenger’s side and the Dream Lord is there to stare him down. Amy drives the van right into the house and the screen goes dark, fading into the frozen TARDIS which is still drifting towards the cold star.
Inside, Amy, the Doctor and Rory, all nearly frozen over, wake up. Amy grabs Rory’s hand. The Dream Lord says that they have chosen correctly, and with only seconds to spare. He turns the TARDIS back on and says that he’s been defeated, so he’ll withdraw. He blinks out.
Anna: Uh-huh. Suuuuuuuuuure, Dream Lord. Suuuuuure.
K: What, you mean villains don’t usually go “Oh. Darn. You foiled my plan. Guess I’ll go home”??
Dani: I honestly wouldn’t put it past Moffat to have them be that ridiculous.
Mari: An excellent point.
Rory has fuzzy memories of the last things that happened, but Amy just hugs him. Meanwhile, the Doctor is back to work at the console and announces he’s going to blow the TARDIS up. He’s figured out that the Dream Lord doesn’t have any power over the real world and was always offering them a choice between two dreams. Amy asks how he knows and the Doctor says it’s ’cause he knows who the Dream Lord is. (K: Surely the “‘dream” part of his name gave that away??) The TARDIS blows up.
Real, real TARDIS. The Doctor is waiting at the console, a couple of specks of shiny dust in his hand, and this quick explanation: A speck of psychic pollen from the candle meadows of Karass don Slava. Must have been hanging around for ages. Fell in the time rotor, heated up and induced a dream state for all of us.
Dani: It’s like Horton Hears a (Doctor) Who.
Anna: It’s so obvious to me that they came up with the premise for the episode – Amy choosing between two worlds and her two men – and the Dream Lord as a villain loooooooooong before they really came up with an in-universe justification for it. Doctor Who is notorious for its slapdash sci-fi jargon to explain things away, but even by Doctor Who standards this is incredibly rushed.
K: Uh, yeah. It’s like a two second “BECAUSE, THAT’S WHY” explanation.
Mari: Rory asks if those specks were the Dream Lord, then. The Doctor says that no, that should’ve been obvious. He was the Dream Lord. The psychic pollen is a mind parasite that feeds in the darkness in him. It didn’t choose Amy and Rory because there is so little darkness in them, compared to the Doctor. Amy asks, though, if the Doctor believes what his dark!version said about him. The Doctor deflects and says Rory is about to ask an important question.
And Rory does. What killed them in the other reality? Amy explains that he died first and then she killed herself, even though she wasn’t sure it was a dream. Rory gets it and they kiss.
The Doctor asks where to now, and Rory says anywhere. He’s happy anywhere. The Doctor calls it Amy’s choice, but it’s TOO LATE because I already gave it to Dream Doctor. (D: That’s what he gets for shouting at Amy all the time.) The Doctor gets to work flying the TARDIS, but he sees the Dream Lord where his reflection should be. He looks around nervously and we cut to black.
I have super mixed feelings on this. The entire time, I was thinking that it was obvious that the frozen TARDIS was the real world. I’m not sure if I wasn’t at peak Good TV-ing, but I didn’t remember this episode, and I didn’t get the twist until just the right moment to make it satisfying. Sure, the psychic pollen was a kind of blah blah space science!! attachment to the end, but as previously mentioned… it’s Doctor Who. I thought it was interesting to consider this whole thing as a product of dark!Doctor. It’s the Doctor calling himself out for his own bullshit, from his quirks to his picking and dropping companions, in a season where there’s been a lot of Doctor bullshit so far.
I think Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill both gave good turns here, but I’m always so torn about this whole dynamic. I think that this was a good episode to put to bed the sexual tension between the Doctor and Amy, but it’s tension I wish never existed. I also wish that this whole idea of Amy being pulled between the two were more about the adventure vs. the settling down and not so much about the dashing Doctor (pfft) and the good boy Rory. And I wish it weren’t quite so forced and on the nose.
The short scenes back and forth made it a little repetitive and laggy through the middle, but overall, I mostly enjoyed it. And I think I’m loving Rory a lot this watch through. If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Anna: With you on all counts. When it first aired I was mostly focused on Amy and the emotional consequences of her choices… on rewatch I’ve been more focused on the blokes. Like you said, I like that the episode calls out the Doctor’s bullshit in multiple ways; through the manifestation of his own self-criticism in the form of the Dream Lord, and through Rory. I wasn’t initially a Rory fan, but have since become one, and this episode definitely confirms that for me. He’s not afraid to call the Doctor out when he’s being self-aggrandising or kind of manipulative.
A good episode at its core with an interesting premise and villain, if perhaps a little rushed/sketchy in places.
K: Meanwhile, I continue to be an Eleventh Doctor hater (shocker). Even watching this at the intended speed and not writing-a-recap speed, it mostly bored me. I hate love triangles at the best of times, and this one is particularly on the nose. The repeated “OMG LOOK HOW FAT YOU ARE” comments got really old really fast. Rory is honestly the best part of the Eleventh Doctor’s run for me (well. The best part that isn’t Vincent and the Doctor. Obviously). Etcetera.
Basically, in news that will shock no one, I continue to not like Steven Moffat’s era as show runner because it tries to be smart and just ends up taking a faceplant into misogyny and fat jokes. Sigh. (I swear to God, I’m trying *not* to be a hatery old curmudgeon. And yet…)
D: I have nothing to add. Other than… more Rory, please.
Next time on Doctor Who: Drilling is a bad idea in S05 E08 – The Hungry Earth.