Once or twice a season, ‘Doctor Who’ delivers an episode that transcends the typical sci-fi tropes and cuts to the emotional heart of a situation that defies imagination or reason. ‘The Girl Who Waited’ is one that can join the ranks of those rare and wonderful episodes. What seemed to start out as a mind-bending episode dealing with crossed and accelerated time streams soon became what may be one of the greatest love stories in the universe.
We begin with the Doctor, Amy and Rory traveling to one of the most amazing vacation planets in the universe only to find that it is under quarantine. A deadly plague has descended upon it. Due to their human physiology, Amy and Rory are immune to it, but it will kill the Doctor and cancel his regenerations within a day. Unsure of what they have stumbled upon at first, the Doctor and Rory go into one room while Amy goes into another. They soon discover that this quarantine facility has two separate time streams: one for the victim of the plague, and one for the family of the victim. The family’s time stream is accelerated so that, through a time-locked viewer, the victim and their family can still spend a lifetime together in the day that it will take for the plague to run its course and kill the victim. Amy has found herself in the accelerated time stream.
Using the TARDIS, the Doctor tries to catch up with Amy to get her out of the quarantine, but he overshoots the mark by nearly four decades. Unable to enter the facility due to the plague, the Doctor is forced to stay behind in the TARDIS while Rory enters to find Amy. What he discovers is a hardened and angry Amy who has spent thirty six years fighting against special robots who administer treatments that, due again to their human physiology, will kill Amy and Rory. This older version of Amy has become a master hacker, creating her own sonic “probe,” and reprogramming the facility’s computer to help her survive. She is also an Amy who has come to hate the Doctor.
Despite all of her bitterness and rage at her situation, Amy still loves Rory, and seeing him again after all these years ignites her old memories and feelings. The Doctor is able to isolate a part of Amy’s time stream that can place them back at a point where she has only been in the facility for about a week. Rory can go back rescue her, but the older Amy adds a new twist to the mix: she wants to live. She doesn’t want to disappear due to a change in her history, and demands that the Doctor find a solution to the problem of rescuing both her and the early Amy. Enter the timey-wimey technobabble that is the mainstay of ‘Doctor Who.’ What it all means is anybody’s guess, but the bottom line from the Doctor is that it can be done, and the TARDIS could withstand the paradox of having two Amys from two time streams.
The Doctor, however, was lying. Shutting older Amy out of the TARDIS at the last minute, Rory is suddenly left with the impossible choice of which Amy he wants to be with, since he can’t be with both. Ultimately, the decision ends up not being his. Older Amy, in one of her beautiful speeches of the episode, tells Rory to take the younger Amy and live.
This episode has another wonderful speech between both Amys, laying out why they love Rory so much. Not since ‘Amy’s Choice,’ have we seen her love for Rory laid so bare, and it doesn’t feel contrived or forced. It feels like the most genuine thing in the entire series. This is love that can rip through time and space. Even though Amy is the central motivator of this episode, I don’t feel that it was really about her. This was an episode about Rory – about the lengths he will go for the woman he loves, and the power of her feelings for him. We’ve seen many demonstrations in the past of Rory’s undying love and loyalty to Amy, but it’s always nice to see it be the focus of an episode.
So far, the second half of this season has been just terrific, and the weekly waiting between episodes has become less and less bearable. Next week, we’re back to the creepy.
If you missed last week’s episode read our ‘Doctor Who: Night Terrors’ recap.