Amy’s Choice ★★★

A mischievous Dream Lord (Toby Jones) is formed from the Doctor’s psyche in this desultory production

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Story 208

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Series 5 – Episode 7

“Here’s your challenge. Two worlds. Here in the time machine, and there in the village that time forgot. One is real, the other’s fake… Tweet, tweet. Time to sleep” – the Dream Lord 

Storyline
Five years into the future, Amy is heavily pregnant and living in marital bliss with Rory in their Upper Leadworth cottage, when the Doctor comes to visit. Then they all wake up in the Tardis, having shared the same dream. The trio begin to doubt what is real and what is a dream, and encounter a mysterious man in a bow tie. The Dream Lord challenges them to choose which world is their reality, with potentially deadly consequences. In the Tardis they are plunging towards a cold star; in Leadworth they’re beset by elderly people who have been taken over by alien parasites, Eknodines. Emerging from both nightmares, the Doctor explains that the problem was caused by psychic pollen in the Tardis and that the Dream Lord was a manifestation of the Doctor’s darker nature.

First UK transmission
Saturday 15 May 2010

Production
February to March 2010. Skenfrith, Monmouthshire; Keepers Cottage, St Mary’s church, nr Cowbridge; AP Young Butchers, Llantwit Major; Lanelay Hall, Llantrisant; Upper Boat Studios

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Dream Lord – Toby Jones
Mr Nainby – Nick Hobbs
Mrs Hamill – Joan Linder
Mrs Poggit – Audrey Ardington

Crew
Writer – Simon Nye
Director – Catherine Morshead
Producer – Tracie Simpson
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Edward Thompson
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“Trust nothing you see, hear or feel,” says the Doctor. “This is going to be a tricky one.” Which neatly sums up my reaction to this episode. On first viewing, I was distinctly underwhelmed by Amy’s Choice. With its low-budget scale and lackadaisical pace, it felt like one of the more disappointing episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

I was unengaged by the nightmare dilemma facing the Doctor’s party, and didn’t believe in their emotional responses, especially Amy’s after Rory’s dust-to-dust “death”. (The transmitted version edited down his disintegration, which was on the preview discs.) I was disappointed that, although a lot of action is set within the Tardis, we don’t get to see any more of the new set. Without sound effects and lights, it looks like the pump room of a swimming baths.

Having a sense-of-humour failure, I disliked the demonising of elderly people. Are children supposed to look twice at their grandparents? When Mrs Poggit – infested by an Eknodine – attacks Rory, Amy barks, “Whack her!” Which he does, with a log, sending the old girl sideways into the shrubbery. The Doctor, later, sends her tumbling from a first-floor window. It’s almost comical, but in dubious taste.

But in the time-honoured tradition of the long-term Doctor Who fan, I am always more than willing to give an episode another chance – even if it’s only a few days later. I didn’t quite come to an instant re-evaluation. My previous gripes still stand. But here’s what I did appreciate:

A more subdued backing track from Murray Gold. The birdsong between dream states. The realisation that, for the first time, the Doctor is travelling with a couple in love. And Simon Nye’s script actually has a tight structure and several amusing lines (Amy: “If we’re gonna die, let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band”).

Nye reinforces the idea that the Doctor is an old man who “prefers the company of the young”; his friends are just “people you acquire” never seen again “once they’re grown up”. Curiously, the Dream Lord and both dream worlds are drawn from the Time Lord’s psyche. The Doctor admits the “psychic pollen” is a mind parasite, which “feeds on everything dark in you. Your inner voice. It turns it against you”. And Toby Jones is perfect as the Rumpelstiltskin nightmare emerging from the Doctor’s paranoia.

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And, back to the thwacking of old folks, I am mollified to realise that the elderly geezer sent flying is seasoned stuntman Nick Hobbs. His association with Who is immense. Way back in 1971, he was the Unit lorry driver hypnotised by the Master in The Claws of Axos. He also played cuddly/ferocious Aggedor in the two Pertwee Peladon stories and a Wirrn in The Ark in Space (1975). That was the stuff of nightmares.