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Who vs. Who vs. Who

Of the five items on the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category for the Hugo awards, there are three episodes of Doctor Who. I recently received season six on DVD for my birthday, which means I’ve been able to watch and rank all three.

Spoilers ahead…

Third Place: A Good Man Goes to War

I feel like this should have been the best of the three episodes. The setup was there: Rory and the Doctor have to rescue Amy and newborn Melody from a heavily guarded space station. To paraphrase River Song, this was an episode that was supposed to show us the Doctor’s finest moment, and then his darkest.

I wasn’t feeling it. It felt like the show was trying too hard, and cramming too many plot revelations into the episode. The Doctor was certainly clever and efficient, and it was interesting to see him calling in debts and putting together an interstellar A-Team. The Silurian and her human companion were my favorites. But it all felt rather by-the-numbers.

There were some great moments. Badass of the Year award goes to Rory for the scene when he marches onto the bridge of a Cyberman ship. I liked the “Melody Williams” vs. “Melody Pond” exchange between Amy and Rory. And I think it’s good for the show to explore the consequences of the Doctor’s “Basically, run…” reputation. But ultimately, while it was a quick-paced and exciting plot, I think that worked against the emotional side. It never stopped long enough to let me feel.

Second Place: The Girl Who Waited

I loved the central problem of this episode. After arriving at Apalapucia, we discover the planet was quarantined due to a disease that kills two-hearted species within a day. Through timey-wimey manipulation, they split off multiple timelines that allowed the sick to live entire lifetimes in that day, while healthy people could look in on them. Amy accidentally enters an accelerated timeline, and lives 36 years on her own before Rory and the Doctor find her. And since the robotic doctors would be deadly to a human, Amy spends those 36 years fighting to survive…

This was a “smaller” episode than “A Good Man Goes to War”: just our three main characters and a bunch of robots. I loved seeing Karen Gillan’s older, harder version of herself, complete with armor made up of the shells of old medibots, armed with a sword and club, and even her own cobbled-together sonic screwdriver probe. I loved seeing how she changed, and her hatred for the Doctor who once again failed to return for her. I loved that she stopped waiting for rescue, that she saved herself.

The last ten minutes or so were incredibly powerful. The Doctor can yank young-Amy from the timestream, but it would erase old-Amy from existence. I loved that old-Amy didn’t want to die. The moment when the Doctor shuts the TARDIS door on old-Amy was brilliant. I love that the show didn’t take the easy way out, that the Doctor knew what he had to do and did it. It showed the alien Time Lord side of him in a way I hadn’t seen in a while.

I did have some nitpicks. How did Amy learn to make a sonic screwdriver or a katana capable of decapitating a robot? What’s with this season trying to bypass the Doctor’s regenerations? (The plague would kill him permanently. Another episode referred to his regenerations being “offline.” Huh???) But overall, I thought it was a very good episode.

First Place: The Doctor’s Wife

I loved it. The plot itself was pretty typical — sentient superbeing called the House lures the Doctor past the edge of the universe in order to feed on the TARDIS. But first House has to remove the TARDIS’ matrix, and tucks it into a human form.

The relationship between the Doctor and Suranne Jones’ personified TARDIS was amazing. I loved their early conversations, when her perceptions were out of synch with normal time. I loved the history between them, and their obvious joy in one another. I loved the smaller moments, like when the Doctor is looking out at ruined TARDISes and seeing the parts he can use to rescue his friends, and Jones’ character points out that she sees the corpses of her sisters.

It was the ending that pushed this into the number one spot for me. Because a human body can’t hold the energies of a TARDIS for long, as we learned back at the end of season nine. And that means the Doctor will never again be able to talk to and interact with his longest companion the way he has in this episode.

In those last minutes, when he’s all but begging her not to leave, you see just how powerfully lonely a man the Doctor really is. It’s heart-wrenching, and it’s some of the best acting I’ve seen from Matt Smith so far.


For the Doctor Who fans out there, what do you think? Agree or disagree, or is there another season six episode you’d rank higher? (I haven’t seen the final few episodes of the season, so please don’t spoil those for me…)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
I didn't think season 6 was very good at all (you may have noticed me talking about it on my LJ), but of the three choices above, I'd say "The Doctor's Wife" is the best. It's funny and clever and unusually weird. By contrast, "A Good Man Goes to War" is exciting, fun, funny, revelatory, etc., but it's almost all set up with very little resolution, as all the baddies get away and the baby is still missing. Its main weakness, though, is that it's all very "look out, the Doctor is coming!" but when he gets there he doesn't do much more than turn out the lights. As for "The Girl Who Waited," I thought it was emotionally manipulative and made very little sense (after all those decades, no cure has been found yet for the disease? the same robot is still trying to inject Amy? a planet that's the second most visited in the universe doesn't understand that different biologies exist?). In the end, it was just another "look how much Amy and Rory love each other" episode, which we don't need anymore at this point.
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
A Good Man struck me as a very good example of when "Show, don't tell" can be good advice. The story spends a lot of time telling us how badass the Doctor is, but falling down when it comes to actually *showing* that.

I think Girl Who Waited needed one more revision to the script. There's a lot I liked, but yeah, parts of the story felt rather forced into place.
Apr. 30th, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
I feel like there was a moment in "The Girl Who Waited" where it could have made an awesome statement about Amy saving herself, but instead it chose to return to the "and she really really loves Rory!" point it has, as you say, hit before. In general I liked the episode, but I feel it missed a big opportunity there.

Total agreement about "A Good Man Goes to War." "The Doctor's Wife" is the best of the lot -- but it would be nice to see something else win.
Apr. 30th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
All the ones you list are great - I have no arguments with your assessments :) I did think that between Amy's natural intelligence and resourcefulness, given twenty years and alien technology, she could cobble a sonic screwdriver together. And she was totally convincing as old Amy! The little things, like frowning at the glasses before putting them on, sold me on her completely! And naming the robot Rory - (Rory, sit!)
erased all doubts I had about their relationship. So I think that one, for me, is really neck and neck with the Doctor's Wife.
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
I like that you say, "Spoilers ahead," but that should be your cut tag and the actual spoilers should be behind, out of sight for us poor folks who haven't seen season 6 yet.
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
I assume people can scroll past things they don't want to read...
Apr. 30th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
It depends on which way you're scrolling and how fast (and compulsively) you read. ;)
Apr. 30th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
I read faster than I scroll. By the time "Spoilers ahead" registers, I've read the whole screen.
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I actually think The Doctor's Wife is the strongest episode of the season. (It probably helps that the episode was written by Neil Gaiman...) A lot of the issues you had with A Good Man Goes To War I think could be said of the entire sixth season.
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
I feel like Gaiman brought some creativity and "What if...?" that I hadn't seen as much of this season.

And yeah, it sometimes feels like season six is trying too hard, though for me, most of that comes down to the River Song plotline.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC)
I've got a whole article in my head about this, but to summarise I don't think season-long arcs really suit DW; individual stories with 'light' arc elements work better.

As much as I love the show and like Moffatt as a writer, I don't think he's necessarily the best show-runner for the programme.
Apr. 30th, 2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
Like you, I've been disappointed with Moffatt's tenure at the helm, too. For all the valid criticisms of Russell T. Davies, at least his stories had emotional depth and an epic sense of drama.
Apr. 30th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
I agree. The strength of River Song's character lay in her mysteries. Answering all those mysteries sapped everything interesting from her, IMO. Also, I have to say, I don't watch Doctor Who to learn the all minutia of secondary characters' lives!
Apr. 30th, 2012 02:12 pm (UTC)
I think you hit my favorite three of the season. I personally put The Girl Who Waited ahead of The Doctor's Wife, but that's probably because we were watching Ten's seasons for the first time in between new episodes of season six, and after a while, especially in season four, I was just getting kind of burned out on Doctor angst and the way companions were treated. It was nice to examine the potential human cost of traveling with the Doctor in terms other than "look how much it hurts the Doctor when he gets companions hurt."
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
I think one of the best lines was Rory telling the Doctor, "If this is how you travel, then I'm through traveling with you." But then they never followed up, at least not in that episode. (I still haven't seen the last few of season six, so maybe that comes back.)
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
I'm not a huge fan of the Matt Smith seasons, but I really hated "The Girl Who Waited." It really made me want to slap Amy around.

She spends the entire episode whining about the Doctor ad Rory not coming back for her, never once considering that they may not be able to come back. Sure, when the Doctor abandoned her back in "The Eleventh Hour," she was a child and didn't know better, but by this point, she has some understanding of who the Doctor is and how he functions. And never once did anyone point out that Rory had waited two thousand years for her.

Frankly, I agree with Chris Garcia. I want to see Community with this award this year.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
I think the difference is that Rory chose to wait, whereas Amy was promised - again - that they'd be right back. (Wasn't there at least one more example of that happening?) I also wonder if Rory's robot body helped him stay sane, whereas Amy had more of the lonely castaway madness going on.

I haven't seen the Community episode yet, though what I've read about it sounds interesting.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
I agree with the ranking, and I'll be very surprised if "The Doctor's Wife" doesn't win. That said, I wish this category wasn't so dominated by multiple Who nominations each year. I would have loved to see Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension get a nomination, and I think it's a shame that Fringe hasn't yet received any recognition.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I nominated P&F ... and if people like Doctor Who, I don't know why they wouldn't go for P&F as well. Isn't it obvious that Ferb is the 12th Doctor?

I enjoy Doctor Who, but it really would be nice to see more variety.
Apr. 30th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough, the voice actor who plays Ferb (Thomas Brodie-Sangster)was in the Doctor Who story Human Nature/Family of Blood. His character, Timothy Latimer, was the one who had the Doctor's memories in his head. :-)
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
Was Amy's katana cobbled together? Wasn't it filched from a display case, or something? It's been long enough since I saw the episode that I don't recall now, but from your picture it looks like it has a traditional-styled hilt, rather than the cobbled together look of everything else she's using.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
I don't know. It's certainly possible it was from a display, in which case I rescind that objection. (Though I'm still raising an eyebrow at how easily a sword slices through robot...)
Apr. 30th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
Dude, it's a katana and they can totally slice through tanks, I saw it on the Discovery Channel once.
May. 4th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
This also.
May. 4th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
Yes. This.
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
The girl Who Waited had that quip about Twitter or FB, too. Don't remember which service, jsut tht it made me giggle. I'd been watching the episodes on BBC America.

Agreed on The Doctor's Wife, though, and hte ending was sort of sad and bittersweet, when she said she never even got the chance to say something to the Doctor. He thought it was goodbye, but sh said no, it was "Hello, Doctor, how very, very nice to meet you" before she popped on back into TARDIS mode. that was funny, sad, and bittersweet, IMO, all at the same time (considering his history with the TARDIS, and how she said she'd never give him back). That's when they were talking about stealing, and she seemed to say that, rather than him taking her, she had stolen him from the Time Lords. That was both cute and amusing. Who's stolen whom, here?
Apr. 30th, 2012 03:25 pm (UTC)
I generally agree with your assessment. I think at many points A good man goes to War and The girl who waited had really great moments whereas The Doctor's Wife was a really great cohesive episode.
Apr. 30th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yes. They all had some great moments, but The Doctor's Wife held up better as a whole.
Apr. 30th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Nope, I'm with you. I'm not fond of either A Good Man Goes to War or The Girl Who Waited, though I'd rank them approximately the same in comparison to each other. However, The Doctor's Wife is one of the best pieces of television I've ever personally seen, easily. Beautifully written, well set-up and acted, just a great episode.
Apr. 30th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
I'm voting for The Doctor's Wife or the Community episode over the others by a very long shot. I think I prefer the Doctor's Wife, but not by as much as I'd expected. (Oh, and a thank you to your other readers for piquing my interest in the show! My husband heard about it through another route entirely almost the same time, but I might not have stopped to watch without the Hines friends and fans.)

I do occasionally wonder if fandom forgets there are other tv shows than Doctor Who. Fringe has its ups and downs, and many of its best moments depend on knowing the long story arc, but that was also true of Babylon 5 in its day, and it did fine. I haven't seen Phineas and Ferb, but reports seem pretty decent. Once Upon a Time and Grimm started in 2011, and the former at least seems to be getting good, if not unqualified, response.
Apr. 30th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
I would definitely appreciate seeing more variety on the ballot. (Though I admit to a little bit of purely egotistical crankiness when I see all of these fairy tale retellings popping up on TV and the big screen. Psst, Hollywood -- I've got four books of material over here waiting for you!!!)
Apr. 30th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
I agree!
You couldn't have summed it up better in my opinion.

Apr. 30th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
Perfect summary and I agree. Although I do love the 6th season, unlike many. River Song rocks. :-)
May. 1st, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
I like River, but I think I liked her more when she was a mystery. I really feel like they're trying way too hard with her character this season.
May. 1st, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there is that. I hear that Rory and Amy will be leaving soon--NOT happy about that. I think they're among my favorite companions ever.
Apr. 30th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
This got a lot longer than I expected...
Full disclosure: I really, really hate The Girl Who Waited.

I was so excited to see it. I was ready to love it. And then instead of being a thoughtful exploration of Amy's character, what she could become and who she is, it is a thoughtful exploration of how hard it is for Rory and the Doctor to make all of Amy's decisions for her. Older!Amy gets development, but Amy herself only does in relation to Rory - the argument she makes to Older!Amy about why she should sacrifice herself has nothing to do with her own life, but everything about how much she loves Rory and how she could spend that time with Rory. She doesn't play the "Just five minutes ago you were talking about how this is Hell, don't you want to avoid that?" card, she plays the "We are in love with a boy and that is more important than the silly rules of time or your desire to continue existing" card.

And on top of that, the rest of the narrative struck me as pretty carefully constructed to avoid actually delving into any of the implications this could have for Amy's character. Younger Amy doesn't play a role in deciding to bring Older!Amy with them - that goes to the (duplicitous, in this case) Doctor and (unknowing) Rory. And when the Younger!Amy could play a role and make a choice that could show some really interesting development either way (either she chooses to sacrifice herself for older!Amy's sake, or she chooses not to and has to deal with the decision of having deliberately valued her own life over that of another protesting sentient being, regardless of whether it was her in the future), she instead gets knocked out.

Everything from that point on, IMHO, is a major cop-out. Older!Amy all but gives Rory permission to essentially murder her by not letting her into the TARDIS, absolving him and the Doctor of what she was fairly adamant of earlier on is indeed her murder. And Younger!Amy? We don't even see Younger!Amy's reaction, because for the purposes of the story, it doesn't matter. It's not about her. She doesn't matter, even though it's supposed to be her episode, and that absolutely infuriates me.

Essentially, my problem with this episode boils down to a popular fallacy that I've been seeing a lot (particularly in YA fantasy/dystopia, actually) that giving a female character a katana (or another weapon) and stripping her of agency is still feminist. I don't think it is, and I think that the way this came through in The Girl Who Waited is in fact incredibly paternalistic.

I would actually really love to discuss this - I can't tell if I'm overreacting, or if I'm punishing this episode for not being what I wanted it to be as opposed to being actually bad, but that's just how I feel. As it stands now, I hope anything wins over this episode, because I am getting very frustrated with works that strike me as paternalistic or misogynistic getting repeatedly rewarded while works that are just as good and don't have those problems get overlooked.

And also, I really loved the episode of Community that got nominated, so, uh, that might make me a little biased, too.
May. 1st, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
Re: This got a lot longer than I expected...
I haven't seen the Community episode yet, so I can't speak to that, but the rest of what you're saying makes sense to me.

I think a lot of the setup for the story involves a very strong older-Amy. The fact that she managed to survive for 36 years, that she's come to terms with the fact that nobody's going to rescue her, she's continued to fight, she's learned how to survive both physically and emotionally. All of that, in my opinion, was very powerful and spoke to her strength as a character, strength we hadn't necessarily seen before.

Once Rory and the Doctor show up again, though... I did like that older-Amy refused to give up her existence to save younger-Amy. I thought that was great and believable. But you're right that younger-Amy's argument was all about the boy.

When older-Amy says, "Okay, fine, but we're *both* leaving this place," I guess I'm not sure why she didn't just go there to begin with.

At the end, with Amy knocked out, you're right that it completely absolves her from having an active part in the resolution. It reminds me a bit of an article I was reading just yesterday about the Hunger Games, and the way the book is written to shield the protagonist from having to kill anyone who doesn't seem to want or deserve it.
May. 1st, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
I *loved* The Doctor's Wife. That's also the episode where I was no longer Very Disappointed with the casting of Matt Smith.

I haven't seen much of season 6, so can't really answer that question.
(Deleted comment)
May. 1st, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Nope, you're not alone. There's at least one other commenter here who wasn't happy about that episode, and I'm sure there are other folks it didn't work for.
argh c
May. 1st, 2012 03:05 am (UTC)
Best S6 Who
Of those three I liked The Doctor's Wife the best. As you say, the ending was the best part with Matt Smith in tears looking like he would really rather Amy and Rory weren't there to see him cry. But that ending, where they can't ever speak to each other again... explain to me again why not after you watch Let's Kill Hitler and the v***e interface scene.

Speaking of Let's Kill Hitler, I think that was my favourite of the season (at least it's the one I rewatch the most, followed by The Impossible Astronaut "to be fair, the universe did blow up...") except for the fact that they didn't need to bleed *quite* so much mystery out of River...
May. 1st, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Best S6 Who
That's been an ongoing frustration for me -- it feels like they're trying to do way too much with River, and she's losing a lot of that mystery and power that made her such an interesting character. I don't actually want *all* of my questions answered all at once...
May. 1st, 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
I must admit I don't get the love for The Doctor's Wife. I didn't feel the emotion of it, and it felt like it was trying too hard. I felt like it should have been in the Tom Baker era, because it felt like a really old episode.

My favourite of these was The Girl Who Waited, although I think there were better episodes in the season. The opening two-parter, as well as The Wedding of River Song and Closing Time were all contenders, I think.
May. 1st, 2012 12:07 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen the Wedding or Closing Time yet, but I'm happy to hear there's some good stuff coming up :-)

For Doctor's Wife, part of it was the emotion, and part of it was the way the humanized TARDIS interacted -- I liked her perceptions, her struggles with linear time and language and so on.
May. 1st, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)
The Doctor's Wife for sure. It was AMAZING. I cried at the end.
May. 1st, 2012 04:32 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love the Dr's Wife. I had the enormous good luck to get to see several versions of that episode and watch it get stronger and stronger with each revision.
May. 1st, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, I really wasn't into The Girl Who Waited, it seemed very formulaic to me. Interesting.

I agree that The Doctor's Wife was really good. The script was tight and funny (that's one of my higher priorities in TV scripts, that the dialogue be on point).
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )


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