THE ONE WHERE As the TARDIS lands in a hi-tech quarantine zone on a plague-ravaged world, Amy finds herself ensnared by time itself. A terrible decision awaits the Doctor and Rory…
VERDICT On Moffat’s watch Doctor Who has favoured an entertainingly glib approach to the complexities of time travel. We’ve seen the fourth dimension used as a plotter’s playbox, all sly twists and clever rug-pulls. Though it begins as a fusilade of smart one-liners, Tom MacRae’s heart-smasher of a script takes a considerably more sober tack. It unearths the darkness behind the essential premise of Doctor Who – the perilous flipside to a life spent crashing through the cosmos in that beautiful blue box. It’s an exploration of the “romp” gone wrong, and the consequences that must be paid. Newcomer director Nick Hurran has an eye for the stylish moment – love that shot of the older Amy’s hand pressed despairingly against the TARDIS window – but also coaxes some powerful performances from the regulars in what’s essentially a three (four?) hander piece. Two random thoughts: shouldn’t the Mona Lisa have “This is a fake” scrawled on the back? And isn’t it curious that Rory never mentioned the two millennia he spent waiting for Amy? Maybe he’s just not one for scoring cheap points…
INSPIRATIONS The featureless white environs and blank, shuffling robots of the Two Streams facility recall the surreal void of classic ’60s Who tale “The Mind Robber”, while there’s a hint of THX 1138’s sterile dystopia in its empty, pristine corridors.
STAR TURNS All three leads sink their teeth into the emotional meat here. Karen Gillan particularly impresses as the older Amy, sour and slow-poisoned by decades of animosity towards her childhood hero (it’s unnerving, the way she snarls “Raggedy Man”). But Arthur Darvill also finds new and surprising shades to Rory, too – just watch him convincingly rage against the Doctor (“You’re turning me into you!”). Matt Smith, meanwhile, does a fine job of looking broken and guilt-haunted.
WTF? There’s an implausibly boffinish side to the older Amy. She talks of “Causality, the nexus of time” in a way that would make Pertwee’s Doctor proud. Has she been taking notes all along? And does the daydreamy girl from Leadworth really possess the scientific chops to build her own sonic probe, let alone hack into temporal engines?
DID YOU SPOT? That’s Imelda Staunton – Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge – as the voice of the Interface.
TRIVIA This is actually the traditional Doctor-light episode of the series, but yes, it’s the most cunningly camouflaged one so far.
WHO FACTS So the Time Lords aren’t the only two-hearted species in the universe. And the TARDIS conceals a karaoke bar somewhere within its infinite bowels. The centuries must fly by.
BEST LINE The Doctor: “I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light years from Earth and you want to update… Twitter?”