The Girl in Question


What a find in Simon Nye! Assuredly not a Sci-Fi writer, but this is a series that is apparently and doggedly resisting the urge to give in to such impulses. Nye’s sitcom output (usually aided by Martin Clunes, he of another gifted face for failure) is the stuff of Amy’s Choice – regret, missed opportunity, middle-aged angst, the fear of anonymity and mediocrity. It’s no wonder that the Doctor, the apparent enemy of these things, is tapping his foot impatiently as soon as he arrives in Upper Leadworth to find a pregnant companion ‘settled’ (and how that word hangs with contextual meaning).  A far cry from gun-toting Rose Tyler or Dorothy McShane who could “just run and run”.

So Amy is to be the focus of this story. An interesting observation from my domestic viewpoint really because on our viewing my beloved and I both confessed to finding the character a little bewildering and distracting because of Ms Killan’s continued resemblance to a family member. Eek. Meanwhile my missus kept tabs on Amy’s pregnancy continuity (“her belly’s shifted down again” “She shouldn’t be eating raw batter!”) Neither of these are likely the stuff Moffat and Nye wished their audience to wrestle with, yet as things go it is a pretty good story for Amy, particularly upon Rory’s ‘death’ and inside the TARDIS against the Dream Lord and his rather splendid lounge lizard routine (nb: if he’s the Doctor’s Id does this particular projection speak of unspoken desire or outright denial? Maybe that’s what the end of Flesh and Stone was supposed to telegraph?)

Bringing out the alter ego is Toby Jones, surely known (if at all) to this generation’s younger viewers as the voice of Dobby the House Elf. Short and vaguely crumpled in stature Jones has a wonderful face, reminiscent of a middle-aged James Bolam – at times soft, toylike and vulnerable, but with drooping eyes that can narrow and a sour, down-turned mouth conveying spite and jealousy, those self-same negative egoisms ideal for fuelling his persona. His projection of the Dream Lord in voice is condescending, yet a step short of sneering, but most definitely mocking without resorting to pantomime. He’s an excellent choice for a role that in less talented hands (and in the hands of a less-talented writer) could have sunk to the level of Bad Joker or two-bit trickster. He’s better because of the subtlety and, again, what’s not said between him and the Doctor. Terrific eye acting from him and Smith sells the character, especially the Doctor’s last look out the van’s passenger window before Amy makes that rather mind-boggling choice.

And mind-boggling it is, coming from a pregnant woman intent on self-destruction. All for Rory? True, the last couple of episodes have been invaluable at fleshing out his personality – I really like the guy, even if his ponytail – was it ever going to convince anyone that this would be a credible future let alone reality? And yet we’ve seen the plonker side of Amy’s beloved before – his tiny torch in Vampires of Venice (such a cruel innuendo, Mr Whithouse!) and the obvious near-miss of his profession as nurse rather than doctor. His ‘death’ commits the small crime of being rather too rushed to be as monumental as it ought to be to the narrative – I suspect poor direction, but as I noted earlier, Gillan’s reaction saves it.

This is a story that relies on a strong directional hand. I’m not sure Catherine Morshead carries it off completely – she’s no Adam Smith, but it’s a tough assignment striving for verisimilitude in two fictitious, dream-like locations. The freezing TARDIS is a wonderful visual, especially so for the now quite metallic interior, and its exterior recalls The Web of Fear‘s smothering silk cocoon, and I was sad to see that we’re unlikely to return to Upper Leadworth, whose monsters continue to be of the Sarah Jane type, as in The Eleventh Hour. Perhaps small towns get the alien threats they deserve? As monsters go they’re actually less threatening than the Afternoon Tea of the Nearly-Dead shambling behind zimmer frames and walking sticks (“amble for your lives!!”), but as Big Finish’s recent Stockbridge trilogy shows, sometimes the series’ big monsters are best left out of Who‘s little villages.

There’s a fair bit to speak of yet, but I’m drifting. In short, I’ve not laughed with an episode quite so much since Smith’s debut. Lovely to revel in the bad taste of granny bashing (it’s NOT “un-PC” if the politically correct thing to do is not hit people. That’s just common sense!) and the final twists were rather well concealed, and I like that too. Lest we invoke the dreaded ‘V’ word, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by discussing the Sixth Doctor’s ultimate foe in the same sentence as the Dream Lord – they really are separate ideas, separate entities. I dare say they are seprate aspects, and that the ‘darker side’ of the Doctor; meddling, sinister and playful, a tormentor, is a necessary step removed from the avaricious demon who is simply after his past lives and past life’s future.

Is Jones’ character worth a return visit? In very measured doses, perhaps. And yes, let’s definitely have more from Simon Nye.


3 Responses to “The Girl in Question”

  1. Paul Scoones Says:

    Why are you comparing the director to the writer of Full Circle – or do you mean Adam Smith?

  2. Peter A Says:

    Er, made a quick change from “Nye’s sitcom career” in para 1 to “Nye’s sitcom output”. Which is, of course, what I meant all along!

  3. Peter A Says:

    Changed that too, and pre-empted your potential pull-up over mis-spelling Dorothy! I still maintain though, she’s no Andrew Smith ;)

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