Posts Tagged ‘Tom Macrae’

Left to many people, including some who know me quite well, any description of me might very well begin and end with the words ‘Doctor Who fan’. I was the Doctor Who fan at my school (things were so different back in the 80s), I was notorious for it, ridiculed and tormented for it. But, you know, I was never ashamed of it, wouldn’t have had it any other way, despite the fact that I always thought there was a bit more to me. These days, though, I suspect I would barely qualify – compared to the really zealous young people currently in circulation I am very much a casual admirer of the series (I can’t even do all of the DWM crossword most months without using Google).

When I consider this it makes me a little sad, to be honest, but it’s not something that often occurs to me. What brought it home recently was the realisation of how unusual it is for me to iPlayer an episode after its initial viewing. Most of the time I just rely on the BBC3 repeats, until the DVD comes out anyway. It takes something a bit special to make me sit down and put in the time, and it’s only happened a couple of times this year.

The first time was for the Neil Gaiman episode, which I suspect will remain my favourite of the series, but then I’d always expected it to be good. The other episode which impressed me enough to make the effort to revisit it was – totally unexpectedly – this week’s The Girl Who Waited.

Amy is beside herself with surprise. Oh, stop complaining. They can't all be clever and witty.

I turned up to this with very nearly rock-bottom expectations, for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s this year’s Doctor-scarce outing, which despite a couple of strong recent examples I always approach suspiciously, and secondly because it was written by Tom Macrae, who gave us Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, two episodes which has set the tone for the revived series’ depiction of the Cybermen (i.e. they’re reduced to being rather underwhelming supporting monsters).

This episode had a bit of a mountain to climb on top of that due to its rather convoluted premise and internal logic. It may be my pedantry boiling to the surface as usual, but this stuff matters to me: I’ve never really been able to completely warm to Father’s Day, brilliant though the performances are, simply because I’ve never been able to work out what the hell is really supposed to be going on. In The Girl Who Waited a lot of complicated exposition went by extremely fast, much of it seeming rather contrived in order to set up the central situation (which in turn reminded me of the plot of an episode of DS9 the name of which I can’t be bothered to look up).

I still don’t think much of the story bears too close an examination (it seems a little arbitrary that even though you don’t need to eat or drink in the accelerated timestream, you still age), but it was more than rescued by some brilliant character work and performances from the three regulars (the first time I watched it I barely noticed there isn’t really anyone else in the episode). I completely bought into the central dilemma: it was easily arresting and involving enough to make all the exact details of the plot seem rather unimportant. (I suspect I have not made it clear what a monumental achievement this is vis-a-vis your correspondent.)

I am one of the Gillan-agnostic brigade but I will happily admit she was extremely good here in both roles. Despite the fact the episode was obviously written to showcase her, the two guys were equally good – if anything, Arthur Darville was even better, effortlessly convincing in both his goofier moments and his anger (one wonders if there will be any repercussions from his ‘I don’t want to travel with you any more!’ moment). It was a good script for Matt Smith, too, showing that beneath the quirky exterior operates something slippery and potentially ruthless.

Rewatching the episode again in the knowledge of what to expect I found it less impressive than the first time round, but not much. I wouldn’t expect every episode to be like this, of course – I wouldn’t hold up any single episode as a template, for obvious reasons – but as putatively Doctor-scarce standalones go, this was very impressive, and one of the best episodes of the year.

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