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21 May 2010 @ 05:29 pm
Amy's Choice  
It's been fascinating, this week, to watch the discussion about Amy's Choice because a lot of it has been happening on a rather different level than the normal post episode discussions and that, I think, is an indication that this episode was rather more ambitious in its intentions and skilled in its execution than most Doctor Who. It's a shame then that, despite all this, I do think there was quite a lot about the episode that didn't work.

To start with the good points and the core of the many discussions, what choice was offered to Amy? and did she choose it? I actually came away from the episode very disappointed in the central question because there was so clearly nothing about Upper Leadworth that made it remotely attractive to Amy, beyond Rory liking it, that once Rory was taken out of the equation the choice became a no-brainer. However then [personal profile] gominokouhai made a fascinating post about the nature of Amy's choice which rather changed my thinking on the subject. So [personal profile] gominokouhai's thesis is that Amy, presented with a choice between two men, reframes it as a choice between two lifestyles and then rather conclusively rejects one of them. I'm not entirely convinced by all of that (much as it amuses me to imagine Stephen Moffat asking Simon Nye to write an episode in which Amy "rejects the heteronormative paradigm"). However the final set up makes a lot more sense viewed as a moment in which Amy changes the question, or at least rejects the idea that Rory=Upper Leadworth. This is a moment which would have been a lot stronger if the production had been working much harder to make us believe there was a real risk of death if the wrong reality were chosen, or at least, worked harder to convince us that Upper Leadworth might be true. If there had ever been a serious possibility that Upper Leadworth was real, and the story hadn't spent so much time framing the question as "will Amy choose the Doctor or Rory?" then the moment when Amy decides that she no longer cares whether or not Upper Leadworth is real and that, in fact, she'd rather die than live without Rory would have seemed much more like a genuine choice.

So I buy the idea that in the end Amy rejects the choice that she is superficially presented with, she doesn't have to choose between the Doctor/life of adventure and Rory/Upper Leadworth but can instead choose Rory/life of adventure. Looked at in that light then the real moment of choice possibly belongs to Rory when he cuts off his pony tail. That's the moment when he demonstrates that he is not inextricably tied into the Upper Leadworth lifestyle (which, arguably, is simply the Doctor's assumption about the extent to which Rory can offer anything to Amy). Rory points out there is a third choice here and that is the one that Amy chooses.

All of this is good. I like the fact that there's a lot to tease out here. Who is making choices? What exactly are they choosing? Who is creating those choices and what are their motivations for doing so? and that alone raises it above similar episodes in other SF/Fantasy series. Where I do think the episode fell down was, well, firstly the fact that, as many people have pointed out, Upper Leadworth was never on the cards as a possible reality. That drained a lot of potential drama from the story. I have a lot of sympathy for Simon Nye here, since creating an alternative to the TARDIS lifestyle, to air in the middle of the season, and making it look like it might be real was never going to be easy. I think there are some things that might possibly have worked, but all of them would have leached time from the central story while they were set up. However we are asked to believe that Amy, at least, has 5 years' worth of memories of Upper Leadworth, and so it's disappointing that the actors and script mostly failed to be treating the scenario as real, even if the audience could never be expected to buy it. That is most obvious at the end when Amy chooses to take the risk of destroying both her own life and that of her unborn baby. If she'd had any doubts about the lack of reality of the scenario then you'd expect her to demonstrate at least some qualms about the child, however at that point both actress and script seem to have entirely forgotten she's pregnant, even if the costume department hadn't.

Lastly there's Rory. I was quite positive about him last week, liking the way he stood up to the Doctor. Although he does the same this week, I do rather feel that we're being expected to extrapolate an awful lot simply from the fact that he occasionally stands up to the Doctor. Take away those scenes and he is a clone of Mickey at his most bumbling and ineffectual. I'm not expecting him to turn into superman, but it would be nice to see some signs of insightfulness and strength of character from him, on occasions when he isn't disagreeing with the Doctor about something. I also mostly feel I'm having to work to fill in what it is that binds him and Amy together, because it really isn't on the screen.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/7095.html.
telperion_15: Tardistelperion_15 on May 21st, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
as many people have pointed out, Upper Leadworth was never on the cards as a possible reality. That drained a lot of potential drama from the story.

You didn't even have to get as far as Upper Leadworth. Pretty much the instant the bump appeared it was obviously that couldn't be a real timeline. Because there was no way they were ever going to permanently work a baby - or the potential angst of *actually* losing a baby (as opposed to losing it because the timeline wasn't real and it had never existed in the first place) if that was required for the plot resolution - permanently into the ongoing plot of the series. IMO it actually would have worked better if she hadn't been pregnant (although I realise that the point was it was Rory's ideal life with nice house + marriage + kid). I would have been much more likely to believe Leadworth could have been real then...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 24th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
The kid certainly nixed any idea that Leadworth could have been real and the Doctor and Amy would set off for new adventures at the end.

The more I think about it though, the more I think the real problem was that, having realised the audience would never take Upper Leadworth seriously, the production never tried to convince us that the actors would take it seriously.
daniel_saunders: Doctor Whodaniel_saunders on May 23rd, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
I liked this episode, but as I said on my blog, I suspect I liked the idea of the episode more than the episode itself.

You're right about the Upper Leadworth scenario being too obviously false. This could only have worked as the last episode of the season, with some genuine doubt as to what was going to happen. But these days the final episode of the season is supposed to be an epic 'season finale', so this could never appear then.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 24th, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
I think Upper Leadworth being obviously false would have been less of a problem if the characters were treating it seriously. People have complained that these types of stories always involve the audience waiting for the characters to catch up, I'm not sure that's necessarily such a big problem if you can empathise with the character's dilemma, but in this case the episode didn't strive for that.

I agree though that it was a great idea, and lots of it was executed very well. The ways in which it doesn't work are very different from the ways in which Who episodes generally don't work.