Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice spoiler-free review
Series five of Doctor Who finally has a bit of a blip. Here’s our spoiler-free take on Amy’s Choice…
PLEASE NOTE: this is the spoiler-free take on the episode, although this week, we do mention one or two things that have appeared in the ‘next time' trailer from last week, and a little of the story up to the point where the credits roll. We've double-checked and don't think there's anything in here that's spoiler-y, and we've - of course - not talked about the narrative of the episode. But if you want to see the episode 100% cold, we figured we should point out everything we've just mentioned!
On paper, the ingredients for Amy's Choice are impressive. There are the intriguing shots of a pregnant Amy Pond, for starters, and the outline premise that she's not seen the Doctor for years, and is now having a baby with Rory. That's a solid place to start.
Then there's the brilliant Toby Jones drafted in on guest star duties. There's a script by Simon Nye, a predominantly comedy writer with a very healthy pedigree. And there's a trailer that made it look as if Doctor Who is going to mess with our heads for 45 minutes, and give Amy Pond a bit of testing work to do.
Yet, sadly, and you probably saw this conclusion coming, Amy's Choice just doesn't gel together as well as it feels it should, and the end result subsequently amounts to less than the sum of its collected parts.
The basics are fine. The pre-credits sequence sets things up well, as we join Amy and Rory in their idyllic new life, with her nursing her baby bump and a life of happy families on the way, when the Tardis materialises in their swanky back garden. They're living in a quiet village, where nothing much happens and there's no obvious threat in the offing. Which is Doctor Who code for trouble not being too far away.
And so it proves. We're not going into detail here, given that we're in spoiler-free territory, save that to say that the story then splits between two different worlds. The episode is then effectively held together by Toby Jones, who has to explain what's going on. That's as much of the narrative as we'll talk about here, though.
What we'll talk about instead is why things don't quite work as well as we'd hoped. For, in spite of the premise, there never really seems to be a great deal of mystery or deep intrigue about Amy's Choice, and nor did we find its attempts to play with our heads particularly successful.
Simon Nye's script, pretty much stripped of any humour surprisingly (and humour has been one of the major successes of this current run), never really threatens to match the standard of the six that preceded it, and instead the episode potters along in a manner that makes the whole thing less interesting than it should be.
To be clear, it's not bad telly. But while Amy's Choice is a perfectly passable way to while away 45 minutes, given what it tries to do with the development of its characters, it never feels like anything other than a fairly forgettable mid-season episode.
Even Matt Smith's Doctor - and Smith is excellent again - is a bit more muted and less on edge for long periods here. That, in itself, is no bad thing, but at times, it sorely needed the unpredictable, volatile Doctor we've seen in recent weeks to shake things. But it never really happens.
We do get the aforementioned Toby Jones, who's a terrific actor, but he too is limited by what he gets to work with. His role, we felt as the credits rolled, just didn't seem to work as well as it needed to.
There are still, to be fair, some positives here. There are one or two really quite creepy moments generated during the parts of the episode where the special effects budget has been tidied away, and when a bit of cash is splashed, there are some impressive results too. Furthermore, as ever, you can't help thinking that there are one or two underlying elements that have been sown in that'll have some resonance further down the line.
Yet, there's little getting away from the fact that this is the seventh episode in a series where the preceding six have seen the show on rollicking form. Amy's Choice though, while far from a disaster, just feels a little bit ordinary.
Our spoiler-filled review will be live, as usual, on Saturday night.