A really good episode, this. Really, really, really good. The Girl Who Waited is clever, delicately woven television, and digs very effectively into the relationships between the Doctor, Rory and Amy Pond. It starts with something really quite simple, works on a logic base from beginning to end, and might just give your tear ducts a bit of a workout, too.
At first, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is an Amy Pond-centric take on the series four episode, Turn Left. But what The Girl Who Waited actually turns out to be is something just a bit different. It certainly puts the spotlight heavily on Amy, and it’s giving nothing away to say that the title of the episode refers to her. But Tom MacRae’s story keeps its cast list short, and focuses in on the three main faces we’ve been watching zip around time and space for the past year and a half.
It’s really effective, too. There are no spoilers here, not least because this is the kind of episode that, more than most, deserves to be enjoyed in one, undisturbed sitting without anyone whispering to you what’s going to happen. That’s not even because there are massive plot moments to spoil per se (The Rani doesn’t pop up midway through, in case you were wondering), rather that The Girl Who Waited gently, diligently builds its story up, with real impact. It might even be worth shutting the dog in the kitchen while you watch it.
What you get here is arguably Karen Gillan’s finest work in Doctor Who to date. She’s been on strong form this series, I’ve thought, but she’s given really interesting material to play with here, and she acts her socks off. It’s quality work, and hers is the standout turn in an episode rich with convincing, involving acting.
What I also liked about The Girl Who Waited is just how old school science fiction it feels at times. Doctor Who hasn’t been shy about being overtly sci-fi, of course, but there are times when it’s left to be utterly implicit to what’s going on. It’s implicit here, too, but visually, the screen is filled with a really convincing world to visit. Not that I’d be in a hurry to go there myself.
The production design is, by turns, simple and ambitious, and the direction from Nick Hurran is excellent. I’m finding myself talking more and more about the directors on Doctor Who across this series, and that’s been long overdue. But there’s little doubting that there’s been something quite wonderfully cinematic about the direction the show has taken. It’s not just in the loud, effects-heavy moments, either. Instead, there’s a real sense that this is a production a cut above what we’re used to seeing on a small screen, in more than one sense.
Credit to all concerned, here. I love that we get television the quality of The Girl Who Waited at teatime on a Saturday night. And while there may be some who prefer something a bit more bombastic, I’m quite happy to strongly recommend a well thought through story, that’s been very well written and very well told. For that’s just what you’re going to get this coming Saturday…