Amy’s Choice is the 7th episode of Season 5 of Doctor Who, starring Matt Smith, and guest starring Toby Jones as the malevolent “Dream Lord.”
Story: The Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves going back and forth between two realities – one in which they are in the Tardis, and the other in which it is five years later in Leadworth, with Amy married to Rory and pregnant. The mysterious and malevolent Dream Lord appears who tells them that they have to determine out which reality is real and which is a dream, and allow themselves to die in the dream in order to permanently wake up from it. In the Tardis, they find the ship pulled toward a star that burns cold, and are in danger of freezing to death. In Leadworth, they are menaced by a series of aliens living inside elderly people that disintegrate people with their breath (no wonder this show is hard to explain to people). When Rory is killed in the Leadworth reality, Amy realizes that she has always loved him and refuses to live in a world in which he is dead. Killing themselves, the Doctor and Amy return to the Tardis, where the Doctor reveals that that world is also a dream, and intentionally causes the Tardis to explode. Only then do the three travelers return to the real world (also on the Tardis) where the Doctor explains that a piece of psychic pollen got into the ship and fed off the Doctor’s dark side, creating the Dream Lord. In the end, Amy admits her absolute love and devotion to Rory.
Comments: Both times I’ve watched Amy’s Choice, I have really enjoyed it, and found it’s relatively simple pair of plots linked together with the common threat of the Dream Lord to be really fun. However, I have to admit that neither time has the story really stuck in my head in the same way that other favorite episodes of the season (Eleventh Hour, Time of Angels, The Lodger) have. Maybe it’s because while the overall drama of the time travelers facing off with the Dream Lord is quite interesting, neither of the two “false worlds” that the Dream Lord creates are all that engaging. But there is nothing wrong with the episode, and it’s actually a pretty important one in the season arc.
One is pretty sure most of the time that the “Leadworth” reality is a dream, simply because you assume that the show hasn’t really jumped forward five years in Amy’s life, (and also because you’d otherwise have to accept the distressing reality that a whole playground full of children has just been killed) but there are other interesting clues throughout that neither world is real. In Upper Leadworth, there seems to be appearing and disappearing snow, and all of a sudden in this incredibly boring village, there are the ruins of some sort of ancient castle. In the Tardis, in addition to the star burning cold, you have that Tardis generator that looks like an egg beater, and there is one bit where the Doctor is suddenly holding a coffee mug.
It’s fitting that Amy’s Choice is the middle installment its season of Doctor Who, as it is a turning point story for Amy. It’s where she really learns who she is and what she wants, going up in a sense from a confused girl to woman with direction. It’s also a fun story with a unique conceit. Neither of the individual “plots” that the characters have to face are terribly developed, but the dilemma of having to choose between the two, determining which one might be real, makes up for that.
The Dream Lord is a interesting villain, physically unimpressive yet so full of malice and vitriol toward the Doctor. I spent most of the episode on my first viewing trying to imagine which old menace he might really was, before the reveal that he was the dark side of the Doctor’s personality. In that, he most resembles the Valeyard (another amalgamation of the Doctor’s dark side, this time between his 12th and final incarnations) from the original series, and indeed there is no reason these two similar creatures couldn’t be “related”, though it’s clear this is a separate entity. I’d definitely be open to a return of the Dream Lord in the future, providing of course that the right story could be found.
There are a number of interesting blocks of dialogue in the story. One of the most fun comes as the Doctor tries to sum up their situation.
Doctor: Look around you. Examine everything. Look for all the details that don’t ring true.
Rory: OK, well we’re in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside
Amy: With a bow-tie wearing alien.
Rory: So maybe what “rings true” isn’t so simple.
• I always like seeing the Doctor rightly get told off. After calling Amy’s world boring, Amy fakes going into labour. Then she says
Amy: This is my life now, and it just turned you white as a sheet. So don’t you call it dull again. Ever. Okay?
• Speaking of Amy, there is a pretty interesting exchange between her and Rory which is quite revealing.
Amy: We can still get married…someday.
Rory: You don’t want to anymore. I thought you’d chosen me, not him.
Amy: You are always so insecure.
Rory: You ran off with another man.
Amy: Not in that way.
Rory: It was the night before our wedding.
Amy: We’re in a time machine. It can be the night before our wedding for as long as we want.
Rory: We have to grow up eventually.
Amy: Hmm. Says who?
• The Doctor gets a good line is as well, as they talk about the cold star.
Amy: The science is all wrong here. “Burning ice.”
Doctor: No no no. Ice can burn. Sofas can read. It’s a big universe.
• A random and funny line from Amy as she gives the Doctor and Rory ponchos.
Amy: If we’re going to die, let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band.
• The Dream Lord is quite creepy, especially as you realize he is the personification of the Doctor’s self-hatred.
Dream Lord: Poor Amy. He always leaves you, doesn’t he. Alone in the dark. Never apologizes
Amy: He doesn’t have to.
Dream Lord: That’s good, because he never will.
And after that…
Dream Lord: Oh, is that who you think you are? The one he trusts?
Amy: Actually, yes.
Dream Lord: The only girl in the universe to whom the Doctor tells everything?
Dream Lord: So what’s his name?
And to the Doctor
Dream Lord: Friends? Is that the right word for the people you acquire? Friends are people you stay in touch with. Your friends never see you again once they’ve grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?
• Ultimately, as the episode title shows, it’s Amy’s episode. After Rory “dies”, she coldly says to the Doctor…
Amy: Save him. You save everyone. You always do. It’s what you do.
Doctor: Not always. I’m sorry.
Amy: Than what is the point of you?
Things to watch out for (Warning: includes vague hints of things to come):
This is the first episode in which Rory “dies”. It becomes a bit of a running gag over the next two seasons.
In Amy’s dream, she is married, has been separated from the Doctor for an extended period of time, and is pregnant. All of these elements will come into play with Amy – in very different ways than seen here – in Season Six.
The episode anticipates later developments regarding the Doctor’s relationships with his friends and companions, and especially Amy & Rory, as seen in Season Six and the 2011 Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.
Making sense of it all (Warning: blatant spoilers for the rest of the series):
Really, the big impact that this story has on the rest of the series is Amy coming to realize that she loves Rory. This will continue to play a huge role in the arc of this season and for Amy in particular, as Rory proceeds to die, be erased from time, be returned to time, be reborn as an Auton, love for 2000 years as a mythical figure, and finally get married to Amy when the universe is reset. In spite of all this, the question of whether Amy loves Rory or the Doctor more is still played around with in Day of the Moon in Season Six.
In spite of the promise of the last scene, the Dream Lord has not made a return appearance in the series. At least, not yet.
Last Word: Two so-so mini-stories are pulled together by fascinating character-study umbrella, to make a worthwhile, though not particularly memorable, episode.