Doctor Who: On Forgotten Wives and Forgotten Children


In the first ten minutes of the episode, I was worried that they were going to take everything that was problematic about Sarah's stated arc in School Reunion and turn it up to 11. Both center around the idea that the companion sits around waiting for the Doctor until she grows old.

But what we get is far more nuanced. Amy became bitter in the 36 years she was left alone, and focuses that bitterness on the Doctor (which seems a bit unfair since she got herself into that mess, but whatever. Who presses the red button instead of the green?). It wasn't like he actually left her behind. She put herself into the fast-stream.

You could make much about how Rory waited 2000 years for Amy while Amy could barely stomach 36, but Rory is not the type to see things that way, nor should we be. Amy has had to fight for her life, again and again, all alone. Rory made the choice to wait, but Amy was stuck in the quarantine facility, and she had to do the best that she could in those circumstances.

So who could blame her for turning into Rousseau from Lost, all badass and mighty eccentric as a result of being deprived of her daughter and her companions (well, the daughter parallel exists, despite Amy and Rory forgetting about Melody, again).

Thankfully, Amy is the one that ends up saving herself. She thinks she's waiting for the Doctor and Rory to save her, but in a lovely twist, it turns out she's waiting for herself.



Tom Macrae sets up what seems like a clear choice: older Amy or younger Amy? Rory, bless his heart, is such a good guy that he actually makes it seem like a difficult choice, though of course it isn't. He has to choose between an Amy whose life has passed her by, who has succumbed to bitterness and anger, who is out only for herself, and the Amy he knows (who may yet become all of the things we see in Old-Amy).

You could read the choice as Rory explicitly rejecting an old-aged Amy for the younger model, but that isn't really the choice for him, is it? He loves them both equally. We know that whichever one got out, Rory would do whatever he can for her. He almost accepts that Old-Amy is the only Amy, until the Doctor peskily overheard the original Amy. But Rory still doesn't make that choice. He accepts the option of rescuing them both. He thinks he can do that, and the Doctor lies that of course he can. Sneaky Doctor, depriving both Rory and Amy of agency. The Doctor decides he wants young Amy on the TARDIS, and manipulates them all to that end.

Silly Rory, forgetting Rule #1: The Doctor Lies.



Macrae has reintroduced a dark, manipulative side of the Doctor that we haven't seen since the Sylvester McCoy era. Remember when he tricked Ace into saving the mother she despised? Oh yeah. Is what he did to Old Amy worse? Oh yes.

According to the laws of time, surely he must save Older Amy? I understand how he can make that choice, given that both time-streams exist simultaneously. But who is he to make that choice? Who is he to decide that one lifetime nearing its conclusion is worth less than a life that has yet to be lived? Because this was a real life. This isn't like Donna's fake life in Silence of the Library, it is not a fiction. This brings to mind the erasure of Donna's memory. Would she have been happier had she died, knowing she became a hero, or happier with life as the selfish boor she was before? The Doctor made that choice for Donna. He didn't have the right.

He doesn't have the right to make that choice about Amy either, erasing a world of experience in order to return something more...what...innocent? The only difference this time is that Amy gets to carry on with the Doctor.

What's then troubling is that Old-Amy seems to affirm that choice, deciding her life is worthless, that she no longer has anything to live for. Yes, she died so that Amy could live, but she could have carried on in The Garden, with pet robot Rory (I want a pet robot Rory!).


At the end, Rory clearly is not comfortable with everything that's happened, but he seems magically to have forgiven the Doctor. How could he? He recognized that, effectively, the Doctor killed Amy. An older Amy, sure, but isn't the whole point of the episode that she is still Amy? Rory should have stated, right then and there, that he wants to find his daughter and go home. Period.

And what about young Amy? She sees the Doctor and Rory explicitly choose to replace her older self with a younger model. Isn't that every woman's fear? It seems like a bit of a narrative cop-out that Amy is unconscious in that scene. What is Rory going to tell her happened? He can't tell her the honest truth, but I can't picture Rory lying to her either.

And they say relationships are complicated.


While young Amy is still a bit of a blank slate at the moment, at least older Amy has some clear drivers: she wants to live. She wants to survive, and she wants to be with Rory. But still, the writers wasted an opportunity with her. When she is asked what she's going to do after they're rescued, she says she's going to go traveling. If the line had simply been that she would go looking for Melody, it would have made so much sense, and it would have been poignant.

36 years is a long time to ponder one's regrets. And would older Amy have any greater regret than never having the chance to see her daughter again, that, in fact, she never even bothered to look for her before she was locked in the quarantine facility?

Anyway, I look forward to next week's episode, though I fully expect the writers to ignore any character growth from this episode.


This episode reminds me of when I'd play video games simply so I could bathe in the beauty of the worlds they created, games like Myst, Riven and Obsidian, which had the same sense of beautiful oddness as The Garden does here.



-Am I the only one who wished that the Mona Lisa had "THIS IS NOT A FAKE" scrawled on the back? That would have been a neat bit of continuity.

-Did anyone else noticed how he "action music" specifically called back the action music from Utopia? Are we going to learn that the Master has the Ponds' forgotten baby and has in fact fob-watched the baby from their memories?

-If anyone actually followed the rules of my Pond-centric drinking game, they would be unconscious on the sidewalk in an alcohol-induced coma

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35 Responses to “ Doctor Who: On Forgotten Wives and Forgotten Children ”

  1. It wasn't like he actually left her behind. She put herself into the fast-stream.

    They did leave her behind, though. Remember, in the version of history she remembers, 36 years ago she actually saw Rory and the Doctor get in the TARDIS with her older self and leave her.

  2. A lot of these have awesome subtle answers.

    What's then troubling is that Old-Amy seems to affirm that choice, deciding her life is worthless, that she no longer has anything to live for. Yes, she died so that Amy could live, but she could have carried on in The Garden, with pet robot Rory

    For almost 2000 years, Rory has experienced something of what Older Amy has gone through. When he started to open the door, he wasn't going to try to let her in... he was going to go out and join her. "There can't be two Amy's ON THE TARDIS" and "Which wife do you want?" leads naturally to Rory leaving younger Amy safe with the Doctor and older Amy happy with him. But the fact is, by now older Amy is physically much more tough than he and will force her way onto the TARDIS and die fast rather than fade away, and the only thing stopping her is knowing that it would destroy Rory himself because he would lose both Amys that way. She is not counting her life worthless, she's counting his as worth everything.

    On Forgotten Baby Syndrome

    Amy has to be thinking about how similar she looks to River, and she definitely will see the parallel between saving young Melody (thus destroying the River she came to know) and saving young Amy (thus destroying herself). In the end, she can do it to herself, but never to her daughter.

    Did anyone else noticed how he "action music" specifically called back the action music from Utopia?

    What I really noticed was that the same music played as the Doctor shut the TARDIS door between Rory and an Amy who would die and soon would not exist as played in Cold Blood after he had shut the TARDIS door between Amy and a Rory who had died and soon would not exist.

  3. More great thoughts, hope! Really enjoyed your take. For me, the episode has a few too many cheap theatrics for it to be anything more than a pretty good episode. I agree with you that I like how the episode forces the characters to make decisions, and also that I hate how it then tries to absolve them of their choice.

    For me the most interesting part of the episode that we get to see (because the actual most interesting part we don't get to see - Amy learning how to survive on her own) is Amy's manipulation of her older self (proving she's learned a trick or two from the Doctor) but then the episode robs us of her having to face the consequence of that act by having her be knocked out.

  4. I thought Karen Gillan did an excellent job this week, but I would have preferred to see Older Amy stick around, Younger Amy trapped in the facility with Rory the Robot where she could grow into the woman she becomes.(Maybe Older Amy could have returned the favor on her younger self and manipulated things so the Doctor and Rory didn't know Younger Amy was still around.)

    A good episode and a definite step in the right direction but this episode really only works if these strands of the TARDIS crew's decisions are carried forward.

    Which, as you rightly mention, isn't likely to happen, except for maybe in a big wrap-up at the end of the season.

  5. Just have to note: I also thought of the Myst/Riven type game with that garden. The whole facility felt a lot like one of those games, down to the gateways to the entertainment areas.

    I was thinking, at the start of the episode, how many times Amy's been left to wait for the Doctor, from the time she was a child, to being held hostage when pregnant, to this episode.

    Way too much great stuff in your post to comment on!

    Maybe there is still a little bit of that pull for Amy regarding her loyalties, she points out to herself she called her robot Rory, not the Doctor. We've seen, recently, how deeply Amy cares for Rory, once she allowed herself to see it. I think Rory might force her to choose to either have a future together or continue traveling; I think there is a more forceful Rory to come.

    Forgotten Melody, though, is perhaps the most intriguing loose end.

  6. Really enjoyed your review - the continued lack of emotional reaction to the loss of Melody is really troubling me, spoiling my enjoyment of otherwise enjoyable and engaging episodes as it makes it so hard to connect to the characters.

    "This episode reminds me of when I'd play video games simply so I could bathe in the beauty of the worlds they created, games like Myst, Riven and Obsidian, which had the same sense of beautiful oddness as The Garden does here."

    The garden scenes were filmed at Dyffryn Gardens, just outside Cardiff - I recognised it instantly, as I go there often:

  7. I also think something we both forgot in our respective articles is that A.Rory waited 2000 years let alone 36, and B. Rory had no choice when he was wiped out of existence, I think Old Amy had it easier.

  8. if the tardis can't handle the paradox of the same person from 2 time periods, how does it let more than one doctor inside at a time?

  9. Great analysis...I really do share the same concern you do: that all of this is really just being done in the moment for the episode, and all these things that should have greater resonance (like the Ponds losing their daughter) may end up being ignored going forward. I also make this point in my recap, but I would like to see Old Amy back as an antagonist for the Doctor (I agreed with Rory, this was all his fault).

    And I'm not sure that I would have just been passed out on the sidewalk if I tried Drain the Pond. I think I would have more pickled and preserved for future generations.

  10. @Sam once she was aware she was in a different time stream, she had to have assumed they'd jump into the TARDIS. She would know they didn't waste time gallivanting.

    @mayamaia that is an absolutely fantastic theory about Rory wanting to get out! I never even thought about it that way.

    @Mark it would have been great to see Older Amy leave, I agree. What a parallel it would be to seeing their daughter fully grown, if River gets to see her mother suddenly be old.

    @I.L. Wolf While I wouldn't want to see an explicit ultimatum, maybe Amy will find out what the Doctor did, leaving her older self behind, and they'll both realize together that it's time to go. That the Doctor fetishizes youth above all else.

    @llywela it's spoiling it a bit for me too. At this point I don't even need emotional realism, just a single line to acknowledge this is still going on. Thanks for the link to the pictures!

    @Anonymous I don't think it's the TARDIS that has a problem with the paradox, I think it's the universe. The two timelines can exist in the quarantine zone, but not in the real world, at least not without ripping apart the fabric of time.

    @Jon I would LOVE to see Old Amy back as an antagonist. I have always thought that at least some companions must grow to hate the Doctor (I always thought Tegan would have founded her own organization to destroy the Doctor, tbh). Maybe it's Old Amy in the astronaut suit...

    And lol to being pickled and preserved...

  11. i'm pretty certain the doctor said the tardis couln't deal with the paradox...

  12. OCH - I don't think the issue is that she thinks they wasted their time. The issue is that they consciously chose not to save her. In the version of events she lived through, Rory showed up to save her 36 years late, she saw him in her future in the time glass thingy - and then he and the Doctor left with her future self, and abandoned her.

    Regarding the forgotten Melody, I am beginning to suspect that Moffat's mind it has already been dealt with. Amy and Rory grew up with Melody. It's not the same as raising her but I think that's what, in his mind, has resolved it. They saw their baby grow up, they just didn't realize at the time that was what they were seeing.

  13. You bring up a lot of good points. The fact is, that Dr Who, supposedly a children's show, has been dancing around some very adult themes. There was Amy & Rory having their baby stolen. And now last nights episode. I genuinely hope that we start to see this catch up to the characters emotionally. Where are the grieving parents? So far, we've seen very little of that theme. I get the feeling though that Amy and Rory's story with the Doctor is starting to wind down, and hopefully we'll get the emotional payoff that does seem to be lacking.

  14. I don't think older Amy would have continued to exist once the TARDIS left, so she didn't have the option of living on in the garden with robot!Rory.

  15. Rory should have stated, right then and there, that he wants to find his daughter and go home. Period.

    But aren't those two things mutually exclusive? Amy and Rory are trapped - the Doctor is by far the best, possibly the only - ticket to them ever seeing Melody/River again.

    Excellent, thoughtful review, though. What struck me was that somehow it was easier to forgive the Doctor when he looked gorgeous, yet Ten did all the things Eleven does. He lied, he privileged youth and prettiness over age and experience, he made significant decisions for other people on their behalf and, of course, (as Nine) he callously left a companion behind in an even worse situation.

  16. Great post.

    The only moral thing to do here was rescue the old Amy. Rescuing young Amy kills old Amy, rescuing old Amy merely traps young Amy. But that had been done, and those years had passed already. Young Amy could only be talked to because they broke into a time stream with that magnifying glass. Otherwise the story was simple: they were late. But that glass was looking back in time. Amy was having a conversation she had before.

    She had lived the life that the young amy was about to, that was done. So the older amy should have been rescued.

    ( Obviously for the TV show it doesn't make sense unless you want Karen Gillan in prosthetics all the time).

  17. I had some reservations about "The Girl Who Waited" but it was a clear improvement on "Night Terrors" and it was good to see Karen Gillan being allowed to do some proper acting for once and proving she can do more than just blundering around shouting out "Doctor!" a lot.

  18. Because more than one doctor at a time have never tried to rewrite the past so that one of them wouldn't exist.
    Actually, the TARDIS *can* hold a paradox like this in place--we've seen it before with the Toclafane. The problem is we're not quite clear if the TARDIS can do anything else while it is a paradox machine.

    And in response to the review in general--I don't see it as resolved, I don't see the Doctor as suddenly forgiven by Rory. At that moment the Doctor dismisses himself from the scene so Rory can be with Amy. Then it ends rather abruptly leaving you feeling confused and without closure--probably the same exact way Amy and Rory are feeling!

  19. This is why I love Doctor Who: that a television show can prompt such conversation....

  20. First off, great analysis. You make an excellent point about Rory waiting for 2000 years and Amy only 36- hadn't thought of that. Also love your Mona Lisa graphic at the end- that made literally lol.

    I think the Doctor closing the door on Amy was a shock; his almost going into denial about how she wasn't the real one exposed a character flaw that I think is worthy of being explored; that basically, the Doctor can and does screw up, and that when he does, he can't seem to confront it.

    But you're right, he dodges Rory's question about him knowing that having both Amy's wouldn't work. It is very 7th Doctor-ish for him to do that.

    Here is my (not as good as yours lol) review of the episode from my site.

  21. @Sam that's an interesting thought! I didn't think about that, that that's what might make young Amy turn into bitter old Amy.

  22. @Anonymous, it's true, I think the lack of closure is more of a problem. There are a lot of "serious conversations" that we are not privy to.

    @Julia that's interesting, if in his head he doesn't even recognize older Amy as real.

  23. Alright folks, I'm trying out a new comments system! I'm working to
    import in all the old comments, so don't worry, the comments all still
    exist, but it may take some time to get them back up!

  24. I had a conversation the other day about Melody being conveniently forgotten about in this episode. I'm not entirely sure where I stand on that, though. After Let's Kill Hitler, the Ponds realize that they essentially grew up with her; so, are they still trying to find and raise baby Melody? It seems to me that that ship has sailed - the laws of Time and Narrative tell us that we already know how Melody grew up.

    Of course, that depends on how many regenerations Melody has had. You suggest 5 in a previous post, while I suggest 3 in one of mine (, and, well, I think my evidence is pretty strong, although Moffat does love to screw with us.

    And we know that Alex Kingston is River's last regeneration. Having her get rescued from the The Library would both cheapen the sacrifice and emotional weight of that story and muck up the Merlin / Nimué parallel that Moffat seems to be making.

    All of that is to say: I'm not sure there's a Melody for Amy and Rory to be reunited with, at this point.

  25. I think you're absolutely right that Alex Kingston is River's last generation (even though I'm sure there's a technical out, it would ruin a moment that was heartbreaking long before we even know her. By the way, have you watched that since? I cried through the entire episode.)
    Which is why I like to think there is a regeneration in between, that she did get to go off and be badass, otherwise Melody/Mels is quite boringly teen degenerate, and there's nothing to suggest River being quite the badass we're led to believe she is.

  26. I was thinking the same thing about the Mona Lisa! LOL

    As far as the forgotten baby, I think now that Amy and Rory know who their daughter turns out to be and knows that she'll be okay, they're not as adamant on finding her. Plus they spent years with her as Mels (although I still thought that felt a little forced), so maybe that makes a difference? However, it's still hard to get over that their daughter was not mentioned once during this episode, when she was the most important thing in previous episodes.

  27. I find it incredibly forced, and not at all plausible. They're parents, for godssakes! Unless they really really don't want to be parents, and no one has hinted that.

  28. "It wasn't like he actually left her behind. She put herself into the fast-stream."
    Amy did the EXACT SAME THING that Rory and the Doctor did (and actually, yeah, the reason she pressed the wrong button was because they wandered off and left her behind). There was no reason to believe that pressing the red button would have any negative consequences any more than there was reason to believe that pressing the green button -- equally arbitrary and ~irresponsible~ -- would. I actually can't deal with the idea that it was Amy's fault she got stuck in a parallel timeline for pressing the wrong button any more than I could deal with the idea that if someone chose to go outside it would be their fault if they got struck by lightning. And I really can't deal with the idea that it's unreasonable of her to be angry that they didn't come and get her sooner, that she was left alone in a hostile environment for 36 years by a Doctor who promised to come for her -- just like he promised to be back in "five minutes", just like he promised he'd rescue her daughter -- and failed to follow through.

  29. Great thoughts on the episode. I, too, wish the episode hadn't ended with Amy's question upon awakening, "Where is she?" going unanswered. You may be right, this one may be a "done in one" adventure, never mentioned again; but someone else suggested that Rory's "I don't want to travel with you!" comment may be the beginning of him trying to convince Amy that their TARDIS days should be wrapping up.

    I am glad they gave us such a thought-provoking episode -- more like these, please!

  30. A bit late, but I love your thoughts on the episode.

    I have to say, Moffat painted himself into a corner with the storylines he picked for Series 6. Kidnapping a baby, choosing between a life lived and a life of potential? These are dark plots that are very smart, very heavy--and have no place in a children's show.

    At the end of the day, that is what Doctor Who is. And however hard we wish that the Doctor could live with the consequences of his actions (which we sometimes get to witness), it's inevitable that things would always go back to the way it used to be--because there's the idea that children must be protected from harsh realities such as these.

    Now, had Doctor Who been an adult show like Torchwood, I think Moffat would have explored the darkness in the Doctor more.

    Oh, and also, this is one of the problems of episodic stories being made to look serialized. It fails. Modern Doctor Who isn't a serial. No matter how hard they try, they always go back to what Doctor Who essentially is: an episodic series with a beginning, a middle, (sometimes a to-be-continued), and an end. And while some thoughts/ideas do crossover to following episodes, they're usually let go after that to enable viewers to jump in whenever they want.

  31. Um. I'm trying to catch up with this AWESOME blog and the many thoughtful comments, but I'm hopelessly overwhelmed.

    So, forgive me please if this question has already been thoroughly aired --- but in a series all about lost daughters, where is the Doctor's daughter?

  32. Apparently she married David Tennant. Dirty old man :p

    To be honest, I'm not unhappy to see the back of her. Perhaps if she's played by a different actress she might be more interesting.

  33. And thanks for the kind words!

  34. That's a really good point. Though I'm not sure Doctor Who has ever tried so explicitly to be a children's show vs an adult show. The classic series was very good at brining out serious moral issues, and no one would think it was done in a manner inappropriate for children.
    In the Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy episodes particularly, he definitely lives in the consequences of his actions.

  35. I really liked this episode as it shows the doctor's calculating side, the doctor as a chess player. Normally, he's so clever that he finds the perfect solution and everybody is happy; well the 'good' guys at least. For the bad guys, you do all realise that he regularly lurches between genocide and pascism depending on who's writing the episode? The morals in this show are all over the place.

    I'm also surprised how many people would save the older Amy. I don't suppose that anybody was upset in the christmas carol episode when he went back in time and completely rewrote Kazran's past. This is a similar calculation. Here he had to choose between leaving Amy for 36 years bitterly fighting for her life and completely on her own, or giving her a better life with Rory and him. It's not really that hard is it.

    Of course, it's the execution of this decision that was dirty. He first lied to older Amy and then literally had to close the Tardis door on her. I guess that the real question is what he would have done if older Amy had arrived first.

    A lot of people bemoan, Rory and Amy's lack of concern for Melody but in fact, we've not really been allowed to know how they really feel about her. Given the absolutely minimal contact they had with their baby, the extremely confused timelines and a dark suspicion that they can do nothing about the silence keeping their baby inside the spacesuit until she escapes; maybe they're not really sure what to feel. (I've not seen the rest of this series yet).


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