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.
ON THE DOCTOR'S DECISION TO CLOSE THE DOOR
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!).
ON EVERYTHING BEING MAGICALLY BACK TO NORMAL AT THE END
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.
ON FORGOTTEN BABY SYNDROME
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