Having Toby Whithouse, the creator of “sounds like the set-up to a really painfully bad nerd joke” series Being Human, about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house, (which is actually really quite good, and I’m not just saying that because it features Russell Tovey in the nude from time to time) write an episode of Doctor Who that features the fourth distinct vampire-like creature in the show’s history, sounds at first like the sort of thing that might potentially be a little too on the nose to really work. Instead we got a very strong episode, and a surprisingly comedy-driven one at that, given the subject matter.

The lighter aspects of the episode are apparent from the beginning, with a pre-credits sequence in which the Doctor interrupts Rory’s bachelor party in a particularly memorable way, and catches the audience up on the cliff-hanger from the previous episode by choosing the exact wrong moment to tell Rory, and every other man in Leadworth apparently, that Amy has been kissing him. Matt Smith has been given a fair amount of comedy work in the series to date, but his delivery here nails a perfect mix of naivete about the faux pas he is committing and a very Doctorly smug satisfaction with having been kissed impressively by a pretty girl. What’s even better, though, is Arthur Darvill getting the chance to make Rory a real character, and not just a rehash of first season Mickey. The interplay between Rory and the Doctor is rather prickly at first, notably with the Doctor’s visible annoyance at discovering that Rory has actually sat down and taught himself about aliens and dimensionally transcendent vehicles, and Amy’s none too subtle comparisons in which the Doctor is clearly favored in her mind don’t help.

The story itself is, well…fish aliens disguising themselves as vampires is certainly a novel approach to inconspicuous infiltration of another world, but it’s not a plan that holds up to much scrutiny. Whithouse seems to have noticed this too, though, and the pretense is dispatched with fairly quickly in favor of a story about the Doctor’s attempts to infiltrate the alien base and undo their plan. The obligatory “tragic sacrifices” necessary to resolve the story end up feeling a little tacked on after that, though, almost as if a traditional Who “pile of bodies” ending was felt to be needed somewhere in the season.

But quibbling over plot feels like a good way to miss what seems to have been the point of this episode. The structure here is on reintroducing Rory and giving us a reason to care about him. From what we see of him here, he’s brave and clever, intimidated by the Doctor but also not afraid to speak his own mind. He’s also stupidly devoted to Amy, a devotion that she may not entirely deserve. The comparison some have made of Rory to Mickey isn’t fair to Rory; Mickey, at least in the first season, was a bit of a prick. He cheated on Rose and tended towards the selfish in his behavior. In a certain sense, then, Rory is the anti-Mickey. However, the Rose/Mickey dynamic, at least from the Rose side, is somewhat replicated in Amy’s attitude towards Rory. She takes him for granted and clearly favors the Doctor and otherwise gives a general air of having somehow “settled” for Rory or simply fallen into a relationship with him out of a lack of other options. It’s still an obnoxious character flaw for Amy.

15 Responses to ““One day, that’ll work.””
  1. Kevin Mallone says:

    I don’t know what it is, since I liked the characters at the time, but I can barely watch repeats of Doctor Who that have Rose or Mickey in them. Maybe because every companion since has been better, I dunno. So I’m happy that the Amy/Rory dynamic is pretty fundamentally different.

    The cake scene was an awesome opener, especially the Doctor implying that that wasn’t the first cake he’s popped out of.

  2. Sake says:

    To be fair, Mickey had to deal with seeing Rose take off with the Doctor and her going missing without a trace for six months, before we see him again. Rory didn’t even know Amy had left till this episode.

  3. I loved the cake thing.

    There definitely is a parallel to be made between Amy and Rose’s attitude towards Rory and Mickey, but the latter are, as you said, not at all the same. Mostly because I get the feeling that, in the end, Rory and Amy will actually end up together, whereas it was clear Rose and Mickey just weren’t.

    Adored the actress who played the Fish Queen. The hate-flirting between her and Matt Smith was really hot, I thought. I loved the “Then go save them!” and “Dream of us.” For a fish-lobster woman, she knew exactly where to plunge and twist the knife.

  4. Tim O'Neil says:

    I thought that Rory was instantly likable as well, particularly because he was much less annoying out of the gate than Mickey. (Although, in fairness, Mickey had a good character arc and ended his tenure on the show as a very brave and likable fellow.) And I agree that the relationship doesn’t paint Amy in the best light, but I’d also say that I think we’re intended to think she’s kind of a flake and definitely oblivious to the harm she causes in the people around her. (This is addressed in the next episode very nicely, although there is still room to go for her – but it’s also worth keeping in mind that the overt theme of the season so far has actually been “growing up,” in one capacity or another.)

    This is all a nice change from Rose, whom I don’t think we were ever really invited to dislike in any significant capacity, which only made her all the more grating as the series progressed.

  5. JauntyJohn says:

    I loved that Rory “get’s it” pretty much right out of the gate. He immediately recognizes the Doctor and connects the dots pretty quickly about the fact that although Amy hasn’t been “away” for any length of time to his perspective, she’s been gone for quite a while, for her. And I give major props to Arthur Darvill. You can watch the emotions flicker across Rory’s face in rapid fire accompaniment to his thinking — plus he does a lovely “welling up.” And how terrific that he has *his* moment to trump the Doctor a bit with “parallel dimension.” Again, this Doctor is a bit prickly. He goes from rakish grin to penetrating stare practically mid-syllable.

    Bit of a muddle, morally speaking though. Why not just take the fish people someplace else? Or at least offer, as has been done many times in the past. At some point I needed the Doctor to offer them a chance, as Tenth Doctor was always committed to doing. But that the Mother Monster didn’t know Isabella’s name and that, more than anything, is why the Doctor will thwart them? Pure Doctor morality, in a good way.

    Vampires as alien fish in Venice is a fun conceit. But … they didn’t seem to have much trouble running around in the daylight — which we could have ignored if it weren’t for the giant daylight flashlight — and the “I can’t follow you into the light” moment in The Big Escape scene. At least, it all looked that way to me. (I was so, so sorry to see Helen McCrory’s Rosanna become fish food. I’m with Bourgeois Nerd — She was magnificent in the scene with the Doctor when they confronted each other. Whomever came up with her almost minuet along the tiles as they talked was genius.)

    Good thing Karen Gillian is so likeable, as I’m finding Amy Pond very much less so. The whole character is undermined by this flighty “I’ll kiss the nearest available man in the rush of relief after being scared” thing. Really? This is the woman the stoic little girl in the garden grew up to be? While the “we’re alive!” post-scare-rush of course makes good sense, this device makes Amy … dunno. Just didn’t strike a good chord for me. It’s not her being fun and cheeky and grown-up, as when she didn’t turn away in 11th Hour when The Doctor changed clothes — it feels like it makes her a bit vapid. (Though the meta-point, the “how can a companion return to a normal life, a ‘regular’ relationship after traveling with the Doctor, always haunts each companion, I think, and is always a valid story touchstone.)

    I’m going to go out on a limb, and call that the TARDIS itself is somehow intrinsically responsible for the Cracks. I hope I’m wrong. I thought that actually before we had a little crack in the T’s keyhole, but that seems to add to the theory a bit.

    Overall, the show is fantastically done, and considering the level of comment, scrutiny, deconstruction and analysis each episode is put to by fervent fans and snarkers all over the internet, it hangs together beautifully.

  6. Bill D. says:

    Loved the questions scene between the Doctor and the fish queen, partially for the back & forth banter, but mostly because there was a definite feeling that he actually sort of liked her on some level, or at least respected her and the position she was in of trying to save her race, which made his indignation at the end of the scene more powerful. He wasn’t stomping off to defeat her just because she passed up the “one chance” that 10 always gave villains, but more because she couldn’t even be bothered to remember her victim’s name, like he was more appalled by the emotional detachment than the act itself.

    And that he still tries to save her, and by extension the other fish folk, at the end, speaks volumes about the difference between Smith’s and Tennant’s Doctors. Maybe the reminder that he’s still actually Time’s servant, Time Lord or not, helped him regain a little mercy this incarnation?

  7. Prankster says:

    I thought this was the weakest episode of the season so far, though that still makes it better than any of the non-Moffat scripted episodes of the Davies run. Rory IS a little too close to Mickey for me in terms of his relationship to the Doctor, and I’m not crazy about the way this season has been rehashing the first Davies season, even if it’s doing a much better job of it. I’m also sick of stories about humans being transformed into aliens–I know it makes a certain amount of sense this time out given the vampire thing, but we sure are flexible creatures, biologically speaking, aren’t we? Apparently we’re the play-doh of the universe, just waiting to be molded into whatever convenient form this week’s monster needs it to be.

  8. Scott says:

    “To be fair, Mickey had to deal with seeing Rose take off with the Doctor and her going missing without a trace for six months, before we see him again. Rory didn’t even know Amy had left till this episode.”

    Yes, but Rory also lived with/around Amy for the two years the Doctor was gone after Prisoner Zero was defeated. He had to wonder if the Doctor would ever return and how Amy would react, so maybe he’s been expecting this on some level.

  9. Steve says:

    I hadn’t realized we were supposed to like Amy. The girl grates on me worse than Rose did or Donna Noble before she started maturing.

  10. “I thought that actually before we had a little crack in the T’s keyhole”

    It’s bigger on the outside.

    //\Oo/\\

  11. Evan Waters says:

    I liked the first half of the episode better than the second- it kind of lost steam, and I recognized too many bits from other stories. Not that the show repeating itself is at all new, so I’m not sure why it didn’t work as well for me this time.

    That said, I did like the Amy/Rory business. I don’t dislike her yet (and I’m impressed by Karen Gillian’s performance so far), but they’re sort of walking a line with this character- it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes.

  12. Roger says:

    “Maybe the reminder that he’s still actually Time’s servant, Time Lord or not, helped him regain a little mercy this incarnation?” Huh. Even with the CyberKing, #10 was all “you’ve evolved into something new, I can help you find a place to go”.

    I didn’t hear #11 say anything like this … even though it all seemed plausible to do so for a change (one city, etc., not a huge population, etc etc).

    Still enjoyed the episode, and the interplay between Rory and #11.

  13. Scott says:

    ‘“Maybe the reminder that he’s still actually Time’s servant, Time Lord or not, helped him regain a little mercy this incarnation?” Huh. Even with the CyberKing, #10 was all “you’ve evolved into something new, I can help you find a place to go”.

    I didn’t hear #11 say anything like this … even though it all seemed plausible to do so for a change (one city, etc., not a huge population, etc etc).’

    #11 didn’t make that offer to move the aliens, but he also never actually threatened to destroy their race. He threatened to tear down the house of Calvierri for being so callous, but he never threatened (or caused)extinction the way 10 sometimes would. The females were killed by the boatbuilder, and Lady Calvierri killed herself before the Doctor could stop her. It was a bad deal but I don’t think the Doctor was culpable(unless you count the “Bad things happen around the Doctor” theme the new Who has pushed).

  14. Tom Foss says:

    I think the thing I like most about the flighty/flaky/flirty character flaw in Amy is that it’s being treated as a flaw. The same traits–specifically the flighty/flakiness regarding the non-Doctor significant other–in Rose were lauded consistently by the story and the characters. Amy feels very much like a response to Rose, and I think making Rory a stronger, more independent, more interesting character than Mickey is a significant part of that.

  15. Emily says:

    I liked the first half of the episode better than the second- it kind of lost steam, and I recognized too many bits from other stories. Not that the show repeating itself is at all new, so I’m not sure why it didn’t work as well for me this time.

    That said, I did like the Amy/Rory business. I don’t dislike her yet (and I’m impressed by Karen Gillian’s performance so far), but they’re sort of walking a line with this character- it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes.

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