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“The Girl Who Waited” is a sublime piece of television. Writer Tom MacRae and director Nick Hurran have taken what can be seen as a, “Doctor-light,” episode and made it into an extraordinary story about the companions, particularly Amy Pond. Utilizing the barest sets possible and putting Murray Gold’s score, especially new settings and variations on what are effectively the “Amy Suite” from the fifth series in the forefront, this is an episode that is easily one of the best of the sixth series.

There are echoes of “Amy’s Choice” and Rory’s wait as “The Lone Centurion” but there are further, deeper parallels to be made as well.

Landing on the holiday planet Apalapucia, Amy is separated from Rory and the Doctor and placed in an alternate timestream quarantine. Humans are immune to Chen7, as it only affects two-hearted species. Thus Rory must venture out into the quarantine zone to find Amy on his own.

For as stark and emotionally complex as this episode is, there are a lot of light moments as well:
The Doctor states that Apalapucia is the number two planet holiday destination and Rory wants to know why they can’t go to the most popular planet, the Doctor says, “Everyone goes to number one: Planet of the Coffee Shops.” There’s a giant magnifying glass that’s not a magnifying glass and in order to observe without leaving the TARDIS, the Doctor outfits Rory with his own hipster glasses as a, “Rory-cam.”

The heart of the story is based on the premise that while Chen7 is a disease that kills within a day, a compressed time stream allows loved ones to see its victims live out full lives in twenty-four hours.

Left alone, Amy has to figure out how to avoid the “Handbots” whose, “kindness,” will kill her. Rory and the Doctor have to figure out how to find her.

They do. Except her time stream has advanced thirty-six years.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have to go to some very dark places in this episode. While the older Amy is more than capable of taking care of herself, isolation has made her bitter at Rory and most of all, the Doctor. There are delicate touches like Amy reaching for and then putting down her lipstick when she takes Rory back to her bolt-hole. It is in acting against herself that Gillan shines, though. Watch young Amy persuade her older self to help them and I dare you not to be moved. Persuade she does, saying, “Three words: What about Rory?”

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We’ve seen Rory’s devotion and faith in Amy time and again, but here we get to see just how much she’s willing to risk and sacrifice for him. Most of the interaction between Amy and Rory is played in looks and exchanges like this one:

Amy: “I got old.”
Rory: “I don’t care that you got old. I care that we didn’t grow old together.”

Gillan takes a risk in playing the older Amy as superficially cold as she does, because it’s very easy to forget that Amy had an ‘out’ at any time. All she would have had to do is allow the robots to perform a, “kindness.” She didn’t. She waited. She waited for a rescue that came so late, because as both Amys say, “Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.”

Without wasting a frame or line of dialogue, “The Girl Who Waited” digs beneath the surface of life with the Doctor and what it does to his companions. There is a price to be paid for the adventures and it may be too high. As Rory says, “This isn’t fair: You’re turning me into you!” In the end, there are choices and rescues and neither come easy for Rory or Amy or even the Doctor.

It’s not all whimsy and adventure and romps through space. It’s so much more than that.

“The Girl Who Waited” may be one of the few non-Moffat scripted episodes to make it into my personal top ten. Watch it, and bring tissues, you’ll need them.