Once again, we find ourselves in the same hole we were in during the Davies era - a companion-driven story, with the antagonist(s) set as a subplot. That is the number one reason this episode did not score higher. What is the deal with Doctor Who revolving around the companions? Is it so hard to write an entire season where the trio, as a TEAM, discover, encounter, and overcome a situation?
This is something that has and always will bother me about the revived series, and for the life of me I cannot see what could possibly be so appealing about it that such a good writer such as Moffat would chose to continue those trends during his reign. No one can argue that by "The End Of The World" during the Davies era, we had already surmised that the series was largely going to focus on Rose, and when "Father's Day" came along, it was practically an international public announcement.
I can honestly say I had trouble scoring this episode. There were so many elements that would have worked fantastic in terms of classic Doctor Who, but once the episode shifted to more or less having Amy decide between The Doctor or Rory, it just killed it.
Yet another thing that just baffles me about the revived series. Why in God's name does every companion have to be emotionally involved with The Doctor???!! Why is the love triangle a necessity in a science fiction series?! To even entertain the notion of a relationship between The Doctor and one of his companions is to invite elements into the story that can serve no purpose other than to distract the focus of the episode from the main plot line.
The episode's intent to focus on Amy caused a tremendous plot error later in the episode; The Dream Lord was a figment out of THE DOCTOR'S imagination, so why was he so hell bent on singling out Amy?! What does that mean? That the Doctor secretly returns Amy's affection for him, and secretly wants her to choose between himself or Rory?
As my readers already know, I'm extremely anti-shaky cam, and this episode is full of it. I'm almost positive that the shaky cam was explicitly used here to further enhance the feeling of being in a "dream," but as I've said before - it's makes the shot look like it was filmed in a hurry, like the cameraman was in hurry to finish so he could take a piss, or because they were five minutes past lunch time, etc. At the very least, it probably makes some viewers with weaker stomachs sea sick....errr...Tee sick. TEE as in "T" - Television!
The setting was ideal for classic Who - the rural village of upper Leadworth, and the initial plot was good - the idea of a darker side of The Doctor forcing the trio to shift back and forth between to realities, each with inherent dangers, and having them choose one. Normally, a respectable Doctor Who writer would have The Doctor work out a solution to the problem, but to fill the absence of originality is the usual substitute - just have the companion save the day instead.
Rory's death causes Amy to make the choice for all of them, saving the day. Why would The Doctor go along with such reckless behavior? What if she was wrong? There was no LOGICAL reason behind the unnecessary risk they take in the van. I say LOGICAL reason - there IS a reason, it's just not logical. The reason being Amy proving her love for Rory to the viewers. What the f**k?! I don't care if they love each other or not! The TARDIS is freezing over, we're being terrorized by Eknodine-infested pensioners, and we still don't have any safe, logical way of determining which is the dream and which is reality! Eh, logic and safety be damned. Let's throw our own lives out the window as well and HOPE we guessed right. That way we can quickly wrap this episode up. Rory is dead now, so there's no love triangle anymore, so no engine to ooze drama, and no real reason to continue further with this story.
Speaking of Rory's death, get out your chalkboard and ckalkstick, because this episode is the first of numerous future episodes where Rory seems to "die," and is later resurrected.
Yet another "quick fix" to an otherwise grim situation was when The Doctor had got cornered in a freezer at a butcher shop. With angry Eknodines on the other side of the door, how can a Time Lord get out of this rut? Easy. Just set your all-purpose sonic screwdriver to the "cause Eknodines to let you pass by them without even a tap on the wrist by simply shooting out a light bulb above them" setting and you're home free! Just point and click!
I've watched this episode several times since it aired, and I've always liked it, but never really realized how distant it was from original Doctor Who until I sat down earlier tonight and watched it with my review goggles on.
It was a well conceived story, but the companion driven plots were getting beyond old, and the companion saving the day was just plum ridiculous. What makes both of these things such episode killers for me is that NEITHER of them should be in an episode of Doctor Who, if you're going by the rulebook written by Newman, Letts, Holmes, Hinchcliffe, Turner and the rest of the original series production crew. Bottom line is, true Doctor Who fans HATE these kinds of episodes, Mr. Moffat, and they aren't going to start liking them, no matter how cleverly you twist them into a plot. The stories should be antagonist-driven, and should be concluded by the lead role. In this case, it's THE DOCTOR. No matter how you slice it, unless you're going to rename the show, he has, is and forever always will be THE LEAD ROLE. You can't shift another character to the front and still brand it "Doctor Who."