Really enjoyed that. Just goes to show that it’s not the raw materials, it’s what you do with them that counts.
As with last week’s episode in some ways this is not that original – the Rory/Amy bits mirror the (much briefer) sections in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and we’ve all seen SF TV tackle plots with duplicate copies of a character or multiple time streams. It also means that the resolution to the story is always going to narrow down to a couple of fairly obvious options which inevitably dulls the impact a little. But it works. The execution is extremely effective, and the script manages to spin the obviousness sufficiently that it feels valid and sincere. Given that Tom MacRae’s previous episodes are among my least favourite, this is a refreshing surprise.
The production design is great – the Robots are perhaps not *that* special, the environments are just holodecks, and even the minimalist white sets are bordering on cliche, but it all feels refreshingly different for Doctor Who and more importantly is very sharply executed in a way that adds up to a distinctive overall look and feel. The contrast of the white spaces to the grimier sections, the surreal garden, and even the mahoosive magnifying glass are lovely.
Karen Gillan’s old age makeup is impressive (more so the closer you get and the better lit it is, which is a rarity). And Gillan herself does very well; she’s sometimes accused of being a little glib and blank-eyed, she definitely rises to the occasion. I’d go so far as to say this is her best performance to date. Indeed, all the characters are well-served by the script which plays to their individual strengths. I liked the slightly darker edge to the Doctor towards the end too (a little similar to his leaving Captain Jack behind in Utopia).
Random thought: the facility reminds me slightly of the Library in the Classic Trek episode ‘All Our Yesterdays’ which also features portals to different environments and characters trapped in different time streams communicating.