Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Some of them are nasty, some of them are nice, but the nasty ones don’t put people off buying them.

And that’s what this episode is like. There are many wrong things in it, especially on a second viewing when the more muted emotional impact affords a better view of the wheels falling off, but overall that doesn’t really matter. The apple, cranberry and chocolate flavours outweigh the earwax.

Where The Girl Who Waited scores, and scores big, is in the emotional arena. Let’s start with the most obvious, shall we? That, of course, would be Amy. We haven’t liked Karen Gillan’s performance in every episode she’s been in, but here she hits it out of the park and we’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Playing someone decades older than you is a big ask, and while Karen might not be 100% convincing as a fifty-six year old, she nevertheless makes a pretty kickass job of it. We love her gruffness and steel, and the decisiveness foreign to younger Amy which has almost visibly taken decades of hardship to acquire. We love the stompy way she moves, which transforms her body language. More than anything, we love her bitterness. Younger Amy isn’t bitter in the least, even after the loss of her daughter (about which the less said the better - apparently), but this Amy? Yuh-huh. We love the venom with which she spits “Raggedy Man” at the Doctor.

What’s also great is older Amy’s determination to stay alive. It might be a horrible, horrible life, but it’s hers, and she wants to hang onto it. We love this. It has the ring of utter truth: people cling to life under even the direst of circumstances. It’s only on the screen that they nobly step aside without hesitation. Except this time.

Of course, under the tough armour is a lonely and vulnerable woman. And it works. Our Mawk-O-Meter is very sensitively tuned, and it wasn’t triggered at all. Instead of rolling our eyes as Rory and older Amy declare their love for each other through the TARDIS door, we were crying us a river.

Then there’s Rory. We’ve been waiting all season for Arthur Darvill to be given something to get his teeth into, and here they deliver. His pain at the dilemma of choosing between two Amys breaks your heart, and his rage at the Doctor is blistering. Bravo, sir.

Like we said, those are the most obvious things emotion-wise. But the most interesting thing is the Doctor. He’s not really in this much, and yet what he does do is enormously telling. Remember us whining about how it’s not enough to just tell us the Doctor’s a bad, bad man, you have to show us? Well, they do. This is not the cuddly Doctor who saves everybody. Yes, we know he said he lies, but we’ve mostly seen that in a benign context, often to save people from themselves. Here, though, he lies to manipulate a woman into giving up her own life under false pretences, then looks her in the eye and slams the TARDIS door in her face. Wow. And although she is just as real as the other Amy, he coolly dismisses her entire life with a “she’s not real”.

When you think about it, this must be par for the course for the Doctor. When he touches down in some doomy scenario, he can’t always save everybody. A lot of the time, he knows he isn’t even allowed to. Life and death decisions must be as routine as brushing his teeth. But most of the time, they haven’t got the guts to show us. Here they do. We love it.

What else do we love? Mostly, the story’s simplicity. We’re always a fan of the cheap but wildly effective white set (too many viewings of Ark In Space, probably), and here it looks spectacular, especially with the TARDIS against it. The garden and the inside of the Millennium Centre (about time the inside got a go after the outside was lavishly featured in Torchwood) also look fabulous.

As for the rest of it, it’s almost exactly the right size. No cast of thousands. No planet-spanning crisis. A handful of characters in a handful of sets is just enough to let the full impact of the story out. And, of course, it’s cheap. It should be bronzed as an ideal example of virtue out of necessity.

Sure, it’s not perfect. In fact, far from it. But the good things burn so brightly that it seems almost unfair to point the bad things out. Well, obviously we’re not going to refrain. That’s what we’re here for, after all. But to reflect the different weights of the good and bad bits, we’re trundling the bad bits off to the Outtakes section.

The scriptwriter for The Girl Who Waited, Tom MacRae, also wrote Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel. Yes, really. Amazing, isn’t it? Kudos to him: he’s learned his lesson and then some. The Girl Who Waited’s got its faults, but it’s also got a right hook that’ll send you to the canvas. For that we can, and do, forgive a lot.

MORAL: Don’t cross the streams.



Why is Rory in a strop because Amy pushed the red waterfall button? Why didn’t he tell her which one to push himself?


Two Streams is a quarantine facility, right? So why is there an exit into the facility from the visitors’ room?


We love the way this starts off light-hearted and abruptly becomes anything but when they realise what’s happened to Amy. It could be jarring, but it isn’t (except in a good way).


OK, this time compression thing. Amy isn’t hungry because of the compression, and it also doesn’t speed up things like the progression of the virus (otherwise the compression would be pointless). How does that work, exactly? You can’t have time flowing faster yet leave things like digestion at the pace they were before. Also, how far does this compression thing go? Has Amy not eaten anything for thirty-six years? If not, where did she find food?


The robots look nice with the set, but that’s about as good as they get. There’s a real missed opportunity here: they could and should have capitalised a lot more on the uber-creepy “kindness” thing. When it’s delivered by something both crap and cute, it kind of lowers the fear factor. What’s more, it makes the cool gladiator action at the end rather too smirksome. Battlin’ Amy with her sword and slo-mo? A granny could take the lot of them out with her handbag.


A lot of this series has been about what it means to be real/human, and this is no exception. We’re starting to wonder if the theory of one of us that neither Amy nor Rory are as real as they seem isn’t as far out as we thought. Also, more here of Amy waiting. There’s certainly a lot of that about.


Love Rory’s geeky glasses - they suit him perfectly. (Geeks are cool.) And so much nicer than the try-hard contact lenses in Torchwood.


It’s a shame that this followed Let’s Kill Hitler so closely, as the robots are a bit too like the antibodies for comfort.


If Amy’s wrinkled and stuff, why isn’t her hair grey?


Why does Amy not exhibit the least surprise - not the tiniest scrap - to see Rory? We know she’s being all staunch so you can’t see The Hurt Inside, but it’s hard to conceal surprise. Especially big surprise. Like the surprise you might feel when you’ve been alone for thirty-six years and your husband suddenly pops up.


‘“So he’s like your…” “Pet.”’ Yes yes, we get it, she treats Rory like shit. But at the same time, of course, it’s the love of the century.


Considering Rory’s two thousand year vigil, is Amy being whiny? We don’t think so. First of all, Rory knows it’s finite. And much more importantly, it was his choice. We’d do a million years next to the Pandorica by choice over a year forced into that hellhole.


We’re really not fans of the way Amy being older and still being Rory’s wife is handled. First, Rory tells older Amy he doesn’t care that she got old. And he kisses her, too, without having to vomit into a bucket afterwards. Then young Amy shows up and suddenly Rory is all eww, hands off, Grandma. Then in the TARDIS, it’s back to Compassionate Rory, which seems a lot more likely a response from Rory than revulsion. It is, after all, Amy all along.


“You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself, for a boy.” Nope, she’s asking you to die for a boy. Spot the eensy-weensy difference.


There’s something in here we don’t like that’s hard to pin down exactly: the closest we can get is that it feel like a subtle ageism. Older Amy is never really treated as someone with as much right to existence as younger Amy by the other characters. From the Doctor’s “She’s not real” to Rory’s “You being here is wrong”, it dismisses older Amy’s right to life as being much inferior to young Amy’s, simply because she had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is no longer “their” Amy. (We know Rory behaves differently later, but he does say this stuff as well.) As a result, it’s easy to overlook that both Amys are as real as each other. Rory’s right that the life older Amy’s lived has been ridiculously tough, but it’s a big step to go from that to “and therefore you’re obviously the one who should be wiped from existence”. Why ageism? Because we just have the feeling, and your mileage may vary, that if it had been another Amy of the same age as the original, Tom Riker-style, she wouldn’t have been treated as quite so disposable.


So, just as in School Reunion with the past and current companions, the two Amys are bristling with hostility towards one another. Yes, we know Amy’s arsy, but this is herself, and a self, what’s more, who just saved her. Can’t writers ever think of anything but a catfight?


“Sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it.” Well, that’s all right then, isn’t it? From the paradoxes to the fannying about with individual timestreams to the difficulties for future episodes posed by the Doctor suddenly deciding it’s OK to go back and tidy up lives, it’s an unmitigated disaster. Massive eyeroll.


So did the Doctor ever entertain the possibility that older Amy could really be saved? Nope. Watch him shake his head after she proposes it. Also, admittedly with the benefit of hindsight, as the Doctor is saying the TARDIS can sustain the paradox, you can see the lie written on his face. Now that is acting with a capital acting.


A thought so powerful it can rip through time? Ugh, just like Amy remembering the universe.


What’s with all the three lever stuff? What a yawn.


And just when you thought the robots couldn’t get any more feeble, Rory breaks a paper-thin painting over one’s head and leaves it for dead.


Did they really have to big up Rory carrying Amy quite that much? We know it’s just a short-acting sedative. Hardly slo-mo-worthy, is it?


At the end, Rory says “I’m sorry, I can’t do this” and reaches for the door. However, we never get the feeling that he really understands what’s at stake. It’s not a choice between older and younger Amy’s lives at this point: if he opens the door and older Amy comes in like she says she will, older Amy, younger Amy, Rory and the Doctor are gonna be blown into the next dimension. They can’t point this out too clearly to the audience, because it’s a stupid decision and therefore no decision at all, but we have to see Rory choose. So they step softly around it by not emphasising the consequences and hope we won’t notice. We did. Sorry.


The Doctor could piss off in the TARDIS, allowing older Amy to melt out of existence without knowing what hit her, but instead he hangs around and waits for her to die. Callous? We don’t think so. At least it accords her the respect of choosing her own ending.


Love, love love that shot of the Doctor’s face at the end. Chilling isn’t the word.


They keep it lovely and unsentimental, then Murray Gold pours slush over the most important emotional moments. Sigh.