Overall What Is Happening
It's been five years since the TARDIS and Amy and Rory are about to have their first child. Rory has a ponytail, making him even more annoying than usual. The Doctor shows up randomly, and the three of them fall asleep, waking up now, in the TARDIS. Which is dead, and starting to freeze. What is going on?
Truman Capote shows up dressed as the Doctor and says that he is the Dream Lord and that he is testing them for some unknown purpose, so they hop back and forth between the two realities, trying to figure out which one is the dream and which one is real. Die in the dream and you wake up okay, die in reality and you die, in reality.
The Dream Lord's main thing actually seems to be accusing the Doctor of being a pedo, which really is turning out to be an underlying theme of this season. And when he's not calling the Doctor one, he's acting like one himself, which stay tuned.
In the Leadworth reality, they get chased around by creepy old people -- redundant -- who have eyeballs in their mouths and are actually just wrinkly meat puppets for some random aliens who turn you into dust when they shoot dust at you from their mouth-eyeballs. They get Rory, and Amy decides that this must be the fake world, because it is too much of a bummer, so then the Doctor and his pregnant friend decide to kill themselves because it's romantic or something.
This is gross on several levels, not least because the show's equivalent of Amy committing actual suicide is Rory cutting off his ponytail, but most of all at the end of the episode when finding out that his pregnant wife murdered herself and their unborn child because she couldn't live without him... Gives Rory a massive boner. That's the grossest part: The show pretending any of this is romantic whatsoever.
So they wake up on the frozen TARDIS, nearly dead, but at least Rory isn't dead and doesn't have a ponytail. So then the Dream Lord is like, "You win," and takes off, and it seems pointless, and they all dodge anvils as they talk about how the two worlds represented the two paths Amy's life can take, and how Rory represents safety and the Doctor represents non-safety and whatever, whatever. But then it gets awesome, because the Doctor somehow realizes that this life is also a dream, and blows the TARDIS up with them inside.
So then in the real reality, it turns out they were all tripping balls, and the Doctor calmly explains that the Dream Lord was... The Doctor. Apparently this psychoactive pollen he had lying around the place somehow activated, and made the darkness within him manifest, in the form of Dream Lord Truman Capote. At which point the whole episode becomes something super different, so here's some bonus recaplet.
So This Is Everything He Said
He calls Rory "gooseberry," which is like a third wheel, and immediately starts pressuring Amy to choose between the Doctor and her fiancé, then says he knows Amy has sex dreams about the Doctor. Then he calls the Doctor out for having a schtick, like so: "If you had any more tawdry quirks you could open up a Tawdry Quirk Shop. The madcap vehicle, the cockamamie hair, the clothes designed by a first-year fashion student... I'm surprised you haven't got a little purple space dog just to ram home what an intergalactic wag you are." (That part was amazing.)
He tells the Doctor that his brain is "completely see-through," and says he's always been able to see through the Doctor, which is the first clue -- besides his clothes -- that he's somebody we know. (He also acts a whole lot like Eleven, starting now.) "One reality was always too much for you, Doctor. Take two and call me in the morning," he says, which is complicated but you get the point. The Doctor theorizes that the DL is such a dick because he has no physical form: "That gets you down after a while, so he's taking it out on folk like us who can touch and eat and feel." Which is sort of true, in a way: Your Crazy, whatever it is, hates riding shotgun.
There's a limerick -- "There was an old Doctor from Gallifrey/ Who ended up throwing his life away/ He let down his friends and..." -- and then he flirts with the Doctor outrageously, all "tall dark hero," and that part is bizarre. Then he tells her the Doctor is into redheads, which is true, and also that's when the Doctor figures out for sure what the DL is: "There's only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do." (Ouch, but somehow still less angsty than Nine or Ten.) The DL later accuses him of vegetarianism and being a "big flop-haired wuss"; everybody puts on Peruvian ponchos, and the DL and Doctor agree to split them up: Rory and the Doctor go to the Leadworth dream, while the DL threatens to keep Amy for himself.
He pushes on basically all of her bruises -- "Always leaves you, doesn't he? Alone in the dark. Never apologizes..." -- and then laughs at her for thinking the Doctor trusts her enough to ever tell her who the DL is, and as proof that he doesn't, asks the Doctor's name. WAY HARSH, but there's no way of knowing how hardcore that statement is until the end. He makes mean but accurate fun of Rory for awhile, suggesting that marrying Rory is actually the weaker choice because "loving and losing the Doctor" would be too hard. This is all very on-the-nose, but even more interesting the second time around.
Then the Doctor has a run-in with him that is so terribly hardcore: "Friends? Is that the right word for the people you acquire? Friends are people you stay in touch with. Your friends never see you again once they've grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?" Daaaamn. Maybe the harshest thing ever said, in this show or about it... So it's fitting it's the last conversation they have. Although when Amy asks the Doctor if he really let any of that stuff get to him, he doesn't respond: Just looks at the DL's reflection in the TARDIS console and KBO.
Dodgy emotional moments, but other than that a pretty fantastic brain-teaser, with a lot more metafictional self-criticism than most shows could safely attempt. It makes sense at the midpoint of any season, but especially this one, and I believe we'll see some massive differences in the back half, knowing this was what was coming all along. Very exciting! Next week: Two hours of lizards from under the earth. Hmm...
It's all very idyllic and Merrye Englande, and in a nice country house there's a very pregnant Amy stirring something in a big bowl and humming to herself. Maybe this was what the Doctor thought she wanted, or what the Doctor thought her wedding represented; maybe she thought that too. They have two hearts in common. For sure it's what Rory thought. I don't really like wish fulfillment, stories where people yearn most passionately for the most clichéd things they can imagine.
I like stories where those things are proven lifeless, or when you learn that the fantasy life is not really what they wanted at all, or when you find out that the multiple universes are all elaborate constructions meant to harm and defuse. I like anything that privileges change over stasis, and when you're talking about the Doctor, "stasis" is always about life without the Doctor, because all he is, is change.
And when you're talking about "growing up" and whether or not the Doctor can even understand it, you're in sort of a pickle because the Doctor wants her to somehow grow into stasis. Or rather, he broke her when she was little, and now she's in stasis forever, as Amelia, and therefore he can't really take her on adventures without keeping her there: He's got to be in charge not only of her change, but also her stasis. And that's harsh, but it's also his responsibility: To help her grow up without growing hard.
So as much as I continue to be grossed out by the ongoing assumption -- that marriage is the dividing line that makes you a worthwhile human being, i.e. an adult -- that's the story we're getting. And given the way things have been going for the last several years, I suppose the Doctor is entitled to think all girls want to settle down and get married eventually -- they just seemed previously to want these things with a working brain, and not just a big gooshy heart, a certain patronizingly written "feistiness," not to say "bitchiness," and no other personality traits beyond what any given story demands.
It's a lot easier once you understand this is a story written by men, for men. If you've read a lot of science fiction, or seen a lot of shows on TV, that shouldn't be too terribly hard to comprehend, after all. Just remember this very simple trick: No matter how wonderful every little Amelia is, after a certain age she'll just become another shrew in a miniskirt, and you'll have to marry her. Once she stops being a stripper, of course. Her inner life is not that interesting, because it doesn't exist: Women are just black boxes with obscure mechanics inside that nobody really understands. Start talking about feelings, or subjectivity, and you're off into soap opera.