So that spoiler our more trollish commenters have been posting about lately? Here it comes: Rory dies at the end of this episode. Wish I didn’t know that, but I’ve known it for a couple of weeks and spent much of my time watching this episode waiting for it to the point of distraction. Why do I hate spoilers? That’s why. It’s not just that they ruin the surprise of plot developments—though that’s a huge part of it, of course—it’s that knowing certain plot developments pulls your attention away from the flow of the story. Or, to dress it up in Doctor Who-ish terms, they create a dissonance in the fictional reality. Or something like that. But trolls are going to troll, aren’t they? And if I keep going on about this it’s just an invitation to post more spoilers. Sigh.
Anyway, back to the episode at hand, a satisfying, if not extraordinary, winding up of the Doctor’s first contemporary encounter with the subterranean lizard people known as the Silurians that takes an Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind turn at the end. There’s a twist of The Road Warrior thrown in as well in the way the voiceover reveals the impact the events we’re watching will have on the far future.
Yet mostly it’s a lot of running around, escaping from captivity, negotiating misunderstandings, and trying to find a peaceful answer to an alien race’s warlike behavior. (Though, technically, the Silurians aren’t aliens, are they? Well, you get my drift.) Classic Doctor Who stuff, in other words, but given the particular touches of this incarnation of the show. Specifically, Karen Gillan’s characterization of Amy as a fearless, bitingly witty companion continues to impress. Last week saw her reduced to a damsel-in-distress role, but here she becomes a woman of action again, charging headlong into danger and unwilling to wait for the Doctor to rescue her.
Also typical of this first Stephen Moffat-shepherded season is the emotional depth given even to supporting characters just passing through the series. Chris Chibnall’s script deserves some credit for that, but so does director Ashley Way’s work. The episode lingers on painful moments, particularly the Silurian warrior Restac’s discovery of her sister’s murder. It also treats that death with a remarkable amount of gravity, really giving a sense that Ambrose has committed a horrible crime and keeping that sense going with the necessity of toting the dead Silurian’s body around for the rest of the episode. Any parallels between that gruesome moment, the other interrogation scenes in the “Hungry Earth”/“Cold Blood” two-parter, and our age’s own issues with torture are not entirely accidental, I’m sure.
Nor, I’m guessing, are any echoes between the Silurian/human conflict and Europe and America’s anxieties with immigration. Here we have two cultures that might enrich one another’s existence if they could get past the fear of difference and centuries of learned prejudice. There’s no simple solution in real life or in this episode. It ends with the Silurians essentially giving up on finding a place on the Earth’s surface for another millennium. The only lesson anyone’s learned at episode’s end is the folly of treating violence as a solution. (And I’m not sure everyone’s learned that.)
So, all in all, “Cold Blood” is another pretty solid entry in the series. Then comes the end. “Nobody dies today,” the Doctor promised last week. But someone does die. Or, rather, gets disappeared. The crack reappears and Rory disappears into it and with him all memories of Rory. Despite Amy’s best efforts, she can’t remember the man she loved (and the last few weeks have been nothing if not evidence that she really did love him). It’s a chilling moment, well-played by both Smith and Gillan, as Amy goes from distraught to pained to cheery in a short stretch. It’s a happiness rooted in ignorance and the erasure of past passion. One moment Rory matters above all. The next he’s gone, and all the pleasure and weight of loving him gone with it. It’s an unbearable lightness she’s enjoying as the episode ends, and the Doctor knows it. We’re up against a world-devouring threat this season, and one who steals soul as collateral damage.
• I love the strategy of laying the groundwork for Silurian integration in myth and folklore.
• At least nobody spoiled the revelation about the TARDIS.
• Germs keep the Doctor alive on Earth. Did we know that already?
• “The greater losses that were still to come.”