Before this episode aired, there was a lot of good press from people who’d seen the episode in advance, but special attention was drawn to how emotional the episode was. It was speculated before the episode aired that it would deal with Amy’s backstory before the Doctor arrived to fight Prisoner Zero in “The Eleventh Hour” so it was nice to see that the reports I heard were wrong as I feel we don’t need to see that backstory.
The episode starts with the Doctor and Amy visiting some strange alien planet with a bizarre name, with the intention of showing them a paradise. They arrive to see a bare room with all-white walls, a table, a large magnifying glass and two lift-like buttons on the wall. It comes out that they are in the Twostreams facility, a hospice for victims of a plague that kills two-hearted beings in a day (explaining why this episode is pretty Doctor-lite). The idea behind the facility is that if the plague kills in 24 hours, the patient can live in a compressed timestream so they can experience a much longer lifetime while their relatives sit with them for 24 hours.
Now we come to the main “villain” of the episode, the Handbots. They operate as doctors in the hospice and are there to administer a vaccine or medicine or something to the visitors but as they only have one heart, the medicine is incompatible with their puny human forms and they will die. They are not really villains as they don’t know any better (it’s interesting to note that they kill through kindness and attempting to help, a concept initially used for the Weeping Angels in “Blink”). All attempts to warn them involve the statement being “rejected” so after a while they stop trying. One rather stupid thing about them is that they see through their hands as opposed to the normal humanoid method of through eyes on their heads. I suspect this was entirely so they could have a scare that involves them seeing under something with their hands. They can also defeated by slapping their hands together.
As the villains aren’t villains, what happens is really nobody’s fault but the timestreams get screwed up so that they track down Amy after she’s aged 36 years. Because she’s become a different person due to being hunted by Kindness-Dispensing robots (a threat that can legitimately say “we come in peace, shoot to kill!”) for 36 years, she’s considerably colder towards Rory and the Doctor for not saving her. The main conflict of the episode comes from Old Amy’s dilemma over whether to save her younger self at the cost of who she is now. Really, there’s only one way it could go but it doesn’t make it any less heart-wrenching when it gets there and the events play out the way they have to. I don’t want to spoil the episode too much for people who have not yet seen it but I’m on the Doctor’s side in this instance (and that’s a divisive opinion in certain corners of time and space).
The highlight of the episode was easily Old Amy’s various interactions with Rory, in which she comes to understand the depth of his love for her (so waiting 1894 years for her doesn’t prove that then?). It’s nice to have a properly done emotional episode and is certainly better than last week’s effort by Mark Gatiss. Not one of my top ten but is definitely worth watching.