Monday, September 12, 2011

Something To Rave About

Caption: Time traveler Amy Pond [Karen Gillan] gets a peak into her future in the Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Waited".

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

One thing that science fiction television does that most other forms of video entertainment don't very often is provide opportunities for a series actor to step out of the role he is normally playing to do something very different. One of the more impressive such departures was this week's Doctor Who episode, "The Girl Who Waited".

I haven't been all that impressed with the latest Doctor (Matt Smith), nor with Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond. The character has been fairly one-dimensional, given to shouting and pounding on things, rather than thoughtfulness. It was only when she and Arthur Darvill, who plays her husband Rory, were playing together that I got much of a feeling of emotional depth in anything she was doing.

This week, though, she impressed me. In addition to playing the twenty-something version of Amy, she also played Amy after she'd been left to fend for herself for more than thirty years. So, she wasn't just playing an older version of her character, but a character shaped by hard experience and isolation for much of her life. She got it right - amazingly so. The older Amy was different in body language, speech patterns, and in her movements. She was more withdrawn, and far less comfortable with herself than young Amy. The bitterness that so much isolation would cause was clearly evident in her voice and her gestures when she was interacting with Rory, the Doctor, and particularly her younger self.

While most acting is something I find is difficult to do well, I'm really impressed when an actor can do such a good job of performing two roles simultaneously. That's particularly true when the differences in those roles are subtle things like the effects of aging and prolonged isolation on a single personality. Old Amy was a different character, and it was fun to watch an actress play each convincingly in the same scene.

There hasn't been much to appreciate in the genre lately, but if you appreciate strong acting performances, this episode is definitely worth checking out.

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