Written by Simon Nye
Directed by Catherine Morshead
The top five on this list are really the episodes of Doctor Who that I re-watch again and again. That said, I doubt there is an episode I’ve watched more than “Amy’s Choice.” Its blend of Twilight Zone-style psycho-horror, general humor, and depth of examination of the lead characters makes it one of the strongest entries in the series’ history.
The episode begins with a weird, seemingly nonsensical segment in which a pregnant Amy and ponytail-sporting Rory get a visit from the Doctor, who has apparently not seen them in some time. They live in a very sleepy little village, Rory as the local doctor with Amy his stay-at-home wife. And then we discover that it was a dream, but the trick is, Amy, Rory, and the Doctor all had the same dream.
Then they discover that the TARDIS is floating powerlessly toward a cold star, slowly freezing them all to death, in what appears at first to be reality. Only then a mysterious figure appears, calling himself “the Dream Lord” and telling them that they have to choose which world is reality. What follows is essentially an argument over Amy between the Doctor and Rory, Rory wanting the sleepy village with Amy his wife and the Doctor wanting the world of mystery and danger on the TARDIS. While the conceit is that they are trying to decide which world is real, it’s really that Amy is being forced to choose between her earth fiancee and the madman with a box with whom she ran away the night before her wedding.
Along the way, we learn more about our three leads than we had ever known before. The Doctor is revealed to have a level of self-loathing that goes far beyond the survivor guilt that’s always been visible on the surface but also to be every bit as selfless as he has always appeared, willing to sacrifice himself in one world because Amy does not want to survive in a world without Rory, even though he knows that there is no evidence that it is the dream world. Amy, who always wanted adventure beyond what her loving fiancee desired, turns out to love Rory every bit as much as he does her. Rory, who was ill-defined to this point in the series, is someone who wants not just Amy but Amy in a calm, simple life without danger, excitement, or surprises.
When the Doctor reveals that the Dream Lord is him, it affects Amy’s view of him. Though she doesn’t seem to internalize his level of self-loathing until “The God Complex” in the next season, it’s the first time she seems to see any flaws in the Doctor, recognizing that he has a strangely negative view of himself. It’s a great bit of character development for the series, and that’s what makes the episode special.
Further, few episodes in this series have as many moments of sheer hilarity as this one. It has Amy’s fake labor, her decision that if they’re going to die they should do it wearing ponchos, the Dream Lord’s reference to K-9, and a number of other just fantastic jokes. An episode with this much complexity and thought that also has this much humor is difficult to top.