And the Doctor's shoulder devil takes a life of its own.
Written by Simon Nye, who is mainly known for Men Behaving Badly. While there are some recognisable elements of his comedy, this episode was not what many expected from his pen.
It's been five years since Amy and Rory travelled with the Doctor. They're back living in Upper Leadworth. (A bit more upmarket than Leadworth, according to Rory.) Amy is heavily pregnant. Rory has grown a stupid ponytailed mullet. Life is good, if a little humdrum. Until the Doctor drops by for a visit. Firstly, he crushes their flower garden with the TARDIS. Secondly, he doesn't seem to catch on to the fact that Amy is pregnant, which is a little irritating for her, since he caught on quite quickly to the fact that she's increased in size. Thirdly, outside of the company of his friends he finds the village unbearably dull, and ponders what they do to stave off the "self harm". Rory points out that it's relaxing, and peaceful, as evidenced by the bird song. Which seems to have a dulling effect on the three, gradually sending them to sleep...
In the TARDIS, the Doctor wakes from a horrible nightmare, having apparently fallen asleep under the console. It involved Amy and Rory being married in a dull village, with Amy being pregnant. Thing is, Amy and Rory appear to have had the exact same "really good... mare". There's something going wrong with the TARDIS console; it seems to be getting slightly cooler in the TARDIS, with their breath gradually misting up something that no one appears to have noticed. The Doctor dismisses it as a shared psychic incident in which they jumped a time-track. Except that there's suddenly the sound of birdsong in the TARDIS.
Amy, Rory and the Doctor wake up back on the village bench where they drifted off only moments before. As Rory and Amy realise they've had the same dream again, the Doctor is inspecting his surroundings suspiciously, noting that his bowtie and braces have changed, and warns the two not to trust anything around them. They may seem to be awake now, but then, they were also convinced that they were awake back on the TARDIS. They're dreaming, somewhere, but are they dreaming of the past or the future? Which one's the real world and which one's the dream?
"This is going to be a tricky one..."
The trio wake up back on the TARDIS. The Doctor's a bit cross about all of this, which leads him to lash out at the TARDIS, which only ends badly for him and his foot. Unfortunately, he threw the TARDIS manual into a supernova the last time it disagreed with him, so no help there. Amy and Rory, meanwhile, are still struggling with the whole "awake/dream" problem they seem to be facing. Their surroundings feel perfectly real to them, but then, a dream always feels real when you're in the middle of it. The Doctor urges them to keep a watch on their surroundings and look out for anything that doesn't ring true, something a lot more easily said than done when you happen to be on a dimensionally transcendental time machine piloted by an alien in a bowtie. A big clue presents itself, however, when the TARDIS suddenly switches off. Dead. Then there's suddenly the birdsong...
Back in the village. It's revealed that Rory is the local doctor. Along with his pregnant young wife it's something he's always dreamed of, a fact that the Doctor takes notice of. Rory points out that it's Amy's dream too (something that Amy is a bit more hesitant in admitting), but the Doctor has moved on, taking interest in a nearby old people's home whose occupants seem to be taking an interest in the Doctor as well. People around here usually live well into their nineties, which intrigues the Doctor. The trio run off (well, Amy sort of shuffles) into the home. The residents inside seem perfectly normal and the Doctor gets to try on a lovely knitted jumper, but he's noticed something odd about them: they're incredibly old...
The Doctor doesn't have a chance to elaborate on this apparently amazingly obvious fact before the three once again hear birdsong, waking up back in the TARDIS... Or are they falling asleep? Either way, everything is off in the TARDIS, including the heating. And the scanner. They could be anywhere, and someone is overriding the Doctor's control of the TARDIS.
That someone suddenly appears out of thin air, right behind them. A little man in a dark suit and a bowtie. He's pretty scathing about how long it took the Doctor to figure it out, seeing as he'd heard such incredible things about the last of the Time Lords, whom he intends to challenge. As such, call him the Dream Lord.
The Doctor quickly figures out that he's incorporeal by chucking a ball at him, but the Dream Lord is hardly impressed. Being there and yet not there in a spooky fashion is in the job title. Amy is quick to figure out that the Dream Lord creates dreams and illusions, to which the Dream Lord counters that they haven't given "the gooseberry" a chance to have a turn guessing at him. Rory retorts that Amy is his girlfriend... but, as the Dream Lord notes, Amy is a little hesitant in confirming that.
However, the Dream Lord is much more interested in calling out the Doctor. He poses a challenge. Two worlds, an impossible time machine and a quaint little village that time has forgotten, and in each, a deadly challenge. Only one of them is real, the other is mere illusion. If they die in the dream, they wake up in the real world, and if they die in reality, they die. There's a reason they call it reality, Rory. Time for them to go back to sleep... Or are they waking up?
Amy figures out that the Dream Lord has a history with the Doctor but there's little time for that, as the pensioners in the Leadworth retirement home appear to have vanished. The Doctor is trying to figure out exactly how the realities are connected and why the old people strike him as so odd, but he angrily claims that his mind has been blunted by the dullness of his surroundings, and he's "slowing down" like Rory and Amy. One fake labour scare on Amy's part later, during which the Doctor uselessly flaps around like a panicked chicken, Amy tells him that he's completely unprepared to deal with the challenges of her new life and to knock it off entirely with the snide comments. Humbled, the Doctor concedes the point.
Amy and the Doctor take a small break from the adventure on a set of swings.
Amy: I have to be this size, I'm having a baby!
The Doctor: No, not that... Is nobody going to mention Rory's ponytail? ...You hold him down, I'll cut it off?
One of the old age pensioners is taking a keen interest on a group of school children playing around the ruins of a local castle. Birdsong interrupts.
It's getting gradually colder on the TARDIS, and the Doctor sends Rory and Amy off to find some warmer clothing while he constructs a thing out of kitchen utensils. Rory admits that he wants the other life to be real, where he and Amy are married, happy and expecting a baby. Except, he's a bit riled to notice, Amy seems a lot less happy with the other life, and is a lot more hesitant to give up life on the TARDIS. Since part of this giving up on that life involves getting married to Rory, this causes a certain amount of bickering. Rory believes that they'll have to grow up eventually. Amy disagrees.
The Doctor has put together a wind-up contraption, allowing them to turn on the scanner and see what's outside. And what they see doesn't make them very happy. A frozen star "burning cold". Since such a thing should be impossible, this is a fairly big clue that they aren't in reality, but it's a big universe, and something that should be impossible isn't necessarily so. They've only got fourteen minutes until they crash into it, which isn't the problem it may seem since they'll have frozen to death long before then. Rory is pissed off, since this particular threat just seems tailor-made for the Doctor the race against time, one man required to save the day and all he wants is the quiet village. The Dream Lord sends them off again.
Rory is relieved to be back in the village, confident that that's the real world. Tranquil, peaceful and relaxed, he's positive that nothing bad could ever happen here. Unfortunately, he's quite wrong; the playing children have disappeared, replaced by piles of dust. There's also a sinister group of pensioners approaching.
Of course, as the Dream Lord posits, a crowd of threatening pensioners is absurd. Surely, this must be the dream, what does Amy think? The Doctor definitely does not appreciate the Dream Lord's taunts, which only tickles the Dream Lord, particularly in comparison to Rory's comparatively feeble reaction. All of this has just served to confirm the Doctor's suspicions about who the Dream Lord really is, since there's only one person in the universe who hates the Doctor this much...
While they're arguing, the pensioners attack quite literally. They do it with reinforcements and eyes in their mouths that spew lethal green gas. Eknodines, a proud race who were chased from their homeworld by "upstart neighbours" and have decided to pay it forward by doing the same to the humans by possessing their elderly. Their first onscreen victim is an unfortunate postman who wanders into the scene solely to get turned into dust by green gas.
Rory and an exhausted Amy make it back to their cottage, but possessed pensioners have made it there first. Rory takes some persuading, but eventually manages to take the fight to one of them with a lump of wood. Once inside, Amy laments that they left the Doctor behind. Having not seen him in years and struggling to reconnect, he's nevertheless taken the bullet for them. Rory is optimistic about the Doctor's chances perhaps incorrectly so, as he's fighting to remain conscious while chased by the elderly. The Doctor struggles his way into a local butcher's, all the while taunted by the Dream Lord, and manages to lock himself into the storeroom as the pensioners break into the shop. Sleep falls.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor insists that they have to decide here and now which is the real world and which is the dream. Rory is adamant that it's the world of the village, but the Doctor is equally adamant that the universe can contain a seemingly impossible ice-star. The Doctor challenges Rory that their disagreement may be more about competitiveness than certainty specifically, competing over Amy. Amy, meanwhile, finds some ponchos for them to wear. (If they have to go out looking like a Peruvian folk band, so be it.) The Doctor suggests that they divide up, noting that the logic of the dream-world has so far kept them transitioning together. Unfortunately, the Dream Lord agrees, and Rory and the Doctor fall asleep as Amy remains in the TARDIS.
As the pensioners break into Rory and Amy's cottage, Rory drags the still unconscious Amy upstairs. The Doctor, liberating himself from the butcher's shop, manages to rescue a man being attacked. Commandeering his van, he goes on to rescue as many remaining survivors as he can find and take them to the relative safety of the local church before rushing to Rory and Amy's rescue.
Back on the TARDIS, Amy must endure the Dream Lord's taunts about the Doctor. About how he always leaves her, and never apologises for it. Amy challenges him, asserting her faith in the Doctor and demanding to know who the Dream Lord is, but he counters with one simple question: has the Doctor told Amy his real name? He once again (while flirting disturbingly with Amy) asserts that she needs to make a choice between the Doctor, the dashing and charismatic but unreliable hero, and Rory, the dull but dependable boyfriend. It's a Sadistic Choice... Amy's choice.
Having returned to the world of the village, Amy is in time to witness Rory make a symbol of his devotion to her... by sacrificing his ponytail. Unfortunately, it also appears that her labour has started. Having also had to endure the taunts of the Dream Lord, the Doctor arrives to perform a rescue, but before they can escape, Rory is surprised by one of the possessed pensioners and hit with a jet of gas. The Doctor and Amy can only watch as Rory, fatally wounded, crumbles to dust in Amy's arms. Despite Amy's pleas, there's nothing the Doctor can do. "Then what," Amy screams at him, "is the point of you?"
Broken, Amy has decided that this world has to be the dream because even if it's not, she's not prepared to live in a world which doesn't have Rory in it. The pensioners have stopped attacking, perhaps sensing what Amy plans to do... or perhaps because it's just a dream. Less certain, the Doctor asks Amy if she's sure about what she wants to do. When she affirms she is, he hands her the keys to the van. As the Dream Lord watches, Amy and the Doctor smash into the side of the house...
...and wake up back on the TARDIS, moments away from plummeting into the cold star. Don't worry, they don't crash into it. The Dream Lord assures them, fair's fair and he takes control of the TARDIS, steering them away from the cold star and turning the ship's power back on. Accepting defeat gracefully, the Dream Lord leaves them to ponder on the results and implications of their dreams, and fades away. Rory is alive, and he and Amy celebrate their survival, but the Doctor isn't quite so ready to celebrate. In fact, he begins to overload the TARDIS engines, confident in the belief that this too is a dream because the Dream Lord operates through deception and misinformation, because the Dream Lord has no power in the real world, and because he knows who the Dream Lord really is. The TARDIS suddenly goes white.
They're all right, of course. Amy and Rory burst into the console room to find the Doctor musing over the true culprit of their recent exploits, a handful of psychic pollen specks which made their way into the time rotor and overheated, sending the trio into a dream state. As for the Dream Lord, he was the Doctor or rather, a manifestation of the Doctor's darker and more malevolent impulses given form by the pollen so they could feed on them. In 907 years, he's built up a lot note , and cheerfully says that his friends were too decent to give the pollen a decent meal.
Considering the nature of the Dream Lord's taunts against the Doctor, Amy is given to wonder whether the Doctor truly believes those things about himself which the Doctor refuses to confirm, instead directing Amy to answer Rory's question about what happened when he was out of action. Amy reveals that she ended things in the village world not knowing whether it was the dream or not, because she couldn't bear to live without Rory and is finally ready to say that she loves him. Elated, Rory kisses her.
The Doctor prepares to take his friends on adventures new... but not before catching a final glimpse of the Dream Lord in a reflection on the console, taunting him once more.
- Abstract Eater: The psychic pollen that placed the Doctor, Amy and Rory in a shared dream state fed off the darkness in its victim's minds, creating the image of the Dream Lord as a manifestation of the Doctor's own self-hatred.Amy: But why didn't it feed on us, too?
The Doctor: The darkness in you pair, it would have starved to death in an instant. I choose my friends with great care. Otherwise I'm stuck here with my own company and you know how that works now.
- All Just a Dream: Both the frozen TARDIS and 2015 Upper Leadworth are a dream.
- Almost Dead Guy: Rory begins a fine tradition by having just enough time to deliver a Tear Jerker.
- Armor-Piercing Question:
- The Dream Lord delivers quite a few of these.Dream Lord: Oh, is that who you think you are? The one he trusts? The only girl in the universe to whom the Doctor tells everything? So what's his name?
- Amy gives one to the Doctor after Rory dies and he can't save him:Amy: Then what is the point of you?
- The Dream Lord delivers quite a few of these.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Amy has this to say to Rory when they barricade themselves in their cottage:Amy: We just ran away. We just abandoned the Doctor. And don't ever call me "Chubs" again.
- Ask a Stupid Question...:Dream Lord: If you die in the dream, you wake up in reality. Healthy recovery in next to no time. Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
Rory: What happens?
Dream Lord: You die, stupid. That's why it's called "reality".
- Babies Ever After: The village is more or less Rory's dream for the future, and Amy's very pregnant.
- Badass Creed: The Doctor sums up his raison d'être with two sentences:The Doctor: There's something that doesn't make sense. Let's go and poke it with a stick...
- Bad "Bad Acting": Upper Leadworth's amateur dramatic society, according to Amy.
- Batman Gambit: Considering his true nature as part of the Doctor's mentality and the Doctor wants Amy and Rory to stay together, the Dream Lord's true purpose is to get Amy and Rory to sort out their relationship.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: The driver of the camper van lets the Doctor take the wheel after the Doctor greets him with "It's okay, it's only me", even though they have never met before.
- Berserk Button: Amy is very touchy about her size when she's pregnant. Although in her defence, her two male companions don't seem to be willing or able to stop making insensitive remarks about it.
- Betty and Veronica: The whole core of the story. As the Dream Lord aptly points out:Dream Lord: You ran away with a handsome hero; would you really give him up for a bumbling country doctor who thinks the only thing he needs to be interesting is a ponytail?
- Black Comedy: There's something morbidly hilarious about watching the Doctor unhesitatingly shove an old lady off a roof.
- Blue Means Cold: The cold star is blue-green.
- Break Them by Talking:
- Done to the Doctor by, basically, the Doctor himself. Everything from his fashion sense to his "collection" of companions is used to get under his skin.
- Amy also gets lectured about "her boys" and the trouble her lack of a choice has caused.
- Continuity Nod:
- The mention of the TARDIS manual, which was last seen in "Vengeance on Varos".
- This isn't the first time the Doctor has kicked the TARDIS console in frustration and hurt his foot.
- The Dream Lord calls the Doctor "the Oncoming Storm".
- "Im surprised you havent got a little purple space dog." K9 wasn't purple...
- The Doctor builds a "weird kitchen-y wind up device".
- The Sarn Nursing Home.
- "Bowties are cool."
- The Dream Lord mentions the Doctor's past with Queen Elizabeth the First. "Well, she thought she was the first."
- "You're probably a vegetarian." (He stopped being one by "Boom Town".)
- Rory's death the whole scene is identical to the scene in Torchwood series one when Rhys died (well, kind of).
- Crying Wolf: Amy has a tendency to either experience false labour pangs or fake it, leading to confusion at the end when it looks like she actually is giving birth:Rory: Are you sure?
Amy: Would I make it up at a time like this?!
Rory: Well, you do have a history of... [Amy shoots him a death glare] ...being very lovely.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Doctor really gets his snark on this episode.Rory: [when about to crash into a star] Can't we just call for help?
The Doctor: Yes, because the universe is really quite small and there's bound to be someone nearby. [bonks Rory on the head with the telephone handset]
- Death Glare:
- The Doctor gives the Dream Lord one as he tells him to leave Amy alone before the elderly advance on them.
- Later, as described above, Amy gives Rory one when he says she could be faking going into labour in the nursery.
- Description Cut: Rory tells Amy not to worry about the Doctor, saying "Hey, hell be fine. You know the Doctor hes Mr. Cool." Cue the Doctor stumbling down the street like a drunk giraffe, trying not to fall asleep.
- Distinction Without a Difference:Amy: They're just old people.
The Doctor: No, they're very old people.
- Dope Slap: The Doctor bonks Rory on the head with the TARDIS telephone handset when noting why they can't just call for help.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: By the end of series 6, almost everything predicted about Amy and Rory's future by the Leadworth dream had come true.
- Dream Land: The Dream Lord states that either the TARDIS or Upper Leadworth is a dream. Surprise! They're both dreams.
- Dream Weaver: The Doctor/Dream Lord is responsible for both of the dream worlds and what happens in them, with a little help from the psychic pollen.
- Dream Within a Dream: Waking up from Upper Leadworth into the other dream of the TARDIS near a cold burning star.
- Empty Piles of Clothing: This and a pile of dust are a very nasty indicator of what's coming.
- The End... Or Is It?: At the end, the Doctor sees the Dream Lord's face in the console smile at him and looks away worried. When he looks back again, the reflection is his own.
- Enemy Without: The Dream Lord is a manifestation of the Doctor's self-loathing.
- Erotic Dream: According to the Dream Lord, Amy's been having some about the Doctor that make him blush. Given that the Dream Lord is the Doctor, this gets all kinds of interesting.
- Everybody Lives: The only characters in this episode who were ever alive to begin with are the Doctor, Amy and Rory, and they survive.
- Evil Me Scares Me: The Dream Lord is the manifestation of the Doctor's more malevolent tendencies; yes, that is very scary.
- Evil Old Folks: It's not their fault; they're possessed by evil eye alien parasite things that come out of their mouths. Being attacked by genuine evil old people is absurd!
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Poking out of the mouths of the elderly.
- Fan Disservice: The Dream Lord dressed in a Ready for Lovemaking style.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Dream Lord. He's having so much fun, with all his different costumes. Notably, though, he is genuinely Affably Evil around Amy; unlike Rory and the Doctor, who he constantly hurls insults at, he is never verbally abusive towards her and actually treats her rather nicely. It is, of course, quite a bit of foreshadowing about both his true identity and intentions.
- The Doctor offered Amy effectively the same choice early in "The Beast Below". Namely: This or Leadworth.
- After the Doctor says "I've crushed your flowers", Rory replies "Oh, Amy will kill you." Later on Amy and the Doctor commit suicide to get out of the dream, with Amy driving the car into the house at high speed.
- "You could be giving birth right now. This could be the dream, I told you."
- In the first TARDIS dream, as the Doctor gets up after Rory's "we were married" line, you see his breath. It's cold, because of the freezing star they're drifting towards, as revealed a few scenes later.
- How does the Doctor know who the Dream Lord is? Because "only one person in the universe hates [him] as much as [he does]".
- Taking a closer look at the Dream Lord's outfit can clue you in as to who he is before The Reveal at the end, because his outfit resembles the Doctor's. Calling himself the Dream Lord (the Doctor is a Time Lord) performs the same purpose. He also has an X-ray film when he first appears in the Leadworth dream, and some of his lines resemble those of a doctor ("Take two and call me in the morning.").
- Gag Haircut: In the village dream, Rory sports a truly atrocious ponytail. The Doctor does not hesitate to point this out.
- Genre Blindness:
- Rory, when he happily sighs that nothing bad could ever possibly happen in his idyllic life in Upper Leadworth. Rory, even discounting the possibility that this could be a dream designed to torture you (and for further Face Palming value he's saying this after the Dream Lord has explicitly stated that there's going to be a deadly threat in both worlds), you're still in a science-fiction series, remember?
- Amy also takes ten minutes to catch on to the fact that it feels really definitely real in each dream.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- It's so cold the Doctor can't feel his feet... "and other parts."
- Rory, about the eyeballs: "They're not gonna be peeking out of anywhere else, are they?"
- "Did he tell you about Elizabeth the First? Well, she thought she was the first."
- The Dream Lord says to Amy "The Doctor left you alone with me. Anything could happen." And as he says those last two lines he transforms into wearing basically a bathrobe and has a very creepy expression on his face.
- Graceful Loser: The Dream Lord knows when he's beaten. He undoes the damage and withdraws. It's actually an act to make the Doctor, Rory and Amy think they've won.
- Great Gazoo: The Dream Lord is almighty within the dream world, and he uses this power for taunts and shipping.
- Held Gaze: Rory and Amy at the end when she is trying to tell him that she loves him as they gaze into each other's eyes, finally realising what both know before they Big Damn Kiss.
- "Hell, Yes!" Moment: Rory has a downplayed one of these at the end when Amy hugs him.Rory: Oh. OK. This is good. I am liking this. Was it something I said?
- Heroes Want Redheads: The Dream Lord taunts the Doctor with this."Loves a redhead, our naughty Doctor."
- Homemade Sweater from Hell: An old woman asks the Doctor to try on a truly atrocious sweater she's knitting that makes the Sixth Doctor's coat look like the epitome of good taste.
- "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.":Rory: How did you know it was a dream? Before you crashed that van. How did you know you wouldn't just die?
Amy: I didn't.
- Hurl It into the Sun: The Doctor really doesn't like the TARDIS manual. It disagreed with him!Amy: You threw the manual in a supernova?!
- "I Can't Look!" Gesture: The Dream Lord mockingly does one in the butcher's as the elderly close in on the Doctor.
- Important Haircut: Rory cuts off his ponytail! Shock! Horror!
- Improvised Weapon: Two. Rory whacks Mrs. Hamill into a hedge with a block of wood. Later, when Mrs. Poggit kills Rory with the green dust, the Doctor knocks her off the roof with a lamp.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, as the school children are vaporized by the aliens. At least, it would have been if the schoolkids weren't a dream.
- Just in Time: Amy made her choice as to which world she thought was real with barely seconds before the TARDIS was about to crash into the cold star. Turns out, however, that both worlds were fake.
- Lame Pun Reaction: At the butcher's shop:Dream Lord: We've got lots of steak here this week. Get it? Lots at stake? ...are these jokes wasted on you?
- Little "No": Amy has two of these when Rory starts dissolving after being hit by the green mist.
- Love Triangle: The Dream Lord taunts Amy with the fact that "her boys" are competing with each other. This is the nutshell contrast of the two worlds.
- Married in the Future: Amy and Rory are married here several episodes before they get married for real.
- Mind Screw: Which world is real? Are these things truly impossible or not?
- Monster of the Week: Parodied. The Doctor can predict what race the elderly REALLY are and why they're on Earth without them even having to say anything. They're all part of the dream anyway.
- Mood Whiplash: A conversation between Amy and Rory about how Amy thinks Upper Leadworth's amateur dramatic society is very poor takes a turn for the worse when the Doctor reveals that schoolchildren exploring the ruins have been reduced into piles of dust.
- Mushroom Samba: The whole thing is caused by the main characters being exposed to some mind-altering psychic pollen.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The Doctor and Rory both say this about Upper Leadworth because it is so boring that the Doctor was about to resort to self-harm to alleviate it.
- Oh, Crap!:
- The Doctor, Amy and Rory get one when they see on the TARDIS's monitor they're on a collision course with a cold star.
- Amy and Rory get one at the end when the Doctor announces he's going to blow up the TARDIS.
- One Character, Multiple Lives: The Doctor, Rory and Amy are all living this trope. They keep going back and forth between two sets of lives one where they're all on the TARDIS and one where Amy and Rory are living on Earth and she's pregnant and have to decide which is the "real" timeline.
- Panicky Expectant Father: Both Rory and the Doctor engage in a certain amount of useless flapping when they think Amy's about to give birth.
- Please Don't Leave Me:
- Amy to the Doctor and Rory when they fall asleep in the freezing TARDIS, leaving her awake and alone with the Dream Lord.
- Amy has a moment of this towards Rory when Mrs. Poggit shoots the green mist at him and he starts dissolving.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "THIS VILLAGE! IS SO! DULL!!!"
- Read the Freaking Manual: Well, actually, the Doctor threw the TARDIS manual into a supernova because he disagreed with it.
- Reality Ensues: The Dream Lord traps the Doctor, Amy and Rory in two different and dangerous worlds, claiming that one is a dream and the other is reality. (They're both dreams.)Dream Lord: Now then, the prognosis is this. If you die in the dream, you wake up in reality. Healthy recovery in next to no time. Ask me what happens if you die in reality?
Rory: What happens?
Dream Lord: You die, stupid. That's why it's called reality.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- "If you had any more tawdry quirks you could open up a tawdry quirk shop..." The Dream Lord talks to the Doctor entirely in these, to the point that sometimes he has to remember that he's got this Sadistic Choice scheme to push along. Once you realise that he, "the one person in the universe" who hates him quite that much, is part of the Doctor, you really want to hug him.
- Inverted twice. First by the Doctor, when he explains that the psychic pollen chose his darkness because, effectively, Amy and Rory have none; "I choose my companions with great care." Second when Amy explains why she made her choice, stunning Rory.
- Red Herring:
- In a show that's less aware of its, err, dedicated fanbase it's unlikely this would be deliberate, but the Dream Lord's parting words about "fictions" (with emphasis put on that word) might have made a longtime viewer think he was the Master of the Land of Fiction.
- More casual fans might suspect the Dream Lord to be the Master, when the Doctor says "only one person in the universe hates me as much as you do".
- The Reveal that the Dream Lord was a manifestation of all the Doctor's self-loathing would make some people think that he's the Valeyard.
- Red Shirt: After the Doctor finds out the deadly danger of the Leadworth reality is Eknodines disguised as the village's elderly residents, a postman passes behind the Doctor and is almost instantly killed by the deadly green vapour.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: When the children in the castle courtyard disappear, Rory remarks offhandedly that playtime's probably over. It is, but that's because the children have been disintegrated by the Eknodines' green mist. "Playtime's definitely over" indeed.
- Running Gag: Amy keeps insisting that whichever reality they're in currently is the real one, despite insisting just as strongly whenever they switch to the other one. She eventually realizes this and stops it.
- Sadistic Choice: Amy's choice to give up either her life in the TARDIS (Doctor) or one in Upper Leadworth (Rory).
- Say My Name:
- The first line of the episode. Amy screams "RORRRRRRY!" when she thinks she's going into labour, and the screams seems to resonate across the countryside before cutting to who else? Rory.
- Amy does it to Rory again when he's hit by the green mist in the nursery.
- Scenery Porn:
- We get a good look at the new TARDIS set, covered in ice and snow, and cast in a beautiful gloomy lighting. It puts every other iteration of the ship to shame.
- The exterior scenes of the TARDIS frosting over, backlit by the cold star, are quite beautiful, too.
- Schrödinger's Butterfly: The "Dream Lord" traps the Doctor and his two companions in two deadly situations which they switch between by falling asleep every five minutes or so, claiming one of them to be real and one of them to be a dream, and that if you die in the dream you wake up in reality, while if you die in reality, "you die, stupid, that's why it's called reality". In the end, the Doctor, in a twist of genius, realises that the Dream Lord gave them a choice between two dreams, because he "conceded defeat" and revived the dead TARDIS, while the Dream Lord is supposed to have no power over reality. He subsequently blows up the TARDIS to kill them all, and they all get returned to reality, where they were brought into a collective hallucination by a few grams of psychotropic dust, and the Dream Lord is just an inner demon within the Doctor.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Doctor mocks Rory for this.Rory: [grabbing the phone] Cant we call for help?
The Doctor: Yeah, 'cos the universe is really quite small and theres bound to be someone nearby.
- Self-Parody: The dream adventure with the evil old people and general Cliché Storm is quite possibly a parody of the average Doctor Who episode; displaced aliens hiding out on Earth and randomly deciding to take it out on the locals for no real reason has been a running theme since the 70's. Likewise, the "cold star" could also be seen as a parody of the abuses of science often committed on the show.
- Shared Dream: The Doctor, Amy and Rory are trapped in such a dream. Discussed at the beginning of the episode where they realise they were all having a very similar dream involving the other two.
- Shipper on Deck: When we realise that the Dream Lord is the Doctor, we realize that even the Doctor's darker impulses ship Amy and Rory.
- Shout Out:
- Elders in a rural village killing residents to keep up their façade and the heroes facing them off?
- Amy's "what's the point of you?" is the same line, albeit minus an F-bomb, that Gwen said in the Torchwood first series finale, in a similar situation (the temporary death of Gwen's boyfriend, as compared to the Disney Death of Rory).
- The Dream Lord appears in the camper van holding a white racing helmet with a dark blue visor.
- Sleep Cute: The Doctor and Rory wake up on the bench forehead to forehead.
- Small Town Boredom: Amy eventually admits this to Rory about Upper Leadworth, saying it's not what she had in mind for herself. Even when they're sitting on the bench early on, all three are clearly bored and have nothing to say to each other for a few moments before the Doctor asks what they do to stave off the boredom (Amy says that, he says self-harm).
- Spotting the Thread: The Doctor insists they all try to do this; he waves his hands in front of his face looking for scan-lines or motion blur. Rory and Amy point out it's kind of hard to spot what doesn't ring true when you're on a time machine that's bigger on the inside with a bowtie-wearing alien. (Though the cold star is pretty darn impossible even by the standards of the show.)
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The Dream Lord keeps pulling this. "Two worlds: Here, in the time machine, and there, in the village that time forgot. One is real, the other's... fake." The Doctor could have done without the limerick.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Some fans wonder if the Dream Lord is just a glorified figment of the Doctor's imagination, or an intended Call-Back/Call-Forward of the Doctor's incarnation as the Valeyard, considering the Twelfth Doctor's first appearance was at Christmas 2013. Bit of Fridge Brilliance, as the Dream Lord might in fact be the true origin of the Valeyard, since the Valeyard no doubt lied to the Sixth Doctor about being created when his thirteenth regeneration was experimenting with ways to break the twelve-regeneration limit. And the fact that the Dream Lord appears to survive the end of the episode.
- Take a Third Option: Again, both realities are dreams. Not only that, but Amy's choice is the world where Rory is alive... which happens to be on the TARDIS, not in Leadworth. Her choice is to stay with Rory but also on the TARDIS, which, ultimately, is how it all pans out.
- Take Care of the Kids: Rory's last words as he disintegrates are "Take care of our baby."
- Taking the Bullet: Amy name-drops the trope when she and Rory manage to escape back to their cottage after fleeing from the Eknodines, saying that the Doctor had just done this for them.
- Teleport Spam: Much like the Valeyard, the Dream Lord keeps popping in and out of existence mid-conversation. Props to the special effects department for making it impossible to tell beforehand when he's going to.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Doctor disagreed with the TARDIS manual the last time he tried to use it, so he threw it into a supernova.
- They Killed Kenny Again: This episode starts the trend for poor Rory.
- Title Drop: Twice, in slightly different contexts. First a sadistic choice from the Dream Lord and then a more friendly one from Rory.
- Together in Death: Amy had every intention of invoking this on the chance she might get to see Rory one more time. If the Upper Leadworth reality is real, then at least she won't have to live in a world without Rory.
- Tranquil Fury: Amy is very calm when she says this line, but the line of anger is crystal clear: "Then what is the point of you?"
- Uncanny Village: Rory and Amy live in a beautiful, quiet English village, with people that live unnaturally long, and it's spookily empty.
- Wham Line: "I'm going to blow up the TARDIS."
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Rory at one point insists that nothing bad could ever possibly happen in his idyllic life in Upper Leadworth... seconds before the Doctor discovers, via an aversion of Infant Immortality, that things have gone badly wrong in his idyllic life in Upper Leadworth.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- A rare case of the hero doing it to himself. The Dream Lord spends the entire episode telling the Doctor that he's a horrible person: he doesn't keep in touch with his Companions, he puts them in danger, he hides things, he never apologizes for anything, etc.
- After one too many dismissive complaints about how boring the village is, Amy fakes her labour. Several moments of embarrassing ineffectuality from the Doctor later, she points out that a very mundane fact of life sent him "white as a sheet" and orders him to knock it off with the smug insults. The Doctor is humbled and shamed into an apology.
- When Elders Attack: A crowd of hostile and dangerous pensioners? "Oh, that's ridiculous."
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Very pregnant Amy would rather not have to run.
- Why Isn't It Attacking?: Amy and the Doctor leave the cottage after Amy decides she doesn't want to go on without Rory after he dies, and the pensioners do nothing. Amy basically name-drops the trope, screaming, "Why aren't they attacking?!" The Doctor replies that either because it's just a dream, or because they know that he and Amy are about to kill themselves.
- Would Hit a Girl: Twice. First time, Rory whacks one of the elderly alien-ladies that's about to kill him. Second time, the Doctor of all people whacks an old woman with a lamp when she comes through the window and kills Rory, making her fall off the roof of Rory and Amy's house. Although, in a way they really didn't, since all of that was a dream.
- Xanatos Gambit: Both realities are dreams. So whichever they choose, the Dream Lord still wins. Too bad for him the Doctor figured this out.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Rory has this reaction when the Doctor tells him the TARDIS heating is off. Except it isn't, it's because they're drifting towards a cold star, which is why it's so cold.