New Who is on the horizon, with August’s five new episodes promising the return of the Eleventh Doctor and the departure of his first ever companions. It’s sure to be an emotional farewell for both the Doctor and the fans. We look back on the ups and downs of the Ponds’ time in the TARDIS…
Tall. Leggy. Ginger – and a little bit prone to a fish-eyed, glassy stare: those were our first impressions of the Doctor’s new companion. Back in 2010, the newly-regenerated Matt Smith burst onto our screens in a mixture of nervous energy and giddy excitement, and Amy Pond’s sweet serenity seemed like the perfect counterpoint to his middle-schooler-on-one-too-many-espresso shots. From what we’d gathered from the trailer, the new companion would spend a good deal of time being moony and ethereal and dangling out of a TARDIS upside-down.
Boy, were we wrong.
“You said six months! Why did you say six months?”
“Why did you say five minutes?”
The adult Amy, as we come to know her, is feisty, flighty, and just a little bit damaged. Moffat’s curious introduction of Rory – an unsuspectingly minor character at this point – leaves us with the impression that she is at least (mostly) single. Her sort-of boyfriend isn’t a match for the mysterious allure of this man who fell from space, ruining (making?) her childhood, and providing her with an imaginary friend and impossible dreams for years to come. An unusual choice of companion, she falls into the loudmouth category of female character Moffat seems to favour.
“Goodbye Leadworth – hello everywhere!”
Fast forward two years – timey wimey! – and Amy, apparently, has got serious with her boyfriend. There’s a wedding dress in her closet, and a not-so-strange man at the door. It’s an obvious choice, one that many girls may have come across on a less, um, cosmic scale. Amy, perhaps unsurprisingly, tries to ‘have it all’ – she agrees to run away and go travelling, but only on the assurance that this man, this unreliable mad man with a box, will have her back in time for tomorrow morning. For ‘stuff’.
Amy first appears as a solo companion in The Beast Below, but there’s something iffy about their dynamic onscreen. Karen Gillan and Matt Smith bring so much energy and vigour to their role that watching them can be, at some points, somewhat exhausting. As a companion, Amy doesn’t quite fulfil the audience placeholder function quite so well as she could do – she’s too much like the doctor, all yelling and giggling and barely-hidden issues under an over-confident front. We need someone more bumbling; more everyday, more relatable.
Enter Rory. When Rory first appears as a permanent companion in Vampires of Venice, his inclusion is forced at best. Sad-sack Rory, tagging along with these beautiful, time-travelling creatures, on a ‘date’ with his fiancé set up by the man she attempted to seduce. Poor Rory. He is instantly such a beta male that the audience is forced to pity him.
“Stay with us, please. I want you to stay.”
Amy and doesn’t seem to realise how insulting this invitation is – the fact that Amy and The Doctor have already formed a cohesive ‘us’, into which Rory has to be invited, pinpoints the insecurity that lies beneath this relationship. Amy is constantly torn between the glamour of the Doctor, and the safe reliability of Rory. It’s as if Rory is her fallback, the safe place she can run to, when things get a little too wild with the Doctor.
It’s a very unequal relationship, one which Moffat seems to be transitioning for a major shift throughout series five and six. Sadly, this change never quite happens. In Amy’s Choice, much to Rory’s shock, she picks the ‘nice guy’. This decision, lauded as a crucial moment of ‘you don’t realise what is missing until it’s gone’ falls a little flat in the face of Rory’s abject, cringing gratitude.
“Oh, I was going to be cool.”
What is even more tragic, is that Rory is so hopelessly in love with her that he is happy to accept this role. In fact, he comes to treasure and fetishize his dependability. Moffat is so very fond of qualifiers and taglines – his Girl who Waited needed a companion of her own, and he gave her one. The Last Centurian is so dedicated to this role, that he waits for two thousand years on the off-chance that something bad might happen to Amy in the Pandorica. This gesture, often romanticised by fans as the height of absolute romantic devotion, seems more like desperation. Rory often wears the abject expression of a man with extremely low self-esteem, who can’t believe his luck in ‘getting’ a girl. He makes up for his own inadequacies by setting himself up as the exact opposite of the Doctor. While the Doctor is dangerous, dashing and charming, Rory is quiet, bumbling and modest. Amy appears in the end to have the best of both worlds – the company of two men who are, in their different ways, devoted to her.
“It’s about you – everything – it’s all about you.”
Despite the problematic elements of their relationship, the Ponds have turned out to be much-loved fan favourites, with one of the longest companion runs since New Who began. It is difficult, however, to view their imminent departure without a little relief. The alpha/beta dynamic of Rory versus the Doctor seems well worn out after two series’ worth of gags and one-liners.
It will be interesting to see how Matt Smith’s Doctor will handle a single companion (the refreshingly normal-looking Jenna-Louise Coleman). We don’t, however, hold out much hope that Rory and Amy’s stories will tie up nicely. There isn’t enough time, in a mere five episodes, to introduce a game-changing plotline – Moffat’s structure seems to invite more of the same, with a final episode of self-indulgently drawn-out farewells.
Amy and Rory’s fans, however, will always be able to revisit what was surely one of the oddest dynamics in the show’s long history – the not-quite couple, with the Doctor, in the TARDIS. It sounds like a murder mystery plot, or the solution to a game of Cluedo – and, who knows, perhaps it will be.
Will you be missing the Ponds, or are you glad to see the back of them? Let us know in the comments below!