From DWM #453, Tom asked me if I’d be up for writing an additional piece, looking back at Amy and Rory’s time in the show.
And so I did…
The Pond era is now over. Really. Karen Gillan has said: “I don’t want people to watch The Angels Take Manhattan in later years knowing I subsequently returned. I don’t want to undercut it.” That seems like a fine sentiment to me. As brilliant as Amy and Rory have been, their story is complete. Sealed off, in fact, thanks to that clever and recursive return to the garden at the back of Amelia’s house. This has been highly satisfactory.
During their two-and-a-half series in the show, the Ponds have resolutely done their own thing. Received wisdom has it that more than one companion in the TARDIS over-burdens Doctor Who, but that’s been disproven. Sure, the writing talent on the series nowadays makes light work of the additional load, but the weight of the Amy-Rory-Doctor axis has also been cleverly distributed across the three. What I’m trying to say here is, to be brutally honest Rory has mostly served as Amy’s sidekick. As we’re told, this has been the story of Amelia Pond and that places Mr Williams in a supporting character role – even in his own marriage (their collective noun is ‘Ponds’). It’s she who got the goodbye speech in this episode, and, while we’re being blunt, she who’s had the multiple action-figures issued in her likeness.
This isn’t a criticism. It’s a salute to a very pragmatic and interesting approach to managing the characters. As Steven Moffat has pointed out, one of the real blessings of Amy and Rory is that they’ve provided he and his writers with the option of having two regulars who can exchange thoughts about the Doctor and what he’s up to this week. It’s going to be odd now the Time Lord no longer has his back-up team. That Greek Chorus on standby. I’ve become used to Doctor Who’s current shape.
Received wisdom gets another kicking when it comes to the subject of marriage. Until now, its place in Doctor Who has been solely to write companions out of the series. To maintain your place on board the time-ship, you had to accept the fact that relationships of all kind were put on hold. But that hasn’t been the case for Amy and Rory, whose romance has developed and grown. They even broke the ‘no hanky-panky in the TARDIS’ rule.
It’s proven a fascinating and rewarding route for the series to take, not only seeing the companions evolve emotionally, but grow up and leave the Doctor. Settle down. Age. Build a home life. And then opt to travel with him again. All of that has been new. A subversion of the companion role as we’ve traditionally understood it.
Along the way, we’ve had stellar performances from Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. The more obvious challenge, perhaps, was set for Arthur who had to take someone who was initially resistant to the Doctor and a life of adventure, and make us love him. His portrayal has been infused with both good humour and moments that felt like real, genuine tumult (I’m thinking specifically of that scene in The Doctor’s Wife and the aged Rory railing to Amy: “How could you do that… to ME?!”). Ultimately, though, he’s managed to nail that most nebulous of qualities – being the everyman. As for Karen, I think she actually had an even bigger ask. As Amy she’s funny and kooky and brave and all that stuff. But she’s also been, and remained throughout, a bit spiky. In every other continuing drama, a regular character’s abrasive edges are soon worn away. Not Amy, though. No matter how adept she’s become at this saving-the-world business, and how happy she’s grown in her personal life, it seems to me Karen’s never forgotten the rather damaged and neglected girl we met at the very beginning of her adventure. The one who’d waited through “12 years and four psychiatrists” for her Raggedy Man to come and get her.
Of course, someone new is now waiting – Jenna-Louise Coleman who we’ll see again at Christmas. I think she’s going to be great. But right now, for me, Amy, Rory and the Doctor are Doctor Who and it won’t be the same without them.