Reexamining the Ponds

It would take only a brief skimming of my blog archives (or Twitter timeline) to figure out I was not here for the Ponds at all. Disliking Amy — and Rory, to a lesser extent — became a part of my “brand” as a Whovian. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t like them, and while those reasons are still valid, I’ve found myself better able to look past them.

To better understand, here’s some background. I came into the show in 2012, between the 6th and 7th season. I watched all existing New Who episodes in less than a week; effectively watching a little over a season a day. I watched the companion’s stories and emotional arcs happen in fast-forward, over several uninterrupted hours. So for me, Amy (and Rory) were an abrupt change. After the immediate connections I’d had with the previous companions, they were an unwelcome one. I didn’t connect with them at all.

One of the reasons I rejected Amy was fans’ casual acceptance of her romantic feelings and behaviors toward the Doctor. At the time, so much of my interaction with fandom was in defense of Martha. Her feelings toward Ten is the major issue fans to this day cite as the reason they do not like her. Yet, fans embraced Amy, despite her suggestiveness toward the Doctor. And while she was in a long-term relationship with someone else. It was hypocrisy.

I also didn’t have strong feelings about season 5. It was fine. I’d only just started to care about Amy and Rory, then the season finale happened. Then the following season happened. And it was BAD. Any goodwill Amy and Rory had earned was demolished by truly abhorrent writing. I… don’t want to spend too much time here on what’s wrong with season 6, but it informs a lot of my negative feelings about the Ponds.

I hated Amy for things that were largely outside her control. I hated that she had so much blind faith in the Doctor. I hated that she absolved him for things he’d done or had let happen to her. I hated the way she treated Rory. I hated how Rory responded to that treatment. I hated that Rory talked big shit but didn’t do anything. I hated that Amy had to “choose” Rory several times like he — and we — needed constant reminding that he was also important.

I actually kind of liked Rory. I loved that he often voiced very valid criticisms about the way the Doctor moved through people’s lives. The writing frequently put him in a position to be weighed against the Doctor, so his only recourse was holding a mirror up to Eleven and letting him see who he was. And while that was Extremely My Shit, the writing — or directing, I don’t know — really emphasized Rory’s deep insecurity in his relationship with Amy. And I hated that very much.

My hate for them was compounded by my general feeling that they had overstayed their welcome. I watched season 7 in real-time. It wasn’t great, but I was happy to go on the journey if it meant the Ponds would be gone by the end of it. The tragedy of the season was not them (finally) saying goodbye, but that there had been better places to do so. Instead of the quietly powerful conclusion we could’ve got in Power of Three, we were given a convoluted, plot-hole ridden mess of a farewell episode. It did nothing for me emotionally and solidified my apathy. I was just happy for it — for them — to be over.

I realized something during my rewatch of Eleven’s episodes, though. I hated how Amy and Rory responded to things, yes. But what I actually hated was that those things happened in the first place. I wasn’t necessarily mad that Amy and Rory got over their daughter’s kidnapping so fast — I mean I was! But — I was mad that they were put in a position to endure that. I was mad that there were all these bewildering choices made in the writer’s room that completely neglected to treat those characters as people with feelings.

I understand now that a lot of my animosity towards them was my response to their mistreatment by the writing. I didn’t hate them, I hated what happened to them. Separate from the overarching stories being told about, or more aptly around them, they were not bad. I can finally see what people like about them, and how people can find themselves in them, even if I cannot. I see the fierceness in Amy that people responded to. I see the strength in Rory’s loyalty. I see how they make the Doctor better — to an extent.

I still do not have the kind of emotional connection to them that I had with any of the earlier companions, but I attribute that to Russell T. Davies being better at writing people and Steven Moffat being better at writing scenarios.

I’ve come away from my rewatch with a fondness for Amy and Rory. They behaved questionably sometimes and made choices that didn’t always make sense. But they remained loyal and protective of one another. They kept the Doctor in check — mostly. They could have walked away and avoided a lot of unexamined grief, but doing things that are detrimental to one’s safety is par for the course. It would be unfair to judge them for sticking around when that’s the same choice many who’ve travelled with the Doctor have made.

While I still have plenty of criticisms of that era of Doctor Who, I can enjoy it much more now that I’ve come to understand, respect and maybe even like the Ponds.