So far this epic blogging crossover has been a screaming success. It started on International Women’s Day with my own piece on Lt. Ellen Ripley. Last week, Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 gave us a rousing look at Captain Janeway. Now it is time for My Comic Relief to throw his article in the Fearless Female ring with a bit of Doctor Who action. Enjoy.
Fiction’s Fearless Females: Amy Pond
There was an idea. Jeff knows this. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable bloggers to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to celebrate a collection of incredible female characters we never could on our own. This week it’s my turn and I’m shining my spotlight on the incomparable Amy Pond, my all-time favorite companion to ever set foot inside the TARDIS in the world of Doctor Who.
Played by Karen Gillan over three series, Amelia Pond entered the Doctor’s world in “The Eleventh Hour,” the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who (as the show is English, I’m using “series” over the more American “season”). She joined the show along with Matt Smith who had taken over from David Tennant, when the Doctor entered his eleventh regeneration. As the Doctor once so beautifully told Amy, “You were the first. The first face this face saw, and you’re seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be.” She’s one of my favorite characters on the show – she’s one of my favorite characters ever – and she’s easily my favorite of all the Doctor’s companions.
The relationship the Doctor has with his companions is important. (Note, while the Doctor’s current regeneration is female, as the Doctor was male when Amy travelled with him – and because English awkwardly lacks a universally-accepted gender-neutral third person singular pronoun – I’ll be using masculine pronouns in this piece when referring to the Doctor.) Behind all the adventures, all the smiles, all the exuberant joy in creation, the Doctor is a very lonely character. The modern incarnation of Doctor Who begins after the Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords (the alien race the Doctor belongs to) and the Daleks (his greatest enemy). To end the war and protect all of space and time, the Doctor made the choice to destroy both races. This condemned him to a lifetime as the last of his kind, a particularly lengthy punishment given how Time Lords age. Essentially without any surprises, mistakes, or accidents a Time Lord can live forever. When a Time Lord hits old age or an illness or mortal injury strikes, they will regenerate – a process of rebirth causing complete physical and psychological change. Unless they are killed too quickly/violently to allow for regeneration, killed in the process of regeneration, or willfully decide to not regenerate from a fatal wound, a Time Lord will live forever.
Eternity is a long and lonely road to walk alone, even when you can go anywhere in time and space. To be alone forever breeds an unimaginable darkness and an unbearable pain. As such, it’s the Doctor’s companions who keep him company; keep him grounded; and keep the all-important lights of life, love, and compassion burning within him. Yet they always bring a special sort of sadness too. While the Doctor can live forever, his human companions can’t. In the Doctor’s words, “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some, not many but some, died.” No matter what happens, he will ultimately lose them all.
Over the years (and regenerations) the Doctor has had many great friends and a few important loves travel with him in the TARDIS but there’s only ever been one Amelia Pond – “Oh, that’s a brilliant name! Amelia Pond, it’s like a name in a fairy tale.” She’s always been my favorite of the Doctor’s companions, even though Eleven isn’t my favorite Doctor (if you’re curious, Ten is with Thirteen being a close second (and if Jodie Whittaker’s run continues as brilliantly as it began, she may take the title)). It’s not just the way Amy balances the Doctor nor what she adds to his adventures that makes her so remarkable in my eyes. It’s how Amy Pond – “the mad, impossible Amy Pond” – refuses to accept anything less than the life she wants, no matter how complicated or unattainable it may seem.
As we grow up, we tend to accept more and more limitations, things we never would have seen or yielded to in our youth. Our dreams become just that – dreams. In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, speaking as our hearts, writes, “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits them…[but] people no longer want to go in search of them…Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place…We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts” (131). Not Amy Pond. And what can be more fearless than having the courage to never deny the desires of your heart, no matter how complex or contradictory they may seem?
The Doctor first meets Amelia Pond when she’s only seven-years-old, crashing the TARDIS into her garden after having just regenerated. As she ventures outside alone to see what’s landed in her yard, it’s clear she’s already a bold, curious, inquisitive, and brave young girl. Talking with the Doctor over fish sticks and custard (the only meal to appeal in the moment to his freshly regenerated taste buds) she tells him, “I’m not afraid.” The Doctor replies, “Of course you’re not! You’re not scared of anything! A box falls out of the sky, a man pops out of the box, man eats fish and custard…and look at you. Just sittin’ there.”
Needing to quickly run the engines so the damaged TARDIS doesn’t explode, the Doctor leaves Amelia promising to be back in five minutes to take her on a trip and help her deal with the mysterious crack in space and time on her bedroom wall. The Doctor returns, slightly missing the mark…twelve years later. Amy has grown up but, despite more than a decade passing and four therapists who insisted her childhood friend was imaginary, she’s never fully abandoned belief that her “raggedy doctor” is real. Along with her “kind of boyfriend” Rory (Arthur Darvill), Amy helps the Doctor save the Earth from an intergalactic police force bent on planetwide incineration. The Doctor takes his newly restored TARDIS on a quick spin, returning to take Amy on a proper trip…two years later, missing his mark once again. So, fourteen years after first landing in her garden, “the girl who waited” goes in search of adventures through space and time with her “madman in a box.”
As the closing shot of that first episode shows, Amy has run off with the Doctor on the night before her wedding. One of the subplots in those early episodes was whether Amy wanted to be with Rory, the man she was about to marry, or the Doctor, the spaceman who’s captivated her imagination since childhood. In the poignant episode “Amy’s Choice” (S5E7), the mysterious Dream Lord forces Amy to choose between Rory and the Doctor. While she ultimately realizes Rory is the man she loves, she doesn’t chose between Rory and the Doctor. She chooses both. The Doctor is her best friend, Rory her lover and eventually her husband. She never sacrifices one for the other. She manages a life of time travel and planet hopping adventure alongside getting married and living a “normal” life. Rory quickly becomes part of their adventures too! Amy makes her worlds fit together. She wants it all. It’s all the life she’s chosen and because she won’t abandon her heart’s desires, it all fits.
Amy – “Hey, look at this. Got my spaceship. Got my boys. My work here is done.”
Rory – “Uh, we are not her boys.”
The Doctor – “Yeah we are.”
Rory – “Yeah we are.”
Despite narrative clichés and our cultural default presumption of Twilight-inspired love triangles, women and men can naturally have incredibly strong, life-affirming friendships without ulterior romantic motives. And after the first flush of a crush on her space-faring adventurer fades, that’s exactly what Amy finds with the Doctor. With Rory, we see a strong marriage. With the Doctor, an important friendship. Both those relationships exist harmoniously in her life, each enriching the other. (Bringing Rory into the TARDIS and the Doctor’s adventures is another reason Amy Pond is my favorite companion! I love Rory so much too!) In addition to presenting a healthy depiction of female-and-male friendships, this also opens up more interesting narrative possibilities as well, freeing the stories from the sort of narrative loop that can come with yet another companion pining – unrequited or not – over the Doctor.
Through their adventures, Amy’s wit, compassion, and resolve always impressed me. Her will always felt as strong as the Doctor’s too and she was every bit as courageous as he was. Of all the Doctor’s companions, she’s the only one I always felt could handle everything on her own as capably and competently as the Doctor. From the far-flung past to the distant future to all manner of alien races, worlds, and wars, she shares the Doctor’s life but she refuses to give up a “normal” life either. She and Rory still hold regular jobs on Earth which they go to in between their travels with the Doctor. They have “regular” friends. They have a “normal” routine. Amy even eventually has a child. This, as with everything else in her journey, only serves to expand her world in powerful ways. As the outlaw Dr. Kahler Jex observes in “A Town Called Mercy” (S7E3):
Jex – “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”
Amy – “How did you know?”
Jex – “There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness. And a ferocity too.”
Kindness. Sadness. Ferocity. Wit. Compassion. Enthusiasm. Trust. Faith. Love, in all its forms. Amy Pond shows us the magic our lives will hold when we have the courage to always follow our hearts and refuse to accept anything less than their greatest desires.
As you may’ve gathered, I’ve joined forces with some other charismatic and exciting bloggers and YouTubers (in Rob’s case, as he’s cool enough to know how to work YouTube) – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little blogging salute to some of our favorite fearless female characters in all of fiction. It’ll be fun and it alliterates! Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward or the next couple months, a different blogger will be featured each week saluting one of their personal favorite female characters. Be sure to follow these amazing blogs (if you don’t already) and be sure to check back each week to soak in all the excitement of the latest installment of this EPIC TEAM-UP.