The Doctor and Peter Pan

Screen Cap from The Beast Below Where Amy Floats Outside the TARDIS with the Doctor Holding Her Ankle

My name is Amy Pond. When I was seven I had an imaginary friend. Last night was the night before my wedding. My imaginary friend came back.

Before I begin, I must make the disclaimer that I never watched Disney’s Peter Pan as a child. It was always on the fringes of my knowledge (it’s hard to fully escape anything Disney when you watch the Disney channel), but I didn’t grow up with it in the background of my childhood. Perhaps that’s why I have a slightly askance view on the story. Peter Pan is kind of a horrifying character and the Peter Pan syndrome even more so. The idea that one should never have responsibilities, kidnap young girls to be ‘mother’ for life, and torment poor pirates (okay, that last one is a stretch, but I really like pirates) just feels wrong. I understand the need for fantasy and that (for kids) the idea of never growing up can be appealing, but there’s so many better stories for kids about this idea. After thinking about my objection to Peter Pan I found it fascinating to realize that I adore the idea of an immortal figure whisking me away on an adventure. Why do I not have a similar problem with Doctor Who as I do with Peter Pan?

Of all of the companions, the Peter Pan-ness of the show was never so readily apparent as in Amy Pond’s story. The similarties between Amy Pond and Wendy Darling are remarkable and wonderfully laid out by wednesdaydream in this post (though, her Wendy is the 2003 film version). Amy is a child when we first meet her and the Doctor promises to take her away (which, should give us all pause to begin with, how is he going to explain kidnapping a child). Perhaps that’s the Doctor’s first real Peter Pan moment (he escapes the responsibility of taking care of a kid). When he fails to return in time he leaves her with her fantasies (and a lot of arts and crafts apparently). When he returns it’s on the edge of Amy’s adulthood where she’s trying to find herself (her reaction towards being a kissogram is extremely telling), but he disappears again only to return on the ultimate point of her adulthood (the night before her wedding). Like Wendy, she’s whisked away in her nightgown and taken to the fantastical world of the Doctor (her first trip being the future and a civilization on a ship on the back of a whale that travels through space).

As much as I love “The Beast Below,” something never quite rang true to me about the story. The parallel was supposedly built up between the Star Whale and the Doctor being very old and very kind, but the actual actions were not there. Logically, I know the Doctor is very old at this point, but his regenerations act younger and younger (a hotly debated idea in the fandom is the idea that the Doctor may be aging backwards). When Amy gives the touching speech about the whale/Doctor caring when children cried I was like, “but he just NOTICED and sent YOU!” I guess the Doctor needed a mother too to care for lost children.

The Doctor and Peter Pan do share many characteristics as well as Hope explains in her brilliant analysis of Doctor Who, the Doctor is “a boyish misfit with a touch of supernatural charm who whisks away a girl (and they are usually women) away from her everyday normalcy to travel through the night sky.” The Doctor is extremely excitable and usually very dismissive of anyone who acts too much like an adult. When his companions finally “grow up” he ditches them for someone new.

Yet, there is a part where they break down. Unlike Peter Pan, the Doctor does understand the need for Amy’s parents and gives her a way to bring them back. As much as the Doctor might poke fun at uppity adults, most of his barbs are reserved for those who cease being open-minded and enjoying the mysteries of life. The Doctor promotes good parents as seen in “Closing Time” and “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe.”

As much as Amy’s love for the Doctor rules her life in the beginning it does grow from the obsessive crazed fangirl to a mutual friendship. Amy realizes that her real love is Rory, that he’s the one she waits for to save her, that she can be “grown up” without fully losing her sense of wonder. We see this in “A Good Man Goes To War” when we realize that Amy’s epic speech about a good man is not about the Doctor, but about Rory.

Amy is not the only one who realizes this. In “The God Complex” we see The Doctor leave Rory and Amy with a house and a car fully accepting the idea that they can move on without him, but the Doctor doesn’t stay gone. It’s the kind of ‘leaving behind’ of a companion that we had never seen before. As Dan Martin of the Guardian stated, Amy’s exit from the TARDIS was, “the kind of ending that would have been nice for Sarah-Jane, really.” In the beginning The Doctor shows he doesn’t like sticking around after he’s left his companions behind, but with 10 and 11 we see him show up in their lives more. While Amy is still active in the last two episodes of season 6 and appears briefly in the Christmas episode, she’s different. She doesn’t bemoan her lack of traveling with the Doctor nor does she wish for his “Neverland.” Even her alternate reality self in the ‘everything happens at once’ timeline is strong, independent wanting to help save the world not escape her current life.

The differences don’t end there. Unlike the Disney version of Peter Pan, the daughter of Amy and Rory does not follow the same cycle of kidnapping and escapism. Instead, Melody (turned River) is something more than human since she’s infused with TARDIS stuff (that’s my lack of scientfic background leaking through). Making the story into something more transformative and less creepy (in my opinion).

Our final moments (so far) with Amy and the Doctor are brief. In the Christmas special, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” The Doctor has his usual quips about how marvelous he thinks humans are. This is a reoccurring theme with the Doctor; one of the not so subtle ways to remind us that the Doctor is anything but human. As the last of the Time Lords one would think he would cling to being as Time Lord as possible, but it’s something he’s run from his whole life. When he finally has his “humanny-wumanny” moment at the end of the episode and cries happy tears the audience finally realizes that the Doctor himself can become something slightly more than the impish immortal.

In the end, I hope that the Doctor continues to be the mad man with a box who takes people on adventures. Like the characters in Peter Pan many of us long for an escape from our ordinary lives. Unlike the characters in Peter Pan I hope we’re all the better for it after we leave.

7 comments

  1. Annie White Owl says:

    Fantastic post! Very thought provoking as I had never before made this association. However, I would point out that the “Peter Pan” thing doesn’t really seem to ring true where Donna is concerned. Rather than whisking her away from the responsibilities of adulthood, I’ve always seen that he is instead attempting to affirm to her that she is capable of far more than she ever gave herself credit for; constantly defying her assertions that she is “just a temp” and nothing truly special. In the end, he does what a good friend (not a selfish man-child) would do, and puts her best interests ahead of his own. But you’ve got me wondering now if that may be why so many of my daughter’s NuWho fan friends (all about 16-17 years old) really don’t care for Donna so much. Hmm…you’ve rally got me thinking. Again, great post!

    • Thanks Annie!

      It’s true, Donna is not whisked away. The first time she’s brought to the TARDIS without her (or the Doctor’s) consent. The second time – she’s the deciding factor about going to the TARDIS. The Doctor didn’t want her to come along at first. She bucks the trend (part of why I love her). :D

      • tansy says:

        My favourite thing about the way Donna joins the Doctor is that she has PACKED and prepared for meeting him again. She has hatboxes! It reminds me of Sarah Jane’s exit where she has an armful of her “goodies” she has picked up along the way, including a potplant and tennis racket.

        I hope when he took her home at the end, he remembered to unload all of Donna’s stuff!

  2. miconian says:

    You make the last season sound much better than it is. I wish I could watch the show you watched, but the one I saw was full of obvious, repetitive dialog and rehashes of old villains and concepts. I can’t wait for Amy to go away, and for The Doctor (and the showrunner) to regenerate.

    • Sadly, the truth is once you start noticing how much you hate something it’s ruined for life. That’s most of the reason I don’t delve into fandom discussions until way after a season is over. I’m a huge fan of the later seasons of NuWho and am always sad when others aren’t.

      • tansy says:

        I really love season six! A couple of reservations here and there, a few bits where I would have added a LINE to make it much better, but I think it had some wonderful character development and writing, especially the Moffat episodes. Like you, I get quite sad to hear people rag on it and tear it to bits. But I also sympathise with those who feel their favourite show isn’t good right now.

  3. Hope says:

    Hi! I just found this post from checking traffic on my old blog! Thanks for the shout-out. I didn’t know this website existed, but it looks like great fun. Let me know if you’re ever looking for new writers!

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