Tag Archive for amy pond

Two Women in the TARDIS

So the TARDIS is a lady. We’ve always known that, right?

The Doctor’s Wife, which made concrete the Doctor’s characterisation of the TARDIS as female, and a living being with her own thoughts and feelings, makes re-watching older episodes a fascinating exercise. It brings an extra layer of meaning to almost every story since 1963.

But crucially, it shakes up the Doctor Who “formula” which, to so many people, sums up what the show is about: One Doctor, One Female Companion.

If you actually watch the show for any length of time, you know that this formula isn’t actually essential at all – but it’s amazing how often the media surrounding the show, official or otherwise, prioritises this depiction of how Doctor Who works. We all know that Jack, Mickey, Rory and River count companions (there hasn’t been a single full season of New Who in which the Doctor has one lone female companion at his side) and yet somehow they disappear in the way the show is pitched to the audience, in the newspaper and blog coverage, and even the merchandise (Arthur Darvill, after one year as occasional companion and a second year as a billed co-star, is only just receiving his first action figure).

[Ritch discusses why this might be the case in one of his Ritch and Space YouTube vids: New Companion, Old Companions]

It happened in the old days, too. JNT, a previous generation’s RTD, famously set up all manner of sexy photo shoots for the Doctor’s co-stars, to the point that you would easily believe that Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa or Janet Fielding’s Tegan travelled with him alone. Most non-diehard-fans remember a Doctor-companion combination that is singular. There’s a kind of mythic resonance to the concept of the “Doctor Who girl” and yet for huge chunks of the show from 1963 all the way through to the present, the Doctor travelled with more than one companion, often a man and woman together, but sometimes as many as three.

In fact, only the Third, Sixth and Seventh Doctors followed the ‘one Doctor Who girl’ format for their whole TV run, and considering that the Third Doctor had an ensemble cast as well as his female companion, it’s really only the late 80’s (and a few chunks of the Fourth Doctor’s era, depending on whether or not you count the robot dog) which completely support the ‘crew of two’ concept.

Now, of course, we know that the TARDIS *always* made three.

But I thought it was worth talking about one of my favourite companion combinations: when the Doctor has two women in his life at at time. (Well, okay, three.) Having more than one woman in the regular cast allows for multiple “types” of female character (yay diversity) plus we get to see them gang up on him, and when is that not fun?

So here are the best examples:

SUSAN AND BARBARA:
The Doctor’s grand-daughter and her history teacher, worlds apart in so many ways. It was Barbara’s curiosity about (and concern for) Susan which got she and Ian into this mess in the first place, and she often takes on a motherly (or at least, cool auntie) role with the alien teenager. I particularly like that they both have such different spheres of expertise, and often have something to learn from each other.
From The Unearthly Child (1963) to The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1965)

BARBARA AND VICKI: Just as Vicki was the substitute granddaughter figure for the Doctor, she had a similar relationship with Barbara as had Susan, though perhaps they erred closer to be being friends rather than teacher-student. It didn’t hurt that Vicki was human, if from the far future, which meant she had extra reason to think that Barbara (and Ian) were like, SO OLD, MAN. When the crew split up (as often happened back then) it often meant we had the Doctor and Vicki going one way and Ian and Barbara going the other, but we still get plenty of great scenes with these two very different women working together.
From The Rescue (1965) to The Chase (1965).

TEGAN AND NYSSA: After a very long gap including the entire Troughton and Pertwee years (and most of Tom Baker) the Fourth Doctor accidentally took on a random assortment of urchins and orphans in his last stories, including two women: Tegan, a mouthy Australian air stewardess and Nyssa, a demure alien aristocrat with mad science skills, along with alien boy genius Adric. While the scripts didn’t always give them the best material to work with (often the writers dealt with the three companion dilemma by making one fall mysteriously asleep for a whole story or otherwise disappear) we did get to see the forging of a strong friendship between these two young women, which was further developed after Adric left and we got to see them working together as the Doctor’s companions. More recently, in Big Finish, their friendship has been further explored with a series of adventures based on the premise that a much older Nyssa has returned to the TARDIS crew – fifty years have passed for her, while only a few weeks for Tegan.
From Logopolis (1981) to Terminus (1983) [TV]
From Cradle of the Snake [Big Finish Audio]

PERI AND ERIMEM: Not only does Big Finish provide us with a bunch of new stories for Doctor-companion combinations that didn’t get much time in the TV show (like Five-Peri) they also create new ones! Erimem, the feisty female Pharaoh who chose a different destiny for herself by leaping into the TARDIS, makes a great offsider for Peri, and their stories involve a lot of girl talk as well as culture clashes between them – for the most part it’s a warm, supportive friendship. I haven’t listened all the way through to Erimem’s end, though!
From: The Eye of the Scorpion [Big Finish Audio]

DONNA AND MARTHA: After two years of Rose, it felt like Martha Jones left too soon, and so it was lovely to have a story in which the Doctor returned at her summons to help with a UNIT mission that turned out to be a Sontaran attack. Even better, we got to see new companion Donna join forces with her predecessor without a hint of jealousy between them. The scene in which the Doctor watches, baffled, as they hug and shriek and mock him, is pure Doctor Who gold. It’s particularly nice because Martha’s era had been overshadowed by her cranky jealousy of her own predecessor Rose, and it’s the first time we get to see a Martha who isn’t in love with the Doctor any more. The Doctor and Donna then manage to kidnap Martha for at least one more spin in the TARDIS.
From The Sontaran Stratagem to The Doctor’s Daughter, plus Journey’s End

AMY AND RIVER
While River’s travels in the TARDIS are rarely chronological, she does manage to pop in quite often when Amy is there – and as we realise in Season 6, it’s not all about the Doctor’s charisma. Even before we learned that Amy and River were mother and daughter, we saw them as friends. The lack of jealousy (so crucial) between them was evident from the start, and Amy is delighted at the weird possibility that River might be the Doctor’s future wife. We also see River work to save Amy by her own methods, proving the Doctor wrong and showing her own capability. The two of them come into their own as a team many times over, across several adventures, often overriding or challenging the Doctor.
From The Time of Angels on and off until The Wedding of River Song.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

MEL AND ACE: In the story Dragonfire, we get a rare overlap/handover from old companion to new, but most of the story actually has Mel and Ace working together as a team while the Doctor does his own thing. At the end, it’s Mel who nudges the Doctor to take Ace along on his adventures.

ROSE AND SARAH-JANE: In the episode School Reunion, New and Old Who collided, and Rose discovered she wasn’t the first young woman to be important to the Doctor. Sadly, jealousy was a big issue in this story, though Rose and Sarah-Jane did work through their issues and boy, wasn’t the Doctor worried when they started laughing at him together?

ROSE AND JACKIE: Obviously this mother-daughter team had been hanging out for a long time, but it wasn’t until Army of Ghosts and Doomsday that Jackie actually hopped aboard the TARDIS and came for a ride. Only across the city, but still… it was very cute to see the Doctor claim Jackie as an aged Rose, and while the mother-daughter team were mostly separated (as they were also in Journey’s End) it was enough evidence for me to claim Jackie as a companion.

DONNA AND ROSE: In Turn Left, Rose became the Mysterious Enabler of Donna’s adventures – with the Doctor nowhere in sight! Lovely to have two companions get a story entirely to themselves. Donna was always a bit of a Doctor/Rose shipper, and while they didn’t get to recreate their Turn Left relationship in Journey’s End, we do get to see the two of them (and Jackie and Martha and Sarah-Jane) all jammed into the TARDIS together. Five women in the TARDIS!

ACE AND BENNY: While Bernice Summerfield was introduced in the Virgin New Adventures novel that wrote Ace out, the two of them didn’t stay strangers. Ace returned several times, the two of them wrangling over all kinds of issues (including I think some rivalry over Jason Kane – boo for jealousy but yay for it not being the Doctor in the pointy end of the triangle for once). Big Finish recreated the Seven-Ace-Benny team a few times, and will be bringing them back together again for the anniversary of that first story, Love and War, later in 2012.

EVELYN AND MEL: in the Big Finish audio Thicker Than Water, the Sixth Doctor brings Mel back to meet Evelyn, the companion who has had the most effect on how he lives his life. And the two of them get into all kinds of trouble together!

LUCIE AND SUSAN: Rose wasn’t the first companion to be faced with the Doctor’s distant past – in Big Finish audio Relative Dimensions, she cooked Christmas Doctor for the Eighth Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and great-grandson Alex! Together, Lucie and Susan discussed what it meant to travel at the Doctor’s side… and whether it was something either of them wanted to do now.

SARAH-JANE AND JO: In the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor, these two iconic 70’s companions met and were delighted to do so, even if it was at the funeral of the man they both thought of as their best friend. There was a hint of jealousy here and there, but not of the romantic kind – plenty of wistfulness too, especially when Jo discovered that the Doctor’s current companion got to bring her hubby along on the adventures. But mostly it was two awesome women who had fabulous lives, with fond memories of that crazy bloke they both knew in their youth. And I would have watched whole seasons of them together!

LEELA & ROMANA II: in another spin off series, Big Finish’s Gallifrey, two of the Fourth Doctor’s companions work together in war, death and politics, and barely even mention that crazy bloke they both knew in their youth. Luckily for us, there are whole seasons of them together!


HARDLY WORTH MENTIONING:

But for completion’s sake…

VICKI AND KATARINA – a hand-maiden introduced late into the Trojan story The Myth-Makers was sent on her way to the TARDIS by Vicki, who had a better offer.
DODO AND POLLY – They got along quite well in the opening episodes of The War Machines but Dodo was sent “to the country” halfway through, leaving Polly to carry on with Ben instead.
ROMANA I AND PRINCESS ASTRA – liked each other so much in The Armageddon Factor that Romana stole her body – well, the intellectual property surrounding her body, anyway. She wore it better, too.
ROMANA II and CHARLEY – Disapproved of each other mightily in Big Finish’s Neverland mostly because Romana II had a problem with Charley’s status as a time paradox. How awesome that they didn’t conflict over their feelings for the Doctor, though!

A Bit Too Fairytale

 

“I like Amy Pond.  She’s very funny.”

Yes, seven-year old daughter, she is quite funny and so is her boy Rory.  Funny is important when you are seven.  Funny gets your audience’s attention and gets them on your side—at least, this is what I teach my Drama students.  There are many things about Amy Pond that I have enjoyed over the last two series.  I think her love story with Rory is truly beautiful and moving.  I love the way themes of waiting are explored throughout her character arc.  “The Girl Who Waited” episode utterly broke my heart.  My daughters love her.  But is Amy Pond worthy of their adoration?  Is she a Feminist Fan Girl Icon?

A Feminist Fan Girl Icon must embody a positive body image.  Amy Pond possesses a physically imposing physique.  She is not a frail little flower; she is a gigantic, ginger glamazon with extra glam.  I read an interview with Karen Gillan when she was first cast in which she claimed Amy would be the sexiest Whopanion audiences had ever seen.  Who can doubt Miss Gillan’s intentions?  Long red talons, long, long red hair, long, long, long red legs (when she’s wearing red tights which I am not sure she ever does).

Sexuality filters through the wardrobe and make-up selections for Amy Pond into her chosen profession.  It was a clever trick in The Eleventh Hour episode: present the audience with a Whopanion police officer—a sexy police officer.  Oh wait, no…not a sexy police officer—a Cosplay Kissogram.  I confess that I giggled.

And flirty—oh my yes!  From her first adult meeting with the Doctor, Amy asserts her erotic interest in him.  She does not want a meaningful relationship like Rose, she does not want to worship at his genius shrine like Martha—she wants to watch him strip, shove him up against the Tardis and make time stop.  Who can forget the “Invasion of the Hot Italians” history essay which you just know includes every spear-related innuendo possible.  She even flirts with Vincent Van Gogh!  Then there is Rory: the lovely boy wrapped around her little finger who wins her heart after a couple thousand year’s persistence (bless).

Amy is a hottie fully aware of her sexuality and its power, which makes her controversial feminist territory.

Feminists have been historically divided on issues of sexuality, but something we all seem to agree upon is choice and control.  Part of the feminist mission must be ownership of our bodies in every respect: legally, spiritually, intellectually, reproductively and sexually.  When you compare Amy Pond to Rose, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane or even the oh so fit and skimpily-clad Leela she is one of the few  Whopanions to declare herself visually and textually as an erotic being (unless you count River Song as a companion, but I think she’s in a different category).  Amy Pond comes across as a woman in charge of her own sexuality.  She decides who, when and how, she takes initiative and seems blissfully ignorant of the patriarchal rules concerning sexual engagement.

That’s all on the Sex-Positive Feminist Good List.  On the negative side Amy only follows through on her wedding to Rory under the influence of the Pandorica’s Universal Re-set.  For me, this is akin to sex under the influence of drugs.  It makes the act suspect whether or not both parties would have agreed freely to it under normal circumstances.  Similarly, every aspect of Amy’s pregnancy falls under the control of external forces.  Amy Pond might present herself as a modern woman who takes the reins, makes the rules and calls her husband Mr Pond, but she is neither her own Fate Master nor her Soul Captain.

So what impact does all this have on the under-tens?

The question of what do my daughters get out of this is a tricky one when it comes to Amy Pond and the body image she presents.  Sexual imagery bombardment begins from birth with pink babygros.  This rapidly escalates into a brand of gender indoctrination which seldom treads down a liberal route when it comes to the visual media.  The creators of children’s programming do not want our daughter’s exposed to things like sex, birth control, homosexuality but they have no problem drenching them in patriarchal standards of womanhood.  Even my beloved Velma slims down to chase Shaggy as a boyfriend in the most recent incarnation of Scooby Doo.  So very wrong!  Disney Princesses, Barbie and Winx Club (to name some of my daughters’ viewing choices) present impossibly beautiful female characters whose stories invariably end with a boy and a veil.

Just like Amy Pond.

Aside from being more aggressive and taller, is she any better than Snow White or Cinderella?  Does the fact that she presents herself as a spunky (pun intended) sex-positive Whopanion have any real bearing on how she will come across to my daughters?  Probably not.  Amy Pond is seldom valued for her intelligence, she does not save the day and I have no clue what she believes in except for Rory.  She had such potential but Amelia Pond goes nowhere as a character that a hundred bird duetting Princesses have not gone before.

She truly is a bit too fairytale.

I find this frustrating as a viewer and a mother.  I hoped so much for Ms Pond.  I had such high hopes for the man who brought us Sally Sparrow, a Whopanion far more worthy of my daughters.  But Steven Moffat has let me down and I am at a loss to understand why.  Is he attempting to present a Fairytale arc for Amelia Pond?  If so, can someone please give him a copy of Tangled?  Fairytale Princesses can save the day, be smart, duet with the animal of their choice, experience romance and even get a trendy new haircut at the end.

Fairytales can mean whatever we want them to.  Isn’t that the whole point of speculative programs like Doctor Who?  I want a Fairy Princess Companion my daughters can admire for more than her humour.

Framing and Writing The Companions

For my first post on Doctor Her, I would like to present a conundrum I’ve been mulling over on and off since watching the first series in 2005: what would it take to reconcile character motivations to get a different type of companion into the TARDIS?

There are some basic similarities in the basic characteristics of The Doctor’s companions over the run of New Who (2005-present): she is young, without clear purpose and unsure of herself. This presents us with a problem from a feminist perspective. Once is a character choice, when the pattern repeats it becomes more of a troubling trend, something that the writers should be trying to solve as the series continues.

Rose was nineteen when she left her job in a shop to jump into the TARDIS with Christopher Eccleson’s Doctor, leaving her Mum and Mickey for worlds and times unknown. As the audience, we accept this premise. The time after leaving high school, especially for those young people who choose not to go on to University, or cannot afford to is one fraught with uncertainty, a lack of purpose, and perhaps a nagging sense of something better waiting for us out there. As an audience, we can understand how Rose would choose to leave a dead end job and a (not too serious) boyfriend when such a unique opportunity presents itself.

Martha, a medical student, also leaves behind her family, but this time she also leaves behind her studies, her hard work towards being a doctor in her own right, for the chance to travel with David Tennant’s Doctor. Martha has more concerns with leaving her life behind for adventure, needs reassurance that she could be back to the same day or only lose a few days in the process of this adventure. It is the family drama she wants to escape from, the demands of siblings and being caught between her parents’ divorce. Martha eventually leaves and goes back to her studies, and we later on see her become what she set out to be, in episodes of Torchwood. As an audience we understand this decision, with Martha’s caveat of returning to the time when she left, not losing any time towards her goal, and later returning to what she set out to do.

Donna at first declines the Doctor’s invitation but later on, still working as a Temp, living with her mum and grandfather, she accepts when The Doctor waltzes into her life again. We accept this, as the audience. We can understand why a woman, who’s relationship has recently fallen apart (spectactularly and because of aliens), who is working a dead-end job, and unsure of what she wants to do with her life, would take the opportunity to see the world.

And then we have Amy. Before we met Amy, we saw photos of her in a police uniform. What an interesting take that would be, a policewoman who chooses to travel with The Doctor? We were excited, but were unsure of how the storytellers would work their way around this one. Then, when the episode aired we found out that Amy wasn’t a policewoman, instead she was a kissogram, the police uniform carrying not power with it, but fantasy. She leaves on the eve of her wedding night, unsure enough of her decision to risk it all to leave with the man in the Blue Box. With Amy though, we have a history. Her life has been building up to this moment. Young Amy waiting in the garden for the man in the Blue Box to come back for her, suitcase packed. Then again when she’s in her early twenties, working as a kissogram, Matt Smith’s Doctor barges into her life. So even though Amy is happy enough to be soon married, we have a background that leads up to her willingness to run away with The Doctor. 

Though their stories are all slightly different, the similarities are a troubling aspect of this type of storytelling. As writers, there has to be an explanation of this character’s motivation in leaving her (or sometimes his) life behind to travel in space. I would very much like to see a different type of companion to The Doctor. Someone sure of herself, established, less naive or easily persuaded. But how would she get into the TARDIS in the first place. Would we accept the premise of a companion with a career, a family, children? leaving everything to travel with The Doctor?

Another interesting moment to consider comes in series two, with the episode School Reunion, where Sarah Jane Smith gets her chance to return to the TARDIS. After the adventure of the episode, which takes place on Earth. The Doctor offers Sarah Jane the chance to travel with him again. She declines. She has a son, a life on Earth that she can’t leave. But I for one, can’t help but wonder how that would have played out, what it would be like to have someone established and comfortable with herself and her convictions travel with The Doctor.

So, my friends of Doctor Her (Doctor Hervians? Can we make this a thing?), what do you think? Is there a way we could accept a different kind of companion leaving her life and traveling in the TARDIS? As a storyteller, how would you reconcile this? I’m honestly curious, as it’s something I’ve puzzled over for a while now.

Are you my mummy? The power of motherhood in new Who

Parental love and its redemptive power has been a big Moffatt theme, no doubt about it.  In the last season alone, we had Stormageddon’s daddy making Cybermen explode (‘Closing Time’):

Craig: The Cybermen — they blew up! I blew them up with love!

The Doctor: No, that’s impossible — and also grossly sentimental and overly simplistic. You destroyed them because of the deeply engrained hereditary trait to protect one’s own genes — which in turn triggered a… a… uh… [sighs] Yeah. Love. You blew them up with love.

and George’s daddy taking on board that his son is an alien and being his daddy anyway (‘Night Terrors’):

Alex: Whatever you are, whatever you do, you’re my son. And I will never ever send you away. Oh George. Oh my little boy.

So it’s not perhaps as over the top as all that to have the power of motherhood as the focus of the Christmas episode this year, in ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’.   It seems to have annoyed people though, some people anyway.

The portrayal of an ‘ordinary’ woman roused to scary fierceness to protect her children is not probematic in itself – we’ve seen already that Madge is far from conventional, responding to the sudden appearance of an alien-angel in a quiet English village with considerable aplomb, and dealing with the Harvest Rangers in similar fashion:

Harvest-Ranger Droxil : There’s nothing you can say that would convince me you’re going to use that gun.

Madge: Oh, really? Well – I’m looking for my children.

[Droxil’s expression changes to one of fear]

In her first encounter with the Doctor, Madge assumes a motherly role – ‘Oh no, love. No. I think you’ve just got your helmet on backwards. How did you manage that?’.  With her own children, though, she’s struggling to cope with the burden of her own grief and the tension of hiding from them the loss of their father, and she’s cross with herself for being cross with them.   She’s not some idealised image of motherhood, she’s real.

Some viewers had a problem though.  The Wooden King and Queen reject Cyril and the Doctor as not being strong, and Lily as not strong enough – what they need is someone  who not only potentially could bear children but actually has done.  Now, I don’t read that as a global statement, it’s a plot device.  But many [on the Guardian’s Who blog ] did:

“hey, you called me sexist, so I’m going to write an ep that keeps saying women are awesome…because they can have babies!! ‘

‘the idea that all men are “weak” compared to women – even a male time lord is nothing in comparison – and that the maternal lurve of a human female for her cubs can overcome all obstacles, while the Doctor was reduced to a bystander, was kind of rubbish.’

‘Yes, girls, you’re all super-strong. But only if you lay back, think of England, and squirt out some babies’.

The hostility, it seems to me, arises from an extrapolation from the specific premises of this episode to global principles.  The weak-strong dichotomy has, surely, to be understood in the context of the world of the story.  In ‘The God Complex’, what saves them is scepticism, because faith is the specific emotional energy the creature feeds on.  Here, maternal programming happens to be something that the tree species can use to get themselves off the planet.  Whether that’s maternal instinct, mummy love, or chromosomes.   It’s not about awesomeness or fabulousness or the respective worth of the genders.

Having said that, Madge is rather marvellous:

Madge:  I’m perfectly fine, thank you.

The Doctor: Fine? You’ve got a whole world inside your head!

Madge: I know! It’s funny, isn’t it? One can’t imagine being a forest, then suddenly one can! How remarkable.

 

And despite the problematic nature of the Amy as mother storyline (which I’ve struggled with myself, along the way), there is something ultimately rather Madge-like about her take on motherhood.  ‘She’s a good girl’, she says of the child who was stolen from her, who she grew up alongside, unknowing, and who she now knows as  a woman seemingly old enough to be her own mother.

How remarkable, indeed.

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).

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