Remembering the Ponds – 2 Years On
Connor Johnston pays tribute to Eleventh Doctor companions Amelia Pond and Rory Williams.
Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the final appearance of companions Amy and Rory Williams, more commonly known collectively to the Whoniverse as simply, “The Ponds”. Almost as iconic to the Eleventh Doctor’s era as the Eleventh Doctor himself, the pair quickly skyrocketed in audience approval from their first appearance in 2010’s “The Eleventh Hour”. Following that, The Ponds went on to feature in every series of Matt Smith’s reign of the TARDIS with Amy Pond becoming the longest serving companion of New Who history, and her long suffering boyfriend Rory Williams becoming the longest serving male companion of New Who, joining the TARDIS team full time during their second series. Bidding a heartbreaking goodbye following a stunning run of episodes in 2012, The Ponds faced the most permanent of separations from the Doctor in Series 7’s “The Angels Take Manhattan” exactly 2 years ago today. In remembrance and tribute to two of the most loved companions of all time, I’ve chosen today to count down my own personal Top 10 episodes in terms of Amy and Rory’s relationship and development throughout their record breaking run as on board the TARDIS.
10 – Let’s Kill Hitler
Opening our countdown today is the divisive Series 6 episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” which follows Amy and Rory reuniting with the Doctor and discovering the true identity of their childhood friend, ‘Mels’. Regardless of any personal reservations on the episode itself, there is no denying that “Let’s Kill Hitler” is an extremely instrumental episode in terms of the Pond’s personal history through both its exploration of the pair’s childhood and the first real insight into the tension that River being revealed as Melody Pond one episode prior had caused. As always both Karen and Arthur are exemplary in their performances and their dynamic is spot on – particularly during a certain piece of dialogue dealing with the symbolism of being trapped inside a “giant robot replica of my wife’. Even more evident still is the couple’s overwhelming love for not only each other, but primarily both their daughter and the Doctor.
9 – The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood
Second on the list is the criminally underrated Silurian two-parter for series 5, consisting of episodes “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. There are two reasons why this is so ground-breaking in terms of the Pond’s relationship. The first being the clear affection between the two, mostly evident during both the sections of the serial when they are separated and of course more prominently when they are reassured of each other’s safety. Rory finds his feet on the surface, willing to work with the Doctor without question, willing to do everything and anything he can to make sure Amy is safe again. Amy, below the ground, is scared, alone, abducted and threatened… but always knows that no matter what Rory will find her (a statement later strengthened in Series 6). The second point particularly rings true to the idea of “You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it” in regards to Rory’s not-so permanent death and apparent erasing from all of time and space at the conclusion of the episode. Towards the beginning of the story, and by consequence the series, there is undoubtedly a feeling that Amy’s love for Rory plays second fiddle to both her love for the Doctor and Rory’s own love for her, but by the end of the episode there is no doubt how much Amy loves Rory, making his fate and his death scene even more incredibly heartbreaking when it is revealed that she has lost all memory of someone so precious to her.
8 – The God Complex
Admittedly, “The God Complex” is not one of my personal favourite episodes of Doctor Who. While I don’t doubt its stunning quality, for some reason I simply struggle to enjoy it. One saving grace however, is the spot on characterisations of the Ponds, as well as the brilliant development of their relationship with the Doctor. It’s very much a character piece, focussing on the Doctor accepting that he can’t promise the Ponds their safety and that the trust that they, particularly Amy, has in him is in his mind undeserved. The episode concludes with a touching and satisfying scene that could very easily act as the Pond’s ultimate farewell; luckily however the close was only temporary as it would seem the Pond’s journey was not over just yet…
7 – Amy’s Choice
Next on the list is the memorable Series 5 episode “Amy’s Choice” which once again had Amy face the internal conflict between her love for Rory and her different, yet still substantial love for the Doctor. Torn between two different realities, life on the TARDIS and life in a quiet village, the competitive streak between the Doctor and Rory indirectly transforms their aim to survive into a way of competition for Amy’s favouring. Prior to “Amy’s Choice”, one wouldn’t be alone in thinking that Amy and Rory’s relationship was more or less one sided in terms of Rory’s love being somewhat unrequited. This episode however changes all of that especially after Rory’s “death” – Amy basing her choice on which reality is true purely on the chance of being with Rory again.
It can’t be. Rory isn’t here. I didn’t know. I didn’t, I didn’t, I honestly didn’t, till right now. I just want him. I love Rory… and I never told him enough, and now he’s gone…
6 – A Good Man Goes to War
The mid-series finale of the Pond’s second series acted in dramatically changing everything they thought they knew about their lives. Prior to “A Good Man Goes to War”, Rory Williams was a character that had, for the most part, come across as wimpy and weak when looked at beside both the Doctor and Amy. It was fatherhood for Rory that truly pushed him to rise to the occasion instilling such bravery when saving his wife and daughter. The determination Rory has is incredible and the love he has for both Amy and Melody is so pure, and so heart-warming, it’s nearly impossible to see it without bringing a smile to one’s face. Amy is also utilised exceptionally well in this serial, doing all she can to oppose Kovarian, protect her daughter, and put all her trust in her husband to always be there to find her.
5 – The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang
Rounding out our top 5 is the fan favourite, Series 5 finale: “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”. The impossible becomes possible and the TARDIS trio that we were only teased with before a cracker of a plot device seemingly robbed us of further development returned in incredible style … this time dressed a little more roman! With Rory back from the dead and Amy regaining her memories of their history, the trio lead a battle against time itself, working together to rebuild the universe with nothing less than a bang! The background plot of the two parter is that of Amy and Rory’s love that is intensified through both Rory’s amazing sacrifice to ensure his soul mate’s safety over 2000 year, and of course the culmination of the pair’s affection in the form of their marriage at the conclusion of the episode.
4 – The Eleventh Hour
From one end of the Pond’s first series to another, number 4 on our list is the duo’s first appearance in Doctor Who: “The Eleventh Hour”. With Series 5 came an incredible number of changes of the Doctor Who team both onscreen and behind the scenes – but the debut of both a new Doctor and a new companion at the same time wasn’t an idea that had been re-visited since all the way back in Series 1. Both characters of Amy and Rory make lasting impressions during their first appearances; Amy as the sassy, flirty Scot full of fire and adventure with a genuinely kind heart; and Rory as a slightly awkward but incredibly lovable boyfriend, easily confused but full of overflowing potential for further development. Being the impressive first chapter in an era of excellence, not including “The Eleventh Hour” in today’s list would have been a crime punishable by hiatus!
3 – The Vampires of Venice
This episode remains one of my most prominent arguments when discussing the benefits of a rewatch. An episode that in my memory seemed so empty, generic and otherwise completely forgettable becomes so memorable thanks to a refocus on the relationship between Amy and Rory – its approval rating skyrocketing so high that without the next two exceptional examples it could have very easily earned this list’s top spot. The beginning of the episode indicates anything but smooth sailing for the pair, but through a plot that involves Amy becoming endangered and Rory confronting the Doctor regarding the fact that he makes people a danger to themselves, we get a clear indication of how much love and concern Rory has for Amy completely unconditionally. It remains, in my humble opinion, one of Arthur Darvill’s best performances. It’s also a character defining piece for Rory proving that, regardless of initial judgements by the audience, he was not going to a character that the Doctor could easily trample over and a character that wasn’t afraid to stand up and call the Doctor out on his actions.
“You know what’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks, it’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.”
2 – The Girl Who Waited
Was there any doubt that this stunning gem would find a place within the top three of today’s countdown? Series 6’s “The Girl Who Waited” has constantly been regarded as one of the Pond’s greatest character episodes ever since its premiere in 2011 – and for very good reason. The episode touches on all that remained sacred throughout the couple’s relationship: trust, love, history, time and of course togetherness. Faced with an impossible decision, Rory must choose between the wife he knows, loves and can save – or the wife he’s lost, but found again and rescued out of darkness. It is in essence a story about their love overcoming the hardest of obstacles: Time itself. While so many “romantic” moments have been labelled as tacky or overly soppy, “The Girl Who Waited”’s conclusion is anything but. Its storytelling is so sincere and so genuine, married together with Karen and Arthur’s overwhelmingly touching performance. If there was ever any doubt this late into their second series that Amy and Rory shared such a deep and mutual love, then this episode completely destroys it.
“Then there’s other people, and you meet them and think, not bad, they’re okay. And then you get to know them, and their face just sort of becomes them, like their personalities written all over it. And they just turn into something so beautiful…Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.”
1 – Series 7A
I know that technically I’m cheating by awarding the top spot in a countdown of 10 Episodes to half a series… but to echo so many of my own contributions to this site so far: my article, my rules! The reason being that Series 7A could very easily take up over half of this article if not condensed. Series 7A was in essence and execution the perfect “farewell” series, each of the 5 episodes architected seamlessly to highlight to us how much of an impact the Ponds had had on both the show and the Doctor personally, as well as to stress how much they were going to be missed.
The half-series long tribute began with the chaotic (in a good way) “Asylum of the Daleks”, which followed up on the lasting effects Demon’s Run had on the pair’s relationship, and the fun and adventurous “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” which introduced us to yet another ‘Pond’ in the form of Rory’s lovable father Brian and really emphasized how well the Doctor, Amy, Rory trio worked together from every angle.
The second half of 7A, to its merit, began to feel like less of a tribute and more of an obituary: with the morally challenging masterpiece “A Town Called Mercy” showing how the Ponds help keep the Doctor’s wrath under control by reminding him of his core ideology of anti-violence, as well as the underrated gem “The Power of Three” which acted as the impeccable penultimate episode by focusing on the effect the Doctor had on his companion’s life and explored in further depth than ever before the relationship between the Doctor and Amy. This of course culminated to the epic yet tragic swan song, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, that in this humble authors opinion was not only a fitting end to the pairs journey with the Doctor, but also a worthy ending to an era of Who that many a time felt unbeatable.
“Hello, old friend. And here we are, you and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well, and were very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you always. Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think once we’re gone, you won’t be coming back here for a while. And you might be alone, which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor. And do one more thing for me.
There’s a little girl waiting in the garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget.
Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates, she’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived, and save a whale in outer space.
Tell her, this is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends.”
The Ponds will forever be remembered as two of the greatest and most loved companions of all time; not only through the legacy they’ve left behind them in the grand narrative of Doctor Who, but also due to the devotion and investment of both Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill to their parts during their time on the show. Their era will be one not easily forgotten, and their story not one easily ignored. Since they’re first appearance in 2010, we’ve laughed, cried, loved and lost with them… today, taking a look back at the pair that defined an incarnation, we remember The Ponds…