Crossing The Ponds: Amy and Rory (and Me)

Ah the Ponds.  It’s a bit hard to know what to say about them.  You see, they never really made much of an impression on me–Amy especially.  She didn’t instill a sense of kinship and make me want to punch the air like Donna (most recently) did.  She didn’t feel like an old childhood friend like Sarah Jane or Leela.  She’s not an onscreen version of me like Nyssa was (hey, I was eight,* and I was smart and boring, sue me).  On the other hand, she didn’t bother me like Rose, bore me like Martha, annoy me like Tegan, or make me want to scream like Peri.**  Amy was just…another in a long line of companions.

Usually that’s not a bad thing.  I’m not going to love every companion.  That’s a lesson I learned long ago, and I’m cool with it.  I’m still going to enjoy watching them all (yes, even Peri) because it’s Doctor Who so it’s automatically wonderful.  In this case however, my ho-hummedness regarding Amy rather hurt my enjoyment of much of her tenure.  Steven Moffat inflated Amy’s importance to the Doctor, nay, to the entire universe far beyond what most companions achieve.  If I’d liked her more, I think this would’ve made things extra-bonus awesome for me.  As it is, I feel a bit of meh-ness for all those stories.***

Then Moffat made Amy the mother of River Song.  I just…I don’t even.  Sigh.  I’m not a River fan.  Never was.  So that nearly tipped Amy from the land of meh into negative territory.

Then there’s Rory.  He started out fairly meh for me too.  No plusses, but no big minuses.  Unlike Amy though, he grew on me–not his interactions with Amy, mind you, but his interactions with the Doctor.  I never could quite see the chemistry between Rory and Amy (not right away anyway, but more on that later), but I love how he put the Doctor in his place from time to time and was never overawed by the ancient Time Lord.  Hell, Rory was older than the Doctor for a while there.  Maybe he still is; I’m not totally clear on that.°  So Rory being pretty keen and Amy being just a girl°° made it hard for me to see them work as a team.  I even admit to thinking Rory could do better.

Now that has all changed.  Truly.

I still haven’t quite put my finger on why, but I as of series 7, I am fully on board with the Ponds—or should I say, “the Williamses.”°°°  Great timing, E.  They’re about to leave us—tearfully, if the Moff is to be believed, and I’ve just jumped on board.  It all started with Asylum of the Daleks…

I’ve seen a lot of people complain that Amy and Rory’s breakup at the beginning of series 7 didn’t ring true, that a couple who had been through so much ought not to have broken up like that.  I respectfully and fervently disagree.  After exploring (and recreating!) the universe with the Doctor for so long, acclimating to normal Earth life would be difficult for one person alone.  For two people in a relationship, it seems to me it would be damn near impossible.

Speaking as someone who has been in some pretty awesome relationships, let me say that when circumstances change, people change too.  Everyone deals with things differently.  If both partners don’t change in similar enough ways, that’s when strife can rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, Amy was never the most…shall we say stable and certain-of-her-mind kinda girl.  She’s led one helluva life.  Trying to settle down into wedded bliss is nearly the opposite of anything she’d done up until then.  Of course she picked something to obsess over and let it drive them apart (her inability to have kids).  For Rory’s part, he never really believed Amy loved him enough anyway; of course he’d just go along with it and leave.

So yes, that breakup rings 100% true for me.

People have also said the tearful reconciliation scene in “Asylum of the Daleks” wasn’t realistic.  Again, I’m on the other side of that fence.  For me, that scene was brilliant.  I wept.  A lot.  Though people don’t seem to realize it, that’s exactlyˆ the sort of time an intense, heartfelt discussion would occur.  As a kid, when I needed to do my homework I cleaned my room instead.  Room-cleaning is a hated task, but it was better than the alternative.  When your lives are in terrible danger and you might die, it’s easier to focus on relationship issues than impending doom.  That’s not unrealistic, that’s humanity.

That kind of extreme situation is also a great catalyst for expressing true feelings—probably lots better than a marriage counseling session, even.ˆˆ  So I’m not surprised the feelings they were bottling up came rushing out just then.  I bought this.  Completely.  For the first time ever, I saw Amy and Rory as a real team, as partners, as lovers, as one single unit bigger than the sum of its parts (as any good relationship should be).

I could never see Amy and Rory like that before.  Somehow they didn’t really gel for me until they’d overcome this particular kind of personal obstacle.  The monsters and kidnapping and gangers and spaceships didn’t do it for me.  A near-breakup and a passionate, tearful reunion, now that’s a real relationship.

Since then, I’ve found I’ve become an Amy and Rory fan.  Against all odds, they won me over.  I didn’t love “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” but I loved Amy and Rory in it.  Even when separated, they seemed grounded by their connection to one another.  That was refreshing.  I even found myself disappointed they had so little effective screen time in “A Town Called Mercy,” though I did appreciate that their conflict over the Doctor’s actions read like a solid couple fighting rather than a pair of teenagers squabbling (as some of their earlier spats did).

Enter The Power of Three.  Never in a million would I have thought that a story largely about Amy and Rory at home would trip my trigger the way it did.  I loved that brief glimpse into their double lives.  Matt Smith’s Doctor was as fantastic as ever, but for me it was Amy and Rory (and even Brian) who stole the show.  I enjoyed seeing them ensconced in their own surroundings.  While the story had some gaping holes, it landed firmly in the plus column for me precisely because Amy and Rory and their life just…made me happy.

As usual, my timing sucks.  I finally get used to these guys and want to see more, and they’re gone in a matter of days.  Pre-7A, I was rather pleased the Ponds were about to be toast, and I wasn’t overly concerned with how they left.  Now, I am both excited for and dreading the story that takes them away from us for good.  Please please please mister Moffatt, do them proud in “The Angels Take Manhattan.”  It turns out they deserve it.

And no one is more surprised about that than I.

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*I don’t actually know how old I was the first time I saw Nyssa.  Eight sounds about right.  I was definitely very smart and very boring at eight.

**Note that I mean “make me want to scream like Peri makes me want to scream.”  I don’t actually want to scream like Peri.  Ever.

***Or am I confusing the chicken for the egg?  Did I feel “meh” about those stories, and thus “meh” about Amy?  That may be the case, though I probably won’t ever know for sure.

°Please, fill me in here if you have some insight on this.

°°…who waited.  Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.

°°°In case you didn’t catch it, when Amy signs the divorce papers in “Asylum of the Daleks,” she signs her last name “Williams.”

ˆSorry about all the italicized emphasis.  I just feel really strongly about this, guys!

ˆˆI am NOT suggesting that couples with on-the-rocks relationships should put their lives in danger!

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Blink or They Might Miss It: Why ‘Blink’ Works as a Doctor Who Starter Story

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DISCLAIMER: This post is based on personal experience.  My words here are largely inspired by what I’ve witnessed, and your mileage may vary.*

It’s an age-old question: “I have a friend who wants to try Doctor Who; which story should I show them first?”  There are lots of good answers, but one that crops up time after timey-wimey time is “Blink.”  It’s a go-to for lots of Whovians shepherding new geeks (and non-geeks) into the fold, but many folks say “Blink” is a poor story to start with because it’s not an accurate representation of the show as a whole.  That’s true, but (as many of those same folks admit), it works.  I’ve been giving this some thought, and I now think I’ve identified just why it works so well.

At first glance, you might think a story including many of the usual Doctor Who elements would be the best choice for starting a new fan on Who-viewing.  But “thinking” about it is simply the wrong way to go.  Getting hooked on a program usually has very little to do with “thinking.”  It’s “feeling” that gets people well and truly hooked.

People (the people I know, anyway) tend to glom onto things based on feelings more than intellectual appreciation and curiosity.  “Blink” is the kind of story that whisks you up in the mystery and action and doesn’t let you go until it’s all over and you’re left shaking your head, repeating “timey-wimey” under your breath, and giving a wide berth to stone statues everywhere.

It’s true that “Blink” lacks many elements of what usually makes Doctor Who Doctor Who (not the least of which is the Doctor himself!), but for most viewers, that won’t matter so much.  Once people have a positive emotional connection with the show, they’re more motivated to stick with it and see what else it has to offer.

Starting someone with a story that has all the stereotypical Doctorey bits would seem to be a good idea on the surface, but if it doesn’t catch hold of the viewer’s soul, they won’t be as invested in continuing.  I posit that someone introduced with “Blink” is more likely to tough it out through the Fear Hers and Curses of the Black Spot** than someone who started with a more Doctorey story.

The wave of the emotional high brought on by something like “Blink” can easily carry a newb through enough other stories to get them hooked on all the wonderful things that make Doctor Who so special to *us*.  As fans, we think those elements are the heart of the show, and in many ways, they are.  That can lead us to see those typical Doctor elements as the kinds of things that’ll grab new viewers–because they grab us so strongly.  That’s not always the case right off the bat.

Viewers who don’t already have our emotional connection won’t resonate with those elements in the same way.  “Blink” is an easily accessible story, and the near-entire lack of the usual Who baggage actually becomes an advantage.  If you’ve properly explained that not every story is just like this one*** and that there’s a lot more they’ll get to discover, then you’ll leave them wanting more.  Any good showman will tell you that that’s the goal.

I guess the key here might be semantic.****  “Blink” as a good starter depends on whether you’re trying to “show someone what Doctor Who is like” or “get them hooked on Doctor Who.”  If the former, then I agree, “Blink” is NOT the way to go.  If the latter, “Blink” is one of the best possible choices.  Again, set the right expectations, and you and your Time Lord tyro should be in great shape.

So don’t turn your back.  Don’t look away.  And…”Blink”!

*I’m not trying to dis anyone who’s done things differently.  All successful roads to Doctor Who are good ones in my book!

**Note that I’m naming a couple stories that are widely panned.  I, for one, don’t hate either of them.

***If you let them believe this is what they should always expect, well you’re just doing it wrong.

****Hooray!  Semantics!  <Muppet flail>

Falling for October Girl (Issue #2)

You know how when something starts out really strong, you get worried that the second installment isn’t going to live up to the bang-boom-pow opening?  No worries here.  Matthew Dow Smith keeps the awesome flowing in the second installment of October Girl.  That same hair’s-breadth-shy-of-brooding atmosphere is just as present as it was in issue #1, and I must admit, it’s got me looking forward to the fall.  I love when the air outside reflects what I’m reading*.

I am now picturing myself sitting in a gazebo in the chill fall air, phone tablet** in hand, re-reading all the existing issues (however many there are by that time) and enjoying the frissoney realization I could easily be in the middle of the story rather than outside it***.  This is the kind of story that sucks me in in exactly that way.

–Which is only one of the reasons I can’t wait for more.  The others include the unfolding story itself.  I’ve yammered on about the mood and haven’t even mentioned how captivating the plot is.  As with issue 1, I simply can’t wait for the next installment.  The cliffhangers in this thing are intense.  We’re talking Sarah Jane falling at the end of “Genesis of the Daleks” Part Two here****.  It remains to be seen whether the next bit is as cop-outtey as in Genesis.  I, for one, have great confidence that it’ll deliver on its promise.

Another thing I’m unaccountably enjoying is the artwork.  I tend to gravitate to the text in comics and barely scan the art, but the two work together so well in this case that I find myself consuming each with the same fervor.  Perhaps that’s what happens when they both emerge from the same fascinating brain.  Whatever the reason, I want more of it!

I can’t recommend strongly enough that you check this series out.  It’s only 99 cents an issue—cheap at twice the price!

* For the record, I also love it when the weather outside is the complete opposite of what I’m reading.  Monument by Lloyd Biggle Jr. is one of my favorite books to read in the winter—in a hot bath.  It’s one of my favorite things about winter actually.  I think re-reading October Girl in the fall might become a thing too.

**Why not?  I don’t have a tablet, but this is my fantasy, so I’m picturing it that way.

*** Or perhaps just on the periphery, but still in its world.  Even that would be a lovely escape.

****As opposed to a close-up of a floor tile in “Death to the Daleks” Part Three.