Posted by: Kristen Hicks | October 4, 2011

The Ever Frustrating Amy Pond

There’s an amazing, somewhat old post from Overthinking It about the role of women in Doctor Who. The post, written just after the introduction of Amy Pond as the most recent companion to the Doctor, explores the relationships he’s shared with his female companions in the most recent iteration of the show. The author comes to the conclusion that, while there are some troubling elements, on the whole the show does a good job of moving towards a more progressive view of women and their relationship to the man (or alien, if you’d rather) at the center of the story as the show progresses.

I think most lovers of Doctor Who have pretty strong opinions on each of the companions, more complicated in most cases than just loving or hating them. I personally consider Donna one of television’s great characters; find Martha intelligent and easy to relate to; and, mostly like Rose, but lose a lot of respect for her in the episodes where she’s treating her former boyfriend Mickey like more of an inconvenient pest than a human being willing to mold his life to her newfound untraditional desires. I find Amy thoroughly frustrating.

For most of her first season as a companion my frustration was tied to a nagging sense that she never felt like a full character. Rose, Martha and Donna all felt like complete human beings who brought something distinct to their adventures with the Doctor, but I could never imagine a life for Amy not inextricably tied to her relationship with him. This partially makes sense in terms of her role in the show: her character is defined from childhood on by her experience as a young girl meeting the Doctor and her subsequent years of being disappointed in his slow return to her. Even so, that doesn’t ever feel like a satisfying justification for her feeling like less of a distinct, well-rounded character than her predecessors.

In my opinion, easily the strongest aspect of Amy’s tenure as companion to the Doctor has been the addition of her fiancée, then husband, Rory. Unlike Amy, Rory’s felt like a believable, full character to me from early on. He’s smart, quick to call the Doctor on his shit like the best of the companions (read: Donna), willing to embrace the life the Doctor offers for the sake of his love, but clearly would prefer something safer and more secure. It’s somewhat strange that I appreciate that last point in a character, as it flies in contradiction to much of what I love about the show, but it presents something new. All of the women that the Doctor invites along in his travels get swept up in what’s exciting and glamorous about it, but Rory remains focused on keeping Amy safe above all and tags along for that reason, while somewhat looking askew at the  appeals of the (often extremely and unnecessarily dangerous) adventures the Doctor offers.

Amy’s character becomes much fuller through her relationship to Rory and much of what I’ve come to like about her comes from her interactions with him (this is probably more acute due to the bad taste left in my mouth by some scenes between Rose and Mickey). Many moments in the last season that highlight the strength of their relationship genuinely moved me. That said, it bothers me that in order for Amy to feel like a complete character she needs a husband. It also bothers me that where most of the former companions end up finding lucrative or at least reasonably satisfying roles in which to incorporate what they’ve learned with the Doctor after leaving his side (excepting Donna, due to the heartbreaking way her time with the doctor ends) , Amy becomes a model.  Martha and Rose are out in the world(s) seeking out adventure and trying to help people and Amy decides her destiny after all she’s learned in her adventures is to look pretty.

I really want to like Amy Pond, because I like Rory (although I must admit at times I find his undying devotion towards Amy in the moments she treats him like shit more troubling than sweet; see: The Vampires of Venice) and because I like Matt Smith’s Doctor, but I just can’t get past feeling like she’s a less realized, less three-dimensional character than she should be at this point. I don’t think the fault lies in Karen Gillan’s portrayal, I just don’t think she’s ever been written as strongly as other characters in the Who universe and it’s a shame considering the potential for her character and the huge role she plays in the Doctor’s mythology.

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