JULY / AUG 2012: BY HANNAH KINGSLEY
Science fiction is not for everyone but the TV-series Doctor Who captures a wider audience than typical out-of-this-world fare.
The current BBC-produced series combines time-travel, British-isms, and a fun, young cast of actors including Matt Smith as the eleventh doctor, Arthur Darvill as Rory, and Karen Gillian as the ineffable Amy Pond. By incorporating a handful of old-school robots in addition to newer, more complex plot themes, the show helps provide a balance to a different approach to sci-fi. But regardless of the plot’s highlights, what is most appealing to viewers are well-rounded characters that help make the show relatable and lend an aspect of believability to an otherwise unbelievable science-fiction world.
One such character, introduced in 2010’s season five, is Amy Pond. Played a Scottish actress, Amy Pond is the eleventh doctor’s first companion. The Doctor meets her when she is a little girl and later returns when she is a young adult but still infatuated with her “imaginary” doctor. At first, Amy is not presented in the best light. She does everything wrong, she works as a kissagram, and she wears very short skirts. One can sense that she is a little rough around the edges, not entirely feminine, and not always put-together. She is also a bit loud, rash, and does not care what people think about her. In short, she is the sort of girl others might tell to watch her words around their grandparents.
Although first impressions of her may not serve well, throughout the series we encounter a growing young woman with more personality angles than just that of a ne’er-do-well with lean legs. In fact, some fans call Amy their favorite of the Doctor’s companions, in part due to her trademark feistiness that proves more than superficial. Her character also fits well in the context of today’s generational mindset. Many modern, progressive-culture young woman like it when the media represents the way they feel about womanhood. Female fictional characters should be funny as well as smart, attractive as well as strong. Amy is all of these things. Possibly more importantly, she’s a horrible heroine. Now, before Doctor Who fans feel the need to defend Amy against such a statement, it is important to consider her role in the series.
Amy is independent, speaks her mind, and does as she likes even if she does not end up making the wisest of choices. She is the “modern woman,” or at least a recent TV-incarnation of her. What sets her apart from many such progressive female characters is not her great enlightenment, but the failure of her forward-thinking to do her any good whatsoever. She is brave. She is powerful. Her story is valuable and integral to the world of the Doctor. But she is never ready with a happy ending or easy conflict-resolution, and she often fails miserably at “saving the day.” She is safest not alone but when she is with the men that care the most about her: her husband Rory and the Doctor. Perhaps this relationship between her happiness and the closeness to those she cares about reveals some truths about more people than just the fictional Amy. She is happiest when involved in the lives of others, just as independence does not serve people so well as interdependence, which is sometimes referred to as the more mature spiritual state.
At heart, we may all be horrible heroines. We don’t always listen, even if advice comes from the keeper of time. Like Amy, our thought life may not be perfect, which can result in embarrassing situations. We may go places we don’t belong and end up scared or hurt. Not everyone has to worry about Daleks and alien life forms inhabiting the earth, but Amy Pond may be a better representation of flawed, spunky femininity than most would like to admit. A theme runs throughout her role in the series that ultimately points toward the idea of trust. Although Amy may not be the most well-behaved or look-before-you-leap sort of woman, one thing she does grow to be better at is trusting. She is like a picture of human faith: hopeful, doubtful at times, but when faith is true, it holds fast in difficult circumstances. Amy frequently has to have faith that Rory or the Doctor will be there when her independent streak is not enough to keep her safe or grounded. Her ability to exchange pride for humility is important, both for her physical safety and her spiritual well-being. While it may not be the best idea to emulate Amy in terms of dress or the more wayward habits she can be given to at times, her choice to trust even when it means being humbled is something that should not be taken for granted. Especially when it might make the difference between saving the world well or doing so badly. ■