Tony Fyler remembers The Girl Who Waited.
To understand the story of Amy Pond, you have to understand the nature of fairy tales.
When we first meet Amelia, she’s a child making a wish, not to go to some stupid ball, but to be safe from the noises she hears through the crack in her wall. She wishes to Santa, and instead she gets a fairy godfather, who talks like a child in a grown-up’s body, walks like a giraffe made of rubber bands and – crucially – grants her wish. She makes another wish, to come with him in his strange blue box, and he makes her a promise that as soon as it’s safe, she can. He disappears, and Amelia sets her mind to wait for him.
By the time he comes back, her fairy godfather has been gone throughout her whole adolescence, and Amy is a young woman without direction, without roots, always waiting for a better option, always waiting for a blue box to drop out of the sky one more time. She’s been told her raggedy Doctor is imaginary, made up, that she shouldn’t believe, but Amy has maintained the story throughout her life – drawing him, sewing him, telling stories to her friends Mels and Rory, making Rory dress up as him when they played – we can only imagine – Doctors and nurses. And still her holding tight and closing her eyes and whispering into the night that she does believe in fairies hasn’t brought the raggedy Doctor back to her. So Amy grows a shell.
It’s not noticeable unless you really know her, but Amy grows a shell of slickness, of laughter, of sharp retort to protect herself from the pity of others when they tell her that fairy stories aren’t real. And she learns the power of her body – perhaps more than any companion before her, Amy’s a 21st century girl who’s entirely aware of and entirely comfortable with sexuality as an element of herself and of the world. Unwilling to commit time to making the most of her potential in case the madman with a box comes back, when we first meet her as a grown-up, she’s ‘having a laugh’ making money as a short-skirted kissagram. Amy is a modern woman who at least knows she’s a modern woman, with all the peril and the power that entails.
And then the raggedy man comes back. Suddenly, like the first time, bang, out of nowhere, and Amy’s fury can’t be contained. The sense of having missed all those years with him, that he lied to her like the grown-ups when he said he’d come back, that she’s thought she’s been going mad, and he’s been out there, swanning about in his box and not coming back for her, erupts from her like molten Scottish lava. From our point of view, it’s all happened in minutes, but from Amy’s point of view, this is Sarah-Jane’s question in School Reunion, scrawled across the whole of her young life – ‘Did I do something wrong, because you never came back for me?’ That sense of being lied to and left behind has defined how she’s grown up – shouty, self-reliant, capable, but never diving deep, never stopping to put her trust in people because they don’t tell you the truth – and now suddenly he’s back, and there are fairy godfathers in the world after all. It takes most of The Eleventh Hour for Amy to really appreciate what’s going on, and the impact of what it means for her isn’t felt until the end. After the Doctor runs away from her again, Amy begins to grow. She dares to put down a single central root in Rory, and on the night before her wedding – the night before she feels she really has to grow up for good – there he is again. This time he offers her all of time and space. This time both he and she are done ‘cooking’ – she’s waited long enough. He’s not saying the root she’s put down is wrong, just that the ball is still there, so why not come and dance until the clock strikes twelve. And so Amelia Pond goes to the ball after all, putting everything she has into not growing up quite yet.
One of the most impressive things about Karen Gillan’s nuanced performance as Amy is that we see that journey – we see her change from the shouty, slick young girl desperate for adventure and to not grow up into a woman who chooses the life she wants and what it will be in the world. Having gone to the ball, she chooses her Prince Charming over her fairy godfather, because it’s Prince Rory who reaches the deeper levels where everyone else is either scared to go or where she’s determined to keep them from; she needs to indulge the fantasy the Doctor embodies, but ultimately, she chooses the everyday reality of Rory, precisely because it’s real, and everyday. Along the way there are many complications – Rory has to grow too, has to be worthier of the person she is than she thinks him at the end of The Eleventh Hour. There’s a real sense of ‘love me, love my time-travelling alien fairy godfather’ in Amy, and while it’s Amy’s choice to ultimately make her life with Rory, Rory, too, has an important choice to make – does he step up to the plate the universe is offering (or indeed demanding), or does he make Amy choose in a blunt way, the universe or him. Does he make her lie to him about the allure of the fantasy of time and space, or does he go with her and grow. As we’ve seen with Clara Oswald and Danny Pink, plenty of perfectly decent men cannot be Rory, cannot love the women they love enough to take Rory’s path - and let’s not forget, Rory’s path involves dying more times than is generally recommended, 2,000 years sitting outside a box being made of plastic, having a child who also runs off with the Doctor, and being pushed away by the woman he loves because she has to set him free. It’s not by any means an easy path that Amy demands of him, but the point is, Amy knows she’s worth it, and she wants them to be, if not equals (she’ll always be cooler), then almost. Her growth goes beyond her wedding to Rory, and she falls into the easiest trap in the world – the world of trusting absolutely, beyond rational examination – she does believe in fairies, she does, she does – and it’s a necessary cruelty when the Doctor in The God Complex has to destroy the faith she has in him, so they see each other as they really are.
It’s a pivotal moment in Amy’s life, this shift of focus, and she’s left with her Prince to write their happily ever after. They still have unresolved issues though, and in The Asylum of the Daleks, we see Amy deal with the real nitty-gritty of her life – beyond all the aliens and monsters, she gives Rory up and pushes him away because she’s sure his idea of a happy ever after is something she can no longer deliver – it’s a thoroughly grown-up decision, made on the basis of a thoroughly grown-up communication problem, and once it’s properly resolved, once they’ve talked as they can only talk under the threat of imminent death, and Rory’s slightly whiny worldview of being the one who loves more is put firmly in its place, the Ponds – the Williamses – are set fair for their future together, neither really needing the fairy godfather any more. The Year of the Slow Invasion sees them gradually wean themselves off the drama of space and timefaring, and they both finally commit to their life together on Earth. Which means when the Angels come for them and the choice is ‘together – or not at all,’ there is no choice, not really. Amy jumps off a building with Rory, and then, when he is taken back in time and her choice has to be instant, she literally turns her back on the Doctor, and goes to be the amazing Mrs Williams with him.
The point about the structure of fairy tales is that they’re never about the fairies. They’re always about people with hidden potential, being given the chance to show it and to change their stars. We tend not to recognize it, because it’s Who, and there are Daleks and Angels and pirates, oh my, but the story of Amy Pond is a great modern fairy tale – the challenge she faces is not being The Girl Who Waited; it’s easy to wait if you have no option, ask Cinderella. The story of Amy Pond is the story of The Girl Who Grew Up The Long Way Round. And if Amy showed us anything, it’s that growing up can be an awfully big adventure.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk