Major spoilers for Series Five ahead!
Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor. And David Tennant became my favorite. I was sorry when Russell T. Davies left Doctor Who as showrunner because he had introduced me to a TV series that celebrated the best in humanity and encouraged them to look to the stars–for adventure, for wonder, for hope. Still, I was excited to see what Steven Moffat would do with the show. His episodes “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” and “Forest of the Dead” were some of my favorites. I appreciated the tight storytelling, the suspense, the drama. What could he do with an entire season?
Series 5 of Doctor Who is undeniably more dramatic than previous seasons. It moves away from the campy and feels more like a big-budget production. Even the CGI looks better. But it’s not all show. The storytelling is tight and the characters have real, emotional moments. There’s just one glaring issue I have with the season: Amy Pond.
Amy Pond never feels like real character to me. Even though she has issues and insecurities, even though she can be brave and clever, she always feels like some sort of cardboard character who runs around following the Doctor mainly because someone writing the show thinks she’s sexy. I can never really understand what she is thinking or why she is acting certain ways because she weirdly toggles between acting childlike and being overly sexualized, as if that’s some sort of turn-on for someone: “innocence” combined with repeated references to her sexual appetites.
I’m not opposed to having sexy characters onscreen or woman who admit they like sex. However, Amy’s choices do not really feel like Amy’s. They feel like a male writer’s. Adult Amy is introduced to viewers in a “sexy police officer” outfit and she spends the rest of the season wearing short shorts and mini skirts, even when it is supposed to be cold. She says her job is a “kiss-o-gram”–that is, she goes to parties and kisses people–which basically sounds like it’s supposed to be a family-friendly version of a prostitute (Doctor Who is a family show). Then, weirdly, she spends the next few seasons acting childlike, being friends with the Doctor, saving planets and worlds with her good heart. All until the out-of-left-field moment where she sexually assaults the Doctor.
Let’s be clear. If Amy were male and the Doctor were female, the scene in which Amy repeatedly throws the Doctor against the TARDIS and tries to rip off his clothing while he protests and tries to run away would be read as an attempted rape. However, the show plays it off for laughs. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a turn-on. I’m not really sure. I just know that Amy’s sexuality was basically non-existent since her kiss-o-gram debut, until it’s revealed here in a very tasteless and uncomfortable scene. Amy and the Doctor had, until this point, seemed like the very best of friends, with Amy consistently relying on him in a childlike manner–all in keeping with the “fairy tale” vibes the season wants to give. Suddenly, she’s got the hots for the Doctor.
Her feelings for the Doctor will come up sporadically after this scene. For example, in the episode “Amy’s Choice,” the Dream Lord presents Amy, Rory (her fiance), and the Doctor with two realities and asks them to identify the dream one or be killed. He mentions Amy’s naughty dreams. Then he repeatedly asks her to choose: Rory or the Doctor. This is particularly weird because one reality has Amy and Rory married, with Amy expecting a child. (The repeated references to her size are, by the way, incredibly sexist.) In another episode, the beginning of the season finale, the Doctor makes a reference to how much trouble they can get in with Amy surrounded by a bunch of hot Roman soldiers. Her sexuality is constantly discussed (and mocked), even though it sort of seems at odds with how Karen Gillan typically chooses to play the character.
The two sides of Amy’s character–innocence and sexuality–never fully seem integrated or resolved. This, of course, raises the issue of whether sex should really be read as the opposite of innocence. In creating a disjunction between the two sides of Amy, the show (perhaps inadvertently) casts sex as potentially something bad. Yet it simultaneously is clearly trying to use Amy’s sexuality as a way to hook viewers. The result is not a character, but a mess.
Amy Pond just doesn’t resonate as a companion the way Rose, Martha, and Donna did. She has Rory, yes, but otherwise she seems to have no family, no background, no life. We do not even know how she and Rory started dating or engaged–which I would like to know, since I am consistently baffled by Rory’s obvious devotion to Amy when she treats him like dirt and runs after other men, even trying to snog the Doctor in the bushes on her wedding day! Amy has nothing grounding her and this makes it difficult to figure out who she really is or what she wants. (Well, even Amy doesn’t know what she wants.) Her main dilemma throughout the series is her impending marriage, which, once again, focuses everything around her love life. But Amy Pond could be so much more.
Whom does Amy care about? What does she want to do in life? Who does she want to be? These are questions the show never clearly asks. Instead, Amy’s character is all over the place, allowing her to be whoever and whatever the plot demands. And a lot of the time what the plot demands seems to be little more than a young woman in short shorts.
I love Doctor Who. It’s one of my favorite shows. And I want to love Amy. But I can’t help but feel that her character deserved so much more than what she was given.
What do you think? Do you like Amy in series five?