The departure of Amy (Amelia) Pond from the B.B.C. television series Doctor Who this Saturday will no doubt have the legion of fans of both the programme and the red-haired assistant looking forlornly at their collections of DVD’s in the next few months and wondering exactly where Amy Pond sits in the list of all time companions.
Karen Gillan has portrayed the 11th Doctor’s companion since the first episode of her tenure and has become a firm favourite of many of the programme’s fans. From the moment that Matt Smith’s incarnation as the time travelling detective first popped his head out of the Tardis and saw the young Amelia Pond staring back at him, there has been an affinity between Doctor and companion that has rarely been seen on the programme which celebrates 50 years in 2013.
What exactly has made Amy Pond or even Karen Gillan so special to the programme though? There have been many much loved companions over the years. For the generation that first came across the Doctor when the series was finally brought back to television in 2005, their first companion was Rose Tyler. Played by Swindon born Billie Piper, she made Rose a character that was both enjoyable to watch but also could match Christopher Eccleston’s wit. For older viewers the memory of feisty Australian air-stewardess Tegan Jovanka, played brilliantly by Janet Fielding, holds a very special place in fans’ hearts as she was a firm favourite of Peter Davison’s Doctor. One of the great phrases of the fifth Doctor’s was the immortal line “Brave heart Tegan” a certain fondness could be seen between them that hadn’t been seen for a while was much in evidence even in that one line.
Perhaps the one companion of the Doctor that rarely went anywhere with him was the indomitable figure of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart who was captured perfectly by the much missed Nicholas Courtney. In terms of what the Doctor could conceivably call his best friend then the ‘Brig’ is very possibly the contender for that position above the likes of Sarah Jane Smith (Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee), Rose Tyler, Ian Chesterton (William Hartnell), Jamie McCrimmon (Patrick Troughton), Leela (Tom Baker) and Charley Pollard (Paul McGann audio adventures).
What makes Amy Pond so special is the very real relationship that is felt between her and the Doctor. From very small child to the woman who had lost her baby only to see her again as a fully grown woman, Amy Pond/Karen Gillan should arguably be considered as the epitome of companions, the one who future travellers of the Doctor will be judged against.
To show what the programme will be missing after her departure on Saturday 30th September, here are her top 5 best moments in the life of the Doctor.
5. If you are going to start somewhere, then the beginning is a good a place as any, or in this case, the moment when viewers were introduced to the child who would become the Doctor’s companion. The young Amelia Pond, so lonely living with her aunt wishes for help from a policeman. What she gets is her ‘raggedy man’, the man who falls from the stars in the ridiculous box and who he imprints upon. To see Caitlin Blackwood and Matt Smith together on screen as he goes from one absurd food to another before finally settling on fish fingers and custard was inspired writing and helped cement the opening episode of series five, The Eleventh Hour, as one of the strongest beginning to a series ever.
4. From Vincent and The Doctor was perhaps one of the most sympathetic portrayals of Amy’s life with the Doctor. Not only was it a gem of a script by Richard Curtis but it dealt with the sensitivity of dealing with the mental anguish of one of the finest painters in the history of art, Vincent Van Gogh. The script saw Amy’s heart break as she realised that the French painter could not be saved. Even with the Doctor showing him that his work would never be in vain, by ultimately destroying himself, he took a piece of Amy’s heart with him. Amy Pond showed why the best companions are the ones who are able to deal with the situations that The Doctor cannot. The man who makes people better sometimes doesn’t save everyone, that is up to the companion to have the empathy to deal with what needs to be done and in this Amy Pond stands above all other companions. It is her empathy that the Doctor needs.
3. There was a certain joyful playfulness in The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman that saw Amy Pond deal with the fascination and utter devotion he holds for the Tardis. Other scripts, notably School Re-union with David Tennant at the helm, showed his love of the Tardis. The conversation between Rose Tyler and Sarah-Jane Smith centres on one up-man-ship between the two women, until the mention of stroking the console when no-one else is watching brings them together. In The Doctor’s Wife, viewers see the embodiment of the Tardis take form and substance in the shape of Suranne Jones. Although primarily the show focuses on the love and history of the Tardis and the man she stole, the glint in Karen Gillan’s eye as she realises what the ‘old girl’ means to the Doctor is touching, beautifully handled and yet with some distinct humour as she asks the startled Doctor, “Did you wish really, really hard?” In other companions hands this question would have sounded like a jealous rebuke, something that would have been unsavoury. In Karen Gillan/Amy Pond it came out as almost a loving mother gently teasing her pre-teenage child. A superb moment in the history of the show.
2. For any fan of the show, there has always been the odd moment where the heart breaks, the tension in the story line too much and normally it is with the loss or departure of a well-loved character. During David Tennant’s time as the Doctor, perhaps the most shocking one was the moment his friend Donna Noble finally knew all she had seen all she was going to see. To save her life the Doctor erased her memories of the travels and of him. For some it was the end of Adric who died guiding the ship into the fledgling planet Earth and for yet more it will be the memory of The Doctor leaving his granddaughter behind, the moment when he broke every last tie with his people. For Amy Pond it was losing a child that didn’t exist in the episode A Good Man Goes to War. This sensitively handled story –line was one of the biggest highs in the time of the programme. The utter and sheer disbelief in Amy’s eyes as she saw her child melt before her as the final and despicable trick played on her by Madame Kovarian .
This was essentially brilliant television. The sheer horror of seeing someone cruelly taken from you is captured in its rawest and most brutal form of acting by Karen Gillan. The new mother who has fought to save her child will never see her baby again. The woman she becomes knows more about her than she will ever know of her daughter. Never had this type of personal anguish been shown on the programme and it was a moment to wallow and despair with Amy.
1. Aside from not knowing what is likely to happen, despite the hype, in Amy’s final adventure with the Doctor, the top moment of Amy Pond’s time on board the Tardis comes full circle to her beginning once more. In what could have shamefully been exploited by lesser writers, Stephen Moffat took the small girl who had waited for so long with her suitcase for her Doctor to appear and turned her into a frightened, slightly nuts and untrusting woman. The first glimpse we see of the new companion in her adult form is of one wearing a police-woman’s uniform. However this is no well-adjusted woman who has made a life for her-self away from the Doctor as Sarah-Jane would do by becoming a journalist, this was woman who on the face of it had more issues than a newly-regenerated Doctor was able to deal with. Her life had been spent with an alien prisoner in her house, something unseen, always just out of view but whose very presence had been seen to manipulate her life.
In arguably the greatest moment of Amy Pond’s life she meets the Doctor again after a 12 year gap and being mistrustful of people she wallops him with a kitchen implement causing him to become unconscious. No future companion had ever done that before to the Time lord on first meeting and it showed that despite the neurosis the Doctor had left her to deal with, the accusations, whisperings and stares, she had grown to take care of herself and her then hapless boyfriend Rory. Not only was this too show just how strong a character and woman she was, but it was the start of a long and beautiful friendship.
Without a shadow of doubt Jenna-Louise Coleman has some pretty enormous shoes to fill as the evidence for Amy Pond/Karen Gillan being the best companion has shown. What will become of the Doctor without her, without the one who he has almost loved the most remains to be seen?
Doctor Who is on B.B.C. 1 on Saturday 29th September.
Ian D. Hall