May 11 2011 6:24pm

Your Stupid Face: Why Mr. and Mrs. Pond Belong on the TARDIS

Your Stupid Face: Why Mr. and Mrs. Pond Belong on the TARDIS

During the Q&A for the Series 6 U.S. Doctor Who premiere, Steven Moffat made the comment that he had known from the start that Rory would become a full-time part of the TARDIS crew, stating:

“It was always the plan. Married couple on the TARDIS and seeing what that was like. And the Doctor with the married couple, standing in the control room thinking, ‘What have I done?’”

If the fans at that event were any indication, it’s no secret that Rory is loved—but why exactly?

Rory has a good head on his shoulders, I’ll give him that, but he’s not very brave or exceptionally adaptable or even a little bit dashing. Most Doctor Who companions have one or two of these traits, or they’re geniuses in their own right, and it’s easy to understand why the Doctor brings them along. But Rory is not another Mickey Smith either; he’s not an idiot kid whose journey is dependent on him growing up, toughening up and getting serious. In fact, Rory’s importance on the TARDIS is fairly easy to sum up:

Rory is there for Amy.

Keeping that in mind, the latest episode, “The Curse of the Black Spot” served as a touching reminder about why Rory belongs there and why a married couple on the TARDIS was an absolutely fantastic idea.

It has been noted in numerous interviews that one of Amy’s problems character-wise is that she can be just as crazy as the Doctor. She doesn’t have that moment where she presses the “is this a good idea?” button in her brain, poor girl. We can tell from her actions on the series and the stories about short skirts and kiss-o-grams, that it gets her into trouble a lot. (Need I remind you that she did recently don a tricorner hat and cutlass and try to fight off an entire crew of pirates with absolutely no sword training whatsoever?) So why did she marry Rory? Staid, sensible, my-idea-of-an-adventure-is-probably-trivia-night-down-at-the-pub Rory?  

Your Stupid Face: Why Mr. and Mrs. Pond Belong on the TARDIS

Simply put, Rory keeps Amy tethered to reality. He reminds her to live in the tangible world by being a practical anchor and also by being vulnerable (whether he likes it or not). When they were young, she claimed her life was boring before she found Rory. He would play “Raggedy Doctor” with her, and was probably the one to comfort her after every therapist she bit. Strange though it may seem as a foundation for a relationship, it’s safe to assume that he kept Amy from doing some more unpleasant things to stave off boredom during their childhood.

Then when she starts traveling in the TARDIS, the Doctor brings Rory on board to remind Amy that she still has a real life back home. I think it speaks volumes that the Doctor has never done this for a companion before in the history of the show. It’s clear that he bears Rory’s pleas for sanity and occasional lecturing because he knows how important he is for Amy (and because the Doctor likes the guy—he doesn’t reserve monikers like “Rory the Roman” for just anybody).

Rory’s vulnerability makes the stakes of every adventure real. Without him, Amy goes wandering past “Keep Out” signs with no thought of the consequences. But, send a siren after Rory and suddenly Amy is protecting someone; she can’t just throw herself into harms way for the fun of it. She’s not a teenager at the wheel of her first car anymore, she’s an adult with important people in her life who need her.

Your Stupid Face: Why Mr. and Mrs. Pond Belong on the TARDIS

What is interesting about this dynamic is how the Doctor has handled the change. He seems to have decided that in order for this to work aboard the TARDIS, the married couple have to be each other’s responsibility rather than his. It begins when Rory first snaps on the Doctor regarding Amy’s safety in “Vampires of Venice,” and the Doctor—for the first time on the show—calls someone out for making everything his fault. An understanding seems to develop between he and Rory from that point on: traveling with him is their choice and he can’t be the one who gets shouted at every time something goes to pot.

That doesn’t mean that the Doctor will never rescue them when they’re in peril, but it does change the structure of each trip for the couple. The episode “Amy’s Choice” is just what the title says; at the end, the Doctor lets Amy decide for both of them which reality is the true one. What’s more, he allows her to make that choice based on a completely emotional revelation—that she doesn’t want to live without Rory.

During the series 6 opener, when the Doctor tries to tell Rory that Amy can’t hear him through her lost nanorecorder, Rory explains, in short order, that his connection with Amy is not dependent upon fancy Time Lord technology. He promises Amy that he is bringing the Doctor to save her. Because the responsibility is his.

Your Stupid Face: Why Mr. and Mrs. Pond Belong on the TARDIS

In “The Curse of the Black Spot,” the strengthening of their relationship comes across more powerfully than ever. Rory asks Amy to perform CPR to save his life because he knows she won’t give up on him (the implication being that the Doctor eventually would). And sure enough, while Amy is desperately attempting to revive Rory, the Doctor is sitting there on the side, watching in horror. He is, in point of fact, doing exactly what Moffat said he would be doing—standing there thinking, what have I done?

What he has done, surprisingly enough, is take what might have been an otherwise tenuous marriage between two very young people and reinforced it with steel and duct tape and super glue. Because as long as Rory and Amy are responsible for each other, as long as they have to look out for each other, the closer they will become. All the doubt on Rory’s end, all the fear and flighty-ness on Amy’s end, will cease to matter the more they are forced by circumstance to prove how much they mean to one another.

By accident or design, the Doctor has brought two people closer together by virtue of his frenetic lifestyle. Looks like that TARDIS is a pretty good place to honeymoon.

Emily Asher-Perrin wants people to start calling her Emily the Roman. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Chris Meadows
1. Robotech_Master
Just to note: I'm pretty sure Amy didn't actually bite her therapists. Her delightful brogue makes it hard to make out what that first consonant really was, but it would make more sense for her to have said she kept fighting them.

Though, admittedly, that's not as amusing an image.
2. Makarra
She rather clearly stated, repeatedly, that she bit them. :)
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
Oh piss. I guess this means we're stuck with Amy and Rory for at least another season. *sigh*
Chris Meadows
4. Robotech_Master
Makarra @2: Where does she say so "repeatedly"? I just watched The Eleventh Hour the other day, and she says, "I kept *ighting them." The * could be either an "f" or a "b" due to her accent. It makes more sense as an "f". Where else does she say she actually bit them?
Emily Asher-Perrin
5. EmilyAP
@all - It's definitely biting, guys. Not only does it say that on every site where it is quoted (IMDb, wikiquote,, but I checked the episode with subtitles on the DVD. Amy kept biting her therapists. I'd say that it makes a whole lot of sense, considering what a firecracker she is.

@Milo1313 - I don't necessarily think that it means we'll have Rory and Amy for another whole season. If anything, I think that the point of having them on this season is to allow their relationship to keep growing past their wedding at the end of S5. I have a funny feeling that they won't be back next season, at least not full time, especially if other companions track records are anything to go by.
6. Makarra
She says it in the "Eleventh Hour" and during the wedding in "The Big Bang".
Chris Meadows
7. Robotech_Master
I really hope when they do leave the Tardis they do so alive and whole. The Doctor's been awfully hard on his companions lately. Only one of them since the relaunch has actually managed to leave and take up anything like a normal life. (And even then, that one ended up joining first UNIT and then Torchwood.) Back in the old days, a dramatic/traumatic departure was the exception, not the rule!
Matt London
8. MattLondon
What is this show keeps posting articles about? Is it a medical drama about some British dude named Who? Is it like House?
Emily Asher-Perrin
9. EmilyAP
@MattLondon - it's exactly like House, of course. Who is just like House, only without the limp and with more hair. He diagnoses problems in the space/time continuum and fixes them by forcing everyone in history to admit how much they've LIED. ;)
10. shoroko
While I agree with the overall point, I don't think anything you say about Rory in the opening paragraph is really true. Starting with adaptable, he proved he was good at that the moment he first stepped on the TARDIS - he said "it's another dimension" before the Doctor even could, and the Doctor even made note of it. The Doctor asking Rory to do some technobabble TARDIS thing at the end of "Day of the Moon" also indicates that the Doctor even has Rory helping him fly it. In "The Hungry Earth," he quickly falls into investigating the missing graves when asked, and by "The Pandorica Opens" he as a totally capable Roman soldier who convinced his commanding officer to work with River.

"Dashing" is also very much in the eye of the beholder. While I'm more partial to the likes of Karen Gillan, I had quite a few friends who swooned over Rory in his 60s clothes.

Finally, I don't think anyone can fairly say someone who'd wait nearly 2000 years to keep the person they love safe, even in the face of possibly dying along the way, isn't "brave." He may not be as reckless as Amy or River or even the Doctor, but Rory certainly is brave.
Chris Meadows
11. Robotech_Master
Well, if you consider how much Doctor Who vs. The Master is like Sherlock Holmes vs. Moriarty (particularly in the fact that Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffat and writer/actor Mark Gatiss are producing a new modern-day Sherlock Holmes series whose "Jim Moriarty" acts an awful lot like the recent Doctor Who incarnation of The Master, and whose lead actor was rumored at one point to be under consideration for the role of The Doctor--in fact, Matt Smith originally auditioned for the role of Watson on that show), and House is a recasting of Sherlock Holmes as a modern medical drama rather than detective series…it actually kind of is a lot like House.
Jenny Thrash
12. Sihaya
EmilyAP@#9: And don't forget, Stephen Fry has still never been a guest on either show.
Pam K
13. PamK
Then when she starts traveling in the TARDIS, the Doctor brings Rory on board to remind Amy that she still has a real life back home. I think it speaks volumes that the Doctor has never done this for a companion before in the history of the show.

Maybe not through bringing people from the companion's "Real Life" onto the TARDIS, but Ten brought Rose, Martha, and Donna to visit their families. During Russel T Davies' tenure, the "companion families" served the same dramatic function you cite there, of grounding the companion in reality, as Rory's presence on the TARDIS does for Amy.

Rory, I am hoping, can move beyond the "Amy's support" role and be an equal companion in his own right. As of the moment, the Doctor and the scripts are still treating him as Amy's accessory, which doesn't IMO really fulfill the dramatic potential of "a married couple on the TARDIS."
Ursula L
14. Ursula
Rory has, I think, reached the status of being a companion in his own right, and someone who means as much to the Doctor as Amy does.

When Amy and Rory were climbing out of the body bags in Day of the Moon, the Doctor runs and helps Rory out of the body bag, kissing Rory on the head. Then the Doctor jumps up and starts stretching, leaving Amy to manage on her own. At the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, future-Doctor hugs Amy first, but he has an equally enthusiastic hug for Rory.

The Doctor can also talk to Rory in a way that he can't talk to Amy, or any previous companions. Rory is the Doctor's equal in experience, with his memories of two thousand years guarding the Pandorica. Consider the quiet way they talked about fighting the Silence and seeing the fall of Rome. Rory can call the Doctor on his nonsense and can't be dismissed as young and ignorant.

On the other side, Rory now has thousands of years more life experience than Amy, rather than being her near-equal in experience. The Doctor knows how to handle this inequality and maintain his relationships with companions despite the inequality. Rory can learn from this, how to be comfortable living with someone who is so much less experienced, yet an adult rather than a child.
Chris Meadows
15. Robotech_Master
Ursula @14: But unlike the Doctor, Rory doesn't seem to have the memories around all the time. He can "turn them off". Presumably that's a shortcut so the lazy writers can keep writing him as "plain ol' stupid-faced Rory", rather than trying to figure out how being 2,000 years old would affect his personality. Meanwhile, the Doctor is almost (or more than) one thousand years old all the time. Bit of a difference there.

(Now I'm suddenly imagining the Doctor singing the They Might Be Giants song "O Do Not Forsake Me". "One thousand years old...sure you think that's old. One thousand years old...but what do you know?")

It's interesting to note that Rory is somewhat different to the rest of the Doctor's companions since the reboot. As far as I know, he's the first one to be essentially press-ganged into it by his domineering fiancee. Rose, Martha, Donna—they all chose to join him after finding out what he was and what he did. (Well, not Donna at first, but a season later she willingly took passage.) Rory was all but yanked into the Tardis and dumped out into 17th century Venice before he even knew what was going on.

This was a popular archetype in the old show (at the extreme end we had Tegan "get me home dammit!" Jovanka, as well as a number of others who weren't quite so…whiny) , but hasn't been seen so much in the new. I think it gives him a bit of a different perspective than the companions who joined entirely of their own free will.
16. a-j
Sihaya@12 - I've got a nasty feeling that Stephen Fry has been on Dr Who, in an on-line story with the 8th Doctor. Sorry.
Matt London
17. MattLondon

Eh... sounds a bit stodgy for me. I think I'll wait for the Americanized version. A lot of British TV shows like "Being Human" and "Life on Mars" have been remade in the US and are totally better than the originals.
Chris Meadows
18. Robotech_Master
Interestingly enough, an American-British joint production Torchwood spinoff, set in Los Angeles and guest-starring Bill Pullman, is going to air in July…
Ashley Fox
19. A Fox
Cringes at the thought of everything becoming Americanized.
Emily Asher-Perrin
20. EmilyAP
@ shoroko - You are absolutely right, all of those terms can be applied to Rory when viewed from a certain perspective. What I was endeavoring to do was compare him to other companions that we've seen on the show. When you hold him up next to Captain Jack or even Amy or River, as you even pointed out, Rory does not come off quite as brave or dashing (even if you want to equate brave to reckless for the Doctor and his friends, which is a fair point). That doesn't mean he isn't any of those things, it just means that compared to other companions, he doesn't come off that way.

@PamK - You're right, having the companions families involved in the RTD era did help ground them in the same way. At the same time, it wasn't the Doctor making that choice for them like he does for Amy, which I think is a key difference. Rose goes home because she misses her mother. Donna makes a pit stop at home when they find themselves back in present time during the Sontaran two-parter. The Doctor doesn't send them back there to keep them in touch, he does it because they demand it or because it happens to be convenient.

That said, I don't think that Rory being there for Amy's sake makes him a secondary companion at all, certainly not in the Doctor's mind.

@Ursula and Robotech_Master - I'm going to have to go with Robotech on this one. While Rory may have 2000 years experience in theory, he very clearly states that he doesn't remember it that often. In addition, most of those 2000 years were spent waiting, just sitting by the Pandorica. We know there were certain points in history when he had to get the Pandorica out of harms way, but other than that, it seems like Rory spent a lot of time sitting around by himself. (I often wonder how he kept sane, in all honesty. That's a long time to spend with yourself.) 2000 years of experience in waiting is not quite the same thing as 900+ years of Doctor-like experience.

@MattLondon - Oh, it's on now. I'm heading over to the Avatar: The Last Airbender rewatch. XD
Dave Bell
21. DaveBell
There's some interesting possibilities in the "Rory the Roman" thing. We know that that there are three versions of Rory coming out of the last season which have somehow merged, with a potential for Rory to know people and places from the past. We don't really know where he has been in any detail, though there was a mention of the Blitz.

And putting Rory and Amy together gets around the habit of the RTD years when it seemed it was only a matter of time before the Doctor and the Companion would be sharing a bed.

On the whole. while it looked good, I wouldn't call this one of the great episodes. It's a frivolity, but maybe we need one sometimes.
22. Rowanmdm
I love Rory to pieces and have since the first episode when he noticed the weird things going on and Amy didn't. Actually, while I think Amy is a decent companion, Rory is the one I really love. He's a different type of compaion than the others we've had on NuWho and I love his character; his character journey thus far has been more significant than Amy's in several ways.

The one thing I want to see happen to Rory is for him to develop more confidence and the will to draw on all that experience. I think right now he's kind of shutting off all those years of waiting, and in doing so he's not living up to his potential. I want to see Rory gradually accept all those years he's lived and learn to be confident in who he is and how valuable he really is. I don't want to see the self-doubt go completely away (it's something we can all relate to), but I would like to see Rory have a bit more confidence.
23. Makarra
The American version of "Life On Mars" is definitely not better than the British version.

Rory is my favorite for sure, though I really really like River Song. more interesting the more evident it becomes that her aggressiveness is a front. But I swear, just another inch or two on her damn skirts. >
Emily Asher-Perrin
24. EmilyAP
@DaveBell - There are definitely some interesting ideas contained in Rory's dormant history there, and I'll be very interested to see what, if anything, is done with that. And while this latest episode may not have been brilliant, I definitely agree on terms of frivolity. It was just a bit of silly fun, and Doctor Who has always been good with that too.

I wouldn't say that RTD kept bringing the companions too close to the Doctor, though. Rose was the romantic interest from his era; it's clear that the Doctor didn't have any interest in Martha romantically even if she liked him, and Donna wouldn't have jumped into bed with him if you had paid her. As for the episodic companions, well, they were never going to stick around anyway, so what's the harm in kissing the man?

@Rowanmdm - I hope Rory gains some confidence too! He's more than earned it. He doesn't need to become a superhero, just believe in himself a little bit more. I think we're already beginning to see that in this season.

@Makarra - I promise MattLondon is teasing. He hasn't even seen both versions of Life On Mars; he just likes to make fun of my Angophilia. ;)
25. Jennifer R
I've got it: Rory and Amy are the modern-day, sci-fi equivalent of Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence. Same dynamic.
Chris Meadows
26. Robotech_Master
Emily: By the way, would it be too much to ask that you might get a Features index together with all your Doctor Who posts? Or even just the "Women of Moffat" series? It would be nice to have a handy go-to link to read them all.
Emily Asher-Perrin
28. EmilyAP
@Robotech_Master - We're on it! Hopefully we'll have a nice index together for next week. :)
Ursula L
29. Ursula
As far as Rory remembering the 2000 year wait, he says he doesn't remember, but then immediately admits he's lying. He then says he can shut a door on those memories - but I'm not sure how effective that door is. He certainly seemed to bear the weight of those memories heavily when he was talking to the Doctor about seeing Rome fall.

I suspect that Rory wants to be able to shut the door on those memories. And he tries to forget them or set them aside. But he hasn't psychologically processed the burden of these memories, coming back the day of his wedding and conflicting with the memories of his normal life.

I hope that they address this a bit more.
Chris Meadows
30. Robotech_Master
Certainly Rory got more than he bargained for when he stepped into the Tardis: fight aliens a couple times, get killed, get resurrected, and get left alone for two thousand years...

I wonder if he and Captain Jack will ever get to compare notes. Could make for a very funny scene. "I once waited a hundred and fifty years to meet the Doctor again." "Oh, really? That's a long time."

He had to have some interesting adventures during that time, no matter how careful he was trying to be. Wonder if we'll ever get to see any of them. But I'm doubtful that the age issue will ever be addressed by the writers in any meaningful way.
Ursula L
31. Ursula
In terms of "getting more than he bargained for" I'd think Rory got less of this than most companions.

Rory knew about the Doctor as a story for years, before he met the Doctor. He played time-travel story games with Amy, and had given more thought to the possibilities than most companions ever did, or could, before stepping in to the TARDIS. Amy may have initiated the games, but Rory certainly enjoyed them, or he wouldn't have been her lifelong friend, playing the games for years. (And Rory certainly enjoys these play-acting games, of all sorts, not just in playing Amy/Doctor or Centurion/Police Woman with Amy, but also his appreciation of Amy's pirate outfit and suggestion that she wear it more often - Amy may have introduced the Doctor as a character in their imaginative play, but Rory was playing for his own fun all along.)

Then, when he knew that the Doctor and the TARDIS were real, he took the time to study the "latest scientific theories" and more seriously consider both the implications of time/space travel and the way that the Doctor being real would affect his relationship with Amy.

When Rory proposed to Amy, he knew the Doctor was real, and he knew the Doctor might show up again, and that, given the opportunity, Amy would jump at the chance to travel with the Doctor. And he proposed to Amy, knowing that, and prepared himself for the day he'd next face the Doctor.

Rory is a bit off balance at the beginning of "Vampires of Venice", but he finds his feet quickly, and handles the adventure competently. When Amy asks that Rory travel with her and the Doctor, Rory's answer is prompt, and unhesitating. Yes, he'd like that.

Rory knew about the Doctor for years and knew that the Doctor would likely offer Amy a chance to travel. He's thought about this for years, and was prepared both for the possibility that Amy might choose to travel with the Doctor rather than stay with him and for the possibility that he might have a chance to travel with the Doctor along with Amy, and he knew what his choices would be.

Rory was better prepared to travel with the Doctor than any other companion except perhaps Donna in "Partners in Crime" who also had a long period of knowing about the Doctor and the TARDIS before deciding to travel with them. He had a good idea of what he was bargaining for when he stepped through the TARDIS door.
Teresa Jusino
32. TeresaJusino
Emily, I LOVE this article! :) (also, Rory)

EmilyAP & Robotech_Master:
I always thought his reference to "turning off" his memories of the 2,000 years was more of a choice, which I thought was really powerful. It isn't that he doesn't remember them, it's that he chooses not to, otherwise he'd be driven crazy. He has as much to teach the Doctor as the Doctor has to teach him in that regard.

I also believe that, from the beginning, Rory has been active and quick-thinking and brave. Even from the beginning of The Eleventh Hour, when he's taken pictures of the coma victims who keep speaking and goes to his supervisor about them. The entire first half of The Eleventh Hour is him being active and trying to get to the bottom of something having nothing to do with Amy.
33. mm
not an idiot kid who’s journey

Should be 'whose'.

Come on... I come here to hide from the grammatical wasteland that is the rest of the Net :Þ

Ps. I liked Mickey more than Rory. And Rose more than Amy, obviously.
Emily Asher-Perrin
34. EmilyAP
@TeresaJusino - Yay, thank you! (well, it can't be helped that he is super-lovable.)

I think the idea that he's turning off the memories to keep himself sane is likely bet. I can't even fathom what it would be like trying to contain those memories, and I'm sure it would make leading even a semi-normal life pretty impossible for him.

Brave and clever are certainly in the eye of the beholder. I don't think Rory is stupid or a coward by any means, but compared to your typical companion, he's a more reticent figure by far. Rory's type of bravery is a very real-world sort, or as Neil Gaiman likes to say, being brave is being scared and going ahead anyway. Which is why he doesn't come off quite as heroic as, say, River.

@mm - Thanks! No matter how many times you go over it, there's always something that escapes. Fixed now.

ps - There are really very few companions who I don't love, but I definitely have a preference for Rose and Mickey, too. So there was no disrespect to Mickey intended, no matter how much I make fun of him. :)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
35. tnh
mm @33, what's the Anglo-Saxon for "emoticon"?

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