Pond Life – But Not As We Know It? What Does “Heartbreaking” Really Mean for the End of Amy and Rory?
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR SERIES 5-7 OF DOCTOR WHO AND FOR PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FOR THE UNAIRED EPISODE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN
Steven Moffat is notorious for not telling the truth. No, that’s too harsh – for twisting it thoroughly enough that it looks like the opposite of what it really is. No, of course the Daleks aren’t coming back! They’re really dead this time, Steven has promised. But what’s that I hear? Is someone saying exterminate?
The moral of the example is this – whatever Steven Moffat tells you, as a fan, look for a hidden meaning underneath. Under his thumb Doctor Who has seen intricate, series-long arcs and twists and turns that don’t always leave you where you thought you’d be. And though Series 7 has ditched the overarching plots, there’s one storyline that has been bubbling up for the last two and a bit years – Amy and Rory. Their time has come, their tenure is at an end, and Moffat and the BBC have described it as, “The Doctor’s heart-breaking farewell.” With his track record, bookies’ bets on Rory’s death probably wouldn’t earn you much for your money, and isn’t it about time for a companion (or two) to swap the Doctor for the Grim Reaper?
But this is Moffat, king of the double meaning. Now that the end of the Ponds is near, can we really take the phrase “heartbreaking” on face value?
Speaking traditionally, heartbreak is defined in the dictionary as an adjective that means “causing intense anguish or sorrow.” Not much room to manoeuvre there: someone is definitely going to die (we’re looking at you, Rory
Williams Pond). But dictionary definitions can’t always box up the indefinable, the wiggle room given by human experience. How many times have you finished watching a film or a television show and told a friend, “it was heartbreaking?” You’re not always talking about the death of a major (or even a minor) character. Heartbreaking can be about the journey your character has been on, the emotional wringer that they dragged you through as they went. “That moment when X did Y to Z; it broke my heart!”
And heartbreaking stories? Don’t always have sad endings.
The point is this; a farewell to Amy and Rory will have myriad moments at which a heart could break, regardless of whether anyone dies – and the heartbreak doesn’t necessarily mean their ending will be a sad one. Of course, we’re talking about Steven Moffat here – no one is going to escape unscathed, whether that’s physically or emotionally – but he loves to play, and so directly preparing us for doom and gloom must surely, in Moffat-speak, mean that there’s a chance it will go the other way?
Let’s talk through the evidence. Firstly we have Steven Moffat, our prime piece of proof for all the great reasons listed above. Alone that’s not enough to go on (just) – but the final promo material for Angels Take Manhattan might be pointing us in an unexpected direction.
We’ve already had one heartbreaking end for the Ponds – when a good man went to war, and their daughter Melody was stolen from them. Melody, aka’d as River Song (one of Moffat’s most famous twists), only returned in adulthood, leaving the Ponds without their daughter and unable to get her back without undoing the universe. End of story. Or is it?
The issue seemed as though it had been put to bed, but without warning it appeared again in Asylum of the Daleks and it’s prequel Pond Life. The Ponds were heading for divorce, with Amy unable to have children because of what had been done to her at Demon’s Run. It was all very sudden for something that had gone so many episodes with barely a mention. In case you missed it (what are you doing here?), they were quickly reunited in the knowledge that life would go on, happy enough, and very pointedly without children. In their penultimate episode, The Power of Three, we were treated to a compendium of deliberations over which life - Doctor life or real life – the Ponds should choose. They took full time jobs, they laid down roots. Importantly, they began to build that real life – the kind of life you could bring a child into.
FROM THIS POINT ON THERE ARE BIG SPOILERS FOR PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FROM ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN
And looks who’s back! It’s their rebellious not-so-teenage daughter River Song. And her appearance has sparked a slowly building theory – namely the idea that time can be rewritten, and that the Ponds will end their companionship but not their lives, tucked up safely in the blue house with the blue door with a baby called Melody Pond (that’s an ending that would break my heart for sure).
It’s a big leap to make, especially when the BBC have been sparse with information, mostly releasing the same or similar clips in different combinations – save for a fairly spoilery promo that was released by the Space channel in Canada. We learn that Amy is “changing the future”, that River has been caught by a Weeping Angel and looks pretty pleased about it, and that a woman is regenerating - which narrows the choice down to the only female we’ve seen regenerate on new Who. Step forward River Song. But Amy’s changing the future, not the past, and River has run out regenerations, which surely makes that promo – and this theory – impossible. Yet we’ve already seen River’s death (which definitely wasn’t in New York City) so this regeneration must signal something entirely new.
If the future can be rewritten, then what about the past? Could River’s life go backwards as well as forwards? Could the Ponds be reunited with the child they lost? When is the future being rewritten from, exactly? The Weeping Angels make a habit of sending people back in time, and if whoever goes is followed then maybe, just maybe, the story of the Ponds can be – not rewritten but – reordered, from before it ever began. The Doctor has told us that time can’t be undone but the future is being changed, and though unravelling a life like River’s would be a hefy task she looks pretty happy for a woman in the grasp of a Weeping Angel, and one who might soon be regenerating at that.
Maybe it’s finally time for Melody Pond to come home.
This is much more about wishful thinking and a happy ever after than it is a real, concrete theory with a good few repercussions. I’m not a theorist – predicting the outcome of a Doctor Who finale has never been high on my list of to-dos – and my confidence in my conclusions is wafer-thin at best. But if the Ponds get lucky, if on Sunday morning the world wakes up knowing that they found the second chance they needed? You can say you heard it here first.