“To love radically and wholly, invested fully in something that is not the self, creates a greater thing than the ego could ever imagine,” writes science fiction fan N.C. Harrison.
I have had a long and fairly wonderful relationship with science fiction and fantasy. The first movie that my mother took me to was Transformers, all the way back in 1986. I was only eight months old, at the time, so my memories of the event are, well, hazy at best. She assures me that we had a great time, though—the two of us and the one lonely old African-American man sharing the theater with us—and up until the age of twelve I thought that God looked like a giant, blue helmet and sounded like Optimus Prime… but that’s probably a story best told at another time. The first movie that I actually remember going to see, consciously, was also science-fiction. It was Star Trek V, granted, but I think I can probably be forgiven for thinking it was awesome. I was, after all, only three years old.
Doctor Who’s Rory Williams and Amy Pond.
Star Trek, through some tapes that my mom owned, re-runs on television and the coming Next Generation, was one of those early obsessions of mine. It wasn’t the only neat piece of science fiction on TV, though. On Saturday evenings, sandwiched between an episode of the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, the station would often play an episode of Doctor Who, usually one featuring Tom Baker, John Pertwee or—if I was a deucedly lucky little cuss—Patrick Troughton. The shows seemed to flow so well on those magical afternoons that they blended together for me in many respects. I decided, with my impeccable four year old logic, that the wonderfully eccentric Doctor was probably just how all Starfleet officers acted in England. This explained to me why the rather stodgy Captain Picard, who had a similar accent, had to be relocated. It also made sense, when examined a little further, that Q was probably just a really asshole Time Lord that they’d deported with the poor, bald captain.
My love for both shows remained unabated, even for the many years that the Doctor was persona non grata on American television. It has been interesting for me to compare the fortunes that both shows have experienced. The adventures of the Doctor and his Companions have steadily improved over the years, whereas those of the starship Enterprise’s crew (and the crews of other starships, except maybe the Defiant) became silly and repetitive, losing the emotional resonance they’d had so long ago. The impish Troughton remained my favorite Doctor (matched only, in recent years, by the brooding Chris Eccleston—referred to by my mom as “the Vietnam vet Doctor”) and, in spite of the goofiness of the latter movies featuring the crew of the Enterprise-D/E, I still want to be Data when I grow up.
I suppose, after revealing my hesitantly chosen favorite Doctor, I must also do the same for my favorite Companion. It would be cool to say something offbeat and old-school, like Zoe Heriot, Ian Chesterton or K-9 the Tin Dog. Or, perhaps, I could go with the flow of modernity and affirm my love for Rose Tyler, Amy Pond or Donna Noble (and I do adore Donna). I find my own self surprised, however, to say that my favorite Companion, modern or classic, has to be Amy Pond’s beleaguered, much put-upon husband, Rory Williams. Rory, ably portrayed by Arthur Darvill, is a master-class on living, loving and being the proverbial “Good Man.”
He doesn’t seem like it at first, maybe. Rory is a little whiny, a lot nerdy and doesn’t have nearly the fire or flash of his fiancée or her best friend, the Madman with a Box. He is also, however, shown to be powerfully compassionate, with greater concern than Amy, and in some cases even the Doctor, for the well-being of the many creatures that they meet during their wanderings. Rory will not allow easy answers to the moral dilemmas that they encounter, whether during their encounter with the Doppelgangers during The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People or the “broken” Daleks placed in that species’ planet-sized asylum. This is a character, one of the few I find, who is presented as a gentle-natured, nurturing male without facing mockery for it.
Rory’s chief virtue, however, is his unshakable loyalty to Amy, the kind that we could find admirable in any man or woman. When she is trapped in a galactic prison for almost two thousand years, her fiancee—or his memories in a robot body… this was created by Stephen Moffat, of course it has to be unnecessarily complex—he becomes the Last Centurion, a legendary figure dedicated to making sure that Amy’s prison will be safe so that, when the time comes for opening it, she will be able to return to the world and find him waiting for her. Even being wiped out of existence by a crack in the universe (Moffat, again…) cannot keep him from struggling to be reunited with the woman that he loves. She, for her own part, feels the same level of commitment to him, even when she doesn’t realize it. When she and her daughter have been kidnapped by the nefarious Madame Kovarian it is not the Doctor that Amy expects to lead the rescue attempt, after all, even though he is our hero, but instead the Last Centurion. The Doctor may be our hero, here, but Rory is Amy’s. This is why I believe that he is the Good Man who went to war, at the battle of Demon’s Run, just as much as the Doctor himself—or, if the Doctor’s self-image is taken into account, maybe even more so.
This is the kind of love story that I personally love, one that transcends time, space and even existence. The love between Amy and Rory is not something that comes in an airy flash of inspiration but is, instead, the result of hard work between two equal partners—both the epic sort of work that takes almost two millennia and the more mundane kind of negotiation, discussion and relationship building which takes place between couples, here on earth, every day. And maybe, just maybe, a cynic would say to me that such an epic love could not exist. And I say (although I, myself, do not agree)… so what? Maybe a couple, watching these episodes, might clasp each other a little tighter and bring such love a little closer to being a reality, not just something for science-fiction space between stars. And, in my opinion anyway, such a love both is possible and is, maybe, the secret ingredient to being a Good Man or Good Woman. To love radically and wholly, invested fully in something that is not the self, creates a greater thing than the ego could ever imagine.
So science fiction… it’s the literature of big ideas, and this may be the biggest one of all. Maybe, if I keep reading, writing and watching, I can live up to it one day.