If you’ve read about Doctor Who here before, you probably already know that I’m something of a fangirl, of both Classic and New Who. You might also know that I’m something of a Moffat fangirl. Thus, it’s no surprise that I’m thrilled that we’re at the start of a new season, and literally woke up last Saturday morning excited for that day’s new episode, like a kid at Christmas.
However, just because I’m a fangirl doesn’t mean I love every word and decision dreamed up by The Moff. Case in point: the season premiere. WARNING: I’m going to specifically discuss the episode, so if you haven’t seen it and want to remain spoiler-free, come back after you’ve watched it.
Okay, you’ve been fairly warned. Now: the divorce plotline. I’m not afraid to say it: I’m not a fan. And the main reason why? Children.
First, let’s establish what we’ve seen. We started with the Pond Life minisodes, showing a sampling of what’s been going on in the Pond household. Of the five episodes, we get four of outright slapstick silliness pertaining to the Doctor and how constantly upheaves their life, from morning ’til the middle of the night. The fifth day, rather out of the blue, we see that the Ponds’ relationship is under quite a bit of stress. Based solely on what we’ve been presented with thus far, we can surmise that perhaps the Doctor has contributed in no small part.
At the start of the premiere, we see that things with the Ponds are very bad indeed; they’re filing for divorce. The Doctor, who only barely knows what’s going on, asks how he can help, but Amy tells him this isn’t a problem he can solve; it’s life, it’s what happens.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. Pretend you’re a child watching the show. You’ve become somewhat invested in the love story of Rory and Amy, because it’s been a focus time and again. Now, seemingly out of the blue, they’re divorcing. Instead of identifying with the companion, the child at this point probably identifies more with the Doctor – and to even further drive the point home, the Doctor is their son-in-law, of sorts. Divorce is probably a scarier, more uncomfortable notion than the Daleks.
Okay, so Moffat has a way of keying in to the fears of children and childhood. Perhaps he’s sending a message here, that divorce sometimes happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. A grim lesson, but one that many children face.
Though the Doctor is told he can’t help, he refuses to let it go. Due to his machinations, Amy and Rory have a conversation. It’s revealed that two misunderstandings are at the heart of their woes; one, that Rory loves Amy more than she loves him (which, let’s be honest, it’s kind of been written that way) and two, that Amy’s secondary infertility (possibly due to alien intervention) means that it would be better that Rory find someone else with whom he can have children. Note that the Doctor, or the stress of their time travel adventures, are actually not an issue at all (which could sort of tie in to the whole Doctor-as-child metaphor).
Within the space of a few minutes, they’ve cleared the air. The two adults, who had gone as far as moving out and filing papers, reconcile with nothing more than a sit-down. At the end of the episode Amy has invited Rory back into her, uh, life. All thanks to the Doctor, of course.
Again, let’s step back and consider this from the point of a child. So divorce sometimes happens… but it’s totally possible to Parent Trap your way out of this painful situation? You just need someone magical like the Doctor? Is this the message we should be sending, when we address this issue at all?
Which then begs the question: Why was this divorce storyline brought up at all? It was resolved within the space of the episode. I don’t think it was just to contribute to a “shocking” setup at the start of a new season. The best I can figure, it was an elaborate way to introduce the concept that Amy can’t have any more children (and while we’re at it, if the Doctor wants to help, why didn’t she ask him to take her to an alien, 51st-century fertility clinic?). On the other hand, they covered that issue with only one or two sentences, so… why, again?
The short majority
At this point, you might be saying, “Sheesh, J, stop telling us to think of the children. The only people I know who watch this show are adults, anyway. Who knows if kids even pick up on the whole divorce thing?” As for how much of the divorce storyline a kid picks up on, you may have a point – the whole thing was handled very minimally. However, I’d wager even the smallest child would pick up on the vitriol between Amy and Rory – not to mention the slapping. As for the older children, let’s not fall into the common trap of underestimating and patronizing them. It’s entirely possible to be old enough to understand the plot, yet still young enough to be genuinely upset by it.
And trust me, kids of that age are watching. In the US, viewership of Doctor Who may be dominated by 20-and-30-somethings, but for the UK, Doctor Who is still commonly viewed as a (mainstream) show for children – perhaps because most adults there actually did watch Who as children. In my own personal experience, when I visited the Doctor Who Experience in London, I was in one of only a few groups that didn’t have at least one child. The walkthrough/ride was without a doubt aimed first and foremost at children. So was the gift shop.
Moffat, in particular, seems to be far more aware of the youngest demographic than his predecessor, Russell T Davies. Perhaps due to the influence of his own children, the plots seem far more child-centered – and it was a stroke of genius to introduce Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor through the eyes of Amelia Pond.
Which makes this whole divorce tangent all the more jarring and puzzling. What was the point of it? Who was it intended for? I’m not angry, and I’m willing to reserve judgment to see if it becomes relevant later; for now, though, I just don’t get it.
What about you? What did you think of the season premiere of Doctor Who? What did you think of the divorce plot in particular? Let’s talk about it!
*Yes, I know there’s an aspect of the first episode that might be considered very important later in the season. No, I’m not discussing it today because I haven’t yet decided if that’s considered spoilery for the season as a whole. We’ll have time to chat about that later, I’m sure.