Continuing on from last week’s examination of Doctor Who extras (in the form of Tardisodes during David Tennant’s run), we have to jump over to Matt Smith’s era for another appetizer with Pond Life. Released over a 5 day span in the summer of 2012 leading to Asylum of the Daleks, Chris Chibnall gave us an enjoyable ride with the Ponds, until a surprise cliffhanger would make us wonder what was going on with our friends.
Considering how insanely popular the Ponds were with fans, this was a smart move and possibly one of Chibnall’s best contributions to the world of Doctor Who. Each episode is less than a minute long until the final one which was nearly double the length of all the others. Coming in at a whopping 5.5 minutes, that’s not a huge investment for 5 brief chapters. In 4 parts, it adds little that a viewer would really need to see in order to enjoy season 7 but the final part gives some context to what is happening with Amy and Rory in Asylum. Each episode is broken out by month, representing things that the Doctor has been getting up to while allowing Amy and Rory to live their lives.
April shows Amy and Rory listening to a voice mail from the Doctor as he tells them about his life without them. We get a glimpse of his exploits, including a chance to watch him leap on a surfboard that he throws into a fire, as Sontarans surround him. Matt Smith delivers every line with such glee, the audience can’t help but smile. To this day, it makes me want to go back and watch his seasons all over again.
May gives us a late night in the Pond house when the TARDIS materializes and the Doctor bursts into Amy and Rory’s room. A moment of embarrassment ensues as the Doctor invades their private space, but he tells them that there’s something that needs their attention. The audience is privy to a number of rapid fire images from the coming season, but the Doctor realizes he’s telling them something out of chronological order and leaves them to lie in bed, on edge, unable to sleep. Again, Smith’s delivery and childlike quality steals the scene. This is supposed to be about the Ponds, and all I want is to travel with the Doctor again. (Of course, that’s the same feeling Amy and Rory would be experiencing!)
June has Rory wake up to go to the loo. He pops back out of the loo in some surprise before Amy turns up to find Rory guarding the bathroom door. Upon entry, we see an Ood on the Loo. He somehow got out of the TARDIS and is going to be living with Amy and Rory.
July has Amy and Rory talking to the Doctor about the discomfort they have around having a “butler” as the Ood goes about doing all their daily chores, from laundry, window cleaning and even packing their lunches. As the Ood gives them their breakfast, Amy and Rory realize they just have to wait for the Doctor to come back to get the Ood. (And we can’t wait for him to come back for every other reason under the sun!)
Each of the first 4 episodes are short and sweet; you can’t help but walk away smiling. And then August shows up. The Doctor is trying to find Amy and Rory but something is wrong. The audience sees an argument, tears, and it looks like Rory is kicked out of the house. The Doctor senses that something is off and erases the voicemail he had been leaving. The camera then shows Amy walking into her home. She goes right to the answering machine but finding no message, she says “we need you raggedy man…”
I’ve got to say, re-watching this blip in the vast history of Doctor Who really did one thing for me: it reminded me of an era where the Doctor was fun to watch. Even the heavy ending just worked like any cliffhanger of the classic series. It whet the appetite to know what was coming. If the humor and fun didn’t rope you back in, the fate of the Pond’s certainly would. How could it not?
The quality of these stores is far superior to that of the TARDISODES, but those were intended for viewing on a cell phone. If the Tardisodes failed to capture the imagination, which is admittedly hard to believe, these definitely did because it was a cohesive story. There was an incredible chemistry between the Doctor and the Pond’s that fans loved. More than that, this illustrated how easy it really was to keep Doctor Who in our hearts and minds; less than a minute per week could actually keep Doctor Who fresh. I’ll reiterate what I asked last week: what are we doing now to keep Doctor Who in our minds during this over-long hiatus? Would it really be so hard to produce a 52 minute story that gets released over the course of a year?
Doctor Who was like a black hole through Smith’s era; once you got caught by its pull, there was no way to get away from it. We were in for the story, the characters and the clever writing. Alas, that gravity has become much easier to escape these days. I really hope we do something to pull people back in soon or we may see the fans drifting off like the planet Mondas. They may came back one day, but they will be unrecognizable when they return. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but I am not convinced; I want to be excited for the show again, and I suspect I am not alone.
Stay tuned for more of these little “extras”. There are a handful worth talking about and for those who didn’t know they existed, I hope that offers you something fun to dig up while we wait for the return of the Doctor. ML