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Sarah-Jane Smith once said something which expressed a crucial aspect of the dynamic between the Doctor and his companions. When asked by Rose if she had ever married, she said no, adding:”well, there was this man…I travelled with him for a while…but he was a tough act to follow.”
Or to put it another way, how is a poor flawed human man supposed to shape up next to a two-hearted Time Lord with the ability to visit everywhere and everywhen? Well, the person who had to find this out the hard way is Rory Williams, played, as we all know, by Arthur Darvill.
When we first meet Rory, he’s a nurse and the boyfriend of Amy Pond. They’re a young, silly, fun couple. He’s the provider, she’s the flibbertigibbet in the stripogram policewoman uniform. She then disappears off with the Doctor for a bit, on the night before her wedding, after trying to seduce him, and he, as far as we are concerned, stays behind, oblivious. We’re lead to believe the Doctor has rescued Amy from her dull life, as he has done so many times before.
Here’s an early-days account of Rory by Arthur Darvill:
But that’s not what happens. What we come to realise over the course of the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure is that Amy, while dazzled by the Doctor and delighted that he is back in her life again, loves Rory. She does not need more chaos in her life, she needs his stability.
Naturally, the Doctor still has to save the day, and he tends to do it in quite a flippant, distracted kind of way, often leaving a lot of mess in his wake. Rory is prepared to do the mopping up afterwards. He sticks around to deal with the consequences. If you can characterise the relationship between Amy and the Doctor as daughter and father, you have to take on board that the Doctor is the kind of father who will forget your birthday, forget Christmas, and then arrive at your house on the 22nd of September clutching an inflatable moose as a present. Which is lovely, but people need people they can rely on. Amy needs Rory. And she loves him too.
What doesn’t often get explored in the stories is quite what Rory needs. It’s commonly assumed that Rory knows that he is punching way above his weight with Amy, and so his chief motivation for, say, waiting next to the Pandorica for 1,000 years is largely fed by gratitude that she would even give him the time of day.
And yet, as the series has progressed, and he gets over his jealousy of the Doctor and starts dying a few times, what we’re seeing more and more is the Rory that provides the moral core to the Doctor’s hyperenergised flip-floppery. Once we got past silly Rory, all of the different versions of him that appear – Roman Rory, Army Rory – come from the same line of gritty, committed men, who take no nonsense and do their duty.
In this sense Rory is the voice of everyone who hides behind the sofa when the monsters arrive. He’s the guy who can see what trouble they are in, what rules they are breaking and conveys that to the Doctor on our behalf. And as such, he’s the only person qualified to tell the Doctor when he’s in the wrong.
In the complicated series of relationships the TARDIS team have recently unveiled, Amy and Rory may be River’s parents, and therefore the Doctor’s parents-in-law, and the Doctor may still act as Amy’s surrogate dad, but he’s not Rory’s. Rory, as that Sontaran pointed out, is both a nurse and a warrior, two occupations that require severe codes of duty, and determination.
So, there’s your answer, Sarah-Jane. Who could possibly match up to the Doctor? Try a man in uniform.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic