In the past, we’ve briefly touched on how certain companions had changed, evolved, grew during their time with the Doctor. This phenomenon didn’t really happen that much in the classic series. You had solid characters, characters you enjoyed, and who benefitted from good writing, directing, and acting. And you had some who didn’t.
In the new era, each series got to stretch its legs with an overall theme, and usually a tighter, more focused narrative. This approach allowed the showrunner to shape and mould the companions and showcase the effect the Doctor had on them.
Although Rose showed considerable growth during the Russell T Davies era, Mickey had the greater metamorphosis. The human tin dog went from being a snivelling coward to a commando married to Martha Jones. That’s an impressive change, most of it coming within two series. Donna was perhaps one of the most annoying humans on the planet in The Runaway Bride, yet her time with the Doctor transformed her into a fascinating, compassionate fan favourite.
But if you look at the evolution of companions from the new era, maybe the most fascinating and complex would be Amy and Rory. I’m not sure how much pre-planning Steven Moffat went into regarding the evolution of those two but looking out over those two and a half series is impressive. You really see a good chunk of their lives.
We’re introduced to Amelia Pond as a young child. She’s visited by a regeneratively-compromised Doctor. She imprints on him rather heavily over fish fingers and custard, he leaves, and breaks his promise to come back in five minutes. When we revisit Amy in her 20s, frankly, she’s a mess. A petulant brat who has poor, pathetic Rory wrapped around her finger. Then, across the span of Series 5, 6, and 7A, we, and the Doctor, check in on her and Rory from time to time well into their 30s. Over the span of a decade, Amy went from Kiss-o-gram to professional model. She was still often controlling, selfish, and at times nasty (maybe modelling wasn’t the best idea), but she mellowed a bit after Asylum of the Daleks. Mostly because after god knows how many years, she and Rory finally cleared the air. (I really don’t know how much of her built-in irritability was simply because she’s Scottish, but I’m not sure I ever want to visit that fabled land.)
Looking back across her arc, she does grow and mature a bit. By the time of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, she was actually quite likable, having relaxed a bit, and became comfortable in her own skin.
But this, my friends, is really about the most incredible companion arc in the history of Doctor Who. Rory Williams.
Rory the doormat.
Kept on a leash for the first decade or so of their relationship, Rory was playing third fiddle to the Doctor, and also the fantasy of the Doctor that Amy had built up in her mind. Rory was in love with Amy, and ultimately devoted to her, in a very one-sided relationship. Sure, Amy cared for Rory, more than she’d realised, and he’d worn her down to the point that they were getting married. Enter the Doctor, and competition.
Rory the corpse.
It took Rory dying before Amy realized how important he was to her. Thanks to the crack in time, he ceased to ever have existed… yet still she was somehow affected by his absence. He really just died a lot — talk about changing a person. If dying seems like a lot of trouble to go to to get your girlfriend to notice you, it is. But thanks to a grand, cosmic alliance of villainy, Rory wasn’t dead-dead yet.
Rory the Centurion.
I’m having a rough time trying to think of a greater true love any fictional character has shown for another. But Rory Williams, due to an elaborate trap set for the Doctor, was a reincarnated Auton and Centurion, and stood vigil, protecting the love of his life for 2,000 years, while she was trapped in a big box. Could there be a greater gauntlet? A greater test? What effect would that specific brand of immortality have on an otherwise human psyche?
Talk about evolution of a character. And this was just the end of Series 5. Part of me would have liked to see Rory remain an Auton, just for some interesting stories, seeing what he could do, but I understand the need to reset him as human.
After the rebooting of the entire universe throughout all of time (truly bonkers but it worked), Rory was a real boy again, but with memories of those 2,000 years as an Auton. I would imagine such an experience might give a man a certain confidence in his abilities to say the least. Not to mention his ability to stick with an awesome Halloween costume every year. Big Finish will no doubt have a field day pumping out plenty of adventures from those two millennia, and why not? They love stories!
By Series 6, the once timid nurse was punching out Hitler. By Series 7, he was holding his own in front of hundreds of Daleks and actually threatening killer androids. So, in terms of elaborate, extravagant character arcs, and growth of said character, no one’s gone through more than Rory. But I guess one should have suspected he had it in him. After all, it takes a certain amount of inner steel to hold on to the force of nature that is Amelia Pond.
Centurion, I salute you.