A Retrospective of the Sad Rise and Fall of Rory Williams

Beware: Doctor Who Series 5, 6 and 7 spoilers ahead!

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With the second part of Series 7 of Doctor Who starting tomorrow (March 30th 2013), my mind found itself thinking of the show’s previous few years.
As a whole I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The Moffat era has bedded in well, with its own identity and style. The most recent Christmas special was completely devoid of Russell T Davies’ finger prints. This is neither a good nor a bad thing. It is simply a thing; a sign of a show changing and moving on. Which is what all long running shows need to do to be successful. I honestly do not understand the hate RTD gets. He brought a, for all intents and purposes, dead show back to life and turned it into the behemoth it is today. To type any more on this particular subject would result in a very long and bloated post.
The reason for this blog post is the character of Rory Williams and how Series 7 Part 1 dismantled him. It’s all my mind keeps coming back to when I think of the past three years.

The Doctor, as always, was put through a lot and his character developed whilst still remaining quintessentially the Doctor.
River Song’s convoluted story was made sense of and we saw how her character also developed. Even if some of it was in reverse.
Amy Pond underwent the most development of all. By the time of “The Angels Take Manhattan” I had grown to really like the mature woman she became. Karen Gillan played her brilliantly. I believe the impression we were meant to get was that Amy was in her 30’s by the time of that particular story. Karen, in her early 20’s, pulled off playing a character 10 years older convincingly. But we already knew she could do that after watching “The Girl Who Waited”.
I could go on, so I will just say that the writing in Doctor Who remains a very high standard.

But then we come to Series 7 Rory Williams. Did all the creativity, plotting and detail get used up on the other characters?
I would like to point out at this point that Arthur Darvill’s acting was excellent, and without him Rory would have suffered even more in Series 7.
Right then, back to it. Seriously, what happened? It was as if the writing team collectively decided to revert Rory back to his Series 5, Episode 1 incarnation.
The Rory of Series 5 and 6 was brilliant. He went from sarcastic, cynical, timid and insecure to a man who was still sarcastic but confident, at ease with himself, trusting of his wife, a bit off a bad ass and one of the few to see the Doctor for what he really is: a mad man in a box.
Rory is the guy who, on his first adventure, was not fazed by the TARDIS interior and called out the Doctor for what he does to his companions: the fact they often willingly put themselves in serious danger for the Doctor.
We see Rory reluctantly stay in the TARDIS. Mostly so he can keep his eye on Amy, but he soon rises to the occasion, which eventually sees him, guess what, putting himself in ultimate danger to save the Doctor.
The next time we see him it’s centurion Rory. The guy who protects a box for 2000 years while in a plastic body. He eventually becomes human again and this time willingly joins the TARDIS crew.

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During series 6 he still has reservations and insecurities but over the course of the series he famously threatens a fleet of cybermen, punches Hitler, has no room created for him in “The God Complex” (when even the Doctor does) and is one of the last to submit to the pain of the eye patches in “The Wedding of River Song”. I could go on and on, and there are other more subtle examples of his quick thinking. Such as in “The Doctor’s Wife”, when he tells House to torment him and Amy to buy themselves time, instead of being killed straight away.
By the end of Series 6 he was the awesome everyman reluctant hero, who was deservedly rewarded by the Doctor with his greatest desire: to settle down with Amy.
What was so good was that Rory was no Marty Stu. He still had his faults; too cynical about the Doctor and insecure about his relationship with Amy being a couple of examples.

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When the trailers for Series 7 started (I try to avoid most spoilers) I was surprised to see the return of Amy and Rory. I wondered what else could be done with their story. The return worked for Amy but not for Rory. I did not expect such regression.
He did a lot of moping in “Asylum of the Daleks”, but that was understandable considering Rory and Amy’s (unfortunately rushed) personal story line.
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” saw the inspired introduction of Mark Williams as Rory’s dad, which provided some great moments; a throwaway line about Brian’s absence at the wedding wouldn’t have gone amiss though. However, Rory did not really do anything in the episode. Amy was the proactive one.
Again, in “A Town Called Mercy” he doesn’t do anything. He takes part in the action, but it’s more a case of him being pulled along for the ride. Remember, this is the guy who used to always analyse the situations they were in.
Next is “The Power of Three” in which the Lone/Last Centurion gets taken out by two generic henchmen.
In “The Angles Take Manhatten” he realises how to free his future by creating a paradox, but this was too little too late. And anyway, after saving himself, the usually borderline meta aware Rory gets caught off guard by an Angel. It felt like, for the most part, I had watched five episodes of a slightly more confident version of Rory from “The Eleventh Hour”.

I don’t understand what happened. Did the writers just not know what to do with him? They obviously knew what to do with Amy, but Amy is now a happily married woman. By bringing her back they had to bring Rory too, he was part of the dynamic. She would not now abandon him.
From my point of view, all the writer’s had to do was make him a bit more competent and proactive. In “A Town Called Mercy” they could have given Rory something to do other than follow people around, and in “The Power of Three” they could have had the Doctor and Amy board the alien spaceship to find that Rory had subdued the two henchmen and was trying to free the other humans, but the Doctor still is the one to do the techno-wizardry to save the day.

Series 7 Part 1 was very good, but it could have been so so much better if it had had a balanced group dynamic. When everything else is done so right it really sticks out when one thing is done poorly.

With those frustrations vented I now, as always, eagerly look forward to new Doctor Who.