“Fourteen years,” Amelia Pond tells the Doctor, red hair askew, eyes flashing angrily. And rightfully so. After all, fourteen years is an awfully long time to wait, especially for a lonely little girl who understands all-too-well that grown-ups often lie. Sitting outside under the stars, not-so-patiently awaiting the Doctor’s return, and then later, after fourteen years and a brief, whirlwind adventure, the Doctor dubs Amy, “the girl who waited,” adding, sweetly, “You’ve waited long enough.”
Any fan of Doctor Who knows that all of the NuWho girls have titles: the Bad Wolf, The Girl Who Walked the Earth, the Most Important Woman in the Universe, but these titles are not necessarily cannon. The fans who devotedly watch, love, re-watch, and debate Doctor Who have lovingly dubbed the Doctor’s favorite girls with these telling names, but it is Amy Pond, the fiery ginger whose story is inexplicable entwined with the Doctor’s, who is officially given her title by her creators.
A brief critical look of this position for a female character might have one shaking her head at putting any of these, admittedly rich and wonderful, women characters in such a passive role. And it is passive, to tell truth: waiting patiently is as passive an action as they come. The problem with this assessment of Amy’s role in Doctor Who, however, is that despite being titled “The Girl Who Waited,” Amy Pond is far from a passive participant in her adventures with the Doctor.
But before we get into the layers of her character, let’s examine what the title stems from: her childhood. It is there, sitting in her front yard on her packed suitcase, that she earns the “waiting” moniker. She stays out there all night, hoping that the Doctor might be the one grown-up who doesn’t disappear, and she falls asleep in that very spot. All her waiting does her no good in that first instance; it is twelve years until she sees him again.
So there, in those first few moments we meet her, she has earned her title, but it’s uncertain whether she actually deserves it. After all, how much waiting does she actually do? That first night, as a child, of course she waits, and it appears to the viewer that, after he never returns, she perhaps still clings to the hope that one day that big blue box will appear once more. However, even if this is true, her “waiting” does not deter her from living her life: her aunt puts her in therapy and, somehow, she manages to halfheartedly convince herself that the Doctor just wasn’t real. She moves on; she has a boyfriend; she has a job. She’s a bit odd, perhaps, but her oddness can be more attributed to her loneliness than her waiting.
After the Doctor leaves her in her garden as a child, she lives, for whatever its worth, a perfectly normal, if a bit boring, life. None of that seems to suggest that she is “waiting,” and even if she is (as I will always expect she was, in the back of her mind, ever determined that the Doctor had to be real), she certainly was not halting the rest of her life in the process.
Further into Amy’s story arc, the Girl Who Waited title loses more and more relevance because Amy, who is a wild as the red of her hair, flat-out refuses to do the “passive” thing and often chooses to ignore the Doctor when he tells her not to “wander off.” “The Beast Below” contains an obvious example of this - one that almost gets her sent home, when she makes a decision of which the Doctor doesn’t necessarily approve. In “The Girl Who Waited,” she doesn’t patiently await her rescue: she does what she can; she survives. Again and again she makes decisions on her own and while, yes, sometimes her actions are reactionary, this is true of every companion on the show (and, in fact, even the Doctor), regardless of gender, not because they are weak characters who lack agency, but because the show is fueled by one particular plot device, which is, as my friend Maddie puts in, “Oh, look at this wonderful and interesting place! PERIL. No worries, we fixed it.” This often-used plot means that most of the characters actions will inherently be reactionary. (In fact, I’d argue that perhaps the only actions that can be pro-active are their choices to go with the Doctor and then, in the end, whether or not to leave him.)
Even if The Girl Who Waited title is not necessarily deserved or particularly helpful in such a progressive show female-character-wise, the one thing that solidifies its acceptability in my mind is that Amy clearly has finished waiting (if, that is, she ever really was) and slowly seems to be earning a different title: The Girl Who Remembers. If one examines her actions in comparison to the title she’s been given, it’s obvious that they do not match up: in fact, its impossible for her to still be waiting for the Doctor to rescue her or love her or whatever it was she wanted, because if this were true, she would have been unable to marry Rory and begin any sort of life with him, filled with aliens and danger though it may be.
And let’s be real: In all honesty, most of the waiting in this story is done by Rory; from the time Rory meets Amy, he is constantly waiting for her to notice him, to love him, to choose him over the Doctor, to marry him. Hell, he waits two thousand years for her. He has some of the most reactionary actions in the entirety of Doctor Who. Yet, Rory’s waiting is never criticized; it is devotion, always, just as Amy’s ability to wait for the Doctor, however impatient she may be, should be seen as pure, loving devotion as well.
Being The Girl Who Waited shouldn’t necessarily automatically be a bad thing to begin with, but the creators must have laughed to themselves when they named her that because, when examined closely, it hardly fits her character at all: Amy Pond is not a girl who waits in the car while the people she loves charge into danger. She is always leading the charge. Her feisty attitude and her curiosity make her the farthest from passive she can possibly be, and, if there is, in fact, any waiting that she does, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing: She loves the Doctor, and we all know that; waiting for him is purely an expression of her loyalty.
In fact, perhaps a better moniker for Amelia Pond would be, “The Girl Who is Tired of Waiting.”
I think it’s probably correct in saying that Amy Pond isn’t a completely passive character. I think there are many many issues with the storylines she was given and how she was allowed to exist within those storylines, but I would never say it was as simple as “Amy Pond waits too much”, or whatever.
The thing is though, even if her title of “The Girl Who Waited” IS a terrible match for her, as you say, it’s still one that is constantly made again and again and again by the show. Like you said, the other companion ‘titles’ that people like to use in gifsets and tumblr tags are nice, but they’re mentioned once. Amy is called “the girl who waited” over and over again, which I think is problematic precisely because it reduces all of Amy’s actions to “remember that time she waited?” Amy’s done a lot of things. Amy’s remembered the universe back into existence; Amy’s survived.
(There’s also the fact that it’s always the “girl” who waited. Amy’s married, Amy’s in her 20s, Amy’s a mom. Amy is a grownass woman, not a “girl”.)