Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Rory Curve: Leningrad and the Pandorica

“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.” ~Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

“The Prince found Buttercup waiting unhappily outside his chamber doors. 
'It's my letter,' she began. 'I cannot make it right.' 

'Come in, come in,' the Prince said gently. 'Maybe we can help you.' She sat down in the same chair as before. 'All right, I'll close my eyes and listen; read to me.' 

'Westley, my passion, my sweet, my only, my own. Come back, come back. I shall kill myself otherwise. Yours in torment, Buttercup.' She looked at Humperdinck. 'Well? Do you think I'm throwing myself at him?” ~William Goldman, The Princess Bride

"Time is very slow for those who wait." ~William Shakespeare

Human lives are marked by periods of waiting.  Waiting for recess.  Waiting for summer.  Waiting for graduation.  Waiting for a job.  Waiting for a love.  Waiting for a new life.  Waiting for death.  With all this anticipation, its no surprise that so many authors produce around this theme.   Just to provide a quick and obvious example, take William Goldman's The Princess Bride.  His Star Crossed Lovers, Buttercup and Wesley abide in agony, each believing the other either married or dead.  Or as Buttercup blatantly puts it: "Come back. Come back.  I shall kill myself otherwise.  Yours in torment."  Aw, Buttercup, a gal after my own heart: Honest, Embarrassing, and Sincere.*  But, despite my fondness for the Princess, I have mixed emotions about this waiting theme or to be more precise the happy endings.  Holding on and hoping is part of the human existence but I'd find the process more palatable if I knew the outcome ahead of time.  Hasn't someone written the days of my life down in a book?  I need to read the ending.  Due to the uncertainty, my answer to "Good things come to those who wait," is "Do tears not yet spilled wait in small lakes?" Pablo Neruda.  Yet, despite my sarcasm and grim outlook, I've a secret: Down deep, like Doctor Who's Amelia Pond, I'm the Girl Whose Waiting.  
The Rory Curve

"You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful-and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later, they're as dull as a brick; but then there's other people.  And you meet them and you think, 'Not bad, they're okay,' and when you get to know them...their face just, sort of, becomes them, like their personality's written all over it, and they just--they turn into something beautiful.  Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met." Amy Pond, The Girl Who Waited, Series 6

"It can't be.  Rory isn't here.  I didn't know.  I didn't, I honestly didn't till right now.  I just want him." Amy Pond, Amy's Choice, Series 5

Steven Moffat's Series 5 of Doctor Who introduced British and American audiences to a phenomenon known as "The Rory Curve."  What is "The Rory Curve" you ask?  Well, let me explain.  During this series, the Time Lord's new companion, Amy, has a love interest (i.e., Rory).  Now the funny thing about Rory is that, at the beginning of the season, his presence was insignificant to the storyline and seemed unimportant to Amy as well. The audience paid little attention to forlorn Rory, assumed he was a Red Shirt, and waited with little sympathy for him to die.  But by mid-season, we, the audience, had begun to warm up to Nurse Rory.  We, not only, liked him, we, also, liked him with Amy.   And when Series 5 wrapped up with the Pandorica and the Big Bang, we met Rory the Fucking Robot Roman Centurion and he rocked our worlds.  Who doesn't love the Boy Who Waited!?  And that's the thing: Something special happened during the transition from Red Shirt Rory to the Rockin' Roman Robot. As the season progressed, Our Centurion increased in awesomeness while Our Doctor became less and less attractive. Ladies can you imagine a life of: "Didn't anyone ever tell you? There's one thing you never put in a trap if you're smart. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever put in a trap. Me."   Waking up to that little speech day in and day out?  That Time Lord is obnoxious, suffers from a Telephone Box Fetish, and in all likelihood is a selfish lover. (Not big on taking cues from others, is he?)   Not to mention, history tells us that our Dear Doctor has high a Companion Mortality Rate.  In other words, the Doctor's "friends" have a short shelf life. You still want to be a companion?  Consider this: No less than Nine Companions have succumbed to Dalek Attacks, Bomb Laden Explosions, and most often Self Sacrifice to Save the Dear Doctor.  You're a fucking human shield.  This Dude's a Death Trap.   Despite this fact, its true that Amelia Pond is the Girl Who Waited for the Time Lord not first.  That's the key, at first.  

When Doctor Who finally comes, takes Amy away, and leads her on fantastic adventures, Amelia has been waiting on him for a long time.  The Time Lord is a childish ideal she compares everything to including Rory.  She ignores the Doctor's faults and exaggerates his strengths.  Yet, to her surprise, Amelia finds she cannot leave Rory behind.  The childhood fantasy does not compare to the reality that is her Roman Centurion.  But, as in most dramas, just as Amy realizes she loves Rory, he's taken away from her.   And what happens when the Girl Who Waited finds her Rockin' Sexy Roman again? He shoots her.  Fitting I suppose.  It was unintentional and, thus, forgivable, yet, the end result was a dead Amelia Pond.  In order to make it right, Rory, like any gentleman, locks his lady in the Pandorica (to save her life not punish her) and then guards it for nearly two thousand years.  He at once becomes The Last Centurion and the Boy Who Waited.  In the end, the Girl Who Waited reunites with Rory the Roman.  Perhaps its Amy's choice, Rory over the Doctor, that bonds me (and most) to this particular series.  As children, like Amy, we learn to wait but we often we spend our time waiting on the wrong things or the wrong people.  We wait for the Time Lords and we ignore the Rorys. (Confession: I  waited on Great Stupid Grizzly Bears).  And that's the kicker: Being a Girl Who Waited often means  spending time romanticizing the Grizzlies, no matter how distasteful, until we grow up, gain a little experience, and realize the Boy Who Waited is the Last Fucking Centurion.  He kicks Grizzly Ass.  But back to my original question: What happens when we wait?  What happened when Amy was waiting in the Pandorica?  Waiting to be brought back to life?  That's the question isn't it? 

Preparing for the Pandorica

"I died and turned into a Roman.  Its very distracting." ~Rory, The Pandorica Opens, Series 5

Rory: "I don't understand.  Why am I here?
The Doctor: "Because you are.  The universe is big.  It's vast and complicated and ridiculous and sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles..and that's a theory.  Nine hundred years and I've never see one yet, but this will do me. ~The Pandorica Opens, Series 5

Well, in my opinion, if you want to find out what waiting looks like then allow me to turn your attention to the Siege of Leningrad.  Aw, did you think I was going to offer a more romantic example?  Sorry. But I believe preparing for the worst, only to be pleasantly surprised, is safer than hoping for the best and being devastated.  Now back to Leningrad.  In September of 1941, Hitler sent the German Army Group north to capture Saint Petersburg (i.e., Leningrad).  In no time, the Germans severed all of St. Peterburg's supply lines.  For a year and half, the people of Leningrad starved.  Finally, in Janaury of 1943, the Soviets opened a narrow land corridor to the city.  Yet, starvation and suffering continued until St. Petersburg was freed on January 27, 1944.  The Siege of Leningrad, lasting 872 days, was one of the longest and most destructive blockades in history.  In terms of lives lost, around 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians died within the city, while many of the 1,400,000 citizens, mostly women and children, who evacuated also succumbed due to the starvation and bombardment.  The suffering was particularly gruesome during the winter of 1941 to 1942.  From November until February, the only food available to the people of Leningrad was 125 grams of bread, of which 50-60% consisted of sawdust and other inedible mixtures.  As if this wasn't enough, the extreme temperatures (down to -22 degree Fahrenheit), made walking even short distances to acquire one's daily Sawdust Meal a death march.  As a result, in January and February of 1942 about 700-1,000 citizens died every single day, most from hunger.  In such dire conditions, it is no surprise that after the birds, dogs, and rats had all been consumed reports of cannibalism began appearing.  In the worst cases, Hungry Bands of Citizens wandered the city Zombie Style eating defenseless people.  Eventually, Neighbor Munching became such a problem that the Leningrad police formed a special unit to combat the attacks.  Historians estimate that the total death toll for the Siege ranges from somewhere between 650,000 and 1 million people.  Ironically, after the  city was freed most of the Leningrad's survivors were marched to Soviet Gulags for failing to report back to Moscow frequently enough, thus, acting like "mini-tsars" who believed themselves capable of running St. Petersburg themselves.  Papa Joe Stalin, apparently, did not believe starvation was a sufficient excuse for failing to phone home.

Alright, so what is the moral of this story you ask?: Be prepared for a hellish life in the Pandorica.  No one enjoys waiting.  In the best of circumstances, waiting makes us bored and anxious.  In the worst, we make meals of sawdust and the proceed to eat our neighbors.  Has anyone questioned Steven Moffat?  Maybe even Amy ate a few rats while waiting to rescued by her Rory.  We just don't know.  And remember, Doctor Who is a television series.  It is entirely possible that your release from the Pandorica will be followed by a trip to the Gulag.  Papa Joe, not the Boy Who Waited, might be standing right outside the moment you finally get a breathe of fresh air.  But then again, maybe he won't.  You never know.  Let's face it.  No matter my sarcasm and cautionary tales, I'm still the Girl Whose Waiting.  The Universe is vast and complicated and ridiculous.  Sometimes Impossible Things happen.  We call those events Miracles...and that's the theory.  In my 29 years, I've yet to see a miracle but I've packed my bags, I'm sitting outside, and I'm waiting all the same. 

* Buttercup's profession makes me think of a poem by Dorothy Parker.  See Below:

“Lady, lady, never start 

Conversation toward your heart; 

Keep your pretty words serene; 

Never murmur what you mean. 

Show yourself, by word and look, 

Swift and shallow as a brook. 
Be as cool and quick to go 
As a drop of April snow; 
Be as delicate and gay 
As a cherry flower in May. 
Lady, lady, never speak 
Of the tears that burn your cheek- 
She will never win him, whose 
Words had shown she feared to lose. 
Be you wise and never sad, 
You will get your lovely lad. 
Never serious be, nor true, 
And your wish will come to you- 
And if that makes you happy, kid, 
You'll be the first it ever did.”