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Saving Melody

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Let’s tell the story of season six and seven under the assumption that Amy and Rory Pond aren’t the sort who sit at home while someone else searches for their stolen child. Let’s tell it like River is an actual subplot and an actual person, not a flash-bang grenade.

So what happens, if Amy and Rory demand to follow the Doctor into chaos and war after their child? He drops them, just as before, at the house with the nice car, the door painted TARDIS blue.

But this time there’s screaming, not tearful farewells. “I will not get you killed, too!” “This is my child!” cries Amy, “You have no right!” And Rory: “I’ve died before. At least this time it’ll mean something.”

But he leaves them, leaves them anyway, leaves them no choice. This is the Doctor. This is what he does when he loves people, and he loves Amelia Pond.

We can still have the corn maze that shouts DOCTOR to the skies, his rapid landing to make sure they’re not in trouble. We still get young Mels and her reckless gun, charging through the cornfield with Rory and Amy, and commandeering the TARDIS. But this time it’s with Amy raging at her friend’s shoulder, desperate to be part of this fight. This is her child, her search, and she will find Melody Pond or she will burn the universe trying.

(Or even have the TARDIS drag him back to Earth without his consent here. She knows Melody Pond. The TARDIS is going to teach her how to fly one day. I’d love to see the TARDIS thinking of her as family).

“We are finding my baby. Either you’re with us, or we’ll see how well a centurion can fly a TARDIS.”

The Doctor surrenders. He lapses proud and terrified for his Ponds, suspicious of their friend who refuses to back off. He makes her leave the gun, but he can’t manage to get Mels to leave her friends to fight this one alone.

Having a desperate, driving main plot, this furious breathless search, wouldn’t stop us from having DW’s classic one-shot episodes. They land accidentally in that house with the faith monster, spend the same episode trying to escape—just more lives are on the line than just theirs this time. They have someone they need to go save. (I love that one, by the way: Amy’s faith in the Doctor as the literal thing that’s killing her).

Or they’re following up a lead at that fancy spa planet, tracking down some rich benefactor of the Eyepatch Lady. But Amy gets separated, gets stuck in the wrong time stream, and we get The Girl Who Waited.

Or they land on some planet, get the info they need to keep tracking Eyepatch Lady, but something seems wrong. The Doctor wants to investigate, against Amy’s impatient protests. “My baby is alone and scared. We are not going to let her go so you can satisfy your curiosity!”

“Amy, I want to save your child. You know that. But there are children here, too. Remember? You told me once that I was old, and sad, and I’d never let a child cry alone. We will find your Melody. But help me save these children first.”

Except, during all these stories, we have Mels, too, now, this brash, beautiful girl. She’s maybe a bit too violent, maybe has a bit of a bright-eyed death wish. She’s spittingly combative with the Doctor, deeply loyal to Amy, regards Rory with a vast and amused affection.

When the Doctor takes Amy aside, asks her softly to help save these children, too, Mels is staring, staring, glaring. Because she needs to hate this man whose blood she is destined to have on her hands. He’s making it difficult.

Amy is the Doctor’s rebirth. She is his guilt. She is a reminder to him that, even as he restarts, as he tries again, everything he touches turns up broken.

It’s why he was so desperate to fix this alone. He has broken Amy Pond over and over again, as he sees it, and now because of him Amy’s lost her child. He wants to fix it, and he doesn’t want her hurt or scarred or dirtied by what he has to do to manage it.

This is a place where the Doctor and Mels agree, one of the first times they agree about anything, the old pacifist with blood on his hands, the young woman who spent one childhood being twisted to be a murderer, spent a second childhood learning to love under Amy and Rory’s tutelage—love that is hard, that burns, despairs; love that waits two thousand years.

But on this, they agree: that Amy is precious. She is good and strong. They will get their hands dirty so that she will not have to.

Because who is Mels? This child born in captivity, raised and twisted until she (at, what, eight?) managed a bloodied escape that killed her.

But Mels is a woman who believes in rebirth. She regenerates in that NY alley and runs away until she stumbles upon Amy Pond and Rory.

She makes a life there, grows up, but Mels has got to have panic on the other side of every laugh, this girl with promised blood on her hands, with memories of her own leaking out of a bullet wound and over her young fingertips. Mels was built for war, in war, but then grew up again amidst a witty but honest love built on lies. Mels screws up over and over again, saved from principals and bullies and probably arrest records by the brave young woman who couldn’t save her from the Silence.

This head? This is a head I want to watch seasons about. I want the slow reveal of Mels, best friend, screwed up but so loyal, trying desperately to find things to hate about the Doctor, to find things worth killing him for.

Amy, she decides. He hurt Amy, he’s scarred Amy, and that is a crime worth punishment. (Mels might not know this, but: The Doctor agrees with her).

But, Mels thinks, feeing the gun in her backpack that the Doctor thinks she’s gotten rid of—maybe, Mel thinks, maybe we can save me first.

Maybe we can find me. Maybe Amy can save her baby and I will disappear, because he’s not the only one who’s hurt Amy Pond.

I could give her her daughter’s childhood back. Her Melody will be so much better than me, than Mels ever was. She won’t screw up the way I have.

If the Doctor deserves to die for his sins against Amy Pond (and he must, oh he must), then so do I.

Make the search the story. Make the baby matter because it is Amy’s, not because it will grow up to be River.

Make Mels matter.

Tell me this story of the furious, searching mother. Bring back the Last Centurion, older than the Doctor, patient and dedicated and loyal. Let us meet the girl who grows into the Archaeologist, into the woman who kills the Doctor and then saves him, over and over again. Let us see the Pond in her and watch her grow.

Give me this story. I want Amy, furious. I want the Amy who calmly puts the eyepatch back on Madame Kovarian and smiles. Mels and the Doctor think she’s clean, but they don’t understand. Amy Pond only cares about a bare handful of people, and someone stole one of them.

They think she’s clean. She’s just never had a chance to dirty her hands. They’ve just never seen her angry.

Any world where Amy Pond doesn’t burn the universe down trying to find her kid isn’t a world I want to read about. I want Rory, her loyal right hand man; the Doctor, protective and panicked; and enigmatic childhood friend Mels boldly along for the ride.

I want to watch this chaotic little family run. They go chasing down Madam Kovarian, get pitted up against the Silence, dragged on side-adventures where Amy screams with frustration at the delay. I want to watch them build something here, between the four of them.

Amy and Rory lean on each other more than ever, Amy’s fire lifts up Rory’s spirits as he stands in to be her strength, support, and patience. Mels, to whom Amy is mother, guardian, and best friend, is watching Amy fall from a pedestal, to a lower, better place. Amy is becoming her sister in arms, her compatriot, grinning at each other over the aftermaths of an episode’s chaos. Rory is bringing out shades of the Last Centurion.

Mels watches her friends fall apart over their stolen child, a secret burning under her tongue. She loves them, but they lost her. Mels loves them, and she’s watching them fight for her day in and day out, or fight for Melody Pond at least. She watches Amy lean on her, in her lowest moments. “You’ll find her,” Mels whispers, and knows Amy never did.

Mels is also watching the Doctor. She’s determined to hate him, this man she’s been taught to kill. But he watches Amy with such grieving compassion. He fights as hard for little Melody as her parents do, and Mels, who feels so far from Melody now, still feels a bit like he’s fighting for her.

Mels screams at the Doctor, when he gets too arrogant, when he pulls some clever twist without telling them first, when he makes Amy cry. He screams at her, about the gun she keeps sneaking back into the TARDIS, over her recklessness, over the way she throws herself in front of blows meant for Amy or Rory like she doesn’t matter. In nine hundred years I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.

They both go cold and quiet when they come up against people who get in the way of getting to Amy’s baby. The Doctor is oncoming, the quiet before the storm. Mels is a destined killer, and she thinks she might start with them.

They both name so many ugly flaws in their own selves, but are so good at loving the rest of the imperfect universe hard enough to break.

The Doctor is learning to respect them all. Little Rory the nurse is brave and steady. He’s older than the Doctor, and in some ways he’s always been wiser.

The Doctor thought Mels brash and flirty, bold and needlessly violent, when he first met her with a gun in his face in a cornfield. He hasn’t changed his mind—but there’s so much more to her. Mels is loyal to Amy, her crude jokes a sort of rough kindness. She’s bright and clever, delighted by the universe even amidst this mess. He catches Mels kneeling, after some terrifying adventure, beside a child and teasing the kid into tearful laughter.

And the Doctor’s learning about Amy, watching her ferocity and mourning a sweet innocence she might never have had. She has been little Amelia Pond for so long in his head. She is grown now, a wife, a mother, a warrior.

Amy’s greatest strengths, even when waiting in a garden as a child, were never patience, but passion, faith, in the Doctor but also her own self. Amy knows how to believe, how to believe a whole universe back into existence. And she believes that she will find her child.

So at some point, they do. We find Amy’s child.

Melody’s two and beautiful, or seven and sharp— maybe we stumble across her again and again, get glimpses of this life we’re trying to save her from.

And we think we’ve saved her, little Melody Pond, stolen her away to the TARDIS. And we care, because we spent a season searching, watching Amy rage and weep, Rory try to turn to plastic again to keep himself together.

We bring Melody home, and Mels starts to flicker. Mels starts to fade.

“What’s wrong? Mels! Doctor, do something!”

The Doctor is staring, now, because things are starting to make more sense.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” says Mels. Crying a bit, because getting torn out of a timeline, a life, ought to hurt some. “You saved me.” They stare. She laughs, rough. “Mels, my name— you know it’s short for Melody, right?”

“Yes, stupid, I named her after you.“

“Named your daughter after your daughter, Amelia? What a tangled web we weave.”

“You can’t be.”

“I escaped, when I was ten. Got all the way to Utah, I think—late 1900s—someone shot me—I got to New York…”

“I shot you,” says Amy, and she’s sobbing, holding her child to her chest, staring at a grown woman across the room, a woman she loves, and grew up with, and raised, and failed to save.

“I got to New York and I died there.” Mels looks at the Doctor. “The TARDIS gave me some gifts and Madam Kovarian gave me more.”

“You regenerated,” says Rory.

“And I found you.” She starts fading faster. “But now you’ve found me.”

“No, Mels, I can’t lost you again!”

“You’re not. You found me.” Mels smiles, tears running down her cheeks. “You saved me, Amy. I don’t have to escape. I don’t have to die. You can protect me now, from all the things that I— I don’t want this life, okay? I don’t want to be Mels. Keep me safe, Amy. Give me a childhood. Let her be Melody. Let her be good.”

Mels is almost gone.

“No, Mels, Mels!”

The Doctor moves over, takes her hand. “We will take care of her. But you were good, Mels. You were good.”

Mels vanishes.

They take baby Melody home. Rory and Amy are tearful and broken, exquisitely joyful. But then the worst happens—the baby is torn away, Kovarian’s soldiers bursting through the door of the little house the Doctor gave them. Nowhere is safe.

They lose her again. The TARDIS cries out as potential to change Melody’s timeline vanishes.

As they pick up the aftermath, Mels knocks on the broken remains of their door. TARDIS-blue splinters are scattered at her feet.

They are weeping, mourning, but they embrace a long-lost daughter and an old friend all at once. Mels apologizes until she has no breath for not being Melody Pond.

Amy disagrees, vehement as only Amy can be. “You’re beautiful. You’re my daughter. I love exactly who you are, Melody. Brave and strong, and so very good. I’m so sorry we couldn’t save you, and I am so very proud of you.”

Mels decides to go to school, treat her life like a life and not a death sentence for herself or someone else. “I could give you a good letter of recommendation,” says the Doctor. “What do you want to study?”

“Archaeology.”

That speech River gives to the Doctor on the pyramid, on the day time stood still, in the Wedding of River Song—I love those words. I think that speech says so much about him, about the Doctor’s sense of self-worth, his ability to ask for help, the way his hero’s complex is tied up with a martyr’s, the way this madman with a box inspires faith and loyalty in others.

But the young woman saying those things? She doesn’t know him, not yet. River’s studied him, sure. Once upon a time, she killed him and then saved him with her own lives, and gave no reason for it.

That speech says a lot of beautiful things about the Doctor, but it doesn’t say anything about River. That moment, for all that Melody is the one holding the universe in the palm of her hand, throwing her stubbornness up against the fate of the world, that moment is about the Doctor.

So Mels goes away to the university, and we can go play with the Silence, with an older River, with watching the Doctor die on the lake. Mels can come back for Special Episodes, little field trips, like any guest star.

On one of those field trips, we’re going to lose her. A bullet, a sword, an alien who stops hearts—we’re going to put a spear through the heart of Amy and Rory’s only daughter and the light will go out of Mels’s eyes.

(Cue the rapid and vicious destruction of the killer with Amy’s bare hands).

And then, a burst of golden light.

Regeneration energy spills from Mels’s hands and Alex Kingston takes her place in a glory of curls and spoilers.

Or, wait—why don’t we just continue on with the Let’s Kill Hitler plotline where that regeneration happens anyway? Mels kills the Doctor and then River saves him. Tweaked a bit for our interests, of course, for our desires to have a Mel here who we know, who we care for, but:

Someone poisons the Doctor. Maybe it’s even Mels, since that was always their plan—maybe someone’s got a gun to Rory’s head, a knife to Amy’s throat, and they put a poisoned blade in Mels’s hands. “Kill him, or would you like to be an orphan?” They’ve dosed the Doctor with something that prevents regenerations. They want him gone forever, not just this face. They hold Amy and Rory at metaphorical or actual gunpoint until Mels stabs the Doctor with a poisoned blade. The villains laugh. Mels cries, “I’ve done it, alright! Now go! Let us bury him in peace.”

Amy rages and Rory stares, the villains vanish in triumph. Mels buries the blade into her own heart. She floods the Doctor with the regeneration energy burning from her own hands. When the light fades, we have Eleven, still, and where Mels stood River Song rises.

“This is going to be awkward to explain to the school.”

I want to care about this sacrifice.

I want River’s bravery to make sense. I want the Ponds to be treated and to treat each other like a family. I want Mels to have more than half an episode.

I want that speech in The Wedding of River Song to matter. She is so young there. She doesn’t know the Doctor. For all she has River’s face, she is Mels still, brash and scrubbing off old stains of brainwashing. In the show’s timeline, she’d met him barely twice before she stopped time to save his life.

I want more.

If that scene had come after a season of adventures, of this broken woman finding her worth, breaking through the manipulations of her childhood—I want to know that woman.

I want the Doctor to have earned this declaration of love from her dark and damaged heart. I want this to be her triumph. People have tried to twist Melody Pond into so many things, murderers and lost little girls. I want this to be her refusal.

Melody Pond is a superhero.

I would have liked to meet her.