I’ve always liked the idea that, while the Doctor’s life might never be routine, there must be ‘little’ adventures between the big, ever-more dramatic epics that are shared with us. Popping to the library (of Alexandria, perhaps), seeing a few wonders of the Universe, hanging out with Dizzee Rascal or running a few life-saving errands perhaps (just small ones). So one of the many pleasures of this series of (very) short vignettes from both the Doctor and Amy & Rory’s lives prior to Asylum of the Daleks is seeing what he gets up to, whether that’s surfing the fire floors of Floridor 9 or fixing the flashing light on top of the TARDIS.
Pond Life is a series of five mini episodes of around one minute in length, which were released online at 12pm daily in the run up to the broadcast of Asylum of the Daleks. The first was a nicely framed collection of the Doctor’s daring and comedic exploits (a little reminiscent of the pre-title sequence of The Impossible Astronaut as described to the Ponds’ voicemail. It gave an indication of how well produced these episodelets were to be, and how much careful craft went in to telling a self-contained story. They’re (brilliantly) written by Chris Chibnall, who with two full episodes coming up has taken on much of the 2012 scripting. The only weak point, perhaps, is that the music which has presumably been lifted from pre-existing scores doesn’t always quite fit the shorter and more dynamic style of story.
The second episode comprised a single full scene, and perhaps even better for it, set for the Doctor during the events of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship but dealing with him arriving several months too early. The third was also comedic in tone. Like ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ the title ‘Ood on the Loo’ has a Ronseal quality to it. The fourth episode was the weakest, a feeble sequel to Ood on the loo which attempted to bridge the gap in tone between the lighter early episodes and the tragic final instalment.
The final episode is breathtaking. Matt Smith shows just how good he can be, conveying so much doubt and anxiety in his voice. And just a 3-4 second glance of Karen Gillan’s expression as she roars at Rory is heart-stoppingly poignant. I loved, too, the way the Doctor’s house call goes unanswered. Just another glimpse of the routine ‘between adventures’ that would normally make a dull story, but here lend an extra dimension of authenticity to the extraordinary nonsense that is Doctor Who.