Last night's screening of the Doctor Who 2011 Christmas Special, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, brought with it the news that two of the show's lead characters, Amy and Rory, are to leave in the next series.
Not only that but lead writer and OSG (Official Scottish Grump™), Steven Moffat, announced that there would be a "heartbreaking end" for the couple, played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.
Twitter responded in kind to the news with your usual 50/50 fan split of Boo-Hoo! and Woo-Hoo! What was more surprising was the fact that the words "Amy and Rory" were trending - not just in the UK, but worldwide.
This, from an announcement at a Q&A of a press screening, not a public one. Whose reach is quite remarkable. Oddly, however, some questioned just why Moffat would bother with a goodbye for The Ponds. I mean, haven't we seen them say goodbye before? You'd be forgiven to think they've left already.
And not just once either.
Rory has said "goodbye" too many times to recount. Though, technically he didn't actually say goodbye, he just "died" (how rude!). 2010 saw Mr Pond cop it twice and then come back a plastic Centurion. This year also saw the former Mr Williams bite the big one on numerous occasions (shot/drowned/died of old age).
Even Amy has had a case of the "Oops, looks like I'm dead!" both this year and last (shot/turned into milky goo/turned into a huge creepy doll/blinked out of existence). Indeed, Mrs Pond, like her hubby, was a facsimile for half of 2011 so it's difficult to know just whom we're saying goodbye to.
In actual factual farewells, the couple really did leave the TARDIS towards the end of the most recent series (which, for the first time, saw "Amy and Rory" trending worldwide). The God Complex, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, saw The Doctor realise he was endangering his BFFs (took a while for the penny to drop) and plopped them off at a rather swanky new pad complete with a nifty car for Rory.
The scene felt like a proper goodbye, with meaning and a profound emotional resonance. Done. Rub of the hands, wipe of the eye and off - into Time and Space!
But, this was not to be.
Moffat couldn't even let one episode go by without bringing The Ponds back, featuring in a cameo in the following story. They would be back again in the finale and as two people who had never met (forgetting all about their adventures together) and then fall in love all over again.
Only to then have Matt Smith's Time Lord to zap out of their lives, leaving River Song (Alex Kingston) to deliver the farewell. Well, more like a "see you later". The return of Team TARDIS was inevitable and one ponders that the "mystery guests" Moffat refers to in the Christmas Special are, in fact, Amy and Rory.
Of course, Series Six has been all about the "goodbye". 2011 kicked with The Doctor saying goodbye to The Pond Clan in The Impossible Astronaut and then at half time, A Good Man Goes To War, he left them (after the revelation of who River was/is). The second half saw more adieus, as detailed above, and "deaths": River in Let's Kill Hitler; Amy in Night Terrors and The Girl Who Waited (another story which also included a teary farewell); and The Doctor himself in The Wedding of River Song.
Doctor Who is all about goodbyes these days, and emotionally charged ones at that. A cursory glance at this year's collection of episodes reveal that almost every story had a lengthy scenes devoted to farewells. But the big question remains around their departure is Moffat's use of the word "heartbreaking".
Just how exactly?
We've witnessed some pretty horrific au revoirs between the three. They've seen each other die! (Sometimes killing each other.) Isn't that about as heartbreaking as it gets? Or does SteeMo™ have some new form of hell awaiting us (and them) in the fall of 2012? Some new form of punishment, reserved especially for those once loved.
In the old days (note, I didn't say "good"), two years was a long run for a companion, so The Ponds venturing into a third year with The Doctor is a notable achievement. Especially as their defining characteristics consist solely of wearing short skirts and dying (Amy's the first one, in case you're wondering).
When their final "heartbreaking" moments come, will we die a little? Will we be able to muster up enough interest in them again to feel sad to see them go? Amy and especially Rory have gone from minor to major characters, I just hope by the time their final moments come, they won't have outstayed their welcome.