Friday, 29 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

The Pandorica Opens

“I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him.”

So. This is, actually, it. The end of the Marathon for me. It’s not the end of my reviews (or my blog), which will continue elsewhere (if you're reading this on my blog, that means here!) until they reach the present. But it feels great to have finally reach a goal which was set way back on 23rd November 2008 when all this began. I’ve got an awful lot to say about the Marathon, but I’ll leave that to another post in another thread. This review is going to be long enough.

Like its successor, this episode begins with a very long, very epic and very cool pre-titles teaser. We get cameos from Churchill, Liz Ten (she and River are contemporaries, and it’s 5145, which is not in the 51st century. Continuity error?) and Van Gogh, and another amusing escape from the Stormcage by River in what is fast becoming a standard trope of the series under Moffat. I love the Mos Eisley scene, where River acquires a Vortex Manipulator. The “hello sweetie” moment is a particularly good one, although of course Moffat will have to top it next time. And again. And again. Interestingly, by now the Doctor is by now looking rather pleased to be summoned by River. It’s all looking like a long game of romantic comedy, written by someone who’s supremely well-qualified.

The set-up takes us to Rome, 102 AD, where River’s determination to pose as Cleopatra is not dented by the fact that said monarch had died 131 years previously. We learn that Vincent has painted a… painting, of an exploding TARDIS, with some co-ordinates. It shares a title with this episode. What does this mean?

The Doctor declares the Pandorica to be a fairytale (fairytales again), said to be for imprisoning the most feared thing in the universe. Then we’re off on location to Stonehenge, before budgetary issues send us back to the studio and the “Underhenge”. And here’s the Pandorica. It certainly looks the part.

But the Pandorica’s opening. And many people known. They have for some time. And the skies are swarming with starships. Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans are mentioned. Then River reels off the names: “Terileptil. Slitheen. Chelonian. Nestene. Drahvin. Sycorax. Haemo-Goth, Zygon. Atraxi. Draconian.” This is such x-rated fanwank porn. Especially for we admirers of Gareth Roberts’ New Adventures novels.

I was relieved by the Doctor’s reaction to Amy finding the ring; however awkward it may be for him, he doesn’t lie to her and urges her to remember forgotten things. This, of course, hints rather heavily that something is about to happen Rory-wise. More hints follow- the Doctor refers back to Amy’s house, and how big and empty and strange it is, with “Too many empty rooms”. Amy’s life doesn’t make sense; the crack has evidently made her forget more things than just Rory.

There follows a rather excellent action sequence with a particularly scary Cyberman (we can’t have all exposition, no matter how brilliant it is), and Amy is saved by… Rory! And faints. I love the Doctor’s reaction to him- failing to spot the obvious and then poking him to make sure he’s real. Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill are bloody good actors.

While River vworps off in the TARDIS, the Doctor recaps the season arc to Rory (and the audience). River lands somewhere, and the camera pans to the screen. It’s 26/06/2010, and there’s a crack in the screen. Suddenly a voice says “Silence will fall!” I’m keeping note of exactly what that voice sounds like. No reason. And what’s this unexplained external force controlling the Ship?

River soon uncovers the truth; the entire Roman encampment, and even the Pandorica itself, are constructed from Amy’s memories. This entire situation is an elaborate trap. The Pandorica opens…

Meanwhile, in some rather brilliant scenes, Amy gradually remembers Rory. And he turns into an Auton and shoots her. Shoots her dead, apparently. Things are not going well. Particularly as the Doctor is going to be unable to stop the explosion of the TARDIS from erasing all of creation from history itself, on account of his being forever sealed in the Pandorica. Bummer. It seems a strange alliance, though. The last time the Daleks and Cybermen met, they didn’t actually get on. And Silurians? What are the Adherents of the Repeated Meme doing there?

The Big Bang

“It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”

Lots of witty lines this ep, but only one of them was ever going to be used for the quote…

It’s The Eleventh Hour all over again, shot for shot, as Amelia Pond prays to Santa. But things soon diverge; no TARDIS lands, and there are no stars in the sky, whatever that star cultist Richard Dawkins may think. But who’s that befezzed figure posting something through her letterbox?

All this timey-wimey stuff is such fun, and it’s great watching it start to unfurl. Amy’s words as she’s released from the Pandorica by her younger self are such a brilliant tease. After all, things have been simple so far, right?

So, Rory rescues the Doctor with some help from said befezzed future Doctor, and we’re off. Earth is the only thing left in the universe, the last light to go out. And Amy can only be saved by putting her in the Pandorica to slowly heal, to be revived by the touch of her future, younger self 1,894 years hence. And Auton Rory stands and guards the Pandorica for 1,839 of those years, disappearing only during the Blitz.

We get to see the timey-wimey stuff as the Doctor sets everything up. With a fez and a mop, naturally. And a drink snatched from Amelia’s younger self as she’s now thirsty. I love that bit. There follows a bit of bother with a stone Dalek, but luckily they’re saved by a security guard, who turns out to be Rory. Unsurprisingly, Amy snogs Rory. For a long, long time.

Unfortunately, a future version of the Doctor pops up from twelve minutes in the future, and immediately snuffs it. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, and the Doctor springs into action. All of history is already starting to collapse, so there’s no time to lose; the young Amelia, now superfluous to the plot, has already been erased.

There are no stars, so the Doctor reasons that the big fiery thing in the sky is in fact the exploding TARDIS, complete with River, in a time loop. Good job it’s coincidentally providing the earth with exactly the same amount of energy as the Sun did, eh? But following a bit of fervent fashion criticism from Amy and the now-rescued River, the Doctor is apparently shot and killed just as he’s explaining his plans for “Big Bang Two”.

But, as River says, “Rule One: the Doctor dies”. All that stuff with the Dalek (and River being really rather bad-ass) is all just a distraction so the Doctor can do stuff with the Pandorica.

The Doctor plans to pilot the Pandorica into the heart of the TARDIS, which will get all of the pre-end-of-universe stuff still inside the Pandorica to explode, which will apparently put the universe back the way it was. One snag; the Doctor will be the wrong side of the cracks as they disappear, and will be erased from existence. He explains this to Amy is one last conversation, and urges her to remember her absent patents. She has no memory of them, because “There’s a crack in time in the wall of your bedroom. And it’s been eating away at your life for a long time now.”

The Doctor’s plan works, the universe is saved, and he slowly rewinds back through his life on the way to oblivion. We see the trip to Space Florida last week (love the specs, Amy), and Amy posting a certain note on the window of Craig’s local newsagent. We then see a certain scene from Flesh and Stone from a new perspective. Then it’s Amelia again, sleeping as she waits for the Doctor to return. Matt Smith is magnificent as he delivers one last speech to the sleeping Amelia. He accepts his melancholy fate, but knows that if only Amelia can remember him, there’s a chance.

At last, the morning of the wedding has arrived. We meet Amy’s parents. We cut to the wedding breakfast, and we’re waiting for the father of the bride to make his speech. And here, wonderfully, a gift from River, and the Doctor’s words from years ago, give Amy all that she needs to bring him back. Suddenly even Rory remembers: “I was plastic. He was the stripper at my stag. Long story.” Amy’s friends and family finally get to meet Amy’s notorious imaginary friend. And all the children present get to learn the notorious “drunk giraffe” dance.

I love Rory’s matter-of-fact acceptance that, from now on, he’s “Mr. Pond”. That says so much about him! River’s words don’t say much about her, though. I love it when she’s enigmatic like that. She’s still got the vortex manipulator, I notice.

The Doctor can’t sneak away; the happy couple follow him into the TARDIS and say their goodbyes, but not in the way he expects. There are things to do and adventures to have. And who exploded the TARDIS, and how? To be continued…

Wow. That was a bit good. 5/5.

As for this season, it’s in joint seventeenth place with 3.8/5, a somewhat middling score. This is a surprise to me; it feels much better than that, only being let down by a couple of less good stories, neither of which were absolute clunkers. Certainly the series arc stuff was better than anything we’ve seen before. I can’t wait to continue my viewing…

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