by Amy Yen
Spoiler Alert: This review includes spoilers for the US/Canada airing of “The Pandorica Opens” & “The Big Bang,” the 2-part finale of Doctor Who series 5. These episodes will (presumably) air on BBC America on July 10 & July 17.
“Big and little, at the same time. Brand new and ancient. And the Bluest. Blue. Ever.” This Doctor likes to talk, doesn’t he? He likes to works things out, out loud, to himself, to his companions, to us. He likes to muse, he likes to wax nostalgic & he likes to tells bedtime stories to little girls with red hair. He likes the fairy tale — the girl who waited for the raggedy doctor, the boy who waited for the girl, the daft old man who stole a magic box.
It’s poetic that the Doctor chooses to skip the rest of the tour down memory lane (“I hate repeats,” he says) & limits his attempts to save his memory to Amy & Amy alone. It’s like he wants to pretend his past started that night, with that body, when he met little Amelia Pond. It’s a little meta, with Matt Smith finishing off his first series, firmly solidified as The Doctor, with as brilliant a performance as we’ve come to expect of him, & best of all, Steven Moffat topping off what has at times been an unevenly written series with the type of finale that, in the RTD era, we would have expected to get blown out of proportion. But Moffat shows terrific restraint & produces a finale that is large enough in scale to be a real threat (the universe is literally collapsing) but at the same time still feels tight & focused on the characters that matter to us. The Doctor & his companions & really, no one else. There’s no huge fleets of enemies — just a lone Dalek, awesomely dealt with by River Song — & a mess that the Doctor must figure out how to clean up.
Better still, with the exploding TARDIS mystery & the cracks in space & time, Moffat’s major arc this season feels wonderfully personal to both the Doctor & Amy. It’s very neat that the mystery is not over, that there will be some carry-through to series 6. The actual resolution of the problem, the Doctor creating Big Bang 2 to bring back the universe, but being trapped behind the crack & erased by history in the process, and needing Amy to remember him to bring him back, seemed to come about too easily, but I found that I didn’t really care. I didn’t even mind how easily & quickly the Doctor escaped the cliffhanger from the end of “The Pandorica Opens,” when he is trapped by all his enemies in the inescapable box. To be honest, I watch Doctor Who for the Doctor, to see him have adventures & save the world. Nobody wants to see him taken out of the game for too long. I actually thought the time travel aspects of the episode were all really fun & clever. I particularly liked seeing the logistics play out of him going to see Rory to tell him how to get past-him out of the Pandorica (with the cue from Rory involving the ridiculous fez & mop & the Doctor realizing he’s missing his sonic screwdriver now because he gave it to Rory 2000 years ago & thus going back to give the instruction to put it in Amy’s pocket so it’d be there in the future).
I was also hugely relieved that the story resolved with Rory alive & human & back on the TARDIS again, although it conflicts with reports that he wouldn’t be returning with Amy in the next series. Right now I’m choosing to believe the reports were wrong, because Rory is awesome. I loved the idea of the Roman centurion guarding the Pandorica for 2000 years to protect Amy. “Why do you have to be so…human?” the Doctor wonders, because, at that moment, he’s not, & the Doctor loves him for it. Rory is a hero; he is Mickey Smith, much sooner than Mickey Smith became Mickey Smith. In the end, maybe he realizes, he can have the girl and the adventure too. Because in the end, Rory also loves the Doctor.
There’s also River Song in this story, although she turns out to be much less pivotal than originally thought. The most interesting part of her remains what she will be. “You always dance at weddings, don’t you,” she teases. The Doctor remains largely baffled by her, but he’s getting better at hiding it. He hands her back her vortex manipulator with the casualness you’d never see him show with Captain Jack. He trusts her. But even she, in a roundabout way, is warning him that he maybe shouldn’t yet.
Anyway, going back to Amy, because that’s what this entire series was really about. The Doctor asks her if it was worth it. “Shut up, of course it was,” she tells him. He tells her he lied. He didn’t take her along with him because he was lonely (although that can’t be a complete lie). He chose her because her life was all wrong. Her house was too big, there are holes in her story. “Amy Pond. All alone. The girl who didn’t make sense. How could I resist?”
Amy’s story is one of the most interesting companion stories we’ve seen because the Doctor has been entwined in her entire life. He’s been actually responsible for very real emotional issues with her character. “Twelve years & four therapists,” she tells him when he first finds her again. It’s a much more grown-up, serious backstory than we’re used to for a companion. But Amy is tenacious. She doesn’t forget & when she figures it out, she interrupts her own wedding. “I remember you and you are late for my wedding!” she shouts at the Doctor who she’s always waiting for. She is messed up & complex & brilliant. How could the Doctor resist?
Additional notes on “The Pandorica Opens” & “The Big Bang”:
- I have found Murray Gold’s score inconsistent & at times distracting throughout the series, which is odd because I used to find him very solid in the Tennant years (“Martha’s Theme” remains one of my favorite scored pieces from a TV series). But I thought the music was used very well in “Big Bang” & especially loved the Eleventh Doctor’s Theme at the very end when Amy & Rory rejoined him on the TARDIS & they left for their next adventure.
- “I found you. I found you with words, just like you knew I would.” Did he, I wonder? It seemed very much like, in Amelia’s bedroom, that the Doctor was resigned to the fact that he couldn’t make Amy remember. But then, she’s right, why tell her the story? And he did show up in his tux.
- Looking back on it, I wish there were one or two more plants where the Doctor tried to talk to Amy during his rewind. We don’t see her on the TARDIS (amusingly on the way to Space Florida) or dropping off the card during “The Lodger,” so it’s just the scene during “Flesh & Stone” that was our clue.
- “Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue.” I especially loved all the references to the blue blue of the TARDIS. When they re-painted the TARDIS back in “The Eleventh Hour,” I found it to be almost too blue, like it looked like a toy. But it all went with the fairy tale atmosphere of the entire season. “The Bluest. Blue. Ever.” Sometimes I feel like Moffat likes to write exactly the way I like to think.
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