By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | July 27, 2010 |
By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | July 27, 2010 |
“I could do with a ridiculous miracle about now.”
Picking up where we left off - that is, at perhaps the most harrowing cliffhanger in Doctor Who history - the Doctor was locked in a boxlike prison previously thought to be mythical, Amy was shot dead by an Auton that was imbued with the spirit and memories of her dead fiancé Rory, and a hijacked TARDIS with River Song inside exploded with a force that cracked the very fabric of the space-time continuum and extinguished all the stars in the universe.
Fixing this should be no problem for the Doctor, right?
1,894 years later after the Pandorica was sealed at Stonehenge, a young Amelia Pond prays to Santa for help with the crack in her wall, just as she did in “The Eleventh Hour.” This time no TARDIS appears in her front yard to help her.
Amelia speaks with her aunt Sharon and a therapist in her living room about the drawing that she made: a picture of the night sky full of stars. Concerned, they take Amelia outside and ask her what she sees. The only object in the sky above is the Moon; the rest is darkness. The therapist wants to be certain that Amelia realizes that the stars are not real.
Later that night, a pamphlet for the National Museum is dropped through the letter slot. A picture of the Pandorica is circled, and a note urges Amelia to “come along.”
Amelia drags her aunt to the museum and runs ahead to find the Pandorica, stopping to glance at what appears to be an exhibit featuring two petrified Daleks. As she stands in the middle of the crowd and gazes at the Pandorica, an unseen person snatches her drink from behind. When she turns back to look at the Pandorica, there is another handwritten note stuck to it telling her to “stick around.”
Aunt Sharon attempts to find Amelia, but Amelia hides in an exhibit to stay in the museum past its business hours. Presumably her aunt would be driven mad with worry by that point, but we are spared that drama. (Perhaps we will later discover there is good reason for the seeming lack of investigation, though.) After hours Amelia creeps back out and touches the Pandorica in curiosity. The box glows with a green light and erupts in bright white light as it opens, revealing Amy Pond trapped inside.
“O.k., kid. This is where it gets complicated,” she tells her younger self.
Back in 102 A.D., Auton Rory cradles dead Amy in his arms and waxes morosely about the current state of affairs. With matters at their bleakest, the Doctor, using a Vortex Manipulator, carrying a mop, and wearing a fez, suddenly materializes before him. The Doctor notices he’s carrying the mop, uses the Vortex Manipulator to disappear, and returns without the mop. He asks Rory to let him out of the Pandorica using his sonic screwdriver, which he leaves with Rory. He tells Rory to leave it in Amy’s pocket when he has completed the task.
Rory lets the Doctor out of the Pandorica. (For an eternal prison, that was a rather short stay.) The afterimages of the Doctor’s captors, including one of the petrified Daleks, are frozen outside. The explosion of the TARDIS deleted the histories of the Doctor’s enemies, and the only reason that the Doctor and Rory are still safe is that they are at the “eye of the storm.” Their safety is by no means indefinite, although on a cosmic time-space scale, this storm’s eye will sustain itself for a while yet.
Back above ground, the Doctor is not certain if Rory is still a pawn of the Nestene Consciousness. He tests Rory’s resolve to bring Amy back from the grave, and a right hook to the jaw lets the Doctor know that this plastic Rory is completely trustworthy. The Doctor seals Amy in the Pandorica, as it will keep her “mostly dead” form in stasis lock (shades of The Princess Bride here) and can bring her back to life with a living sample of her DNA that can be provided two thousands years hence. The Doctor uses a mind meld to leave Amy instructions once she awakes.
The Doctor suggests that he and Rory use the time-traveling shortcut to catch up with Amy in the future, but Rory insists on staying behind to guard the Pandorica for the ensuing millennia. The Pandorica would be impregnable, but it would not necessarily be indestructible. Thus, a guard is the safest option for Amy. The Doctor accepts this very human resolve and warns Rory that not only will he be driven mad with boredom but also that as an Auton he is not invincible.
After being released from the Pandorica, Amy is vague about her identity in speaking to her younger self. She examines the Pandorica exhibit, which tells via recording the legend of the centurion that had watched over her for two thousand years. Amy is visibly moved as she listens to the tale of the last supposed sighting of Rory as he dragged the Pandorica safely from the fires of the London Blitz in 1941.
Amy and Amelia are approached by one of the petrified Daleks, now revived by the light of the Pandorica although not fully functioning. The Doctor appears by means of the Vortex Manipulator after having left Rory at Stonehenge.
“Come along, Ponds,” he tells Amy and Amelia, as they flee through the halls of the museum.
The Dalek is stymied by the appearance of Rory, dressed as a museum guard. He shoots and stuns the Dalek using his Auton hand laser. Rory and Amy share a very lengthy and romantic kiss, and the four of them run from the recovering Dalek. The Doctor picks up a fez and a mop along the way and is about to bar the door with the mop when Rory notices the Doctor’s similarity to his appearance when he first arrived using the Vortex Manipulator 2000 years before. The Doctor takes the hint and goes back in time to deliver the sonic screwdriver to Rory. He travels back and forth to cover his paradoxical bases in delivering instructions for Rory and barring the door with the mop.
No longer carrying a sonic screwdriver, the Doctor pulls it from Amy’s pocket where he originally told Rory to leave it. Then he realizes that young Amelia must have had a reason to visit the museum and asks why she came. She shows the Doctor the notes, which are in his handwriting, so the Doctor grabs a museum brochure and labels it as he had “before.” He flashes away using the Vortex Manipulator to leave the brochure at her house and also snags her drink from earlier in the day to give her a beverage to sip on in the present.
The Doctor from twelve minutes in the future appears to the four of them using the Vortex Manipulator, but this Doctor only has enough time to apparently keel over dead after whispering something into his own ear. Amy and Rory want to save the Doctor, but the Doctor realizes they must maximize the time that they have left, as little Amelia has disappeared from existence. The eye of the storm is closing, and as anomalies Rory, the Doctor, and Amy exist for the moment but cannot be sustained much longer. Amy is certain that the Doctor will find a way to alter history and save himself. Rory respectfully places his coat over the future-Doctor’s body.
On the roof of the museum, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory gaze at what appears to be the morning sun. Given that the explosion of the TARDIS destroyed all the stars in the universe, though, the Doctor realizes that the light and heat of the TARDIS have been sustaining the Earth in an explosion that spans all of history. Rory uses his mechanization to detect a transmission from the center of the explosion: “I’m sorry, my love.” (Plastic Auton Rory is like the new K-9. Mickey would be pleased that a companion is much more the “tin dog” than he ever was.) The TARDIS has kept River Song in a time loop as a failsafe to keep her alive, and the Doctor uses the Vortex Manipulator to retrieve her.
River’s first question about the oddity and emergency of their situation concerns the presence of the fez on the Doctor’s head. The Doctor tells them that this is now part of his wardrobe and that - like bowties - “fezzes are cool.” Amy snags the fez and tosses it in the air; River blasts it to smithereens with her laser gun. The levity is short-lived, as the Dalek that was chasing them levitates to the roof level and attacks.
They flee back inside, and the Doctor ponders how it is that the Dalek could be rejuvenated, given that the Dalek history had never occurred. He realizes that the inside of the Pandorica was shielded from the blast of the TARDIS and preserved a blueprint for the universe that was. Thus, when opened its restoration field was able to endow the Dalek with life on a limited scale. The Doctor hypothesizes that with a sufficient spark that gives the Pandorica access to all of space and time, they can create “Big Bang 2” and restore the universe as it was.
With power temporarily restored again, the Dalek rounds the corner and shoots the Doctor. He falls to the ground and uses the Vortex Manipulator to go twelve minutes into the past. Amy tells River that he died there, and River asks Amy to take her to him. River first kills the Dalek, powered down again and vulnerable, with a blast to its eyestalk, while taunting it to beg for mercy.
Amy, Rory, and River discover that the Doctor lied about his demise and used them as a diversion while he worked to complete his plan for the Pandorica. They find him unconscious inside the Pandorica with the Vortex Manipulator wired into the machinery. River realizes that the Doctor’s plan is to fly the Pandorica into the heart of the exploding TARDIS, thus transmitting the restoration field to every point in space and time.
The Doctor regains consciousness and asks to speak to Amy. River tells Amy that the universe will be restored by this second Big Bang, but that they will have no memory of what has transpired. At the heart of the explosion, the Doctor will be trapped on the other side of the crack and will be erased from history.
The Doctor questions Amy as to how she lived in that big house by herself. The Doctor tells her that the crack had devoured her family and erased her memory of them. This was why he took her with him. She was not just the girl who waited; she was the girl whose very existence did not make sense. He tells her that in the new universe she need only remember to bring her family back, as her proximity to the crack for all that time makes her special.
“You’ll have your family back. You won’t need your imaginary friend anymore,” he tells her. “Ah, Amy Pond, crying over me, heh? Guess what?”
“What?” she asks.
“Gotcha,” he says.
The Pandorica blasts off and takes the Doctor into the explosion. His last transmission: “Geronimo.”
The effect of the explosion sends the Doctor rewinding through his recent past. He first wakes in the TARDIS a week earlier, seeing Amy and himself traveling to “Space Florida.” He calls to her; she can hear him but not see him. Next he sees her leaving the notice that tells him to investigate the flat during the events of “The Lodger.” Then he finds himself back at the events of “Flesh And Stone.” He waits for his past self to leave Amy, who is closing her eyes to protect herself from the Weeping Angel in her mind. He tells her that she must remember what he tells her when she is seven years old. Amy does not know what he means.
Finally, the Doctor arrives at the night that seven-year-old Amelia waited outside in vain for the TARDIS to return. He carries her to bed. As she sleeps, he tells her that she will remember him as a story. He confesses to borrowing the blue box that is the TARDIS. Ancient and new all at once, it will haunt her dreams. The Doctor tearfully opts to skip the remainder of the rewind and enters the crack so that the universe can properly restore itself. The sound of the crack’s closing briefly wakes Amelia. She looks around and goes back to sleep.
Stars flank the moon in the night sky, and a dissolve to the morning light reveals Amy Pond’s parents waking her up for her wedding day. Amy is slightly disoriented and thrilled to see her parents. Over the phone Amy asks Rory if there is something important that he feels that he should remember but does not.
At the wedding reception Amy sees River Song walking past the window. Amy cries in sadness and does not know why. Rory gives her something that a woman left for her: a blank blue book with a cover that looks like the exterior of the TARDIS. She sees a bowtie on one of the guests; she sees suspenders on another. A tear from her eye falls and hits the cover of the book. She remembers. She interrupts her father’s speech.
She addresses the guests, telling them that she remembers her imaginary friend the “raggedy Doctor.” She cries out that she can bring the Doctor back just as she brought the others back. He is late for her wedding. She remembers his story about the TARDIS, and the iconic spacecraft - something old, new, borrowed, and blue - materializes in the reception hall before her. Rory sees the TARDIS and remembers as well: “It’s the Doctor. How did we forget the Doctor?”
The Doctor emerges, completely astonished as to what Amy has done to bring him back into existence. She offers to let him kiss the bride, but the Doctor defers all kissing duties to the new “Mr. Pond.” The Doctor does join the festivities for some rather ridiculous dance moves. Then he watches Rory - the boy who waited 2000 years - share a slow dance with his bride.
Outside, the Doctor finds River Song waiting for him at the TARDIS. He returns River’s blue diary to her. It now has the writing that tells the story of the Doctor restored. He assures her that he did not read ahead. River plays coy with him once again about her marriage status and tells him that he will find out about her very soon. She apologizes, for “…that’s when everything changes.”
The Doctor is alone in the TARDIS when Amy and Rory arrive and urge him to take the night off, as he just saved all of space and time. The Doctor reminds them that they still do not know what brought the TARDIS to this date and destroyed it. The Doctor is interrupted by a phone call from the Orient Express in space. Apparently there is an Egyptian goddess on the loose that the Doctor previously helped to imprison. The Doctor tells Amy and Rory that this must be goodbye. They agree, open the TARDIS door, and say their farewells to the Earth. The Doctor smiles and tells the voice on the other end of the phone that the three of them will be right there.
This finale put a big smile on my face. Perhaps that is no surprise, considering that this is the first finale of the new series to give us a truly happy ending. In order from one to four: 1) The Doctor dies. 2) Rose is left behind and will never be able to see the Doctor again, although ultimately they did not hold to that resolution. 3) Martha leaves heartbroken. 4) Donna leaves with her memory erased, and seeing the Doctor again and recalling their adventures would kill her.
There is irony in that some thought Moffat’s take on Doctor Who would have a darker spin than that of Davies, whose episodes did play for the broader laughs at times. In the end it was Davies who gave us four tragedies and Moffat that gave us one victory. Of course, Moffat reserves the right to span some of the arcs from this season into darker territory at a later date. Still, if one of the prevailing themes of this season indeed was the Doctor’s fallibility, the Doctor managed to succeed in spite of that. The universe has been restored to its rightful state sans existence-erasing cracks, and two companions were brought back from the dead.
On the other hand, it was ultimately Amy that had the power, an influence that she exerted in different ways many times over the course of the season. Her entrance into the hidden room produced the true image of the Atraxi that enabled the Doctor to defeat them. She realized the Star Whale’s true motive in helping Britain. She discovered the emotional tie that would give Bracewell humanity. The list goes on.
In the final case of this episode, she literally recreates the Doctor out of thin air simply by force of will, imagination, and memory. Thinking about the Doctor of this second Big Bang’s universe as being generated in this manner does give him a much more mythic and storybook manner.
I am not sure that I fully bought into all the timey-wimey shenanigans of this episode, even if I did find them to be fun. I read and watched a fair amount of science-fiction growing up, and the first thing that the Doctor’s methodology in “The Big Bang” brought to mind was not hard science-fiction but the very silly time-traveling of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in which circumstances are spontaneously conjured merely by thought and the promise of traveling through time later to arrange those circumstances. This was not quite as tenuous in presentation as that, but I do think Stephen Hawking might have chuckled incredulously at a few moments.
The transmittal of memory across alternate universes also seemed sketchy, but Moffat brought the events of the season together so neatly that I would not presume to complain. Maintaining the season’s opening thread of the young Amelia Pond was extremely effective. The characterization is what carried the story, and I find myself looking forward to more of the Rory/Amy/Doctor dynamic, which began on somewhat shaky ground but provided great satisfaction in the end. I do not care if Rory was an Auton at the time; “the boy who waited” 2000 years is a very moving story.
As for River Song, the mysteries await. If she does become a regular and heavily romantic companion, though, I would like to see that developed with Matt Smith’s successor as opposed to him. Moffat has hinted at so much history that it does not seem right for her to not know at least three of the Doctor’s incarnations well. Given the variance of time travel, I suppose that Matt could represent the beginning and the end (save for the very end - Tennant’s adventure with her) of their timeline together and that a future incarnation of the Doctor could represent the middle of their relationship.
This concludes the season. I apologize for the extra length of this edition, but I did want to do the show full justice.
It has been an honor writing these recaps for you and sharing Doctor Who discussion, my fellow Pajibans. If you read all my recaps for this season, you have my eternal gratitude. I hope to see you again next year. Until then, love as if you have the two hearts of a Time Lord or Time Lady, build furniture and screw screws as if your screwdriver were sonic, duck into a police box as if it might take you to the ends of the universe, treat your friends with the generous and benevolent spirit of the Doctor, and - if you must exterminate - exterminate with the murderous enthusiasm of a Dalek.
C. Robert Dimitri spent many of the prime Saturday nights of his youth staying home to watch syndicated episodes of Doctor Who on PBS, and his social skills might be beyond repair as a result. He’s not the most hardcore Whovian, but he’s a respectable representative. The first episode he remembers watching was Tom Baker’s “The Creature From The Pit.” At one point he obsessively watched all the Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee episodes that were available to him, and sometime around the age of 14 he dragged his mother to a Doctor Who convention. All he truly has ever wanted for Christmas is Perpugilliam Brown, but he would be almost as content with K-9.
And he’s kidding. Please don’t exterminate.