Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doctor Who: The Big Bang season finale review

For the avoidance of doubt - this contains mega spoilers, so go no further if you don't want to know.....

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue"

A simple saying, a wedding tradition, planted deep in the memory of a child, is the key to the saving of the Universe. I guess it saves on the special effects budget!

Seriously, though, I did wonder in my review of The Pandorica Opens how on earth Steven Moffatt was going to sort out the universe being destroyed thing that he'd created without disappointing us. Well he did. And he did it brilliantly. Enough to satisfy Russell T Davies' critics and fans alike. It hinged on clever time travel with Steven Moffatt saying later in Confidential that he wanted the audience to think they were working out what was going on. There were a whole load of seemingly paradoxical shifts in time that kind of made sense. My head hut even more than it did last week at the end of it.

Like The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang opened with a story centred on a painting with big yellow stars, painted by a redhead. Except it wasn't the deeply disturbed Vincent Van Gogh who'd drawn it this time, but a wee girl, Amelia Pond, in 1996 who was clearly having some sort of therapy for believing in stars when all you could see in the sky was darkness and clouds. The dialogue throughout this series has been beautifully crafted and in some cases, like when the Vampish Vampire suggested a coalition with the Doctor just after our Coalition Government was formed, incredibly topical. In this case you had a young Amelia sitting on the stairs listening to her Aunt Sharon talking to someone on the phone, saying that she didn't want her niece joining a Star Cult because she "just didn't trust Richard Dawkins." It's funny to paint Dawkins both on the side of right (because there should have been stars) and on the hippy fringe he so despises.

As Amelia is sitting on the stairs a shape that looks strangely like the Doctor delivers a leaflet about an exhibition of the Pandorica at the National Museum. Written in red pen is "Come along, Pond." How did he know she would pick it up and not Aunt Sharon?

Anyway, it worked because Amelia and her Aunt were soon at the Museum with Amelia sprinting past Daleks (who looked remarkably old school in their stone form, and not the horrible rainbow ones we saw earlier in the season), Nile penguins and other odd exhibits, to the Pandorica. You also see her slurping on a drink that an unseen force grabs from her. On that was a post it saying "Stick Around, Pond". Why did Aunt Sharon, who wasn't far behind, not see that? Even after Amelia went to hide, we heard Aunt Sharon looking for her. Did the reality collapsing thing conveniently catch up with her at the same time so she disappeared?

Once everyone has disappeared, Amelia bravely went up to the Pandorica and touched it, causing it to open. The last time we'd seen it was when it shut with the Doctor inside it so you expected him to be revealed. No, it was Amy who took one look at her young self and says "Ok, kid, this is where it gets complicated."

All this and we've only just got to the titles. This could take a while.

We then find ourselves back in Roman times with a distraught plastic Rory talking to a dead Amy, begging the universe that's being destroyed for a "ridiculous miracle". The pathos of that moment is interrupted with the sudden appearance of a fez wearing Doctor brandishing a mop, giving Rory the sonic and telling him in 3 different appearances to get him out of the Pandorica and to put the sonic in Amy's top pocket when he's finished.

Rory releases the Doctor in that time, tells him what he's done to Amy and the Doctor tests him by saying that there's more going on than on dead girlfriend. Centurion Rory then thumps the Doctor, who then believes that he's properly on his and Amy's side. The Doctor and Rory then put Amy in the Pandorica which, the Doctor says, will restore her and a scan of her DNA in a couple of thousand years will sort that out as we've already seen. He then gets out River's vortex manipulator and says that the two of them can take a short cut to the future. Rory declines, deciding to atone for killing Amy by standing guard over her for 2000 years to keep her safe. The Doctor tells him to stay away from heat (cos he's plastic) and keep out of trouble.

We then cut to the Museum in 1996 where the now released Amy sees how well he stayed away from heat - watching a video of the legendary centurion who apparently guarded the Pandorica. We get the impression that he may have ended up as a river of runny goo after rescuing it during the Blitz. Just as the Doctor arrives from Roman times, a dalek comes to life and starts shooting at them. It's Rory who emerges, dressed in museum security guard garb and saves the day by shooting it with his special edition plastic auton handgun.

It's only when we go back to the National Museum in 1996 that we discover that it's the Pandorica light that has restored the Dalek. As they take temporary refuge from the Dalek the Doctor grabs a fez and a mop and you realise this is how he has already appeared to Rory to get them there - and this is then played out again from his perspective. Very clever. It's a bit like time travelling, cosmic join the dots.

The Doctor asks Amelia how she knew to come there and she shows him the leaflet - which he then goes back in time to deliver and, presumably, put the post-it on the Pandorica.

Amelia then complains about being thirsty so the Doctor nips back in time to grab her drink which we're supposed to think is why she's thirsty. Well, take it from one who knows, kids are always thirsty, particularly when several hours have elapsed since they last had a drink. In fact, the Doctor's chivalrous fetching of the drink was likely in vain because it sounded when he grabbed the drink that she was draining the cup anyway so when he gives it to her from the past, the cup should by rights be empty. We don't get to find out because she disappears as the universe collapses incrementally (an interesting concept) - a convenient plot device to get rid of the problem of having two alive Amelia Ponds from different times around.

The almost slapstick time travelling session is brought to an abrupt end by a figure falling down the stairs - it's the Doctor, apparently dead. But not dead, really, because when he dies we know what happens, don't we? We have some fancy pyrotechnics and he wakes up with a new face and goes slightly odd for a bit.

The Doctor realises he has a short time to get a definitive plan together - or at least, as we later find out, allow his future self to put his plan into action. The three head up to the roof and look at what they think is the sun but is in fact the TARDIS burning. There's quite a funny scene where he grabs one of the satellite dishes on top of the building and connects it to the sonic and we hear the familiar TARDIS sound. Rory also hears River Song's voice, leading the Doctor to realise she's been kept alive in a time loop. He breaks into that. Not quite sure why because if it's the time loop that's protecting River from the explosion, why aren't they both incinerated when he arrives, saying "Honey, I'm home."? It made very good television, though.

River spies Rory and is told that he's fine now - she shared the story of how she'd dated a nestene duplicate with a swappable head which "kept things fresh". Yes, it would, I guess. The Doctor is looking ridiculous in the fez, so there's an unspoken and rapid agreement between Amy and River to get rid of it - Amy grabs it and River shoots it to smithereens, seconds before a levitating dalek appears, cleary with malevolent intent. Even in this weird fragment of the universe, daleks don't come with anything less than malevolent intent.....

The Doctor then starts to realise that the explosion of the TARDIS is happening at every point in space and time and the Pandorica has the potential to restore the entire universe. The logical conclusion of that is unspoken as the Dalek, on cue, exterminates the Doctor. River, Rory and Amy rush back to the place where the Doctor fell to see that he's gone.

River realises that he's going to fly the Pandorica into the TARDIS explosion to "reboot" the Universe but that risks him being forgotten forever. He talks to Amy about how special she is. She's absorbed all that time energy from the universe via the crack in her bedroom wall and it's intimated that it's claimed those around her. She should if she remembers be able to restore everyone.

The Doctor sets off on his risky, sacrificial journey and the next thing we see is him waking up on the floor of the TARDIS and thinking he's survived. He realises his reprieve is only temporary as he sees a scene where Amy's wearing a garish outfit and supersize sunglasses - their trip to Space Florida a week ago.

He tries to attract her attention as she's walking down the street to post the ad in the shop in The Lodger and realises that she can't see him, but she can hear him.

This is where it gets really clever and Charlotte gets a very big gold star for sussing this out. Where did Amy have her eyes shut? In the forest with the weeping angels when if she opened her eyes she could die. The scene we saw months ago, where the Doctor told her to remember what he'd said to her when she was 7. Except this is our Doctor from now, not the jacketless Doctor who was with her then. We sussed there was something weird about his comments then, and we didn't quite know what he was getting at when he told her to remember what he'd said when she was 7. I think at the time I thought it was some secret thing to encourage her on her journey through the forest of weeping angels - but by the end of the season I'd forgotten about it. I guess there was an election as distraction but pretty poor on my part to have missed it.

We then see the Doctor talking to a sleeping, or at least dosing, Amelia on the night she waited for him to come back in the first episode of the series. He tells her the story of "a daft old man who stole a magic box - well, borrowed it really - both big and little at the same time, band new and ancient and the bluest blue. He also told her to love Rory before he disappeared into the crack in her wall which resolved itself. We've never really known how Amelia became Amy - but the Doctor called her Amy when he was speaking to her then.

Fast forward to 26th June 2010 and it's Amy's wedding day. A woman comes into her bedroom and she realises this is her mum. On her dressing table are models of her childhood imaginary friend, the Raggedy Doctor, and pictures of the TARDIS and stars.

She then finds her "tiny little dad" fretting over his speech.

Cut to the reception. We see River Song walking past. Rory gives Amy the book River left - her journal, with blank pages. Amy gets really really sad, the same way she got really really happy when she remembered Rory. Suddenly the seed the Doctor planted bears fruit and she remembers him by thinking of something old, new, borrowed and blue. As she stands up and talks about the Raggedy Doctor, who was her imaginary friend, the wedding guests fidget with embarrassment as her mother talks about the psychiatrists they took her to.

The discomfiture turns to disbelief when the blue box materialises in the middle of the room and the Doctor emerges in white tie, tails and top hat. I wonder if this headgear thing is going to become a recurring theme.......

How did Amy manage to grow up without the Doctor there? Since 1996, there have been numerous threats to the Universe - not least the Battle of Canary Wharf in 2006, the Stolen Earth/Journey's End finale of 2008. We saw in Turn Left the disaster that ensues in a world without the Doctor in it. Why didn't it in that time when he apparently never existed. Was being alive in Amy's subconscious enough to maintain his previous savings of the earth even if there was no record of him? Chances are the events of the episode could have happened in a short time frame - with all the faffing about with time travel happening in the space of an hour or so on the 26th June in various times - although in Roman times, the calendar was a bit different, was it not? The Gregorian calendar was not adopted until the late 16th century. I'm over analysing this, aren't I?

I never thought there could be anyone more outrageous on the dance floor than my friend Pippa. The line in Four Weddings and a Funeral about fearing lives being lost could easily apply to her. Well, Matt Smith pulled off something even more outrageous at the wedding reception. Apparently the script called for dancing like a drunk giraffe. He definitely managed that. I wonder where he got his inspiration from.

As the reception draws to a close, the Doctor is surprised by River Song outside the TARDIS. Dressed in black, they have this comic moment where he asks her if she's married, she asks if he's asking and there's this goofy bit where he doesn't know whether she thinks he's asked her to marry him or whether she is married. It's a flirtatious, intimate scene. The Doctor asks her who she is and she replies that he'll find out soon - and "I'm sorry, but that's when everything changes."

The thing I like about this season is that there are loose ends - we don't, after all, know who was controlling the TARDIS when River went off in it. Who or what is the strange voice saying that silence will fall? Each other season has been a complete self contained little package. I can't wait to see how the River Song thing develops. She knows what's coming and he doesn't. He has allowed this trust and intimacy between them to develop on the grounds that she can fly the TARDIS and knows his real name. Amy's taken it further by referring to River as his wife. We are obviously meant to think that she kills him at some time in his future which is her past. I think he's heading for a fall in his relationship with her. I just don't trust her and I still think she's in this up to her neck somehow.

Somehow I don't expect Season 6 to be a series of cutesy double dates with Rory and Amy (who are the first married couple to join the TARDIS crew) and River and the Doctor. Is Amy's proximity to the crack in her wall and her drip drip absorption of the universe still going to be relevant? It strikes me that if this crack was everywhere in every time, then there are other people who will have been similarly affected.

Everyone involved in this series has played an absolute blinder. Some of the plots have been a bit weak - Amy's Choice, for example, and I wasn't wild about the Silurian stories or the Vampire one, but that didn't matter. The acting, dialogue, effects, costumes, music, more than made up for it. I also liked the finale having the Daleks and all the other enemies in almost a cameo role. There was not a single episode I could, hand on heart, say I didn't like and most of them had a huge wow factor.

I really don't want to have to wait until April next year to start to find out - I expect the Christmas special to be a one-off adventure rather than a continuation of this particular story line, but I might be wrong. We might get a few hints, but that'll be it - or will it?

1 comment:

Paul Freeman said...

"How did Amy manage to grow up without the Doctor there? Since 1996, there have been numerous threats to the Universe - not least the Battle of Canary Wharf in 2006, the Stolen Earth/Journey's End finale of 2008."

There was no Doctor, but also there was no rest of the universe, no starts, no Daleks, other aliens to invade. (I'm going to ignore the "silurians" I think, I expect the army will have blown them up or something)


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