Sunday, June 20, 2010

Doctor Who -The Pandorica Opens episode review

I had always thought that the word Review implied that there would be spoilers, which there are here in multitudinous number. I don't think there is an unspilt bean in sight. I am not technically clever enough to work out how to do what Charlotte has done, but do go and read her review later too.

Oh blimey. That was one hell of a Doctor Who episode last night. My head hurts after watching it and I need Millennium's Daddy Richard to explain it all to me. I just hope he's been sitting up all night writing his review because I don't really think that I can wait for too long for his view.

I think my general feeling is that it was bloody brilliant and I can't wait to see how they're going to sort this one out. Talk about taking you through every emotion in 45 minutes. It was pacy, it had comedy, tension, excitement, awe, drama, fear and incredible sadness. Well done that man Moffatt.

The episode starts with a difficult to watch scenes in which Vincent Van Gogh was in his bed screaming with agony as his mental torture seemed to accelerate and intensify. Attention was drawn to a new painting he'd drawn.

Then in 1941, you see that painting being given to Churchill in the War Rooms, who immediately phones the Doctor to warn him of something - but the call is diverted to River Song in prison in the 52nd century. She escapes, very easily, and heads to the Royal Galleries to find the painting where she's confronted by Liz "I'm the Bloody Queen" 10. That painting showed the TARDIS at the centre of a huge explosion.

Cut to Amy and the Doctor in the TARDIS. He's about to show her the writing on this amazing diamond cliff face which is supposed to be from the dawn of time and which nobody has been able to translate. The message in fact said "Hello Sweetie" and gave them some co-ordinates to follow.

We then end up in Roman times, where they find River Song pretending to be Cleopatra visiting the Romans. Well she died in 30BC and this was 102AD or something, so there's one howler that the Doctor should have worked out for a start. When the Doctor explains that they need the Romans help, the soldier he's talking consults with an unseen centurion.

From there it's a short journey to Stonehenge, the actual Stonehenge, filmed in daylight where the Doctor locates something buried underneath and accesses it just by lifting one of the ancient stones. All too easy.

They find a big box which River Song says is being opened from the inside. This is apparently the Pandorica which the Doctor had dismissed as a fairy tale. It was built to lock up the most evil being in the Universe, more vile than anyone we've met so far in 47 years of Who.

Amy's comment that Pandora's Box, which contained the worst things in the world, was one of her favourite stories as a child and the Romans were her favourite period in history alerted the Doctor to the fact that something weird was going on. I thought the scene where they found the Pandorica was beautifully put together. Watching Confidential later, they showed how the scene was actually shot with music playing so the actors' movements were in time with it. It was meant to portray the awe they felt when the found the Pandorica.

In the midst of all this, you get moments of pure comedy. River Song, for example, responding to a comment about wizards by saying she hated hearing about wizards cos it always turned out to be the Doctor.

River identifies that there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of spaceships in orbit, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Judoon, Sycorax, Slitheen, Nestene Consciousness, Uncle Tom Nasty and all.

There's an amazing scene which brought to mind images of an American politician accepting the nomination at a convention. A moment of irrational triumphalism as the Doctor addresses all the assorted megalomaniacs, telling them that, actually, for the moment, he has the Pandorica and incites them to remember every day when he's defeated them so they should decide who's going to have a go first.

River Song has been dispatched to fetch the TARDIS. She finds that it's being controlled from outside and takes her to the date that was revealed as the "base code of the universe" when they met the weeping angels.

Amy decides to use her absence to question the Doctor on the engagement ring she found in his pocket last week, clearly thinking he's going to propose to River.

Unbeknownst to the characters, but revealed to us was the disembodied head of a cyberman. Its arm started shooting at the Doctor and Amy. Later Amy was ensnared by cables coming from the head. She escaped, but the scene where the remainder of the cyber torso clunked in and reunited himself with his head was very well done. With the Doctor knocked out by an electric shock of sorts, Amy had to fight the metal man off with a flaming torch and ended up in a cupboard. She puts her ear to the door to find a sword being stabbed through it, missing her by inches.

The door opens, and in walks the centurion from earlier - who reveals himself to be Rory. As he says "Hello, Amy", she faints.

While Amy's unconscious from the dart the cyberman shot at her, the Doctor confronts Rory about how he's there. Rory knows he died but can't properly explain how he came to be a Roman but he just knows that he is.

Meanwhile River finds herself at Amy's house. She tells the doctor on the phone that someone been there before her. In Amy's bedroom, she finds a book about the Romans and realises that the commander who was talking to Rory is identical to the person on the cover. She tells him that he's walked into a trap. He tells her to get away from there to any time, anywhere.

Back in Roman times, the Pandorica is finally opening and preparing to reveal its secrets. Amy regains consciousness and doesn't remember Rory. She heads out for some fresh air and he follows her. They talk and she starts to remember him.

The scene is now set for the climactic final scenes.

The Doctor realises as the Pandorica opens that it's not to let something out, but to imprison something in. The assorted aliens start to appear and talk about how they have formed an alliance to deal with him as he's responsible for all the cracks in time. It dawns on the Doctor that he's about to be locked away as he's dragged into it.

Outside, just as Amy's memory of Rory returns, the Romans are revealed to be Autons, including Rory. He struggles to keep at bay the impulses that are telling him to kill Amy. She tells him that he ain't going anywhere. Just as you think he's won that personal struggle, as she leans to kiss him, his hand turns robotic, reveals a pistol and seemingly shoots Amy dead. That description doesn't do justice to the way in which the scene was acted by both Amy and Rory. It's not quite the Romeo and Juliet which the director aimed at, but the events and emotions, from confusion to delight to tragedy to pathos as Amy's body falls to the ground are powerfully enacted.

At the same time, River is trapped in the TARDIS which explodes. The last scene of the episode shows all the spaceships in orbit above the earth disappearing gradually and then all falls black as the earth itself disappears..............

Stephen and I spent literally hours trying to figure this whole thing out. He suggested that this was all the work of the Dream Lord from earlier in the series. I think that has a fatal flaw because River Song mentioned the Pandorica opening when she last saw the Doctor earlier in the season. Anyway, if the Grand Moff made half the series a dream, then he'd have to be put on free transfer to daytime soap writers land. Stephen thought that it was completely unbelievable for such a motley crew of aliens to work together. I say that each of them is megalomaniac enough to think they can double cross and overpower the others and they all have a common interest in getting the Doctor. Anyway, they are all bad buggers. In that respect, their alliance is more credible than our current coalition Government.

I think that River Song is in this up to her neck. I'm not sure that her motivations are malevolent. We are clearly meant to think that she killed the Doctor, possibly a future regeneration of himself, the first time she met him and she's been in Space Nick ever since (apart from the times she escapes, obviously). Did she rig the TARDIS the last time she was onboard to make sure Churchill's call went to her? Is she trying to alter time to atone for her actions and ensure that the Doctor does not die at her hand? Getting in league with his sworn enemies would be a funny way of doing this, but we can't ignore the fact that she's the one who got the Doctor to that point in time and who left him there alone. I don't trust River, and I am certain she knows more than she's letting on. We only have her word about his future and her past close ties with him. He trusts her to drive the TARDIS on the basis that she knows his real name..... Mind you, she certainly knew what she was doing and completely kicked his backside in the first Weeping Angels episode.

Daddy Richard argued that the cracks in time could be the Doctor's fault:

It's possible that he's even caused the cracks in time by making Amy's wedding day not only the most crucial day of her life but also one that isn't supposed to happen at all: the kind of universe-shattering paradox that might happen if she only ran away with the Doctor because it was the eve of her wedding, that the things that the Doctor has put right because she was with him, only happened at all because of something he's now prevented from happening – explaining how the crack appear to be following them: it's trying to swallow up the paradoxical events of Amy's post Wedding-that-never-was timeline.

It's the height of impertinence on my part to dare to argue with him on anything Doctor Who related - or in fact anything at all - but I just don't buy the Doctor, who is more acutely aware of time than any of us could ever be - would allow this to happen. Even if he did, it's profoundly unjust that he should be locked up to save a universe which would then be destroyed by the Assorted Nasties anyway.

Could it be that the cracks were caused by the Doctor showing up so many years late for his rendezvous with Amelia - but then that doesn't seem to be his fault - there was some sort of external control on that. It could be that all is resolved by either the Doctor or River being able to go back and pick her up on time so that she wouldn't have been able to produce all the drawings and develop the interests that allowed the trap to be set. But then what does he do with a 7 year old on board? My suspicion is that whoever was responsible saw his first encounter with Amelia and then did something to prevent the Doctor from coming back.

I hope that the Grand Moff can keep up the standard for next week. It's much easier to set up the scenarios for a fantastic cliffhanger than it is to bring it all to a credible conclusion. I really, really, really don't want Amy to be dead. Or to go off into the sunset with an un-nestened Rory. She's better than that and we deserve to see more of her. She may be turn out to be the axis on which this series have spun, but she's proved her worth as a character and the in-TARDIS chemistry is wonderful. River has to stay too - she is way too interesting a character to lose, but if she is culpable for the current scenario in some way, that needs to be revealed without diminishing the Doctor's faith in her.

We also have the loose ends of Rory's badge in the first episode being issued in 1990 and we need to find out why Amy doesn't remember the Daleks.

Whichever way I look at this I come up with some reason why that conclusion wouldn't work. Maybe I should just leave it to clever Daddy Richard.

A final thought - the episode is interspersed with the Doctor, River and Amy galloping on horseback across the countryside, we are supposed to think near Stonehenge. That doesn't seem to fit into the story somehow. We all laughed when we saw them. We decided that the far away shots were clearly stunt doubles riding, but the close up ones were hilarious. We decided that Matt, Karen and Alex must have been filmed on some bouncy thing in front of a green screen. We weren't exactly right. Confidential showed them on a bouncy seat thing in a truck on location. Utterly ridiculous. I just wonder if these three horse riders are going to prevent the Apocalypse.

I don't want to wish a whole week away, particularly when the weather's so lovely, but I can't wait for the Big Bang on Saturday.


Oolon said...

I think I agree that we need Daddy Richard's analysis! I am now wishing away the next week of my life.

Anonymous said...

The Daleks said that only the Doctor can pilot the TARDIS?
They seem to have forgotten about the Master (who they have met before and who piloted and corrupted the TARDIS with ease in the big finale from series 3!).... Any Time Lord could pilot the TARDIS really....

I'm not too sure about River Song.. I like Alex Kingston, but nobody still knoes who she is. Why should the Doctor have a 'wife' all of a sudden, when he has always had to leave those he loves behind (Rose Tyler for example)?
But out of the blue this character turns up and is supposed to be the most important person in the Doctor's whole life, just because one writer says so? Dr. Song hasn't developed as a major figure over time in the Who legend (like so many friends and foes!). It was just 'Here she is! Like it or lump it!' But without any real explantion as to why and who she really is... And if she says 'Spoilers' once more....

Still, great episode, and a fine review here too, by the way....

All the best...

Sophia Pangloss said...

Aye Caron, a wonderful episode, an' a fine review. Ah only watched it three times last night, so ah'm still a biy hazy on the details...

Seems tae me the important trails are:-

Who/whit is controllin the Tardis, if not River Song? (mind, accordin tae Churchill she's no a Dr)

Who/whit visited Amy's hoose an' broke her door? This must hae been efter the Dr an' Amy nipped back an' she tried tae snog him.

Whit did the Dr tell Amy when she wis 7? He telt her in the spaceship-forest (when he nipped back fae the future wi' his new tweed jaicket oan) that it was important that she trusted him and tae remember whit he had said tae her when she wis 7. Ah dinnae think we've seen that scene yet, or heard whit he telt her.

Ooh the mair ah think aboot it the mair ma heid hurts. Why is Leadworth 'the village that time forgot'? Why is there a duck pond an' nae ducks? Not only wis Rory's badge issued in 1990, but aw the cars an' the fire engine were 90s models.

Sair heid sair heid...

ps, in the legend, Pandora's box wis opened twice, an' the second time wis when Hope came oot.

Call of the Wendigo said...

I have to confess I've not enjoyed every episode of this year's series but "The Pandorica Opens" was great. I can't wait to see just how Moffat gets himself out of the entire universe having been wiped out.

Anonymous said...

It's implied (both in post and pre 2005 Who) the Doctor has been married before, or at least in serious relationships beyond the playmates of his on screen companions.

The bits with the painting are just prelude, the story as far as the end of the episode is pretty simple. What makes your head hurt is trying to second guess the answers.

It helped that due to circumstances I got to see both episodes together.

Rory- well he's a conundrum isn't he. On the one hand he's just a nestine replica, on the other apart from having an Auton body he is mind, heart and soul the same Rory as died and was erased in Wales 2020.

"Anonymous"- I think the Master is no longer around. There is an odd kind if imposed linearity on the series so it makes sense to a general audience (this is a good thing). Yes true it is a time travel series so technically the Doctor or the Daleks could run into The Master at some point before he dies, or after he next gets resurrected. But there seems to be a sort of present- the Master is now not around. Add that to the fact that the Daleks have been wiped out and recreated at least 3 times since they worked with the Master. Genetically the new Daleks may be the same as the Gunmetal gray ones, but how much of their memories remain.


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