Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

Unknown voice: 'Silence will fall.'

This was a massive episode. Not only were the stakes enormous and the cliff-hanger whopping, we were treated to perhaps the biggest assembly of Doctor Who baddies the show has ever seen. Not just fifth season villains, either—we got to see Autons, Cybermen, Sycorax, Daleks, Judoon, Sontarans, and a whole host of other nasties too numerous to mention (except I do mention them later). It was like fanfic times 10 to the power of 23 (I did the math.) I also totally had several nerdgasms.

I'll admit, I'm usually the first to moan when they try to pack too much into one episode. Characters end up underused, the story becomes diluted, and the pacing ends up erratic. But I'm not ready to give up on Liz 10, Churchill, and Van Gogh just yet. Maybe they'll end up saving the day. With the Doctor locked inside the Pandorica, Amy dead, Rory an Auton, and River Song trapped inside an exploding TARDIS, someone's going to have to do something. I'm hard pressed to remember a cliff-hanger so fraught with disaster. It's a shame Harriet Jones isn't still alive. Someone needs to chew bubblegum and kick ass, ASAP.

The Alliance of villains, I thought, worked beautifully. It wasn't so much the make-up of the alliance which was intriguing, but the cause which united them. The Doctor's existence threatens the survival of every living thing. If the TARDIS explodes, then everything ceases to exist—which is a complete reversal of the usual end of season formula. It's usually the Doctor fighting to save the world from some alien threat; this time, it's the alien threat trying to save the world from the Doctor. It's no longer about conquest. It's about survival.

Despite Karen Gillan's insistence in an interview this week that Rory was dead, his appearance was a predictable, though welcome, development. You don't kill off a main character mid-season and just leave him for dead. But what a freaky-ass way of bringing him back—if indeed that is Rory. The Roman soldiers were just characters from a book, brought to life by the Nestene Consciousness. They were never real. Which must surely mean that Rory's not real either. Yet, if the psychic snapshot was taken after Rory's death, then why was he in it? And why was he in that photograph, dressed as a Roman Centurion? Wasn't Rory wiped from existence? And if the image was taken before his death, then how is it that he remembers dying?

If it's not Rory—despite having Rory's body, his memories and believing himself to be Rory—then what the fuck is he? The Doctor's doppelgänger in 'Journey's End', despite looking and acting like the Doctor, was materially different—he was part human for a start. Rory is an exact duplicate. If he's the same in every respect, then how is he not Rory? Could new Rory continue in old Rory's place? Would that be weird? I can't decide whether this would be a happy ending or not.

River Song also said something tonight which confused me. (This was a big week for confusion.) In 'The Time of Angels' Song said that she'd been taught to fly the TARDIS by the 'very best'—before quipping that the Doctor had been busy that day. Yet tonight, contrary to her first admission, she confessed that her instruction had indeed come from the Doctor, and since Song was in the Storm Cage Holding Facility for killing the 'best man' she ever knew, does this mean she'll wind up killing the Doctor? Is that why Octavian was so tight-lipped about the identity of the man she killed?

The biggest shock of the night came when the Pandorica opened. I spent most of this episode trying to work out who would be inside—Omega, Davros, The Master, The Black Guardian—but nobody really fitted the bill. Bizarrely, the Pandorica was empty. There'd never been anyone inside. It was a prison built specifically for the Doctor—the most feared creature in the whole of the Universe.

But the Alliance have surely dropped the ball on this one They're operating under the misconception that only the Doctor can pilot the TARDIS, so locking him inside the Pandorica seems like a sure-fire way of averting disaster. What they haven't figured on is that River Song can also fly the TARDIS, and is currently trapped inside it. And we still don't know who's been throwing the TARDIS back and forth through time—thus we have a second, as yet unidentified, suspect. So locking the Doctor inside the Pandorica might not be the quick fix that the Alliance imagine. The threat may still be out there, and the Alliance have just locked away their best chance of defeating it.

Despite the Doctor's rousing rockstar-like speech outside Stonehenge, it never really felt as though he had a plan. It was all just stalling and rhetoric. With Song's help, the Doctor did managed to figure out some of what was going on, but it was all way too late, as the under-henge was already swarming with enemies. I love the way the Doctor keeps missing the big things (such as Rory being alive), yet picks up on the small things, and turns them into events of seemingly massive importance. Why is Amy's house so big? Why are there so many rooms in Amy's house? What do these things mean? Anything? Nothing?

It's the small things I love about Matt Smith's Doctor. When Rory asked whether Amy had missed him, the look on the Doctor's face, quite literally, brought a tear to my eye. This isn't a Doctor confident of solving the world's ills, it's a man very much aware of his own limitations. I loved him pleading with the Alliance. Despite everyone in the room wanting him dead, he still wanted to save them. Karen and Arthur got some great scenes, too. Seeing Rory struggle against the will of the Nestene Consciousness was heart-wrenching stuff, as was him screaming 'I am Rory' in one final act of defiance, before succumbing, and shooting Amy dead. Poor Amy—she really thought she could rescue him. Her refusing to leave him was so touching. She trusted in his goodness to the bitter end, but it wasn't enough to save her. She died, trembling in Rory's arms.

It's difficult to know where they'll go from here. The Doctor's out of action, his companions are either dead or trapped, and the Alliance is holding strong. But there's a big piece of the puzzle still missing. Who is piloting the TARDIS?

Other Thoughts:

—The Alliance consisted of Atraxi, Blowfish, Chelonians, Cybermen, Daleks, Draconians, Drahvins, Hoix, Judoon, Nestene Consciousness, Roboforms, Silurians, Slitheen family, Sontarans, Commander Stark, Sycorax, Terileptils, Uvodni, Weevils and Zygons

—The Blowfish and Weevils are from spin-off series Torchwood. The Uvodni are from The Sarah Jane Adventures.

—The Chelonians, to my knowledge, have only ever appeared in written Doctor Who stories.

Some Unanswered Questions:

I thought I'd list a few things I'd like to know the answers to. Some may turn out to be significant, come the finale, some may not -- but here's what I have:

—What was the significance of future Rory and future Amy waving at themselves in 'The Hungry Earth?' Were they just sightseeing, as the Doctor suggested?

—Why did future Doctor go back in time to visit Amy in 'Flesh and Stone'? I missed this one first time around, but it does seem to be more than a mere continuity lapse.

—Why did the Doctor go back in time to see young Amy Pond in the episode 'The Eleventh Hour'? Now, this must be important!

—Is Amy really cured? Remember her being taken over by that Angel in 'Flesh and Stone'? Was the Angel in her mind really wiped from time?

—Where's Aunt Sharon? This one's been perplexing me for months now.

—Where is the Dream Lord? In 'Amy's Choice' the Doctor saw his reflection in the TARDIS' console. Is it his disembodied voice we keep hearing?

—In Van Gogh's picture were there two TARDISES or just one?

Quotes:

The Doctor: 'People fall out of the world sometimes, but they always leave traces. Little things we can't quite account for. Faces in photographs, luggage, half-eaten meals. Rings. Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely. And if something can be remembered, it can come back.'

River: 'I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.'

Doctor: 'You know how I sometimes have really brilliant ideas?'
Amy: 'Yes.'
Doctor: 'Sorry... Look at me; I'm a target!'

The Doctor: 'Rory, I'm not trying to be rude, but you died.'
Rory: 'Yeah. I know. I was there.'

The Doctor: 'No, please, listen to me. The TARDIS is exploding right now and I'm the only one who can stop it. LISTEN TO ME!'

River Song: 'I'm sorry, my love.'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

10 comments:

shawnlunn2002 said...

It looked like they're could be two TARDISes from the design and if we get future Doctor in the next one, we could get another TARDIS. Maybe that's what caused the big bang.

I liked the use of the monsters in this episode and their banding to save the universe from the Doctor. Makes a good change.

The Amy/Rory scene killed me but I loved the sense of jeopardy we got here, especially with even River appearing out of her depth.

The Cybermen have never been more effective than in this one as well.

Jess said...

The alliance made sense apart from the Weevils. What have they got against the Doctor apart from accidently starting Torchwood? Is the real secret that he has cursed them to wearing those spiffy boiler suits?

Iago said...

Jess, they said in Torchwood that the Weevils were sensitive to fluctuations in time and the Rift, so maybe they picked up on the explosion before it happened.

I think River's initial "shame you we're busy" was just needling the Doctor. When things mattered, she dropped the act and told the truth.

I'm not sure if she was talking to the Doctor or the TARDIS when she said "I'm sorry, my love" but I'm leaning towards the former because that seems more Moffat's style, to drop in a huge bit of information so subtly.

Mark Greig said...

The Pandorica has opened. Silence has fallen. And Amy Pond is wearing pants. Must be the end of the universe.

Although the end of the world scale is still present and correct ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is a world away from the type of blockbuster finales Russell T. Davies used to churn out. Instead of modern London, nagging mothers and cameos from naff celebrities we get Raiders of the Stonehenge with some added timey wimey madness and River Song being all kinds of wonderful.

It could still all go belly up in part 2 but I’ve faith in Steven Moffat’s ability to pull of something amazing. I think the most ludicrous criticism I’ve heard lobbed at this series is that it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that RTD was responsible for everything that was good about Steven Moffat’s previous stories.

What a load of poppycock!

Admittedly Moffat’s work hasn’t been as stellar this year, mainly because his workload has quadrupled, but this episode alone proves that he is still the best writer this show has had since the glory days of the mighty Bob Holmes.

Respox said...

"Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely. And if something can be remembered, it can come back."

Why is Amy's house so big? Why so many rooms?

How did she know the pond in Leadworth was a duck pond if, as she says, there were never any ducks?

In "Flesh and Stone", Future Doctor tells Amy she must remember what he told her when she was seven. He can't tell her, she HAS to remember.

Is it possible everyone that's missing from Amy's house was erased just like Rory was? Let's not forget that she had one of those cracks in her room.

I'm thinking the security measures built into the Pandorica that would stop anything getting out, will end up saving the Doctor from the destruction of the Universe (those "time-stops" and "matter-lines" essentially locking him in his own pocket dimension) and give him a chance to somehow save the day. Or rather, to help Amy do it, as it's pretty clear from all the hints dropped throughout the season that "mad, impossible Amy Pond" is the key.

Billie Doux said...

Nerdgasm. Good one, Paul.

I hope the second part is as good as the first part and I hope I'm not confused by the end of it, because I'm certainly confused now. :0

Michael Colvin said...

What a wonderful Part 1 - can't wait for the next part. The Van Gogh of the Tardis exploding- I'd buy that in a heart beat!

Always a delight to see River Song again!

More for next week when I see Part II!

Matt said...

Part 2 is so incredibly different from what you'd expect, but completely wonderful.

topher darling said...

Great review. Great episode too. Regarding the picture, Amy was wearing her kiss-a-gram uniform so, conceivably, it was a costume that Rory was wearing as well. Plus it looked like it was in a modern house.

That's the one and only answer I have for anything that went on in this episode.

topher darling said...
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