Doctor Who: The Big Bang

Amy: 'Okay, kid. This is where it gets complicated.'

Good grief, she wasn't kidding. This was an episode which broke all the rules. There was no clashing of alien hardware, no Doctor v arch-nemesis fight to the death—all we got is one fossilised Dalek, and even it looked fit to drop. But what this episode failed to deliver in terms of dazzling, high-octane spectacle, it more than made up for in brain scrambling complexity. We went back and forth through time more times tonight than we've done all season. We were also treated to a wedding, two Amy Ponds, the return of Aunt Sharon, and dancing so freakishly disturbing that it should never have been shown before the water shed.

Story-wise, tonight's episode was exactly what the doctor ordered (if you'll pardon the pun). The traditional finale template has become worn of late—same ideas, different faces—so it was a relief to see them dispose of the big villain showdown, and replace it with something new. The stakes were, obviously, as high as ever, but tonight's story was a more intimate, low-key affair. Tonight, the Doctor sacrificed himself for his companions—only to have them save him right back.

Admittedly, we didn't get all our questions answered. In fact, the two biggest ones were left dangling—who's behind the Silence and what led to the TARDIS' destruction—but they answered enough. And, finally, a finale with a happy ending. Season one ended with us losing the Doctor, season two ended with us losing Rose, season three they just plain lost the plot, and season four we lost both Donna and the Doctor (again). Tonight, not only did we not lose anyone, we also got back people we never knew were missing.

It never occurred to me to question the fate of Amy's parents. Amy's house was undoubtedly big, I just assumed she'd inherited her parent's estate, and had never bothered to sell up and move on. Looking back over Amy's life, she's had a pretty rough ride. She lost her parents at an early age, lost her boyfriend to the Silurians, was almost turned into a stone angel, and more recently, was killed by her dead, plastic boyfriend. That's a poor run of luck, by anybody's standards. So it was a nice touch to give Amy a happy ending.

I'll admit, sometimes I find her relationship with Rory perplexing. She obviously has great affection for him—who wouldn't, he's a likeable chap—I just can't help but feel that, despite her heart obviously belonging to Rory, her head's more often than not some place else. In the end she got her wedding day, she even got her Rory—after two thousand years her protector, I guess the poor guy deserved something—but she still tried to snog the Doctor at her wedding reception. In front of everybody. Admittedly, the Doctor's currently uninterested in the opposite sex (or at least pretends to be), but what if that changes? The Doctor's morals are the only thing keeping Amy from cheating on Rory.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have Rory back. I half expected the Nestene duplicate to take his place, and everything to carry on as un-normal—but apparently time can be rewritten, and if something can be remembered, then it can come back. And come back he did. But him being a Nestene duplicate was the most interesting part of 'The Pandorica Opens'—so it did feel like a bit of a cop-out to have them press the reset button so shamelessly.

Him coming back also set the precedent for the Doctor's return. All it took was a few visual reminders (the bow-tie, the braces, Song's journal)—and the simple phrase 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'—and back he came. And my, how gracefully he danced. Okay, perhaps I'm taking it too far—he pranced around like a drunken giraffe, but it was great to watch the kids mimicking his moves. The wedding was actually quite charming. We rarely get to see the characters unwind, and Amy did look happy to be married to Rory... right before quipping about 'a snog in the shrubbery' with the Doctor. It's going to be interesting having a married couple along as companions.

The wibbly wobby timey-wimey parts were fun, if incredibly complicated. Could they have abused River Song's vortex manipulator any more than they did? It was outrageous! I loved Amelia feeling thirsty in the present, because the Doctor had stolen her drink in the past, to give to her in the future. Preposterous nonsense, but absolutely in keeping with the episode's general pottiness. Of course, it does raise the obvious question: why doesn't the Doctor do this every week? He has his own time machine—why doesn't he use it to save some lives? They tried to get around it (I think) by having the Doctor mumble something about the altered universe being simpler, as if this would somehow negate the danger—but, let's face it, Doctor Who's not hard science fiction, so we can turn a blind eye to the occasional plot hole.

And despite much of tonight's episode being a light-hearted romp through time and space, they still managed to surprise us with some pathos. Those last scenes inside the Pandorica were superb. Never once did the Doctor ask to be saved—he simply saw himself as unnecessary, and made Amy focus instead on saving her family. Yet, as his time-line unravelled, he saw an opportunity to come back. Back in the forest, he pleaded with Amy to remember what he'd told her when she was seven, before shifting back in time, to the night Amelia waited.

His last words brought tears to my eyes. He told Amelia the story of an old man who borrowed a blue box which was big and little at the same time, brand new and ancient, and the bluest blue ever. And thus, he sowed the seeds of his own salvation. He rued the adventures they'd had... would've had... never had, and, finally, he said his goodbyes. Smith's acting was beautiful in those scenes. For someone so young, his Doctor seemed positively ancient. He told Amelia to live well, to love Rory, and with a tired smile, winked out of existence. Thank goodness it was only temporary.

Having River Song turn up at the wedding was also a nice touch, but we're still no closer to discovering who she is. There was some ridiculously suggestive dialogue at the end. Goodness knows what she was saying 'yes' to. We were also shown a harder, more unforgiving side to Song: she made that Dalek beg for his life three times, before finally denying it. I still think she'll end up killing the Doctor. According to Steven Moffat on Doctor Who Confidential, all will be revealed next season. About bloody time! They've already dragged it out for over 20 episodes. I hope when they do tell all, it'll not mean the end of Song—although, since we already know when she dies, they can't really kill her off, can they?

And so it ends. I've probably enjoyed this season more than any other. The writing's been consistently high; apart from 'Victory of the Daleks' there hasn't been one bad episode. I'll admit, in terms of individual stories, nothing's quite reached the heights of 'School Reunion', 'The Girl in the Fireplace' or season three's 'The Family of Blood', but 'Amy's Choice' and 'Vincent and the Doctor' were definite contenders. Which can only bode well for next season.

Other Thoughts:

—Why was Rory still wearing his centurion uniform in 1941? Change your clothes, Rory. Smelly arse!

—My memory might be a bit creaky here, but when the Doctor went back to see Amelia in 'The Eleventh Hour', wasn't she awake? When he went back in tonight's episode, she was asleep on the floor.

—If I'd been Rory, the first thing I'd have done after being left to guard the Pandorica is smash up those petrified Daleks/Cybermen/Sontarans—just in case they somehow came back to life.

—'I gotta be cool, relax.' Nice Queen lyric to 'big up' the bow-tie—which is cool, just like a fez.

—An escaped Egyptian goddess on the Orient Express... in space! Sounds like fun.

—And finally, Aunt Sharon! No mystery at all, then? Oh well.

Quotes:

Doctor: 'Hi honey, I'm home.'
Song: 'And what sort of time do you call this?'

Song: 'I have questions, but number one is this: What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?'
Doctor: 'It's a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.'

Amy: 'What happened to the Dalek?'
River: 'It died.'

Doctor: 'The cracks are closing. But they can't close properly 'til I'm on the other side. I don't belong here any more. I think I'll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats. Live well. Love Rory. Bye bye Pond.'

Amy: 'You absolutely definitely may kiss the bride.'

Doctor: 'Who are you?'
Song: 'You're going to find out very soon now. And I'm sorry, but that's when everything changes.'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

14 comments:

shawnlunn2002 said...

Fun finale. Definitely one of the strongest the series has done and a positive one too. I wonder how many times Steven Moffat will get away with doing that during his time on the series.

Iago said...

For the last couple of series I've been wanting finale that ended on an upbeat note, something along the lines of the lines of "The stuff of legends" ending of the Satan Pit.

The Big Bang delivered that and more, and is the first series finale that has made me re-evaluate all the episodes before it.

The reveal that Amy's parents had been devoured by the crack was utterly tragic and revealed the trick Moffat had pulled on the audience: he used a fictional device to have a real effect - most people did what you did Paul and simply forgot about Amy's parents.

This probably the closest they've come to a perfect Who episode. It's story was powerful and hugely entertaining, everyone hit the right note with their performances, the SFX were spectacular and it still left us wanting more. Special praise has to go to Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston, Rory and River were particularly good.

Finally, the "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" generated a roar in my house. It was one of the cleverest bits of writing I have ever seen in a TV programme.

WhyMe said...

I must add one more to the list of the individuals to be reached. Blink.

Although, as a long time Who fan, I must crown "The Girl in the Fireplace" as the best single.

Mark Greig said...

Think I loved this one from the instant I saw the Doctor wearing the fez. Rest of the episode could’ve been rubbish, wouldn’t care because the Doctor wore a feckin’ fez! Shame the girls had to conspire together to assassinate the fez. Just like that! Ha-ha! (Come on, someone had to make the lame Tommy Cooper joke sooner or later. It’s what the great man would’ve wanted)

Steven Moffat has really excelled himself this time conjuring up a truly extraordinary 60 minutes of television while simultaneously leaving a whole nation of children (plus assorted geeks and parents) seriously confused. Which is a lot better than annoyed, frustrated, angry and disappointed, the feelings I frequently associate with Doctor Who finales thanks to Russell. Took a few viewings for me to really understand and appreciate it which is something else to Moffat’s credit. He crafted something I’d happily watch again and again. Don’t think I’ve seen any of the previous finales since they first aired.

At the centre of the Moff’s complicated storm of wibbly-wobbly timey wimey lunacy is perhaps the finest leading man this program has had since that bloke in the scarf with all the Jelly Babies. Sure, the last one had the sex appeal, the really great hair, the nifty suit, the legions of devoted fans, the brainy specs, the wonderful Bernard Cribbins as a companion and that mighty long coat but even he’s proven to be no match for the mad man with the bowtie. Long may his reign continue despite what those foolish bookies say.

Thanks for another season of great reviews, Paul. See you again at Christmas.

Page48 said...

A great quote from the girl who waited:

"raggedy man I remember you and you are late for my weddinggggga"

Billie Doux said...

We just saw it and it was terrific. Amy in the Pandorica for two thousand years made me think of what happened to Jack at the end of season two of Torchwood. Petrified Daleks are clearly better than regular Daleks. And the wedding was lovely, too. Four out of four red fezzes.

Thanks, Paul, for all of your terrific reviews this season. And for posting them here on my site.

Did anyone else notice that there were a lot of scenes on stairs this season? Did it mean anything, or does Steven Moffatt like stairs?

Michael Colvin said...

Loved Loved Loved this finale. It was big and epic. The Doctor at Stonehenge. The Doctor at the center of the Big Bang. And Amy bringing him back. It was just lovely.

How on earth did River know to bring her Tardis Journal to the wedding?

I loved the bit of River and the Doctor asking "if you were married" "yes" "yes?" "yes" - Alex Kingston is really terrific in this role and I hope to see more of her

Centurion Rory surviving all that time and pointing his hand *AS THE GUN* was subtle but hilarious.

I think that what got me the most is realizing that it was *this* Doctor who went back for the scene with Amy in the forrest in "Flesh and Stone"... One of the benefits of a time traveler who always wears the same bow tie - you can insert yourself and not always TELL the audience. Just lovely. I think that it holds up upon second viewing... I'm wondering if they knew about that scene the whole season/series or not...

Paul - thanks for the great reviews this season... I'm now a fully caught up Tardis inducted fan...

Michael Colvin said...

One more thought - Paul, I think that that Amy realizing at the end that she brought the Doctor back and wanting to kiss him was more out of joy that he saved the universe and realizing that he was brought back more than anything romantic. I think that Amy is a great friend and has a vivid personality, but I don't think she loves the Doctor. If anything, I think that this episode proves that it is BECAUSE of her relationship with the Doctor, in some small way, she was able to get married. I truly think that she loves Rory and is excited to share the adventure with him. Unlike the Micky days, where I could care less, I actually think that Amy/Rory dynamic is good for the Doctor and gives him something to be fascinated by. Just a slight point of departure from you, I guess...

Anonymous said...

Hey, i don't know if anyone else caught on this but, doesn't Captain Jack say "Everything changes" in Torchwood? And doesn't he have a Time Agent Time Travelling Thingy?!?!? (yes, i know, that's not what it's called) Am i wishing for Jack too hard? Possibly, but maybe we'll see him!

Sooze said...

So, Paul, I got a gift in the form of my cable provider suddenly providing Season 5 of DW on-demand - and so I watched the whole season over the last week. Of course, I kept coming by here and reading your reviews after each episode. And I have to say, I tried, I REALLY did, to see your view of Matt's Doctor. And I just wasn't feeling it - UNTIL this episode...and FINALLY, he got me. I don't know why it took until this one - but this one finally got me emotionally whereas the others didn't as much. The scene in the Pandorica...the scene in Amelia's bedroom when he tells his story...oh, wonderful stuff there. And I definitely saw what you were saying about him... "For someone so young, his Doctor seems positively ancient at times." - YES, I did feel that.
I loved this finale - had to watch it twice though to catch everything - and the way it ended - fabulous...how Amy steps outside the door of the TARDIS and waves "Goodbye"...great! Now I am truly looking forward to Season 6.

Paul Kelly said...

Whew! Glad you got there in the end, Sooze. Don't forget there's a Christmas episode to watch too.

Cesar said...

Finally got to watch Season 5 as a whole (and after the previous four!) (yes, I kept meeting this series out of order) and it is definitely my favorite so far (although my favorite episode is still Blink).

This is how season-long plot arcs should be done. Don't just repeat a word through the season and threaten the universe with Daleks or the Master in the last episode.

Despite all previous seasons having some good episodes (amazing ones even), I think this was the first consistent one. Even though the Dalek one was the weakest link, all episodes seemed to fit together (the unevenness of this series has been my main issue with it).

As always, I loved the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff (what good is a time travel story if you don't see it a little out of order?) I just kept wondering how and why the Doctor would get a fez and a mop (strangely, "because fezzes are cool" never entered my mind)

Regarding River Song, I got the impression she was saying 'yes' to both questions

PS: Is the bar where River gets the vortex manipulator the same one Jack was in at the end of the 4th season? I was convinced it was and that the manipulator was his, but the buttons seemed different and there was no comment about it.

Bea said...

Is it awful of me to say that I just don't get this season?

All of you have pointed out its many improvements, one of which is Moffat's Chinese puzzle box approach to the plot, which really paid off.

Smith's Doctor, too, seemed to work as a follow-up to Tennant's lonely God, full of nearly teenage angst, by way of becoming this sort of old, wise wizard.

Despite that, though, this season seems full of what I have labled The Bad Stuff.

The Bad Stuff for me is difficult to pick out, since it's rather convoluted in my head, but I'll try to explain myself.

First off, and I know that many of you might disagree, I can't stand Amy Pond. To me, she doesn't feel like a real character. She has a convoluted story about her, but she strikes me as nothing more than this idea of what "clever, feisty" girl is supposed to be. She has no real character arc, though (the Amy we see in The Eleventh Hour is the same Amy that wakes up to suddenly find her parents there in the finale), and she seems to be saddled with this love triangle plot that's kind of annoying and doesn't tell us anything about her character. I've read some posts around the net accusing Moffat of sexism, and while I don't want to go there, I do think there's a bit of essentialism to his work that rubs me the wrong way. Look at Amy's Choice, for example, a clever and interesting episode except for the fact that it has Amy choosing between two worlds - none of them her own. It's The Doctor's world or Rory's, like there's not a third choice. The season seems to follow this route a lot, implying in a way that The Doctor represents the fantasy, the fairytale, childhood, while Rory represents adulthood and maturing. As in, there's One Right Way of Being a Woman, and that way is marrying the Right Guy and leaving childhood fantasies for children.

Now, this arc may have worked if, perhaps, the Rory/Amy situation had been crafted some other way. What we have, though, is a bumbling "boy who waits" (and man, does Moffat love people who wait) with a severe syndrome of Boring Nice Guy, and a girl who spent her life obssesed with an imaginary friend and seems to choose to marry this Nice Guy, who she doesn't seem to particularly like, because what else is there to do? I guess there was an interesting comment about abondoment issues there, but it was never made. Instead, they tried to sell "tru wuv" by way of having Amy freak out every time Rory was in mortal peril, and then immediately go back to treating him like an annoying baby brother.

In a way, I just don't feel any connection between The Doctor and his companions. Perhaps, since he is meant to be a wizard from a fairytale, he is supposed to be detached, but I believe that lack of emotional intelligence hurts the show.

Now, RTD wasn't perfect, and his plots could be ridiculous at best, but his character bits were always brilliant.

I missed this in season 5, and that's why, despite its many virtues, it left me cold. It's a smarter and better constructed show, and I think aesthetically and conceptually it improved, but, I'm afraid it has lost its charm.

Mallena said...

Matt Smith rules!! Still having a hard time liking any current episodes without him. Just love this two part finale. It makes me cry when Amy figures it all out and the doctor comes to her wedding. Yes, Amy loves Rory. She is flirty with the doctor because she is a pretty girl and is used to the attention. That doesn't make her a bad person as long as she doesn't act on it. Rory knows Amy and is not going to push her away by being jealous. I love all of them, Amy, Rory and the doctor. Wonderful season.