Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2
Be warned. Though I don’t live in the UK, I have somehow just watched the first part of the “Doctor Who” series finale (let’s call it a Type 40 Tardis malfunction that sent me three weeks into the future to watch the BBC America premiere). So if you have no access to your own personal Tardis or a Time Vortex Manipulator, I would strongly advice you to revisit this post after taking the “slow path” and waiting those three long, horrid weeks.
Now with that said, I have been anxiously awaiting the Pandorica’s opening since Dr. River Song–one of only a few women to get me a-sliding to the other side of the Kinsey Scale–had teased us about it at the conclusion of “Flesh and Stone.” The first five minutes of the episode, in which we see the return of several familiar figures from Series “Fnarg” (Vincent Van Gogh from ep 10, Churchill and android Bracewell from ep 3, and Liz 10 from ep 2), are stunning and will go down in history as a DW classic. Central to all this is River, at a point in her timestream when she’s already been imprisoned in the Stormcage Containment Facility for having killed the best man she’s ever known (“Who?”). She makes another slick escape with the aid of her hallucinogenic lipstick (just like in “The Time of Angels”), finesses a Time Vortex Manipulator from a shady blue-colored dealer, vandalizes the oldest cliff-face in the oldest planet in the universe with her trademark Bat signal (“Hello Sweetie,” now the first recorded ever writing in history, ha), and assumes the guise of Cleopatra–all to bring an ominous Van Gogh painting depicting an exploding Tardis to the Doctor’s attention. (Whew, what an endlessly resourceful character; makes me want to “sonic” her!) And only now do the intro credits roll!
This all leads the Doctor et al. to Stonehenge, where lies the fairytale contraption known as the Pandorica, which according to legend is a prison box holding the most feared warrior in the universe. What they find at the ruins, along with the box, is a Cyberman corpse eager to assimilate Amy, fleets of almost every creature from the DW bestiary, and–and!–Rory (who had previously been erased from existence and thus from Amy’s memory) as a Roman centurion. (I’m unfortunately having to feign surprise at all this, as I had regrettably gone spoiler-hunting prior to watching; blasted spoilers). While the Doctor staves off all the baddies who have congregated on Stonehenge, River is assigned by the Doctor the unfortunate duty of fetching the Tardis. Unable to smoothly pilot it as she usually does (check “The Time of Angels”), the ship takes her to the date of the upcoming Big Bang’s source: 26/06/2010, Amy’s house. There, she finds a startling revelation: In Amy’s room are children’s books on Romans and Stonehenge as well as the myth of Pandora’s Box, all with pictures oddly similar to the Romans and the Pandorica back in Stonehenge 1:02 AM, er PM, er…102 AD. It turns out, in a weird reversal of roles, the Doctor’s enemies had formed an alliance to save the universe from the Doctor, whom they believe to be behind the time cracks, and they had used Amy’s memory to set up a trap for the Doctor–the Pandorica, fashioned out of Amy’s childhood memories of the legend of Pandora’s Box. (This is the reason there was a seemingly random Cyberman sentry guarding the Underhenge earlier on). The Romans are in fact Autons, mere duplicates of those same exact cartoon characters in Amy’s book. Rory is one of these Autons, and as much as he fights the Nestene Consciousness within him, he shoots Amy, who has ironically just begun to remember him again. The episode ends with one of the best cliffhangers in DW history, with the Doctor strapped into the Pandorica (what a cool revelation that the goblin/trickster/warrior “soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies,” turns out in fact to be the Doctor; the biggest clue that I must admit I hadn’t caught on to was that the Pandorica’s captive was a “nameless, terrible thing”), River trapped in the exploding Tardis, Auton Rory holding a dead Amy in his hands, and all the suns in the universe going supernova. Then, just as an ominous voice had earlier been intoning in the seemingly malfunctioning Tardis, silence does indeed fall on the universe (I love how the score just abruptly stops before the episode fades out).
As we know in the DW universe, “Time can be rewritten,” but blimey, I have no idea how The Oncoming Storm is going to get himself out of this one. “The Pandorica Opens” works just as any other good first part of a two-ep season ender should. There are questions half-answered and many more posed, half frustrating you and half whetting your appetite for even more. Some of my questions going into “The Big Bang”: Whose voice was it that said “Silence will fall” in the Tardis? What of the burn marks in front of Amy’s house? And what’s with the all-too-obvious setup all season long with the perception filters? Is the external force controlling the Tardis perhaps using the ultimate perception filter? (Perhaps it had glommed onto the Tardis without the Doctor having noticed all this time, like some virus wreaking havoc upon its unknowing host). When River says “I’m sorry, my love” while the Tardis console self-destructs, to whom is that apology directed? (I’m guessing she will use the Vortex Manipulator she had earlier manipulated out of that blue blob’s grasp, and that she is apologizing for abandoning the Tardis). And what of those cracks? Why exactly is the Tardis, or the external force controlling it, causing them? Is there indeed a baddie from the older series returning? My guess had been the Valeyard, as I thought his reintroduction would be a perfect tie-in to the theme of running away from one’s future that has undercut the entire series (Amy’s running away from her wedding; the Doctor running away from River and his knowledge of her death; “Time” itself running out).
What are your thoughts on this week’s episode? What are your predictions for “The Big Bang?” Share, share, share!
NOTE: I have an upcoming article for Ruelle Electrique on “Doctor Who” and how it has affected my definition of stories, so stay tuned for that in the coming week or so.