Review: “Doctor Who” Series 5, Ep 13: “The Big Bang”

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The date of the Big Bang is finally upon us. (Boy, does the slow path suck).

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Yes, it can be complex. Yes, there’s much to unravel, to sort through. But the last episode of Series Fnarg, “The Big Bang,” is one of those stories that with each repeat viewing will have you loving it more and more. So be patient with the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, and you’ll be in for a great payoff.

It’s 1,894 years after the fateful events at Stonehenge, and we’re back at seven-year-old Amelia Pond’s house. Except unlike in “The Eleventh Hour” (the first episode of the series), the Doctor, trapped in the Pandorica, doesn’t come crashing down into her life. In this mad, revised world in which stars are just the stuff of fairy tales (you might recall they all went supernova last episode in 102 AD), the Doctor can never become the object of little Amelia’s imagination and the reason for her many psychiatric treatments. Instead her Aunt Sharon, fearful she would become one of Richard Dawkins’s star cultists (haha), gets her treated for her insistence on the existence of stars.

But good wizard that he is, The Doctor soon starts working his magic via the Time Vortex Manipulator that River had left lying around in the Underhenge. Apparently the prison box has the ability to preserve any specimen locked within; it can also have a restorative effect on organisms when exposed to said organism’s living DNA. Knowing this, the Doctor places the dead Amy from 102 AD in the Pandorica. And with a bit of maneuvering, he gets Amelia to the National Museum where the Pandorica is housed in 1996 (interestingly, because of the now-nonsensical nature of the universe, the museum also has exhibits on Nile penguins and Australian polar bears), and uses little Amelia as a catalyst for the revival of her future dead self. (Still with me?). And who’s there to welcome the just-revived adult Amy back, aside from her child self and the Doctor? Auton Rory, who in the ultimate act of devotion (not to mention atonement for having, erm, killed his fiancee) had spent nearly 2,000 years guarding the Pandorica with her in it from various invaders that sought possession of the mysterious relic. Amy’s “Lone Centurion” had in the 21st century assumed the more modern role of a museum security guard. Without making it a sappy romance, the Moff creates a very touching love story by reuniting “the girl who waited” with “the boy who waited.”

Now here’s where the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff gets even more complicated, so hang on tight: Having wangled this reunion of sorts so far, the Doctor travels back in time to set into effect all of this in the first place. Donning a fez he finds just as cool as his bow ties, he revisits Auton Rory in 102 AD with an instruction to set him loose from the Pandorica. He also leaves the sticky notes that had led Amelia to the museum. And to quench the future Amelia’s thirst, he swipes a soda cup from Amelia in the past–which was the reason Amelia in the future got thirsty in the first place. Whew! But I still can’t get my head around what allowed the Doctor to escape the Pandorica in order to instruct Rory to free him. (Readers, help me here).

"Say that again?" River Song makes a Dalek beg for mercy! Holy freakin' (Time) Lord!

To further add to the confusion, while running away from a revived Stone Dalek on display at the museum (the light or “restoration field” from the Pandorica that earlier revived Amy, upon its opening had also shone upon one of the Daleks on exhibit, consequently reviving it as well), the Doctor encounters his future dying self. Future Doctor (who shows up fez-less, the reason for which we’ll find out soon in one of the episode’s funniest scenes), whispers a message into his past self’s ear, but it isn’t until a bit later that we find out what that message actually is. The present-time (still-fezzed) Doctor seemingly insensitively leaves his future dead body and leads his team of “anomalies” (time travelers are complicated space/time events who can hang on much longer than others despite history being unwritten) to the roof of the museum, where we find the exploding Tardis acting as a pseudo-sun to the Earth. The spaceship has also apparently trapped River Song, via its emergency protocols, in a neverending time loop in an effort to save her, paving the way for her rescue. To make things easier to track and to distinguish the two versions of the Doctor, Moffat by this point gets rid of the Doctor’s ridiculous fez by having Amy jet it in the air for River to shoot down with her gun. (This Doctor is now the “Future Doctor” we’d seen earlier).

As he had expected, the Doctor himself gets shot by the Stone Dalek who had been pursuing them, and he uses the Vortex Manipulator to travel back to twelve minutes ago just as he’d seen happen (Remember that?). It turns out, he’d asked the fez-wearing Doctor to cause a diversion and lure the Dalek out of the Pandorica exhibit room so the non-fez-wearing Doctor could get to the box. See, the fez-less Doctor has a plan: To create a “Big Bang 2.” As a prison box, the Pandorica had preserved billions of atoms, the blueprint of life, within it. His thinking is that since the Tardis explosion is happening everywhere in time and space (it is after all causing the entire universe to collapse via those pesky time cracks), if he rams the Pandorica into the explosion, he can amplify its restorative effect, sending those atoms throughout the universe and causing creation instead of destruction (a move reminiscent of Moffat’s “Time Crash” mini-episode, in which the Doctor negated an explosion with an implosion, using a supernova to cancel out a black hole). The dying Doctor pilots the Pandorica into the heart of the Tardis explosion, a sacrifice that will restore the universe.

The Two Doctors it is! Good job, forum theorists.

As we’d learned in “Flesh and Stone,” a complicated space-time event like the Doctor is enough to close a time crack, but by throwing himself into the ultimate time crack, it will also consequently cause him to never have existed. But there is hope: Amy’s mind as a child had been made special by the crack in her wall, infusing her brain with timey-wimey stuff. This is the very reason she was able to bring back Rory, and the way she could bring back her parents (who we find out by the way had been swallowed by the crack in little Amelia’s bedroom wall–her lack of a loving family is the real reason the Doctor had asked her to join him in the Tardis back in “The Eleventh Hour”). If Amy can just remember the Doctor, he will remain in this universe. So the Doctor, who finds himself rewinding in his timeline, in an effort to survive, visits Amy at the Byzantium to tell her to remember him (aha, the Two Doctors theorists were correct!) and tells a sleeping Amelia in 1996 about the adventures they will never have, the stories that will linger in her mind but will never be reality–the “fairy tales” of the Doctor (just like the earlier “fairy tales” of the stars). Content and unwilling to go back further in his timestream (code for “We can’t really bring back Donna, Rose, et al.”), he lets himself be swallowed into a time crack once and for all, hoping that the girl who still believed in stars will also still believe in the Doctor.

With this Time Vortex Manipulator, I thee wed. I think. ...One wedding out of the way, another to be sorted out.

With the stars and her family restored, not to mention the universe, we replay June 26, 2010, but this time with Amy’s wedding undisrupted. On this special day, she is haunted by a memory she can’t put her finger on. The sight of River Song and her empty blue diary (there are after all no adventures with the Doctor to record), a guest with a bow tie, and another with suspenders, trigger the forgotten stories of the Doctor that have escaped her mind all this time. She wills the Tardis to exist again in the middle of the reception dance floor, and the Doctor reappears in a top hat and tails, clearly having confidently expected Amy to remember him. In yet another of the ep’s funniest scenes, the Doctor dances, albeit like a drunk giraffe, haha. (Aside from a penchant for having everybody live, the Moff likes his Doctor to dance; check “The Doctor Dances” from Series 1 and “The Girl in the Fireplace” from Series 2). It’s the fairy tale ending to Amelia Pond’s fairy tale story, beautifully tying together the series-long theme of “fairy tales.”

But not all is resolved. Far from it. Before using the Vortex Manipulator to travel back to her own time, River morosely or ominously (it’s hard to read her), and as always teasingly, tells the Doctor that he’ll soon find out the real story behind her, and that everything will change from hereon. The Doctor also still doesn’t know why the Tardis was targeted in the first place by whatever that external force was that caused it to explode. Nor did we ever find out what the “Silence” that will fall actually is. But with the new Mr. and Mrs. Pond (still in their wedding outfits) by his side, the Doctor’s adventures continue. Geronimo!

Mr. and Mrs. Pond (haha) and her indoors' imaginary friend. Next up on the Anomalies' agenda: An escaped Egyptian goddess causing havoc on the Orient Express...in space.

All in all, a memorable episode. Despite its title, “The Big Bang” actually was rather subdued. No big Russell T. Davies-style explosive finish. No galactic war, an expectation that may have been planted by last week’s appearance of many of the Doctor’s outer space enemies. Yes, there’s a bit of a deus ex machina, sorta kinda, with the Tardis-Pandorica contrivance. But if you’re going to press the reset switch, this is how you do it. I did have my hopes set on finding out who the “Silence” baddie was, as well as more on River’s story. But you have to put this finale in perspective: This is just a smaller “big” story within a bigger picture. The biggest “bang” will be much further down the line. This is the Moff’s first series, and he’s only setting us up for bigger and better storylines to come.

Looking ahead to next year, I am still wondering about the weird time in Leadworth (the clocks seem to have gone haywire, and I refuse to accept that they are just production errors); I’m guessing that’s tied in to why the Tardis was drawn to this particular little English village in “The Eleventh Hour.” And what the heck exactly is the “Silence?” What had landed on Amy’s wedding day and wrecked her house? Is it an old baddie come back (Valeyard? Omega?), or a new one? I am deeply intrigued more than ever by River Song. Is she an adversary to the Doctor in her personal past/his personal future? Are they indeed married? Did she indeed kill him? Who will the writers be for the next series? Aside from more of the Moff’s scripts, I’m looking forward to the Neil Gaiman episode, which is slated to be the third in the series. Series 6 is looking to be promising, and I just wish I could cheat time with my very own Vortex Manipulator and see the next series already!

What did you think of “The Big Bang?” What did you love or like? What could you have done without? Favorite lines from the ep? (There were so many Moff gems throughout). I’d love to hear your thoughts.

NOTE: I’ll be writing a retrospective on the entire fifth series soon, so keep an eye out for that.

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