Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 12 review: The Pandorica Opens

Posted: 25 June 2010 in television
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The most feared being in all the cosmos. Nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it – one day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.

Doctor Who - The Pandorica Opens

River Song – What?
Rory – What?!
The Doctor – What???!!!
Amy – WHAT???!!!

No one can accuse Steven Moffat of going for a low key start to the 2 part finale of Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor. The Pandorica Opens also serves as a sequel to the preceding 11 episodes with story threads and characters coming home to roost.

In his final tormented days Vincent Van Gogh (post-Vincent and the Doctor) creates a painting of the TARDIS shattering in a terrifying explosion. Van Gogh’s painting then ends up in the hands of Bracewell and Winston Churchill (post-Victory of the Daleks) who ends up having a telephone call with River Song 3204 after his time period. River Song (at a point in her time stream before The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone breaks out of the Stormcage prison facility in order to retrieve the Van Gogh painting from the Royal Gallery where she encounters Liz Ten.

Now just imagine the planning that went into this scenario. Extra scenes must have been shot during The Beast Below, Victory of the Daleks and Vincent and the Doctor (probably with the actors having no idea of the significance of them). Time and money surely would have precluded recreating sets and re-hiring actors. This knocks the Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr Saxon, Medusa Cascade, and He will knock four times story arcs right into touch in terms of complexity.

How the hell does The Grand Moff stop his brain from exploding with all that must be going on in there???

The first time the image of the Eleventh Doctor in his bow tie and tweed jacket was shown Indiana Jones in his teacher mode came to mind. And in The Pandorica Opens the spirit of Indiana Jones looms large with flaming torches, secret chambers, and mysteries from time immemorial. Indy normally messes with the past, whereas the Doctor usually messes with the past, present and future (normally at the same time) and visits museums to keep track of his successes and failures. For the last of the Time Lords the Pandorica has always been a fairytale, a rumour lost in the mists of time and legend. And now this fairytale is coming to bite him in the arse. Hard.

Throughout the season there has been a strict avoidance of the contemporary London landmarks that featured time and time again throughout the eras of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. A return to the more rural-based stories of the Third and Fourth Doctors culminates with a visit to one of the most famous non-city British landmarks. Only Doctor Who can get away with a legendary edifice concealed beneath Stonehenge. No wait…maybe Indiana Jones could have. Just for a moment imagine Indy IV written by Steven Moffat…

A not totally unexpected aspect was the return of Rory Williams, apparently resurrected as a Roman warrior. Great comedy ensues with the Doctor utterly at a loss to explain a dead man’s return and settling for witnessing a miracle for the first time in his 907 years of life. You just know the explanation can’t be as simple or twee as this, and so it proves with the sudden revelation that Rory and all his fellow centurions are Autons under deep cover. So the villains of the piece are the Autons? Right? Wrong!!!

Severed Cyberman arm shooting laser bolts, a one-armed Cyberman body on the rampage, a detached Cyber-head divesting itself of a shrivelled skull in order to entrap Amy. In the space of around 2 minutes the Cybermen were rebooted to their original concept of cybernetic vampires, leaving behind the pulp sci-fi reinvention from Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel in the space of minutes. So the villains of the piece are the Cybermen? Right? Wrong!!!

The villains of the piece are…well…everybody!!! ALL OF THE DOCTOR’S ENEMIES (at least the ones with new series costumes). A grand alliance has been formed to entrap the Doctor and prevent the destruction of the universe. There’s a thrill down the spine as the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, Autons, etc, appear to condemn the Doctor to imprisonment in the Pandorica.

According to the Doctor the Pandorica contained “…The most feared being in all the cosmos. Nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it – one day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world…”. It never occurred to him, or us, that this mythical figure was him!!! From the perspective of all his enemies this is a perfect description of the Doctor.

The Doctor imprisoned for eternity by an alliance of his greatest enemies. Amy killed by Rory, who has been seemingly resurrected as an Auton. River Song trapped in an exploding TARDIS. The universe disintegrating as the Earth fades into darkness.

Saying that the final episode of the series The Big Bang has a lot to live up to is an understatement of insane proportions. Often the 13th episode fails to live up to the 12th but in this instance all the sings indicate that The Grand Moff will deliver a truly satisfying and epic conclusion to the greatest season of Doctor Who since the departure of Philip Hinchliffe with The Talons of WengChiang.

Here comes a big bang…

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