Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 13 review: The Big Bang

Posted: 10 July 2010 in television
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Something Old, Something New. Something Borrowed. Something Blue.

Doctor Who - The Big Bang

Even after 13 weeks the Grand Moff retains the power to surprise, stun, cause grief, and generate racing excitement in equal and astonishing measure. When the Pandorica opened to reveal an alive and well Amy Pond sitting there instead of an incarcerated Doctor millions of viewers could not have failed to agree with the statement: “This is where it gets complicated kid”. Rory’s grief at killing Amy turns to high comedy and hope with the appearance of a fez-wearing, mop-bearing Doctor. And it was fun to have Caitlin Blackwood back as Amelia after her lovely turn in The Eleventh Hour – having her and Amy working together was akin to a multi-Doctor story and it can only be hoped that some way can be found to bring her back again.

The Big Bang was truly a season finale as it tied up the previous 12 weeks of adventures in a time-hopping, dramatic and high concept tale that also managed to leave a few teasers for the next series. The much-trumpeted “continuity error” from Flesh and Stone (where the Doctor is glimpsed to be wearing his jacket despite having lost it earlier in the episode) turns out to be brilliant foreshadowing from Moffat for many episodes hence. JMS when writing Babylon 5 used to say that the series was full of “holographic storytelling” when events heralded and harkened back throughout the narrative. The crack in time arc for the series has proved to be the most satisfying use of the series-long plot device yet attempted by Doctor Who.

Ok, the Vortex Manipulator was a convenient way of allowing the Doctor to jump around freely in his own time stream but his shaping of the past, present and future in relation to this ultimate crisis once again demonstrated how Steven Moffat, possibly uniquely amongst any writer for the series, has grasped how time can be used as a plot device in Doctor Who. The fun of the Doctor leaving messages in his own past to shape his present came to a shuddering end with the apparent death 12 minutes hence at the plunger of a Dalek. How cool was that Stone Dalek? Way better than the gaudily-coloured version it had once been before becoming a fossil of time. Let’s keep this version for the coming series.

The Second and Seventh Doctors have been described as arch manipulators but all their plans pale in comparison to the improvised scheme of the Eleventh Doctor here. He uses the past versions of his friends as a distraction for the Dalek to hunt so that he can set in motion his plan with the Pandorica and he plants the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” meme into Amelia’s head as a way of bringing himself back from the other side of the cracks in time. Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor is nothing less than astonishing here. He is truly an ancient wizard in a young man’s body and even manages to look 907 years old when he bids farewell to Amelia and the universe. For me the Eleventh Doctor now ranks in the top 3 of the best Doctors ever, alongside the Second and Fourth incarnations. Who are these morons calling for him to be dropped after just 1 year?

Poor old Rory hasn’t had the easiest path to true love with Amy. She runs off with another man on the eve of the wedding, he’s killed by a Silurian, wiped from history, reborn as a lump of plastic…But his devotion to her hasn’t wavered throughout and is clearly demonstrated by his 1894 year vigil over the Pandorica to keep her safe. There must be a series of “Lone Centurion” books waiting to happen surely? And now he has returned to being a member of humanity, married to his true love and a fully accepted member of the TARDIS crew.

For Amy the 13 episodes have been a dark extended fairytale with her imaginary friend “the raggedy Doctor” coming to take her off on wonderful and frightening adventures throughout time and space with dark monsters in surreal landscapes. But until now there was no mummy and daddy for her to turn to when the fairytales turned to nightmares – until the Doctor explains the mystery of the big house with the single occupant, the mystery that pulled him to Amelia all those years ago. Mr and Mrs Pond were victims of the cracks in time. Wiped from memory but now restored. For the Doctor it giving Amy her family back was more important than trying to cling onto a universe that he now longer belonged in. He sacrificed everything for his friend with only a vague chance that she could bring him back again.

Then comes the wonderful scene with Murray Gold’s pounding Eleventh Doctor theme (kudos to him as his music has been so much more fitting than at any point since he started in 2005) where the Doctor is remembered to everyone and the TARDIS returns from the land of fairytales with the suited and booted wizard waiting for a dance with his friends.

Throughout the finale the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song are heroic and wonderful but in many ways the true hero of the story is the Doctor’s beloved TARDIS. His oldest and most faithful companion. She encases River in a time loop to shield her from death, strives to save the Earth and all eternity with the power of her own destruction, and unites with the last of the Time Lords to restore all of time and space no matter what the cost to herself. An ancient box of magic and wonder that defies even the end of the universe to remain true to her friend and master. And when all seems lost it is Amy’s remembrance of the last of the ancient timeships of Gallifrey that brings the good and wise wizard known as the Doctor back into the universe to voyage on and protect everyone from the monsters.

As the Doctor, Amy and Rory head off to deal with an escaped Egyptian goddess (any connection to Sutekh and the other Osirians?) aboard the Orient Express (in space no less) questions are left dangling for Series 6: Why did the TARDIS explode? Who or what drew the timeship to 26.06.10? Who intoned “silence will fall”? Who the hell is River Song?

The Christmas 2010 episode is too far away…

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