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Doctor Who - The Angels Take Manhattan wallpaper

As the Last Days of the Ponds arrive and The Angels Take Manhattan time can’t be rewritten to save Amy and Rory as they bid farewell to their daughter and their Raggedy Man.

Chapter 1 The Dying Detective

Quite often Doctor Who works best when evoking the spirit of other genres and giving it a special twist to make it something extra special. For example,The Crusades from the William Hartnell era was David Whitaker’s spin on Shakespeare (with lines quoted as belonging to Love’s Labour Won used in The Shakespeare Code decades later); the entire 7th season (Jon Pertwee’s first) called upon the classic Quatermass serials of the 1950s; and the central plot element of Soylent Green in which corpses are recycled as food for humanity was at the heart of Eric Saward’s Revelation of the Daleks.

With the air of a 1930s pulp novel with a dash of film noir thrown in The Angels Take Manhattan commenced with detective Sam Garner (Rod David) investigating the building “where the statues live” at the behest of wealthy collector Julius Grayle (Mike McShane) and ended with a great tragedy for the Doctor as he is separated from Amy and Rory forever.

Chapter 2 The Angels Take Manhattan

Originally Steven Moffat intended to feature the Daleks in the Ponds’ grand finale but whilst visiting New York in 2011 the idea of using the Weeping Angels against the backdrop of the Big Apple came to him. Since the transmission of the highly-acclaimed Blink in 2007 fans had regularly postulated that the Statue of Liberty itself was a giant Weeping Angel. No Ghostbusters II-style romp across for New York preceded the statue’s looming appearance at Winter Quay as this time the city’s most famous icon was there to scare. The concept of the temporal battery farm recalled the scene in Blade Trinity where Blade and Abigail discovered a warehouse containing hundreds of humans in chemically-induced comas waiting to act as a food source for the vampires.

With each appearance the tactics of the Weeping Angels evolve. From barely-surviving scavengers on Earth to manipulative hoards on Alfava Metraxis, the continually changing facets of the Weeping Angels are akin to the progression from the atmospheric Alien to the action-orientated Aliens. Thankfully The Angels Take Manhattan doesn’t parallel Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection for controversial missed opportunities or sheer direness respectively.

Chapter 3 Missing in New York

Virtually from the moment of their conception the departure of Amy Pond and Rory Williams had been planned for. Their connection to the mysterious River Song and their undying love that conspired to survive the birth and death of time and space itself proved to be the most emotional and complex character arc ever granted to companions. Take a moment out and appreciate the genius of the Grand Moff, who created Amelia Pond with the explicit intention of linking her to River Song. Thanks to the impact of the intended one-off character from Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (bought so magnificently to life and death by Alex Kingston) Moffat created two friends for the Eleventh Doctor who will continue to resonate when the series reaches its 50th, 60th, and 70th anniversaries…and beyond…

The presence of the Ponds in the TARDIS (pre- and post-marriage) categorically debunked the long-held view in numerous quarters about the programme’s format working best when the Doctor has a single companion. Some of the best TARDIS crews have featured a male and female duo alongside the Doctor. Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield/Zoe Herriot in the Patrick Troughton era; Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan during Tom Baker’s first season; and Tegan Jovanka and Vislor Turlough in the 20th and 21st seasons alongside Peter Davison. The advocacy for the single companion is often made by lazy and unimaginative scriptwriters who can’t create an interesting narrative for more than two regulars.

Chapter 4 Taking the Case

Alongside the return of the Weeping Angels came Moffat’s other popular Doctor Who creation: River Song. The presence of River in the final outing for her parents was pretty inevitable and she’s now been freed from the convoluted timey-wimey continuity that had been established throughout her previous appearances. Now a professor of archaeology River doesn’t have to spend any more days in the Stormcage Containment Facility. After all, how can she be imprisoned for the murder of a man who never existed? As always the chemistry and interaction between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston was a delight to watch. Only in Doctor Who is it possible to become a recurring guest actor after a debut story in which your character dies. It’s a fair bet that River Song will continue to appear as long as Steven Moffat is the show runner and a part in the 50th anniversary series seems to be a given.

Chapter 5 Night in Statue Park

In the 1980s overseas filming came across as more of a perk for the production team rather than as an integral aspect of the unfolding story. Locations in and around Seville added nothing to The Two Doctors that couldn’t have been achieved with filming in the Home Counties, whereas the original proposed setting of New Orleans had been woven into Robert Holmes’ script almost as a character in its own right. Nowadays a Doctor Who story goes abroad for concrete reasons. The Fires of Pompeii, The Vampires of Venice and A Town Called Mercy could not have worked as effectively without the inclusion of appropriate foreign backdrops. The excursion to Dubai for Planet of the Dead was a complete waste of time though as it all looked like an infamous BBC sandpit with a touch of CGI.

Locations in Cardiff and Bristol were superbly used to render locations such as Winter Quay, the lair of the Weeping Angels, whilst three days of intensive filming for Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in and around Central Park gave the episode a sense of scale, romance and atmosphere it would otherwise have lacked. Rory’s eerie encounter on the lower terrace of Bethesda Terrace and the journey of the Doctor and Amy through Times Square (the latter done in a single take) are highlights of the near guerrilla filmmaking that the BBC undertook. It’s impossible to spot which are the British locations and which are the American ones unless you already know. The meeting of Rory and River was achieved with Arthur Darvill in New York with Central Park as an establishing background and Alex Kingston in Cardiff. The BBC Wales Doctor Who team are certainly at the top of their game seven years in.

Chapter 6 The Gargoyle

As with The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone River’s entry into the narrative came as a result of her investigation into rumours about a mysterious statue in the possession of a wealthy collector. Thankfully this one was chained and damaged and so was unable to run riot. There remains a wealth of backstory to be told about the Lonely Assassins and their presence through time and space. Perhaps a visit to Notre Dame de Paris or the Peace Tower in Ottawa and their respective gargoyles could happen in a future season…

Technically the Weeping Angels seen so far are in fact grotesques, a carved stone figure. A gargoyle contains a water spout through the mouth whereas grotesques don’t. In the Middles Ages, the term babewyn (derived from the Italian word babbuino, meaning babboon) was used to refer to both gargoyles and grotesques. In the November 2001 BBC Books 8th Doctor novel The Adventuress of Henrietta Street by Lawrence Miles (for whom controversial is perhaps the best and politest term) the villain of the piece Sabbath is assisted by savage, demonic apes called babewyns.

Doctor Who can be so damn timey-wimey…

Chapter 7 The Skinny Guy

Rory’s had a rather rough time since meeting the Doctor. Killed and wiped from existence, reborn as an Auton, discovering his daughter was a time-travelling archaeology professor bred to assassinate the Doctor. On any given morning he’s probably trying to remember if he’s human, plastic, or the Last Centurion. No wonder he looks bemused so often…Yet throughout life, death, and rebirth his primary focus remained Amy and her happiness. Time after time he was prepared to give her up as he thought that was the best thing to do – but love always won through. Arthur Darvill will be a much-missed element of Doctor Who and it’s likely to be a while before anyone tries putting another regular male companion aboard the TARDIS.

Chapter 8 Julius Grayle

The characters of detective Sam Garner and the dangerous collector Mr Grayle were just two of many elements that cried out for elaboration but constrained by the single 45 minute episode format. The entire undertaking could easily have become a two parter building upon Rory and River’s investigation of Winter Quay in 1938 running in parallel with the attempts of Amy and the Doctor to land the TARDIS there. Especially noticeable by their absence are new great villains. Where is a new Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn, Sutekh, Magnus Greel, Sharaz Jek, Sil or the Master? Mr Finch from School Reunion and Lillith of The Shakespeare Code are the closest the Doctor come to a new worthy humanoid adversary. Far too often 21st century Doctor Who is told at a breakneck speed that barely allows the viewer to take in the happenings in once scene before plunging into another frenetic round of action. At several points in the past 6 1/2 series poorly developed single episodes should have been abandoned early on in favour of expanding a tale crying out for more time. The Wedding of River Song cried out for an additional 45 minutes, and surely no one would have lamented the absence of The God Complex or Closing Time?

Chapter 9 Calling the Doctor

Whilst River’s personal timeline might now be simplified Moffat didn’t completely abandon his trademark approach to the interconnectivity of time in which past events can immediately impact upon the present by becoming a fixed point in time. The Doctor’s reading of Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town instilled an ominous sense of foreboding as the Time Lord began to realised he was destined to loose his little Amelia Pond and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

Chapter 10 The Roman in the Cellar

…And now poor old Rory finds himself trapped in a cellar with killer cherubs several decades before popping off to get coffee…

Chapter 11 Death at Winter Quay

Unfortunately after all the planning and hype the conclusion to the saga of the Ponds stumbled at the very last. Amy and Rory’s final scene should have been their Reichenbach Falls-style fall from the roof of Winter Quay as they deliberately sacrificed themselves to destroy the Weeping Angels through the creation of a time paradox. The love and nobility channelled by Gillan and Darvill as they effectively chose suicide, together with the horrified reactions of Smith and Kingston, were as heartbreaking stunning as anything ever seen in Doctor Who. Their disappearance from the Doctor’s timeline during the creation of the paradox and their fate left ambiguous could have been one of the greatest moments in the history of the series. Viewers could have decided their fate in their own minds. And perhaps…just perhaps…the Doctor could have met them again in the labyrinths of time…

Chapter 12 Amelia’s Last Farewell

In terms of companion departures and its emotional resonance Russell T Davies liked to have his cake and eat it. At the time the savage separation of Rose from the Tenth Doctor in Doomsday was without doubt one of the most heartbreaking moments ever in the history of the series (the destruction of K-9 Mark III in School Reunion scores top). David Tennant and Billie Piper had the viewers crying their eyes and hearts out. The two of them forever apart due to the barrier of wall and an impenetrable universe. Yet all that was rendered moot just one series later when Rose got to live happily ever after with the Doctor’s human clone. Being ripped from the presence of a friend or loved one for what is likely to be a very long time, or possibly forever, is one of the most traumatic events that can occur. Rarely in life does there come a moment of permanent separation where all parties have agreed upon the timing and been able to somehow prepare for the subsequent emotional shocks. In Doctor Who the best companion departures have been the emotionally wrenching ones. Amongst the most affecting from the classic series were Jamie and Zoe’s enforced removal by the Time Lords and subsequent memory wipe; Sarah’s eviction from the TARDIS due to the Doctor’s summons to Gallifrey; and Tegan’s sudden decision that she’s had enough due to all the killing that followed in the Doctor’s wake.

Steven Moffat, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have made it abundantly clear in numerous interviews that The Angels Take Manhattan saw the FINAL appearance of the Ponds in the series, bar flashbacks. All three believed that the emotional impact and suddenness of their finale would be undermined if they simply popped up a few stories later with a cheerful wave to the Doctor. If that was a sly swipe at the Russell T Davies era then good on them.

Whilst the slightly wrong ending may have occurred in the graveyard courtesy of the leftover cherub, there’s no denying the impact of Amy Williams’ farewell to her Raggedy Man via the last page of the Melody Malone book. When watching the scene it’s worth bearing in mind that during that just out of shot is Karen Gillan reading Steven Moffat’s lines to Matt Smith. By the end both actors had tears in their eyes…

Afterword by Amelia Williams: Hello, old friend. And here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well and were very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you always. Sometimes I do worry about you though. I think once we’re gone you won’t be coming back here for awhile. And you might be alone. Which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor. And do one more thing for me. There’s a little girl waiting in a garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to see and fight pirates. She’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived. And save a whale in outer space. Tell her, this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.

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Following last month’s triple purchase of Doctor Who Magazine the buggers are at it again…special editions of issue 452 on 20 September for The Power of Three and The Angels Take Manhattan. Hope they don’t do this for the 8 stories due in early 2013.

DWM 452 The Power of Three DWM 452 The Angels Take Manhattan

All the Daleks!!! EVER!!!

Dinosaurs!!! ON A SPACESHIP!!!

Cyborg gunfighters!!! IN THE WILD WEST!!!

River Song!!! Baby Weeping Angel!!! IN NEW YORK!!!

Tick tock goes the clock”, as the old song says. But they don’t do they? The clocks never tick. “Something has happened to time”. That’s what you say, what you never stop saying. “All of history is happening at once.” But what does that mean? What happened? Explain to me in terms I can understand. What happened to time?

Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (wallpaper)

Charles Dickens promoted his next Christmas special on BBC Breakfast News. Pterodactyls circled above picnickers. Cars tethered to balloons floated above the streets of London. And, tended to by his Silurian personal physician, Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill was one of the few people to have noticed that all was not well with time, perpetually fixed 5.02pm, 22 April 2011. Only the mysterious Soothsayer imprisoned in the Tower of London could solve the mystery of the confusion in time…

How close did Steven Moffat come to being carted off to the Tower of London himself when the production team first read the script for The Wedding of River Song? Even by the usual kaleidoscopic and phantasmagorical timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly, mindy-bendy standards of the Grand Moff this was a completely bonkers tale. It was also bloody brilliant and hugely entertaining fun. There were also many parallels with the previous series’ final episode The Big Bang, including alternate timelines, time and space dying, and the Doctor and River’s exchange of “Hi honey, I’m home” / “And what sort of time do you call this?”

For the first time a series of 21st century Doctor Who concluded with a one-off story instead of a two-parter but in many respects The Wedding of River Song can be taken as the fifth act of a pentaology comprised of The Impossible Astronaut, Day of the Moon, A Good Man Goes To War, and Let’s Kill Hitler. Once viewed this episode shed new light on many aspects of the twelve episodes that preceded it. Never before has Doctor Who been so serialised and intricate but that can be done in an age of digital downloads and instant repeat viewings. With Classic Who such intricacy would have backfired (and did when attempted with The Trial of a Time Lord). In the midst of this new-found confidence of narrative the production team took a few minutes out to pay homage and respects to one of the most beloved elements of the near five decade old series. A moving acknowledgement that without the old the new could not have existed.

I’m afraid Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart passed away a few months ago. It was very peaceful. Talked a lot about you, if that’s any comfort. Always made us pour an extra brandy in case you came round one of these days.

The Brigadier - Battlefield

On 22 February 2011, mere weeks before The Wedding of River Song went into production, the much-loved Nicholas Courtney, who had portrayed Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart since 1968, passed away at the age of 81. Throughout fandom there was much debate about how the series should pay tribute to the legendary actor and character. Rather than a simple title card acknowledgement at the beginning or end of an episode as had been the case with deceased producers Verity Lambert and Barry Letts, Steven Moffat took the unusual step of incorporating the passing of Courtney into the narrative itself by having the Brigadier pass away peacefully in a nursing home. Upon learning of the death of his oldest friend, all the bravado and fight drained out of the Doctor as he realised, possibly for the first time in his long existence, that time could in fact catch up with him.

“In a story about the Doctor going to his death, it seemed right and proper to acknowledge one of the greatest losses Doctor Who has endured.” (Steve Moffat).

It was a masterstroke on Moffat’s part to make the loss of the Brigadier’s and Courtney simultaneously heartbreaking for the Doctor and the audience respectively. It’s unknown what the original motivation was for the Doctor to surrender to the inevitable but it seems impossible for anything to have affected him in quite the same way as the passing of Lethbridge-Stewart. It’s even intimated that the envelope that ended up with Canton Everett Delaware III was originally intended for Lethbridge-Stewart. After all who more fitting than Earth’s Defender to have joined The Girl Who Waited and The Lone Centurion at Lake Silencio to witness the final death of the Doctor. Though the Brigadier is gone from the television series he can live on via the printed word. From the dialogue used there was a clear implication that the 11th Doctor had met him on numerous occasions. So how about for the 50th anniversary there’s a novel featuring the Brigadier, the Doctor, and Mr & Mrs Pond – possibly involving that Peruvian mission that was constantly calling Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart away.

Rule One: the Doctor lies.

Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (Area 52)Watch The Impossible Astronaut again and bear in mind that the future Doctor seen in Utah was the Teselecta and Amy was a Ganger. Did Matt Smith and Karen Gillan have any idea they were not playing their “regular” characters? Probably not. The Grand Moff plays his cards very close to his chest in order to make everything as much as a surprise as he can for the production team and audience alike. Alex Kingston only learnt the true identity of River Song before A Good Man Goes To War went into production so that she could use the knowledge to inform her performance.

A more apt title for this episode would have been The Wedding of River Song to the Teselecta time-travelling shape-changing robot powered by miniaturised people. However, that would have slightly given away the twist of how the Doctor escaped from his pre-destined death. Like River Song, Steven Moffat safeguards spoilers jealously and quite rightly glowers menacingly when the media attempt to blow the fun for the millions who love the show. Knowing the Teselecta was the Doctor at Lake Silencio would have ruined the moment when the scheme to escape struck the Time Lord and everyone at home. Yet, like many of Doctor Who’s best moments, the solution to the inescapable conundrum had been dangled in front of everyone for weeks. After all how did history know it was the actual Doctor who had died? After the Viking-style funeral no body remained to examine – and the watching Silents, the Sentinels of History, had seen the Time Lord struck down. Whilst the Doctor deceived time and manipulated perceptions to escape the “fixed point” of events at Lake Silencio, River Song took it upon herself to defy the natural order of history so as to save the Time Lord she loved so dearly. But what a royal cock-up she made of it all in all as her actions lead to the creation of multiple alternate realities as time collapsed in upon itself. Wouldn’t anyone take on the universe and destiny itself to try and save the person they loved the most?

The Seventh Transept. Where the Headless Monks keep the leftovers.

Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (Seventh Transept)Steven Moffat’s final writing assignment before taking on the stewardship of Doctor Who was the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Given the hotchpotch that served as the basis for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spielberg should have used him for that project instead as Moffat clearly has a mighty grasp of how to combine action and drama, humour and horror in a rewarding recipe. Want an epic sweep of locations? Well here they are. The catacombs of the Seventh Transept with resident talking carnivorous skulls, Thunderdome-style chess matches (is Mark Gatiss contractually obliged to appear in a certain number of Moffat scripts?), seedy bars on alien worlds, secret bases beneath the deserts of Egypt. Indiana Jones may have faced Russians at Area 51 in Nevada but the Doctor had a legion of Silents loose in Area 52 beneath the Great Pyramid at Giza. In the space of 45 minutes there are more varied locations in this modest episode of television that Indy encountered in his 4th cinematic outing. The Silents hanging from the ceiling of the Senate Room and gazing down upon the Doctor and Churchill must rank as one of the premier images of modern Doctor Who. The Doctor/River Song relationship has an odd parallel to the Indiana Jones/Marion Ravenwood relationship. Constantly bickering and baiting each other in the manner of a screwball comedy but underneath it all they’re devoted to each other.

Thankfully the Doctor has Rory to be a father/mentor figure to and not Mutt. No matter how many times he might die or which reality he ends up in, Rory always finds Amy – who in this instance was manifested as a very hot kick-arse secret agent chick. Growing up with a time rift in her bedroom wall meant that Amy was able to retain memories of the original timeline even if she didn’t realise the significance of Captain Williams right off. Often the most important people in life are right in front of us and no matter how fucked-up time and space become those destined to be together will always overcome the odds and be united.

Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (The Silents)

Madam Kovorian was certainly a far more sinister and effective villain than Irina Spalko. Not entirely surprising that she met her demise at the hands(?) of her associates the Silents but for Amy to have played quite so a cold-blooded role in events was an eyepatch opener. Perhaps River’s psychopathic tendencies aren’t entirely engineered. Let’s remember that the queen bitch isn’t dead in the correct version of history and a return in 2012 isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Hands up who wants a severed sentient blue head complete with implanted WiFi chip in the TARDIS on a full-time basis. From a spit-and-cough scene in The Pandorica Opens to his beheading in A Good Man Goes To War, Dorium Maldovar has quickly endeared himself to fandom as one of the best characters created for the series. And he certainly knows a fair few facts about the challenges that lie ahead for the Doctor…

On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered.

Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (Doctor Who?)Since Steven Moffat took over the reins of Doctor Who he has made concerted efforts to reel in the expansive legend that the Doctor has become (“too big, too noisy”) and return him to the shadows. Much of the mystery of the Doctor was lost when his background as a Time Lord was revealed in Patrick Troughton’s finale The War Games. Elements are clearly being laid to come to fruition in 2013 as part of the series’ 50th anniversary celebrations and truly return the Doctor to being “a mad man with a box”. Not since the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era that encompassed Tom Baker’s first 3 seasons has Doctor Who been this good.

The first question. The question that must never be answered. Hidden in plain sight. The question you’ve been running from all your life! Doctor Who? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?

“I seem to be able to fly her. She showed me how, she taught me. The Doctor says I am the child of the TARDIS. What does he mean?”

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler - The Doctor

To paraphrase show runner Steven Moffat, “Let’s Kill Hitler” is a “slutty” title. Like Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” earlier in the series it was designed to provoke interest and discussion. Through the 3 months that “Doctor Who” was off screen it certainly did that, with anticipation running incredibly high for what was in effect a 2nd series opener within the same series.

Some viewers doubtless felt cheated due to the almost blink-and-miss nature of the appearance by Adolf Hitler after all the hype, but let’s face it the episode could never have been the “Doctor Who” equivalent of “Downfall” or “Schindler’s List”. Examinations of the monstrous evil that was Nazi Germany have no place in what is, and always has been, a family series. Whilst the Daleks and their creator Davros can be used as an allegory for the Nazi regime’s concept of racial purity and the dark-minded eugenics scientists respectively, it’s utterly impossible to have heinous topics such as the Holocaust covered within the series framework without it becoming “Torchwood” by any other name. If the younger members of a viewing audience are not aware of Nazi Germany and its Fuhrer then they need to be educated about that hideous chapter in human history. “Doctor Who” is there to entertain.

And “Let’s Kill Hitler” certainly did entertain. This is the closest that Steven Moffat has come to a Russell T Davies-style pulp sci-fi romp but it was far more entertaining and filled to the gunnels with a surfeit of his trademark timey-wimey twists.

If you can’t treat Hitler seriously then there’s only one option left to a writer. You have to rip the shit out of him. As Moffat himself said in the preview in Doctor Who Magazine 438:

“Hitler would be deeply, deeply pissed off to know that we treated him as a minor comic character in a episode of Doctor Who. My guiding moment for it was how Steven Spielberg handled Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – when Hitler signs the book for Indiana Jones. We didn’t create him as a great icon of evil, we took the piss, and I don’t think we can humiliate that man enough.”

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler - Adolf Hitler

Arthur Darvill’s Rory was given all the best material in relation to the humiliation of Hitler. He punched Hitler, yelled “Shut up Hitler”, and locked the Fuhrer in a cupboard all in the space of a few minutes. After this episode “Hitler in the cupboard” may become a euphemism regarding the rumours of Hitler’s sexuality. Is the Fuhrer still in the cupboard? Did a double die in the bunker on 30 April 1945?

The main remit of Hitler’s presence seemed to be to provide an easily recognisable war criminal from Earth’s past for the occupants of Justice Vehicle 6018 to compare Melody Pond and her recorded future murder of the Doctor to. A bizarre hybrid of the crew from “Fantastic Voyage” manning a version of the T-1000 from “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, the occupants and concept of the Teselecta didn’t get as much screen time as they deserved because of all the other plot threads flying around. Since the revival of “Doctor Who” in 2005 the idea of non-Time Lord time travellers has been dealt with sparingly. The idea of extracting war criminals from the end of their timeline and then “giving them hell” is one that the Doctor finds repulsive. There’s an odd parallel between those actions and the bizarre Mormon practice of baptising the dead.

Since the appearance of the aforementioned T-1000 in 1991, the morphing of entities from one form to another has invariably been along the lines of a melting effect. 20 years down the road the “Doctor Who” team came up with a new way for the Teselecta to change features, a superb “block” effect that made it hard to believe this was not a feature film budget the special effects team had at their disposal.

Production values on the revived series have cocked a snoot at the frequently cited criticism of wobbly sets on the classic series. From summery contemporary Leadworth, to 1938 Berlin, to the interior of the Teselecta, to the Luna University in 5123, the behind-the-scenes team once again worked wonders with their available pennies. Cardiff’s Temple of Peace has become the closest thing to a regularly used quarry following its use in “The End of the World”, “Gridlock”, “The Fires of Pompeii”, and “Cold Blood”. Here it represented the Hotel Adlon and the setting for yet more revelations surrounding River Song/Melody Pond…

“Well I was just on my way to a gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled, when I suddenly thought, “Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish, I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer”.

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler - River Song

A far more apt title for this episode would have been “The Birth of River Song” or “An Unearthly Melody”. But that would have rather blown the central theme of these incredibly enjoyable 45 minutes of television out of the water. Once again Steven Moffat peeled away some of the mystery surrounding arguably the most popular supporting character to have appeared in the revived “Doctor Who”. Alex Kingston has clocked up ten episodes as River Song since her first appearance in “Silence in the Library”/“Forest of the Dead”. Three more outings and she will have equalled the duration of the Ninth Doctor’s onscreen tenure. Only in “Doctor Who”, with its wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey nature, can a character be killed off in their debut story and then go on to become a much loved semi-regular.

As much as Alex Kingston owns the screen as River she is matched step-by-step by Matt Smith in every shared scene. Despite the 20 year age difference between the actors there is an incredible chemistry between them that makes you simply accept that one day the Doctor and River will be husband and wife – though knowing Moffat it may not in fact be that simple in the end. Even when dying because of her actions with the poison of the Judas Tree, the Doctor’s fury is reserved for those hurting River and not her for killing him. From before her birth River had been lined up as a weapon to kill the Doctor. She can’t help what she has been trained and conditioned to do. This expression of love was repaid when River sacrificed her remaining regenerations to save the Time Lord.

As is par for the course with a Steven Moffat script many questions are answered but more posed. We now know that the little girl seen regenerating at the end of “Day of the Moon” was Melody Pond. We now know that the Silence is not a species – It is a religious order or movement with a core belief of “silence will fall when the question is asked”. Naturally we’ve not been told specifically what the question is other than it is “the first question”. The oldest question in the universe. Hidden in plain sight. Are we going down the path of “who is the Doctor?”. That was tried with the so-called “Cartmel Masterplan” and was a dismal failure.

Unlike “The X-Files” when the so-called story master plans of the alien invasion/colonisation were clearly made up as the seasons clocked up, Steven Moffat has clearly prepared a intricate story arc for the Doctor and his associates. Probably since the age of 8! There have been complaints in some quarters of fandom and the media that he has made the series too intricate and complex with the need to remember plot elements from a couple of years before. So??? In this era of DVDs, iPlayers, digital downloads, and Wikipedia, intricately woven narratives in “Doctor Who” are now possible in a way that they never were in the classic series. When it was tried in stories such as “Attack of the Cybermen” it failed because not even fans could remember the necessary elements from stories dating back to the 1960s! And there is a difference between building a mythology and ripping one off for ideas. If the viewer doesn’t want to think or isn’t prepared to absorb plot elements then they can go away and watch one of the increasingly naff “reality shows”. In this age of fast food-style television it’s a pleasant change to have a programme that makes you use the brain as well as entertains. And when the plot gets too complicated ask your 8 year old child to explain it all to you. Who knows, in 30 years they might be running “Doctor Who”.

Courtesy of records from the Teselecta, the Doctor is now aware of his impending death on 22 April 2011, 5.02pm at Lake Silencio, Utah, USA. The Doctor’s death is a fixed point in space and time. It has always happened and must always happen. So how will it be avoided? Can it be avoided? We’ll find out in “The Wedding of River Song”…

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

On paper  the mid-season cliffhanging “A Good Man Goes To War” had all the hallmarks of a RTD season finale – game-changing events, multiple monsters, continuity references galore. In three of his four season finales RTD used the Daleks so full marks to Steven Moffat for avoiding that temptation and inverting expectations by making the “monsters” the goodies and the vast majority of the humans the baddies.

That’s not to say that the Daleks might not ultimately be revealed as the masterminds behind the scheme involving Melody Pond – despite comments from the production team that the pepper pot terrors will not be appearing this series it seems almost insulting not to make them the architects of this plan against the Doctor given its breadth and audacity across time and space. And, let’s face it, as villains go Madame Kovarian and her army of the church are adequate antagonists but not the stuff of nightmares (though no one sane would want her as a relative, midwife, or nanny).

If the Daleks are not behind this then the obvious candidate is The Silence and its minions The Silent. Steven Moffat has stated in interviews that The Silent are merely the foot soldiers of something far more vast and dangerous. What is The Silence and why did it destroy the TARDIS in series 5? Many of the threads for series 6 were laid in series 5 and are now coming home to roost. The biggest story thread to have come home is the mystery surrounding the identity of River Song. Though in true Moffat fashion not all the questions have been answered despite revelations to make the audience scream out “What? What??? WHAT???!!!”

Amy, Rory and Melody Pond

The moment the name of Amy and Rory’s baby was revealed as Melody the penny should have dropped, but as it came in the midst of so many other occurrences it passed through the mind quickly. Instead it was left to a beautiful reveal where the Gamma forest language on the prayer mat made for Melody was translated by the effect of the TARDIS. As “the only water in the forest is the river” the word “Pond” became “River” and “Melody” the closest equivalent of “Song”. Melody Pond is River Song! Ok, strictly speaking Song River but that’s not as cool. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston played the scene where the Doctor realises the identity of River Song beautifully. Within the space of seconds the Doctor goes from fury, to realisation, to embarrassment, to schoolboy giggling about what lies ahead for him. And he’s quite clearly lying about the cot being his – his offspring have been aboard the timeship in centuries past.

Smith and Kingston are an electric combination and despite their age difference make the relationship between the characters utterly believable in every scene they share. Despite himself the Doctor knows that this woman is going to be a hugely important part of his lives, and River is utterly devoted to this mad man with a box. They are the perfect married couple. Despite all the anger and mistrust there is a fundamental connection between them that can never be destroyed no matter what the other does.

The most refreshing part of the Doctor/River relationship is the lack of jealously emanating from Amy. In previous series since “Doctor Who” returned there would most likely have been resentment from Amy about the attention that the Time Lord was paying this other woman, but not so with Moffat in charge. Amy has the love of her life in the shape of Rory and now has a daughter to protect – she doesn’t need to mope after a 907 year old alien. Though she may be having words about the fact the Doctor is going to be her son-in-law one day…

Despite all his best intentions and plans to seize the Demons Run base without bloodshed it’s the Doctor’s own arrogance and overconfidence that causes his downfall is this instance.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

Madame Kovarian turns the fury of the Time Lord back upon him and this results in the heartbreaking scene where the baby in Amy’s arms dissolves into Flesh. That poor girl is going to need serious therapy when she returns to Earth. First she spends 9 months thinking she’s aboard the TARDIS and now her baby has been taken away from her. Is series 6 going to conclude with the departure of the Ponds from the TARDIS? Having a married couple living on the timeship is one thing, but an entire family…

A problem with the 21st Century version of “Doctor Who” is the way in which the Doctor is becoming an integral part of the mythology of the universe. The word “Doctor” has been adopted by many cultures to mean “healer” and “wise man” and his exploits have become legend – this is all a far cry from the Hartnell/Troughton eras where the Doctor was a totally unknown factor and could come and go like a summer breeze (as the 5th Doctor puts it in “Frontios”). By all means make the Doctor capable of fury and anger beneath his clown-like exterior (which should shock and terrify his friends when it occurs) but I’m not so sure about making that the stuff of legend throughout time and space. I prefer the original concept of the Doctor as an eccentric Victorian-style scientist exploring time and space in his magical box to the more elemental force of the universe that he has become of late.

In this instance the Time Lord’s cleverness in assembling an army of allies to take the base was anticipated and used against him, resulting in a massacre by the Headless Monks (the sight of the tied-off stumps of neck when the hoods were lowered was bound to garner complaints but what’s a little horror at a Saturday tea time). The production team had clearly been raiding the costume department for available aliens/monsters. Great to see the Cybermen back – thankfully minus the Cybus symbol and therefore the cyborgs of this universe – and in vast numbers. It’s about time they made a proper return to the series (something like Big Finish’s “Sword of Orion”, “Kingdom of Silver” and “Cybermen” mini-series would be a good template to work to for future tales with their mixture of intrigue, politics and tombworlds).

Madame Vastra and Jenny

The further adventures of the 19th Century crime fighting Silurian Madame Vastra and her human companion Jenny are crying out to be made. The lesbian connection between the two is so obvious it can’t be classed as an undertone in any shape or form. Period crime fighting with sci-fi elements and hot lesbianism between Homo reptilia and Homo sapiens, now how could this possibly fail? Plus, Captain Jack Harkness was around in that period so you could always throw him into the mix.

In the back of my mind I have the outline of the full adventure of the back story that Vastra relates about being found by the Doctor in the London Underground. It’d be the 6th Doctor that finds her as I love the idea of his multi-coloured coat against the green of the Silurian and piercing through the gloom of the London fog…

“Let’s Kill Hitler” is an intriguing title for the next story when the series returns in September. It may not be as literal as it seems. Is the Doctor going to get involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler or is there a more oblique reference to be teased out? One of the classic dilemmas associated with time travel relates to knowing how events unfold and being powerless to prevent them. For instance, if you were able to travel back in time and met Hitler as a child would you have the ethical right to kill him in order to prevent the rise of Nazi Germany and all the evil associated with it? At that point in time Hitler would be an innocent child, and even if you killed him would that stop Nazi Germany from being or would someone and something far worse come along? It may be that “Let’s Kill Hitler” refers to the scheme to use Melody Pond as a weapon against the Doctor and his dilemma about what to do. Although the child could potentially destroy him what right would the Doctor have to curtail her life?

September 2011 and the remaining 6 episodes of series 6 seem an awful long way away…

We are not fighting an alien invasion…we’re leading a revolution.

Doctor Who - Day of the Moon

In true Steven Moffat style I’m going to start some way along the timeline and jump back and forth through the episode. So, to begin with the end: What the fuck???!!! The little girl is regenerating!!! Does that mean she’s a Time Lady? Or is it Time Girl at that age? If she does truly have the ability to regenerate then the obvious candidate for her father is the Doctor, and the obvious candidate for being the mother is Amy given the photo she finds at the orphanage. But when has anything been obvious with Moffat at the helm? The TARDIS can’t make up her mind whether Amy is pregnant or not. Fluctuating timelines at work: in one she is pregnant and in another she isn’t.

The child is clearly important to the Silence given the care that it has taken to keep her contained and healthy. The chances are that it knows of her heritage and wants to use that in some way. Given the amount of time the Silence has been on Earth and manipulating events from the shadows has it been playing around with the Doctor and Amy at some point in the past when they were unaware of its presence? And just who is the “Eye Patch Lady” and what is the significance of her line “No I think she’s just dreaming”.

With modern Doctor Who (are the terms classic-Who and nu-Who now?) and its epic sweep of story and location the viewer is truly getting a film made on a television budget. Writer Moffat and director Toby Haynes provide us with epic Utah vistas complete with action sequences (very Indiana Jones,  President Nixon as a figure of comedy, and dark creepy houses complete with shit-scary ceiling-hanging Silents (Tim Burton meets Roald Dahl) all in the space of 45 minutes. Some series can’t achieve such diversity in years let alone minutes. This is what makes Doctor Who the most flexible drama format ever conceived of.

But no matter how clever the script is, how good the director is, or the quality of the production team, it’s the performances of the actors that the public are going to remember – and there’s no way they’ll be able to forgot the cast from Day of the Moon.

Sylvester McCoy’s 7th Doctor was in his later seasons classed as an arch manipulator playing chess on a thousand levels, yet in many ways Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is becoming an arch-manipulator too. He endures 3 months of imprisonment, together with long hair and beard, so that his friends can garner the breadth of the operation by the Silence across America and all along he has a plan to defeat them. Again the uniqueness of Doctor Who is shown by the way he defeats the Silence, not through massive explosions or speeches on the uniqueness of the human race, but through a television broadcast of humanity’s first journey to its nearest heavenly body.

As usual Alex Kingston is note perfect as River Song – once again throwing herself into the abyss (or in this case off a skyscraper) in the certain knowledge that the Doctor will be there to catch her. In some ways it’d be great to have River on board the TARDIS as a permanent companion but that’d probably detract from the uniqueness of her character and her connection to the Doctor. Her next appearance is to be in A Good Man Goes To War, the mid-season cliffhanger episode and this is highly likely to the point at which her true identity is revealed to all and sundry. Will the Doctor be prepared to stop future falls after that happens? Let’s hope whatever revelations occur don’t prevent appearances by River Song for many years to come.

Is there trouble ahead for the “love” triangle between the Doctor, Amy and Rory? Though Amy makes it quite clear that he is the one that she loves and not the Doctor, there is a sense of something being built up in connection with Rory’s jealousy over Amy’s relationship with the Doctor (well that’s what it seems like) – that she didn’t tell him about the pregnancy first, the discussion with the Doctor about his time as the Lone Centurion, the gaps in his memory, all point to trouble ahead (and possibly Cybermen given an image that has been released online). It was once said that it was ideal for the Doctor to have only one companion but Moffat has proved that doesn’t have to be the case with the proper writing.

Steven Moffat is weaving a complex multi-episode narrative with the lingering questions as to who the little girl is and what the Silence’s plan is for her, the true identity of River Song, the death of the Doctor to be resolved and avoided, Amy’s pregnancy. Moffat needs to make sure he avoids the pitfall that plagued Doctor Who in the 1980s: stories that relied on an intricate knowledge of the series’ mythos to understand. For instance, Attack of the Cybermen in 1985 required viewers to have a familiarity of previous Cybermen tales from 1966 and 1968 to keep up with the significance of the plot. Story arcs are a nice pay-off for viewers who follow the series week in and week out but there is a fine line where the occasional viewer can have the hell confused out of him/her very easily. Mind you this is the era of iPlayer, digital recording and iTunes so episodes can be watched time and time again and never truly missed.

To end with here is the most important question of all: when do we get Karen Gillan out of her trousers and back into those rather fetching mini-skirts, complete with boots???

*** Small note to those who wonder if the Doctor will ever be played by a woman – there are Time Lords and Time Ladies. One does not become the other through a regeneration.***

That most certainly is the Doctor. And he most certainly is dead.

Doctor Who - The Impossible Astronaut

It’s my blog so I’ll do Doctor Who reviews. So there “insert raspberry noise here”.

Killing off the Doctor a mere 10 minutes into the new series after he has managed to survive nearly 48 years on television seems to curtail the need for the remaining 35 minutes of the series opener, the 12 episodes of Series 6/Season 32 (huge debate amongst fans about what each series/season should be tagged as) due to follow The Impossible Astronaut, and any series/seasons to follow.

But as head writer Steven Moffat is a certified genius at playing with time, and all that other “wibbly-wobbly” stuff, the fact that the Doctor has shuffled off the mortal coil, gunned down in mid-regeneration by a 1960s NASA astronaut who has risen out of a bloody great lake in Utah, doesn’t hold up proceedings in the slightest. The dead Eleventh Doctor was 1103 years old and within minutes we’re introduced to an Eleventh Doctor who is only 909. The older Doctor has prepared for this moment by summoning his friends Amy, Rory and River Song to Utah to meet his younger self and solve the mystery behind his death. Problem is a) they don’t have a clue what is going on (join the club), and b) even if they did know what was going on they can’t impart any information to the younger Eleventh Doctor that may change his future.

Out of the all the writers to have worked on Doctor Who since it began in 1963 Moffat is pretty much the first to play around with time within the confines of what has been a series involving time travel since day 1. The character of River Song and her interaction with the Doctor is the prime example of this. Her last meeting with the Doctor was his first meeting with her and they continue to meet in the wrong order relative to their time streams. If you don’t understand any of this time business ask a 10 year old to explain it…after all Moffat runs all his ideas past his 2 sons to get their feedback.

Set in the USA in 2011 and 1969, The Impossible Astronaut finds the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song on a quest that takes them from Utah, to the Oval Office in Washington DC, and a bloody scary building in Florida, complete with dark corridors and tunnels teaming with monsters. With this season opener Moffat breaks all the rules set up since the series returned to television in 2005 – mainly in kicking off with a 2 parter, and giving the audience a narrative that is basically a series finale in terms of its scope and ambitions.

As well as making the viewing audience think about the narrative (unusual for television these days) Moffat also continues the mission statement that the production team of Tom Baker’s 1st 3 seasons operated to: “scare the crap out of the little buggers”. From the man who gave us monsters who scare by not moving (the Weeping Angels) comes the monster that you can’t remember seeing: the Silent. With faces like a melted version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream this creatures are the minions of The Silence, the mysterious entity that caused the TARDIS to explode in the previous series. These aliens have been on Earth for a very long time and clearly have a plan that involves the Doctor.

With it’s mixture of comedy, horror, high drama, and pathos The Impossible Astronaut is a dream script for any actor and the regulars wring every ounce of justification from it. Effectively playing 2 versions of the Doctor, Matt Smith again shows why he is the best person since the mighty Tom Baker to have inhabited the role. From flirting with River Song, to deducing the location of the scared little girl, to showing the Doctor’s darker side when he realises he’s being manipulated, Matt Smith clearly demonstrates the range that has led him to being the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for his performance as the Time Lord.

Karen Gillan’s performance as Amy over the dead body of her beloved Doctor isn’t going to be easy to match through the rest of the series. You could reach out and touch the grief she felt at the loss of her friend.

After dying and being resurrected in what seemed like every other episode towards the end of the last series, Arthur Darvill’s Rory may make it through this story without losing his life. Like River Song he grasps all the timey-wimey complexity of the Doctor knowing too much about his own future.

Ah, River Song…the unofficial 4th member of the TARDIS crew…the day draws ever nearer where her true identity and connection to the Doctor are going to be revealed, let’s hope that day doesn’t mean losing her from the series. Alex Kingston’s chemistry with Matt Smith is electric and the pair of them light up the screen with their banter/bickering/arguing/flirting. And with the latest revelation that she’s a “screamer” there’s no way we can lose her…

Some naysaying reviewers have for reasons known only to themselves attempted to sound a death knell for the series by pointing out that The Impossible Astronaut garnered “only” 6.4 million viewers. Those are only “overnight figures” and when finally calculated correctly the number is likely to come in at around 8 million. Given that the episode was broadcast at 6pm on a blazing hot Easter Saturday that’s pretty bloody impressive. What works against the series is the time of year it’s been broadcast at since it’s return in 2005. The first episode of each series has been broadcast on an Easter Saturday and back in 2005 that was the last Saturday in March, not the penultimate one in April. The 13 episodes of Doctor Who should be broadcast from January or September. It’s a autumn/winter programme, not a spring/summer one. Though this year we’re going to have 7 episodes going to the start of June, and then the remaining 6 from September. Steven Moffat obviously realised that a start of late April would run the series virtually into August and the loss of many viewers.

Doctor Who will never die. It may fade away for a few years here and there. Have forced and unforced hiatuses, but it’ll never die.

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…

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…