Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Doctor Who: The Big Bang (2)

Amy: 'Okay, kid. This is where it gets complicated.'

Good grief, she wasn't kidding. This was an episode which broke all the rules. There was no clashing of alien hardware, no Doctor v arch-nemesis fight to the death—all we got is one fossilised Dalek, and even it looked fit to drop. But what this episode failed to deliver in terms of dazzling, high-octane spectacle, it more than made up for in brain scrambling complexity. We went back and forth through time more times tonight than we've done all season. We were also treated to a wedding, two Amy Ponds, the return of Aunt Sharon, and dancing so freakishly disturbing that it should never have been shown before the water shed.

Story-wise, tonight's episode was exactly what the doctor ordered (if you'll pardon the pun). The traditional finale template has become worn of late—same ideas, different faces—so it was a relief to see them dispose of the big villain showdown, and replace it with something new. The stakes were, obviously, as high as ever, but tonight's story was a more intimate, low-key affair. Tonight, the Doctor sacrificed himself for his companions—only to have them save him right back.

Admittedly, we didn't get all our questions answered. In fact, the two biggest ones were left dangling—who's behind the Silence and what led to the TARDIS' destruction—but they answered enough. And, finally, a finale with a happy ending. Season one ended with us losing the Doctor, season two ended with us losing Rose, season three they just plain lost the plot, and season four we lost both Donna and the Doctor (again). Tonight, not only did we not lose anyone, we also got back people we never knew were missing.

It never occurred to me to question the fate of Amy's parents. Amy's house was undoubtedly big, I just assumed she'd inherited her parent's estate, and had never bothered to sell up and move on. Looking back over Amy's life, she's had a pretty rough ride. She lost her parents at an early age, lost her boyfriend to the Silurians, was almost turned into a stone angel, and more recently, was killed by her dead, plastic boyfriend. That's a poor run of luck, by anybody's standards. So it was a nice touch to give Amy a happy ending.

I'll admit, sometimes I find her relationship with Rory perplexing. She obviously has great affection for him—who wouldn't, he's a likeable chap—I just can't help but feel that, despite her heart obviously belonging to Rory, her head's more often than not some place else. In the end she got her wedding day, she even got her Rory—after two thousand years her protector, I guess the poor guy deserved something—but she still tried to snog the Doctor at her wedding reception. In front of everybody. Admittedly, the Doctor's currently uninterested in the opposite sex (or at least pretends to be), but what if that changes? The Doctor's morals are the only thing keeping Amy from cheating on Rory.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have Rory back. I half expected the Nestene duplicate to take his place, and everything to carry on as un-normal—but apparently time can be rewritten, and if something can be remembered, then it can come back. And come back he did. But him being a Nestene duplicate was the most interesting part of 'The Pandorica Opens'—so it did feel like a bit of a cop-out to have them press the reset button so shamelessly.

Him coming back also set the precedent for the Doctor's return. All it took was a few visual reminders (the bow-tie, the braces, Song's journal)—and the simple phrase 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'—and back he came. And my, how gracefully he danced. Okay, perhaps I'm taking it too far—he pranced around like a drunken giraffe, but it was great to watch the kids mimicking his moves. The wedding was actually quite charming. We rarely get to see the characters unwind, and Amy did look happy to be married to Rory... right before quipping about 'a snog in the shrubbery' with the Doctor. It's going to be interesting having a married couple along as companions.

The wibbly wobby timey-wimey parts were fun, if incredibly complicated. Could they have abused River Song's vortex manipulator any more than they did? It was outrageous! I loved Amelia feeling thirsty in the present, because the Doctor had stolen her drink in the past, to give to her in the future. Preposterous nonsense, but absolutely in keeping with the episode's general pottiness. Of course, it does raise the obvious question: why doesn't the Doctor do this every week? He has his own time machine—why doesn't he use it to save some lives? They tried to get around it (I think) by having the Doctor mumble something about the altered universe being simpler, as if this would somehow negate the danger—but, let's face it, Doctor Who's not hard science fiction, so we can turn a blind eye to the occasional plot hole.

And despite much of tonight's episode being a light-hearted romp through time and space, they still managed to surprise us with some pathos. Those last scenes inside the Pandorica were superb. Never once did the Doctor ask to be saved—he simply saw himself as unnecessary, and made Amy focus instead on saving her family. Yet, as his time-line unravelled, he saw an opportunity to come back. Back in the forest, he pleaded with Amy to remember what he'd told her when she was seven, before shifting back in time, to the night Amelia waited.

His last words brought tears to my eyes. He told Amelia the story of an old man who borrowed a blue box which was big and little at the same time, brand new and ancient, and the bluest blue ever. And thus, he sowed the seeds of his own salvation. He rued the adventures they'd had... would've had... never had, and, finally, he said his goodbyes. Smith's acting was beautiful in those scenes. For someone so young, his Doctor seemed positively ancient. He told Amelia to live well, to love Rory, and with a tired smile, winked out of existence. Thank goodness it was only temporary.

Having River Song turn up at the wedding was also a nice touch, but we're still no closer to discovering who she is. There was some ridiculously suggestive dialogue at the end. Goodness knows what she was saying 'yes' to. We were also shown a harder, more unforgiving side to Song: she made that Dalek beg for his life three times, before finally denying it. I still think she'll end up killing the Doctor. According to Steven Moffat on Doctor Who Confidential, all will be revealed next season. About bloody time! They've already dragged it out for over 20 episodes. I hope when they do tell all, it'll not mean the end of Song—although, since we already know when she dies, they can't really kill her off, can they?

And so it ends. I've probably enjoyed this season more than any other. The writing's been consistently high; apart from 'Victory of the Daleks' there hasn't been one bad episode. I'll admit, in terms of individual stories, nothing's quite reached the heights of 'School Reunion', 'The Girl in the Fireplace' or season three's 'The Family of Blood', but 'Amy's Choice' and 'Vincent and the Doctor' were definite contenders. Which can only bode well for next season.

Other Thoughts:

—Why was Rory still wearing his centurion uniform in 1941? Change your clothes, Rory. Smelly arse!

—My memory might be a bit creaky here, but when the Doctor went back to see Amelia in 'The Eleventh Hour', wasn't she awake? When he went back in tonight's episode, she was asleep on the floor.

—If I'd been Rory, the first thing I'd have done after being left to guard the Pandorica is smash up those petrified Daleks/Cybermen/Sontarans—just in case they somehow came back to life.

—'I gotta be cool, relax.' Nice Queen lyric to 'big up' the bow-tie—which is cool, just like a fez.

—An escaped Egyptian goddess on the Orient Express... in space! Sounds like fun.

—And finally, Aunt Sharon! No mystery at all, then? Oh well.


Doctor: 'Hi honey, I'm home.'
Song: 'And what sort of time do you call this?'

Song: 'I have questions, but number one is this: What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?'
Doctor: 'It's a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.'

Amy: 'What happened to the Dalek?'
River: 'It died.'

Doctor: 'The cracks are closing. But they can't close properly 'til I'm on the other side. I don't belong here any more. I think I'll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats. Live well. Love Rory. Bye bye Pond.'

Amy: 'You absolutely definitely may kiss the bride.'

Doctor: 'Who are you?'
Song: 'You're going to find out very soon now. And I'm sorry, but that's when everything changes.'

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