Doctor Who reviews: The Pandorica Opens
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Enter the narrative whirlpool of the season 5 finale (part 1) and see what the hell you make of it...
Doctor Who two-parters come with their own set of challenges, but if it's a series finale story as well, there are further obstacles to overcome. The Pandorica Opens, likes any Who finale Pt.1, is obliged to throw down a heap of jigsaw puzzles on the carpet, leaving the viewer not only with the problem of assembling a jigsaw, but that of not knowing which jigsaw any particular part belongs to.
In short, it's inevitably confusing.
Since Russell T. Davies introduced the series arc with the revitalisation of the show in 2005, Pandorica was inevitably going to half-assemble bits of the picture and show us one big, and quite possibly deceptive section of one jigsaw mere moments before the closing credits.
Pandorica begins by demonstrating how carefully producer and sometime writer Steven Moffat had mapped out the season. Clearly an extra hour or two of each story in most of season 5 was allotted to contribute to this season's closer. Actors and sets reappeared from nearly all of the previous months to lead The Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge (and where else would a 1970s Doctor Who fan like Steven Moffat set his finale?) during Roman times. Here they discover that one of the stones in the circle simply slides aside to lead to a deep dark chamber containing the mysterious Pandorica box and (oddly) the remains of one lone Cyberman. Here, finally, will come the answer to the 'cracks in time' first seen in The Eleventh Hour, and which have liberally threaded series 5.
Like the story, even the Cyberman himself is in pieces, but demonstrates a heretofore unknown power of the race to partially reassemble himself and scare the hell out of Amy. I have to admit, when the Cyber-head that Amy was grappling with split in two to reveal the dessicated skull underneath, it was a pretty good shock. We already knew that the Cyber-race is based on recycled humanoids, but that moment really brought home that this classic Doctor Who nemesis is a ghastly species of coffin, dead or alive. Spooky.
Meanwhile...River Song has escaped her pretty impressive space-prison by dazzling a new guard with hallucinogenic lipstick, and is on the scene as well, disguised as Cleopatra.
Meanwhile...Rory is back from the dead, now both a genuine Roman soldier and 'good old Rory', with two sets of memories in his head and a girlfriend who can scarcely remember him (we've all been there, Rory) thanks to his non-erasure from history earlier in season 5. Except when he's a conflicted, murderous robot.
Meanwhile...every enemy The Doctor has ever faced is besieging Roman Stonehenge from the air in their respective ships, only to be temporarily pushed out of the way by a very RTD-style bit of braggadocio from The Doctor, who is able to scare 12 million ships of foes away with a big speech about how he has kicked all their arses at one time or another (literally), over and over again, effectively saying 'Come on then, who's first?'. And off they go to deliberate.
Meanwhile...some odd fate has sent River Song off in the TARDIS to investigate Amy Pond's old house, and finds her bedroom that of any typical Doctor Who fan. There's a toy TARDIS, a toy Doctor, a book about Pandora's box and a book about the exact same Romans we meet in this episode. And a suggestion that the scenario of this episode, if not all of series 5, seems to have been created out of Amy pond's hobbies and thoughts.
"All The Doctor's enemies, working in a common cause? All these endlessly sonic screwdriver-singed dummies actually forming a plan of their own...?"
It is very confusing.
River Song has still not met the version of The Doctor she is destined to know, which would seem to safeguard his future survival (as if the ratings and merchandising were not capable of this by themselves), unless she is lying about what they 'had' or he is genuinely going to be removed from history.
Why does Amy have a toy TARDIS in her bedroom? Did The Doctor crash out of the fictional into the real world in The Eleventh Hour? Is he going to walk into a branch of Forbidden Planet and leaf through some of the classic Who novelisations?
Or have all his enemies truly combined to save the universe from the cracks in time, which, as they claim at the end, have been caused by The Doctor's long history of changing history?
I do recall an episode of Star Trek TNG where it was discovered that warping round the universe left a kind of cosmic pollution, and was not as 'green' a method of travel as it seemed. So perhaps the cracks in time are indeed all The Doctor's fault, and what looks to be his imprisonment and potential eradication from history in the strap-down chair inside the Pandoricon is the only way to save the universe, in all its incarnations.
There's just one problem (actually, more than one, but let's start somewhere):
All The Doctor's enemies, working in a common cause? All these endlessly sonic screwdriver-singed dummies actually forming a plan of their own?
That's a leap too far. All this is clearly engineered by any number of possible (smarter) foes from the Master to the Black Guardian to the Celestial Toymaker. And also so that we can acknowledge the BBC's expense of bringing Sontarans, Daleks, Cybermen and all the other old favourites together in one room. Hell, Terry Nation's Daleks don't get out of bed for less than a chestful of galactic groats.
Or else, Moffat has set all of series 5 as some kind of psychic fantasy. It's hard to tell, because Amy seems, at this point, to be the centre of the universe, and the most important person in the universe. So perhaps that famous 1980s moment where Patrick Duffy stepped out of the shower to reveal that an entire season of Dallas was Victoria Principal's dream will be trumped next week.
Why did one Cyberman go and get torn to pieces in the Pandorica chamber (apart from to provide some action for Amy), when apparently the Cybermen themselves were working in concert with the Doc's other foes? Why was the place not bestrewn with the debris of invaders? And if the Pandorica's defence systems didn't destroy that Cyberman, what did?
Why did River Song go through all that palaver impersonating Cleopatra when she could have just pulled her space-pistol out and put the Romans in the picture earlier?
Why did the scared-off spaceships not elect a 'leader'? The end-Dalek appeared only moments before all the others turned up.
And again, goddamit, why is there a toy TARDIS in Amy's old bedroom?
My brain hurts.
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