“The Pandorica Opens” – Review: Redux

Rory “I died and turned in to a Roman. It’s very distracting”

The Pandorica Opens

The season finale of Series Five begins with the longest pre-title sequence yet seen; it takes so long for the titles to arrive that you feel like you’re half way through the episode already. This, of course, may also be due to the fact that so much is packed into that sequence. Following on from “Time of Angels” and setting the scene for future stories when the two time travellers (the Doctor and River) arrange to meet, there are a series of wonderful little, for want of a better word, minisodes. The central conceit being the question of how to two people out of sync with one another arrange to meet up? The variety of ways of answering that question that are sprinkled liberally throughout Moffat-era Who, are always fun. Here we get a painting made by van Gogh in his fugue state, being found by Bracewell and Churchill, who, on the advice of River leaves it in the Queen’s estate all the way through to the reign of Liz Ten, where (after a small detour to obtain Captan Jack Harkness’s vortex manipulator via Dorium Maldovar), it is stolen by River herself, who carves a message along with necessary coordinates on the oldest cliff-face in the universe where it waits for the Doctor to come and translate it, before the final meeting in Roman Britain.

Now, some might say that all that is very over the top and unnecessary, and some sort of indication that Steven Moffat is letting the power go to his head by playing with the show and not taking it seriously enough. They would be wrong. It is an absolute hoot. However, once in Roman Britain, it is time to go and find the mythological Pandorica, which the Doctor, Amy and River promptly do in the brilliantly named Under Henge which exists under Stone Henge, naturally. Once they defeat the damaged Cyberman, about whom it is never explained why he was there or why he was damaged, they realise that the Pandorica is opening, and that Stone Henge itself is transmitting some kind of signal to all and sundry, including Daleks and Cybermen.

When I watch an episode as part of this marathon, I have a note book to scribble down some quotes or comments for use later on. Typically, I could get two or three pages doing this (they’re only small pages!). However, when it comes to “The Pandorica Opens” I managed less than one page. Consequently, I thought I was going to struggle to come up with the words but just the sheer act of actually trying to write the first two paragraphs of this blog above shows, ironically, that there is just way too much going on. Whether the lack of note taking is a reflection of the fact that I was completely caught up in the action, or whether it was a result of all the action lacking substance, I probably haven’t really decided …. but by the time we get to the first big plot twist I was treated to one of the best scenes of the series: Rory’s return.

When the Doctor awakes after being attacked by the Cyberman and finds that the Romans have rescued Amy and killed the Cyberman, it turns out that one of the Roman soldiers, inexplicably, is Rory. The Doctor’s complete failure at first to register what he’s seeing is expertly played by both Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill and remains one of my favourite and most memorable scenes. By this stage, with River off in the TARDIS to get help, all the pieces are in place for the episode’s cliffhanger to played out. Rory, along with all the rest of the Romans, it turns out are Autons, and the whole thing has been a set up (using the memories of a young Amy Pond) to lure the Doctor there. And the bad guys behind this are… everyone. Well, supposedly everyone. Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Silurians are all in evidence and a few others namechecked or seen in the background, but they’re a pretty eclectic bunch to create this alliance to entrap the Doctor inside the Pandorica, which it turns out is a prison for the Doctor. As if that wasn’t enough, Auton-Rory shoots Amy after failing to overcome his Auton programming, and River and the TARDIS blow up, which we assume causes the explosion which causes the cracks in time.

With me so far? Good. Cos we’re only half-way through.

Highlight: Rory’s return

Lowlight: The rather weird make-up of the Alliance.

Talking Point: Too many to pick from… although, most simply put, what do you think of it so far?

Demon’s Run Rating: 16 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 19th June 2010

Marathon Status: Almost to the end of Series Five

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