“The Big Bang” – Review: Redux

Professor River Song “Right, I have questions. But number one is this: what in the name of sanity have you got on your head?”
The Doctor “It’s a fez, I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.”

The Big Bang

So, here we are at the end of The Moff’s first series in charge and we’re waiting to see just how the Doctor is going to get out of the Pandorica in which he was trapped by the alliance. The answer it turns out was funny, exciting, thrilling and, yet, a little bit unsatisfactory. This is where it starts to feel like the story, while brilliantly written, might be seen as being a bit too clever for its own good. The first shock is that it is that two-thousand years later, as the Pandorica rests in the National Museum, that it is not the Doctor but Amy who appears in the Pandorica after it’s been opened by little Amelia. We get a non-linear story to try and get our collective heads around as the Doctor from the future jumps back in time to instruct Rory how to open the “box” to free his younger self and replace him with Amy, who can later be restored. To dismiss the paradox (that the Doctor must’ve escaped from the Pandorica *before* being able to go back and instruct Rory how to fashion his escape) in such an off-hand way effectively gives rise to the notion that he could always do things like that to get out of perilous situations. As a one-off it is justifiable, but as a repeatable process it might become tiresome quite quickly.One element of this is that Auton-Rory gets to look after the Pandorica for a couple of millennia and creating the myth of the Last Centurion. Really?! While it’s a nice little bit of Rory mythology and even though he’s not really human but an Auton duplicate, I’m unsure whether anyone could seriously do this and not go completely doo-lally. We then again jump forward to the museum. However, rather than try and explain this is my own words, I’m going to simply copy and paste a section from Wikipedia for you.

“In 1996, seven-year-old Amelia Pond finds instructions from the Doctor leading her to the National Museum, where the Pandorica is on display. She touches the box, allowing it to revitalise Amy and release her. They are soon joined by the Doctor and Rory, now a museum guard. After a tearful reunion, they are chased by a Dalek restored by the light of the Pandorica. The Doctor uses the vortex manipulator to go back and give Rory his screwdriver, as well as leave Amelia the clues to the museum. Amelia soon disappears: a sign, according to the Doctor, that the universe is collapsing rapidly. The injured body of a future version of the Doctor appears and whispers something to his earlier self. The Doctor takes off with Amy and Rory to the roof of the museum, where he discovers that the “sun” is the still-exploding TARDIS. Rory hears a voice coming from the exploding TARDIS and the Doctor amplifies the voice and discovers it is River Song in a time-loop, implemented by the TARDIS to keep her alive. The Doctor saves River, and as the quartet reunites, the Doctor is shot by the Dalek and sends himself backwards in time. Amy and Rory depart while River threatens the Dalek before shooting and destroying it. Amy and Rory discover that the wounded Doctor had told his earlier self to create a diversion, allowing him to rig the Pandorica to fly into the TARDIS explosion. The Doctor postulates that enough of the original universe still exists in the Pandorica to completely restore it via the exploding TARDIS. After a tearful farewell to Amy, Rory, and River, the Doctor engages the Pandorica and flies it into the exploding TARDIS. A second Big Bang occurs. The Doctor comes to consciousness and begins witnessing events in his life in reverse as the cracks in the universe close. The Doctor has to stay outside this new universe in order for that to happen.”

You can see why I didn’t bother trying to work out an original way to write that for myself. And that, in essence, is my problem with it. The constant wibbly-wobbly stuff is off the scale compared to anything we’ve seen before and, even as we get to Rory and Amy’s wedding in the newly restored universe, there’s a dollop or two more to come. River drops off a TARDIS-y diary, forcing Amy to recall the Doctor and will him back in to existence. Now, I know we have some precedent for this with Amy’s hidden memories of Rory forcing the duplicate to be created in the previous episode, and I know that the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” bit was pure poetry to invoke the TARDIS’s reappearance, but in purely objective terms, this is where you either have to buy in to Steven Moffat’s fairy-tale take on Doctor Who or have to concede that it’s just not a cup of tea that you’re willing to enjoy.

For me, I get completely caught up in the moment of Moffat’s writing. Despite the complexity, it is far from baffling. Despite the paradoxes, it is knowingly self-deprecating. Despite the fantastical elements, it is grounded in accepted Doctor Who mythology. Perhaps this is why I struggle with blogging about Matt Smith’s Doctor… the first viewing is generally a roller-coaster of thrills and spills and laughs, and probably gets a good ’18 out of 20′ score, while the second viewing suddenly becomes an entirely more complex beast to assess with things that are too easily labelled as plot-holes or “typical Moffat nonsense”, and probably gets a ’12 out of 20′. However, the bottom line for me is that Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who dares to be different. It takes risks to provide the audience with something new and never seen before. Rather wonderfully, in his comments about the show, he is also know to tell outright lies. Some people may have a problem with this, and it certainly becomes more of a feature during Series Six, but I quite like it. In an age when every whisper about Doctor Who is reported and blogged and analysed to death a little misinformation keeps us all on our toes. I have got to the end of Moffat’s first year in the big chair and can safely say that there is an awful lot to enjoy upon second viewing, but also the more critical eye can find more to get annoyed by.

Highlight: 55 minutes of Doctor Who breathlessness

Lowlight: The paradox

Talking Point: For those counting, was that the third death of Rory Williams this series?

Demon’s Run Rating: 15 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 26th June 2010

Marathon Status: The end of Series Five, just two more to go

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