THIS EPISODE TAKES PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV EPISODE "THE PANDORICA OPENS"
AND PRIOR TO THE
SJA "THE DEATH OF
'THE COMPLETE FIFTH SERIES' LIMITED EDITION STEELBOOK BLU-RAY DVD
(BBCBD0130) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2010.
The Doctor is gone,
the TARDIS has been destroyed, and the universe is ABOUT TO collapsE. The only hope for all reality is a little girl who still believes in stars.
26TH JUNE 2010
(55-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
How do you describe an impossible thing? Because that’s exactly what The Big Bang is. Steeped in more paradox than a Lawrence Miles paperback, Steven Moffat’s inspirational season finale is an absurdity of the most profound kind. It’s a story of un-paralleled scope, reduced to just five characters running about in a museum (two of whom are the same person). It’s a story free from antagonists, save for the delicious stroke of irony that is a petrified Dalek. It’s a story stuffed to bursting with ingenious retcons that provoke applause rather than scorn. And it’s a story that ties together this behemoth of a season in the most intricate and emotive of ways, without actually dealing with most of the burning questions that have held it together and that will no doubt fuel next year’s run too.
The episode opens with a pleasing, if somewhat unexpected, reflection of The Eleventh Hour’s opening scenes. As The Pandorica Opens concluded with a dramatic confluence of the Doctor’s deadliest foes, the last thing I expected to see The Big Bang open with was a whimper. In terms of pace, it’s like running into a brick wall, yet it is far more effective an opening than any monster-strewn ‘escape from the Pandorica’ set piece would have been. As I watched the astonishingly-talented Caitlin Blackwood reprise her role as the young Amelia Pond in a world where stars never existed and our planet hangs in an obsidian void, I began to see the shape of the season; its fetching symmetry. Whatever you want to call Doctor Who’s 2010 series, its principal protagonist isn’t the eponymous Doctor; it’s Amy Pond.
“Cheap and nasty time travel. Very bad for you. I’m trying to give it up.”
Within a few short scenes, it further became apparent that The Big Bang was going to be a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey affair the like of which we haven’t truly seen since Blink, only this time built upon twelve episodes’ worth of continuity. Inevitably this has led many to condemn the episode’s impenetrability – if you haven’t seen every episode of the season, then how could you expect to follow this convoluted plot? Well, a lengthy recap helps, as does having a Doctor Who buff on hand to field plot-related questions, nonetheless by hook or by crook my mother-in-law was held spellbound throughout, despite having never seen the show since I forced her to half-watch Rose back in March 2005.
With The Big Bang airing on the eve of our eight-hour flight to Saint Lucia, I had briefly considered spending the next couple of weeks trying to avoid spoilers, just as I’d done a few days earlier when I’d engaged in an almost comically laborious, but ultimately suc-cessful, attempt to avoid the England score. Inevitably though, the temptation proved too great, and so gathered around a small, portable telly in a Gatwick hotel with my wife and mother-in-law, all talk of our impending holiday fell away, to be replaced by occasional bouts of laughter, the gentle sound of nails being nervously eroded by teeth, and even the trickle of a solitary tear (though neither my mother-in-law nor wife can take credit for that one). Afterwards both women were gushing with praise for the programme, leaving me wholly unsurprised when the episode achieved a record high in the audience appreciation index. Complicated or not, The Big Bang has an overwhelmingly endearing accessibility to it; a sense of fun and magic that persists even if you aren’t in a position to appreciate its finer points.
“Rory, listen. She’s not dead. Well, she is dead, but it’s not the end of the world. Well…”
However, if you are able to follow the myriad twists and turns, then The Big Bang becomes even more rewarding still. As a fan of the series, and one with a passionate proclivity for the timey-wimey, I loved the early scenes of what even the writer describes as “nonsensical time travel farce.” In what other show could you see the most solemn of subject matter broached with outrageous silliness? As a man made of plastic cradles the broken body of his lover at the end of the universe, a man from the impossible future shows up to tell him that “it’s not the end of the world”, but “it is”, provoke a punch, and then proffer a sonic screwdriver. It’s like the lyrics to a Flaming Lips song. And Matt Smith - who looks prep-osterously appropriate wearing a fez and brandishing a mop - plays the scenes better than even David Tennant would have done on one of his zaniest days. I sincerely hope that the fez becomes a running gag next year – it’d be great to see the Doctor pick one up each week, only to be robbed of it by his companions in some cruel fashion, as he is here.
With hindsight, it’s easy to criticise the episode’s failure to explore some apparently obvious areas, chiefly the end of the universe as we know it. As The Big Bang is uniquely set after most of time and space has been excised, leaving only the Earth lingering in “the eye of the storm”, basking in the heat of the exploding TARDIS, it’s quite surprising that Moffat doesn’t explore the Doctor’s internment in this almost-oblivion and its effects on him. Of course, short of casting your lead man into a white void reminiscent of Star Trek: Deep Sp-ace 9, there wouldn’t have been a whole lot Moffat could have done; at least nothing that would have been preferable to a mop, a fez, and an expedient predestination loop.
Similarly, one could pick holes in the complexities of the narrative and the leaps that it requires the viewer to make, however these are belied not only by the episode’s velocity and empathy, but also by its exceptional setting. This isn’t an episode to which the usual rules of cause and effect apply – hell, the universe has been erased retroactively. As such it doesn’t really matter how the Earth formed without a star there or how penguins made it to the Nile. Rather than make his episode an academic study of how our culture might have developed in the absence of stars, Moffat has deliberately made his script as enchanting as can be, letting his incredible imagination run riot rather then be pent by the scientific fences facing.
“Since then, there have been no sightings of the lone Centurion…”
And Moffat’s magic isn’t limited to a little girl who frees a version of her future self from inside a museum exhibit, where she’s just spent nearly two thousand years convalescing from lethal wounds. The Big Bang is ablaze with romantic imagery that surpasses even the cinematic visuals; of stunning dramatic couplets that resonate back and forth through the season. As Amelia patiently waited twelve years for her “raggedy Doctor” to return, Rory waited almost two millennia for Amy to emerge from the Pandorica, all that time guarding her from every threat and obstacle that history cared to throw at them. The scene that sees Amy silently weep as Nicholas Briggs recounts the lone centurion’s dogged defence of the Pandorica is one of the highlights of this season, let alone the episode. Move over Girl in the Fireplace, we have a new champion.
Of course, Briggs’ larger role in the episode is one with which he’s much more familiar, having played the part in innumerable television episodes and audio productions. Although his allies didn’t make it past the end of the universe, a Dalek managed to survive, frozen in what appears to stone. But when Amelia opens the Pandorica to free her future self, its restorative light reanimates the Dalek, providing the episode with its only tangible menace, and no doubt precipitating the release of yet another Dalek toy.
“The light from the Pandorica. It must have hit the Dalek.”
However, the real meat of the story is not the nonessential Dalek but our heroes’ desperate struggle to reinstate the universe. You see, as the Pandorica survived the annihilation of all things, its atoms contain memories of the universe as it was. And just as a sheep can be cloned from a single molecule of DNA, the universe can be re-extrapolated from a single surviving atom. The snag is that in order to do so, the Pandorica needs to be manually piloted into the heart of the exploding TARDIS, and whoever does so will not only meet their end, but will never have existed. And guess who’s the only man up to the job.
As the Doctor resigns himself to his non-fate, Moffat finally puts some of his cards on the table. In a heart-rending scene that sees Matt Smith and Karen Gillan at their respective zeniths, the Doctor explains to Amy the extent of the devastation wrought by the crack in her bedroom wall. Since she was a child, it has eaten away at her whole existence, swallowing friends and family alike, and leaving her all alone in that big, empty house. But if Amy can remember the people that she’s lost, then when the universe is reborn, they’ll all be there waiting for her. All but one.
“Amy Pond. All alone. The girl who didn’t make sense. How could I resist?”
A universe without the Doctor isn’t a welcome proposition at all, and one wonders how it could expect to survive the many catastrophes that he’s saved it from. Time would certainly have some compensating to do. Nevertheless, the Doctor’s sacrifice has a certain poetry to it. A moribund Doctor from twelve minutes in the future isn’t fooling anybody, but his erasure from history and ascension to fairytale is so elegant a conceit that it’s almost a plausible payoff to the series. Perhaps the highest compliment that I could pay to The Big Bang is that were the series ever to definitively end, then the Doctor’s passing into story and legend would probably be as fitting a finale as one could hope for.
For all its grace though, such a romantic ending would lack the immensely rewarding feel-good factor of The Big Bang’s last ten minutes. As the Doctor’s timeline starts to rewind, Moffat takes him right back to the night that he first met Amelia, and there he has the wily old Time Lord plant the seeds of his return in the little girl’s unconscious mind. “Oh that box, Amy,” he whispers. “You’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient, and the bluest blue ever.” A “borrowed” TARDIS? Old and new at the same time? Blue? Clever, clever, Doctor...
“When you wake up, I’ll be a story in your head”.
We then fast-forward to 26th June 2010, the date of the episode’s broadcast, where Amy is woken on her wedding day by her mother. That’s right – she’s got a Mum. And a “tiny wee Dad.” She’s even got a fiancé who isn’t made of living plastic. But something is missing. Someone is missing, but Amy can’t quite fathom whom. Cue River Song.
After the most brazen of introductions in this two-parter, Alex Kingston’s incorrigibly licent-ious character plays a quieter, albeit slightly edgier, role here than she has done previously. Bleeding into the background for the most part, River occasionally emerges with a ready quip – the best being “I have questions, but number one is this…” – or, as is the case in the dénouement, as a catalyst for the plot. For as Amy looks out of the window and sees River pass by, she notices River’s journal in her hands. River’s police box-backed journal...
“Raggedy man, I remember you, and you are late for my wedding!”
The Big Bang’s soaring crescendo provides the biggest bang of the episode by far, which is really saying a lot, given that it follows hot on the heels of the universe’s reboot. As her memories of her forgotten friend gradually reassert themselves, a tearful Amy rises to her feet, recalling the old, new, borrowed and blue TARDIS. And then as her friends and family cast their looks to the ground, embarrassed by the bride’s apparent psychological relapse, she is vindicated by the materialisation of her imaginary friend in his big blue box, providing us with a suitably magical end to a children’s storybook of a season.
Watching the episode’s final moments is like watching The Green Death through a mirror, lightly. Amy and Rory are married, but the Doctor isn’t at all saddened by this – quite the opposite, in fact. And why would he be? Amy isn’t leaving him. And nor is Rory. Married life can wait – there’s an Egyptian goddess running amok on the Orient Express that needs sorting out; a quintessential Who pitch if ever there was one...
“Where are you off to? We haven’t even had a snog in the shrubbery yet.”
Since the series returned to our screens in 2005, never before has a season concluded on a happy note, and only in one instance did a companion stay on to serve two years straight. Well those days are gone: The Big Bang’s finale is as uplifting and triumphant as Moffat’s now-infamous “everybody lives!” conclusion to his Empty Child two-parter, and it appears that both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will be by Matt Smith’s side when Doctor Who returns for its yuletide Yeti-fest. Needless to say, I couldn’t be happier, though I do feel that Darvill deserves his name in the title sequence after his captivating performances this year.
Most tantalisingly of all though, Moffat has managed to resist the urge to tie up all of the season’s loose threads. Unlike the Russell T Davies era, which is clearly a set of five arcs, it seems that Moffat’s fluidic tenure is going to be harder to compartmentalise. Moffat has the Doctor literally list all the outstanding issues just before the credits roll, which when co-upled with the promise of learning more about the increasingly enigmatic River Song, is much more likely to maintain interest over the hiatus than a mysterious runaway bride or the Titantic punching through the TARDIS’ walls.
An intimate tale carried by the bravura performances of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston, The Big Bang is a new kind of season finale for a new kind of season. It has heart; it has humour; it has spectacular, filmic visuals from Toby Haynes; an almighty score from the peerless Murray Gold; and it has a narrative from Grand Moff St-even abounding with all manner of ridiculous and enchanting miracles. As the man himself so eloquently put it, “beat that, Vets in Love.”
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Season finales have a big job to do, and The Big Bang in particular had a lot to live up to. Could it possibly match the standards set by The Pandorica Opens? Well, of course it did, but in a very different way. Rather than build on the huge monster-fest of the first episode, Stephen Moffat instead created a rather magical story that manages to be both extremely personal and on a universal scale - big and small at the same time, rather like the TARDIS.
Last week’s episode ended with huge questions hanging in the air. How will the Doctor escape the Pandorica? Is Amy really dead? What’s going to happen to the TARDIS? What’s wrong with Amy’s life? What was up with the Doctor’s disappearing / reappearing jacket in Flesh and Stone? These were all answered in good time. Other, greater questions remain to be answered at the series’ end. Who is River Song? Who wants silence to fall? Are fezzes really cool?
“Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated.”
With the entire universe blotted out by the space / time cracks caused by the sundering of the TARDIS, while the Doctor remains bound for all eternity inside the Pandorica after his defeat at the hands of his enemies, I was dying to know just how he was ever going to get out of this predicament. True, he has averted the destruction of the univ-erse in the last two big finales, but never has he had to come back and save it after its destruction. Surely, we’d be given glimpses of some terrible hellish no-space with the Doctor lost within, trapped in his box? Well, no - instead we got a far more intriguing opening that retells the very first scenes of the series, putting young Amelia Pond (a welcome return by the wonderful Caitlin Moran) in the heart of a head-scratching mystery. Who thought Moffat could beat last week’s stupendous opening reel? When that box opened, and twenty-one year-old Pond faces seven year-old Pond, he totally trounced it.
I like the peculiar alternative world in which young Amelia lives; a world with no stars, but with museums displaying Nile penguins and tundra Pharaohs. In reality, a world that had grown up without any stars in its sky would have such a radically different cultural development as to be totally unrecognisable, so important are they to our mythologies and science, but the brief glimpses of the world we are shown here are enough to put across the point that this is a changed, impossible world. The viewer also has to swallow the conceit that the entire universe has been annihilated, except for the Earth which happens to be okay for the moment because it’s at the “eye of the storm.” Obvious nonsense - how did the Earth even form in this shrunken, starless cosmos? - but once you accept it, you can accept that the rules are out of the window and enjoy the ride.
“It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”
Which is good, because there really is so much to enjoy here. If, at first, the Doctor’s escape from the Pandorica seems a little easy, then it’s soon forgotten when you realise just how cleverly constructed the episode is. I’m used to time-twisting fiction, but even those less familiar with such concepts can easily follow the Doctor’s time-jumps. Moffat’s script is structured perfectly, using the fez and the mop to indicate just when the Doctor is about to jump back and set things up, giving the viewer the chance to get just half a step ahead of the game in time for the payoff. Then, just as you think you’ve sussed it all out, the future Doctor appears, his jacket smoking and struggling to hold onto life, knocking you for six. It’s all part of an episode that’s complex but never complicated, and a perfect example of the temporal interconnection that has characterised the whole season. It’s true that this isn’t really an episode for the casual viewer; someone coming into it having not seen the previous few weeks’ worth of episodes would probably feel rather lost. No matter - the job of a finale is to tie-up and send-off the season, and to reward those viewers who have diligently tuned in week after week.
It’s the sort of thing that the series simply couldn’t normally do; if the Doctor can hop along his timeline leaving clues and running errands, the story would fall apart. It’s only in a story such as this, with the highest of stakes, that the rules are allowed to be broken to such great effect. This comes across in other ways too. We get to see Rory, the Auton who was once a man, spend two thousand years protecting the woman he loves, in what is simply the most romantic concept ever to make it into the series. We know that the reset switch is bound to be pressed somewhere along the way to allow them to get away with this, but for once it doesn’t matter. It grated when events were reversed at the end of Last of the Time Lords, but here it’s presented in such a way that it actually seems right and satisfying. That’s not easy to do. And anything that let’s Arthur Darvill be so utterly heroic is worth it. I can see why Amy fell for Rory - I think I want to marry him too.
“Two thousand years. The boy who waited. Good on you, mate.”
There are plot-holes galore if you want to look for them and some things don’t work perfectly. The stone Dalek is a fantastic image, and provides the episode with a more immediate threat than the gradual collapse of time, but it’s a daft conceit. It’s hard to see how a Dalek could function at all after being turned to stone, although I guess it’s not really stone, but some kind of temporal anomaly residue substance (or something). No matter, it’s basically magic. Doctor Who isn’t science fiction this week, it’s pure, wonderful fantasy. It’s harder to accept that the Dalek’s blast can be shielded by a satellite dish, but then it is weakened; this is also presumably why the Doctor doesn’t regenerate after being shot. Alternatively, perhaps he’s forcibly holding it back, as he has work to do. Either way, he’s now survived being “exterminated” by a Dalek, twice, which is no mean feat. Rory still beats him, though, by managing to survive being killed, erased from history, resurrected as an Auton and then erased from history again. Now that’s impressive.
All the actors are on absolutely top form here, but that’s no more than we’ve come to expect. Alex Kingston’s River Song continues to entertain and intrigue, but doesn’t dominate the plot. This episode is ultimately about the Doctor, Rory, and, most of all, Amy. Amy’s story is tied up beautifully here, and Karen Gillan makes the most of the material she’s given. The true horror of Amy’s life, slowly eaten away by the crack in her wall, is chilling, and makes perfect sense in the fairytale logic of this series. It all leads up to the Doctor’s incredible sacrifice, giving his life so that the universe may once again live. A Universe in which the Doctor never existed would be a very different one, surely, but it’s better than no universe at all. So, for a moment, it looks as if we’ve lost the Doctor in all his guises, before we even got a chance to know his new persona. As an aside, anyone who thinks we’ve lost the modern Doctor of recent years should take note - the last thing that he does as he speeds to his destruction is send his mates a jokey text message.
“It’s from the Doctor…”
The rewind through the Doctor’s life (since his regeneration, at least), brings a real lump to the throat, and manages to tie up the season even tighter. Never before has one series felt so much like a single, great adventure. And then, finally, we get the joyous payoff, as Amy wakes up in her repaired, complete life, with her parents, on the morning of her wedding. (I love her tiny wee dad! Augustus Pond. Sounds like someone out of Roald Dahl!) Then, triumphantly, the Doctor returns, summoned back into history by Amy’s memory of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Again, pure magic, plain and simple. Absolutely captivating writing. And doesn’t the Doctor look good in a topper and tails? He should keep that look for next year. If nothing else, this episode has proven that Matt Smith can wear hats.
Stephen Moffat has shown that the series can survive yet another change of cast and image, providing a series that has been an absolute triumph. There was a little dip in quality in the middle, but it’s been nothing less than entertaining from start to finish, and has perhaps the greatest opening and closing episodes in the series’ history. We’ve two appealing new companions, who, wonderfully, are continuing to travel on with the Doctor, something that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. Most praiseworthy of all, though, is the inspired casting of Mr Matt Smith, fast becoming one of my favourite Doctors (no small feat in itself). After this superb finale, I’m a little uncertain as to which events in the series actually happened, but that’s something for continuity geeks like me to puzzle over in the future. Now we can look forward to the Christmas special, and Series 6 (aka Season 32, et al…), and Moffat promises answers to the ongoing question of River Song’s true identity, not to mention the mysterious force behind the Silence. I just can’t bloody wait.
Oh, and yes - fezzes are cool.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2010
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
A dazzling and triumphant finale – and I haven’t said that in a while! Steven Moff-at really was saving up all of his bangs and flashes for the last two episodes. What a clever way to bring the season to a close. As I’m sure I’ve said over and over again, Russell T Davies is very strong on build up but rarely gives his stories the satisfying conclusions they deserve. The Sound of Drums and The Stolen Earth rank amongst my favourite Doctor Who episodes ever, but neither of them was especially well-served by the bloated and overcomplicated conclusions that followed. With The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, however, Moffat has provided us with a stonkingly memorable build up and a concluding episode that manages to be even better, taking the title as the best episode of the season against all the odds.
After the Doctor was banged up in the Pandorica and the universe was brought to a close, I can’t say what I was expecting from this episode, but for some reason I had it in my head that the menagerie of monsters from the end of the last episode would have a huge impact on this story. Wrong. They don’t even appear. Well, one does, but it’s emaciated and begging for mercy before it dies. What we have instead is a clever piece of writing that capitalises on the five major strengths of the season, namely: the Doctor, Amelia Pond (both as a child and an adult), Rory Williams and River Song. With an arsenal of character talent like that at your disposal, who needs Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and all the rest? This is character drama of the highest order; monsters are just a side issue.
“It was me who gave it to you. Me from the future. That’s nice; I’ve got a future.”
I’m sure that all the Lawrence Miles wannabes out there probably think that Moffat is too clever for his own good, but I for one am glad that he enjoys tinkering with narratives, playing tricks on the viewer and exploring the possibilities of time travel, cause and effect and even alternative universes. The Big Bang features some of Moffatt’s finest notions yet, and rather than presenting them in a serious way he has great fun with the idea of the Doctor being told when he popped back in time to save himself and then popping back several more times to give further advice. It’s not like the Doctor to mess about with his own time stream in this fashion, so things must be dangerous indeed and yet he rather joyously sets up the episode in a fez holding a mop and with a big goofy grin on his face. When we start relaxing into this wonderfully silly idea of the Doctor being able to pop up in any part of the past (like the cute notion of grabbing Amelia’s drink from the past to give it to her in the future) he has a Doctor from the near future appear in his present and die right in front of them all. Clever sod.
Even better is how Moffat refuses to ignore the calamitous events he set loose at the end of the last episode – the universe is ending, the stars have gone out and the only thing that is keeping the Earth warm is the exploding TARDIS hanging in the sky, slowly dying over several millennia. What an awesome concept, beautifully rendered. But Moffatt doesn’t stop there: River is trapped in the exploding TARDIS, her final moments looping over and over again until the Doctor gloriously steps into the loop and states flirtatiously, “Hi honey, I’m home.” Even more beautiful is the giddy shock of finding Amy inside the Pandorica when it is opened by her younger self, which leads to the glorious line by the Doctor, “come along Ponds!” These are complicated ideas for a young audience and it is rather wonderful that he can present them in such a deliriously ambitious way.
“I’m River Song. Check you records again.”
Alex Kingston deserves huge kudos for continually bringing new shades to River Song, a character who ambiguously walks through the Doctor’s life knowing far more than she should. I love the crazy idea of us constantly meeting her in the wrong order; it’s such a simple idea and yet so boggling and it highlights the craziness of the Doctor’s life so adeptly that you have to wonder why it has never been tried before on television. When we met River in Silence in the Library we witnessed her death, and The Time of Angels saw her released from prison for killing “the best man she has ever known” and now the events of The Pandorica Opens precedes even that! She is a character of hints and whispers and she worms her way into the Doctor’s affections with surprising ease. The sequence in this story where she tells the Dalek to beg for its life came completely out of the blue and was all the more welcome because of it. Suddenly we are in darker territory with her character and there are suggestions of the killer who could take the Doctor’s life. The same person who was his ally during the Angel crisis glides past the window at Amy’s wedding and sends a shiver down my spine. Her suggestion that he will find out who she is soon and that is when everything changes left my appetite well and truly whetted. I can’t wait to see where this leads.
Rory Williams the Auton duplicate has now moved the goalposts for how far a boyfriend can go to look after his other half, waiting by her side for two millennia. Thanks a lot mate, how can anyone live up to that? As I said in my review of The Pandorica Opens, Rory has come further than any other character this year and thanks to the sensitive performances of Arthur Darvill we have seen him progress from bumbling fiancé to confident lover. The Rory that is pulled from Amy’s memory is thoughtful, loyal and protective. The myth that is built around his 2000 year vigil is real lump in the throat stuff.
“Amy Pond. Crying over me, ey? Guess what? Gotcha.”
This season has revolved around Amelia Pond and her impossible life and The Big Bang allows her character to blossom beautifully. The norm for a Who companion is inevitably to have a confident begi-nning and then fall into in the role of a cipher over time. Companions in the revived series have fared a little better, but we still knew everything we needed to know about them a few episodes in and everything else was watching their characters grow as they travelled with the Doctor. With Amy, Moffat has again approached the idea a little differently. Throughout the series he has suggested that there are inconsistencies in her life (a large empty house, her lack of knowledge about the Daleks) but focused on her relationship with Rory to disguise the fact that we know practically nothing about her past. In true Moffat style, the answer was in the very first scene of the first episode of the season: the crack in her wall has been eating away at her life and has stolen her family and friends together with her memories of them. What it gave her instead was an imaginary friend in the Doctor who took her off for a series of incredible adventures. The look on Amy’s face when she realises that she will have to give up her magical friend in order to bring everybody else back is heartbreaking; the Doctor has been her parents and her best friend rolled into one.
For a time in this episode, we experience Amy’s joy as she rediscovers her parents and enjoys her wedding before things start to remind her that something vital is missing. The season has been leading up to this moment – Amy reclaiming her childhood and standing up in front of the people she loves and declaring that her imaginary friend was real. And in true fairytale style, a magical blue box crashes the wedding and the most wonderful man in the universe steps out. The Doctor has given her the most glorious gift imaginable, and she has reciprocated, and as a reward she steps back into the TARDIS with him for more adventures. The perfect fairytale ending to the perfect fairytale.
“The daft old man who stole a magic box. Did I ever tell you that story?”
Just how splendid is the eleventh Doctor? The Big Bang captures the joy of the eleventh Doctor better than any episode this year and gives Matt Smith another chance to prove just how wonderful and different he is from his predecessors. The childish thrill of watching him hop about inside his own time stream making sure the future stays on the right track is just perfect for this impish pixie-like incarnation. Again it is the quiet moments that see him at his finest, however; none of this “I am the Doctor from the planet Gallifrey!” nonsense. His quiet conversation with Amy, for instance, where he gently kisses her and tells her that he is going to sacrifice his life so she can get hers back is deeply moving. Equally gorgeous is his bedtime chat with the younger Amelia where he admits that he stole the TARDIS and asks her to enjoy her life and love Rory. This episode is all about what the Doctor means to people and how he can make your life better, and I can’t imagine a better message for an episode to have.
One of my favourite moments in the series ever comes when the Pandorica heads for the sky and soars into the exploding TARDIS to ignite the universe all over again. That moment manages to be heartbreaking (the Doctor is giving up his life) and heart-warming (he’s giving Amy hers back) and bloody immense (the Doctor is kick starting the entire universe; yeah…this is “the Big Bang II!”). It’s the result of thirteen incredible weeks of build up and I had goosebumps the whole time. So imagine my joy as the Doctor lands up in the TARDIS and wanders back through his own time stream (in doing so answering an embarrassingly-stressed continuity error in Flesh and Stone). The idea of the Doctor being nothing but a story that people remember is as magical as it sounds and the Doctor gate crashing the wedding and dancing like a total spaz kept me smiling for hours.
“Hello everyone. I’m Amy’s imaginary friend. But I came anyway.”
The episode ends on exactly the right note, with the Doctor waltzing his way back to the TARDIS, hints of danger for the future and two rather wonderful companions hopping in to join him; none of this lonely Doctor weeping as he has lost yet another friend. The camera pulls away from console victoriously as the Doctor, Amy and Rory gather around it for more fantastic adventures together.
Full of memorable moments, clever ideas, fantastic performances, superb visuals and a sense of everything coming together in extraordinary style, this is the sexiest episode of Doctor Who in ages. In all respects, I couldn’t have asked for a more positive note for the season to end on.
Copyright © Joe Ford 2010
Joe Ford has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
As Amy has lived near the cracks in the universe all her life, she is able to use her memories to restore people who have been erased from history. Accordingly, once the Doctor has piloted the Pandorica into the heart of his exploding TARDIS, creating a second Big Bang which effectively restores the universe, Amy uses her memories to restore not only Rory’s existence, but also that of her erased friends and family, and – of course – the Doctor himself. Whether Rory’s restoration also restores his role in The Eleventh Hour, Vampires in Venice, Amy’s Choice and The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood is a little unclear, although as he appears to remember the events of these episodes, then it should follow that they happened as shown on screen.
Similarly, it is presently unclear whether “Big Bang II” restored the universe as we knew it prior to The Eleventh Hour, contemporary invasions and all, or whether the universe that we will face hereafter is the universe according to Amy Pond. Series 4 of The Sarah Jane Adventures suggests the former.
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