The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang ★★★★

Epic, pulse-racing finale – River is trapped in an exploding Tardis, an Auton Rory kills Amy, and the Doctor is trapped by an alliance of enemies...

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Story 212

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Series 5 – Episode 12 & 13

“OK, kid, this is where it gets complicated…” – Amy

Storyline
The Doctor’s allies send him a warning across time – a Van Gogh painting that predicts the police box exploding. The Doctor and Amy are guided to Stonehenge in second-century Roman Britain, where River Song is posing as Cleopatra. In a vault in the Underhenge they discover the Pandorica, which, legend has it, is a prison for the deadliest being in the universe. Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Silurians have joined forces to put the Time Lord in the Pandorica and avert the end of the universe. The Roman centurions are in fact Nestene duplicates, including a replica of Rory, who shoots Amy dead. The Silence causes the Tardis to explode, which leads to the cracks in time and collapse of the cosmos.
Only Earth is safe for now. Amy is preserved in and restored by the Pandorica and guarded over for millennia by centurion Rory. In modern times, she emerges from the box in the National Museum in front of her younger self. A stone Dalek exterminates the Doctor, who survives long enough to pilot the Pandorica into the heart of the exploded Tardis. This generates a second Big Bang, which reboots all time and space. The Doctor attends Rory and Amy’s wedding.

First UK transmissions
Saturday 19 June 2010
Saturday 26 June 2010

Production
January to March 2010. The Guildhall, Swansea; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; Miskin Manor Hotel, Llantrisant; The Vicarage, Rhymney; Margam Country Park, Port Talbot; Stonehenge, Wiltshire; Westville Road, Cardiff; Upper Boat Studios.

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
River Song – Alex Kingston
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Vincent van Gogh – Tony Curran
Professor Edwin Bracewell – Bill Paterson
Winston Churchill – Ian McNeice
Liz Ten – Sophie Okonedo
Claudio – Marcus O’Donovan
Dr Gachet – Howard Lee
Judoon – Paul Kasey
Commander Stark – Christopher Ryan
Dorium Maldovar – Simon Fisher Becker
Commander – Clive Wood
Cyber Leader – Ruari Mears
Dalek/Stone Dalek – Barnaby Edwards
Dalek voices – Nicholas Briggs
Guard – Joe Jacobs
Madame Vernet – Chrissie Cotterill
Marcellus – David Flynn
Amelia Pond – Caitlin Blackwood
Aunt Sharon – Susan Vidler
Christine – Frances Ashman
Dave – William Pretsell
Mr Pond – Halco Johnston
Tabetha – Karen Westwood

Crew
Writer – Steven Moffat
Director – Toby Haynes
Producer – Peter Bennett
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Edward Thompson
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
There are some episodes where I think, “Yeah, that was fun. I may watch it again some day.” With others I know, “I cannot wait to see that again!” In the case of The Pandorica Opens – one of the most epic, pulse-racing Doctor Whos ever – I had to be patient between viewings.

In those far-off days of 2010, I used to get preview DVDs fast-biked to Radio Times HQ in White City. There wasn’t one for The Pandorica Opens. Instead, a screening was arranged in Soho for me and six other journos. I sat glued to the telly, furiously scribbling notes. An utter scrawl during the last ten minutes! Then two days before transmission (excused for an hour on a hectic press day) I hopped on my Vespa across to Portobello Road for a special screening at the Electric Cinema. On the big screen, you appreciate how truly cinematic modern Doctor Who can be.

Afterwards, we heard from director Toby Haynes, a Who first-timer (and childhood fan), who’d done a magnificent job. He praised his director of cinematography and said how HD cameras using cinema lenses achieved such filmic depth. He revealed they had 45 minutes of daylight plus a night shoot to make the most of Stonehenge; the rest was done elsewhere on “foamhenge” – a mock-up with three stones. Time and money meant the Cyberman head latching onto Amy nearly had to be dropped, but Haynes reworked the scene and made the FX as physical as possible (rather than CGI) to get it on screen.

“Underhenge” was the biggest set built to that date at the BBC’s Upper Boat Studios, described in the script as not unlike a temple you’d find in Indiana Jones. Haynes said he actually played John Williams’s music on set so that the actors rhythmically slowed down and felt the moment as they explored the Pandorica chamber.

The four leads certainly delivered. But top marks to Steven Moffat for packing in surprises and slotting together the season puzzle with a dazzling plot, urgent pace and terrific dialogue:

River: “Everything that ever hated you is coming here tonight.”

A stunning shot of spaceships in the night sky above Stonehenge… A bewildering checklist of aliens from many eras – Drahvins (1960s), Draconians (1970s), Terileptils (1980s)… Then the Doctor is confronted in the Pandorica chamber by Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, and various other costumes lurking in the store cupboard. As a child, I’d have been wetting myself with delight. As a continent adult, it’s pretty gratifying, too.

Rory: “You have to run. You have to get as far away from here as you can. I’m a thing. I’ll kill you. Just go!”

The one thing I never saw coming was the Roman centurions being revealed as Autons. A shiver down the spine stretching back 40 years. And just as Amy regains her memory with a heartbreaking, “Why am I happy?”, poor sweet Rory or “Roranicus” battles the Nestene influence over his duplicate being – but shoots Amy dead.

River: “It’s a trap. It has to be. They used Amy to construct a scenario you’d believe to get close to you.”

In majestic slow motion, we see Amy’s dying moments, River battling with a haywire Tardis and the Doctor being hauled into the Pandorica, where the alien alliance will restrain him for ever. As the Sontaran says: “We will save the universe – from you!” Get out of that, Time Lord!

“This is the adventure/awe episode,” says Toby Haynes. “Whereas episode 13 is how the Doctor wraps it all up. How he fixes it. It’s like Back to the Future. It’s amazing. The weirdest piece of writing I’ve ever read for TV.” You weren’t wrong there, Toby…

The Big Bang inevitably verges on Medium Bang, a comedown after the exciting build-up. There are still plenty of twists (Amy inside the box), feints and striking images (the stone Dalek), and a lovely loop back to young Amelia in The Eleventh Hour. But there’s a worry that Steven Moffat has painted himself into a corner. There are explanations, if you pay very close attention, but still leaps in logic and leaps of faith.

How does the Doctor save himself from the future? How is Amy not dead? How “Auton” is Rory? It’s a stretch that this plastic duplicate can shrug off the Nestene Consciousness and have feelings too. And yet any subterfuge is acceptable that brings endearing Rory back to life and keeps excellent Arthur Darvill in the Tardis line-up.

Moffat is actually a master at puzzles, is playing a long game and has structured this initial round with a few extra pieces left over. What caused the Tardis explosion? What is the meaning of “Silence will fall”? And who is River Song really? All would be revealed in series six, he promised.

The Big Bang universal reset feels like an extreme measure, rather too convenient and “Hey, presto!” But the final wedding party is a joy – with the Tardis embodying something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, and the Doctor dances like a loon. Bow ties are cool! Fezzes are cool. He’s cool. Whereas the Tenth Doctor often looked like a nerd striving to be cool, Matt Smith’s Doctor comes across as someone innately cool who couldn’t care less how nerdy he looks.

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More importantly, after just one series Steven Moffat proved that there was life after Russell T Davies and David Tennant. The new showrunner rebooted the programme with an ambitious game-plan, a delightful fairy-tale vibe that adults could enjoy too, and found stars in Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.