Doctor Who S5 Finale: “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”

Is it possible for episodes of television to make one want to jump someone’s bones? I think it is, because after watching “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” episodes of Doctor Who, I found myself desperately wanting to fly over to England and jump all up on Steven Moffat. Steven, I know you’re already married and have kids and all, but come on! Surely you understand what writing of this caliber is likely to do to people. I’m just saying you shouldn’t be surprised by random people jumping on you in the street. Your wife understands, surely. Hell, she helps you produce things! She knows.

In “The Pandorica Opens,” River Song calls The Doctor and Amy by engraving a message on the universe’s oldest planet. They find River in 102 A.D. disguised as Cleopatra, and she shows them a painting by Vincent Van Gogh called “The Pandorica Opens” depicting an exploding TARDIS. (She has a vortex manipulator. There’s lots of time travel. Just go with me, here.) The three then find the Pandorica below Stonehenge and discover that it is using Stonehenge to transmit a message attracting “everything that ever hated” The Doctor to their location. Rather than escape, The Doctor chooses to stay and fight, seeking assistance from a group of Roman centurions, one of whom is Rory! (Wibbledy-wobbledy-timey…wait, what?!)

However, it seems that the Pandorica, designed to hold the “most dangerous thing in the universe” was designed to hold The Doctor! Everything, from the Pandorica itself to the Roman centurions were constructed from images in Amy’s mind (her favorite story as a child was Pandora’s Box; she had a book on Roman history in her room), and a plan was set in motion to lure The Doctor into the waiting arms of all his enemies, who’ve formed an alliance to eliminate The Doctor once and for all! As they gang up on The Doctor and lock him in the Pandorica, Amy is remembering Rory, only to discover that he’s an Auton. Yet, he has Rory in him, too, and he tries to not allow the Auton to hurt Amy. He can’t overpower the Auton in him, however, and he kills her! Oh, and River’s trapped in the exploding TARDIS.

I KNOW, RIGHT?! The Doctor locked in an inescapable box?! Amy’s dead?! River’s kablooey?! I KNOW! How can you possibly follow that up?!

You follow it up boldly, as Moffat did in “The Big Bang,” with an episode that’s even more dependent on crazy time travel than the first part! This second part of the series finale is chock full of cris-crossing through time.

As Auton Rory holds a dead Amy in his arms, Future Doctor (in a fez!) appears via River’s vortex manipulator to tell him that Amy’s not really dead, that he needs to open the Pandorica with his sonic screwdriver, put Amy in it, and put the sonic screwdriver in her pocket. Cut to 1,500+ years in the future where we see Young Amelia Pond on the night she prayed for help with the crack in her wall. (Young Amelia Pond?! In the future?! I KNOW!) She receives signs that lead her to a museum where the Pandorica is displayed as a relic along with fossilized Daleks. Future Young Amy helps Past Older Amy. Future Doctor helps Past Doctor, and in the end, the TARDIS—“something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”—helps Amy and Rory remember everything, thus saving the world, and providing The Doctor with a really dapper wedding outfit to wear to Amy and Rory’s wedding.

Though The Doctor makes a big show of leaving Young Amelia behind (in what is possibly the saddest scene of the finale), the new Mr. and Mrs. Pond (Rory knows who wears the pants in their relationship, and he loves it!) jump onto the TARDIS to fly off into the unknown again.  And we still haven’t seen the last of River Song.

There’s no way that a synopsis could do these episodes justice. It’s the kind of finale you just have to watch. In lesser hands, this episode could have been a convoluted mess. However, Moffat managed to use the conventions of time travel to give us The Doctor at his most selfless, putting himself in the most danger in which he’s ever put himself in order to allow the universe a second chance, thus giving us the second-most poignant and emotionally draining Doctor Who finale ever.

“The End of Time” still holds the record for most emotionally draining. I’ve done a scientific study and taken several polls. Seriously.

The Doctor’s journey in these episodes alone is breathtaking, first as he realizes that he is hated so much by so many species as to make them want to lock him away forever, then as he decides that he loves the universe and the living beings in it, enough to save it, even if it means giving up his own existence.

But it isn’t just The Doctor that goes on a poignant journey here. The story of Amy and Rory has become one of the most wonderful things in the Whoniverse. They are meant to be—they’d have to be to be reunited as often as they have been—and it’s such a refreshing thing for a television show to allow a romantic relationship to last. It would’ve been so easy to make Rory another Mickey, a “tin dog” diversion good for a few choice episodes then relegated to the back-burner. But Rory is too good for that, and Amy and Rory together? Well, that’s just a masterpiece.

And then there’s River Song, who’s become an even better character. She’s not simply a wisecracking badass. She’s a woman who loves intensely, and passionately defends her convictions. She isn’t perfect—after all, she’s willing to kill a weakened Dalek point-blank—but she is so much bigger than we ever would’ve thought she could be even after “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead.”

Outstanding character work aside, this plot’s sheer audaciousness made the finale soar. Moffat “killed” The Doctor and his companion—and made it work! (Tim Gunn would be proud.) He managed to work in characters from every other episode this series without it seeming gimmicky. Although there was one questionable moment in his handling of the Cybermen. Since when do they need another person’s body parts? Last we were told, they simply removed people’s brains. Granted, this choice makes the Cybermen even scarier, but this choice seemed unnecessary, especially with everything else going on. The Doctor being imprisoned forever by all his enemies is scary enough! Despite that, the story was perfectly executed.

The performances were brilliant across the board. Smith, Gillan, Darvill, and Kingston are all completely ensconced in these characters, and none of them ever hit a false note. And I was thrilled to see the return of Caitlin Blackwood as Young Amelia Pond, as I am head over heels in love with that girl! It was such a joy to watch her have scenes with her cousin, Karen, too! Again, she needs to be cast in everything ever, please.

Lastly, I love that Moffat and the cast managed to present the End of the Universe as Just Another Adventure. After it was all over, when Amy and Rory jumped onto the TARDIS for The Next Thing, it was a feeling of OK, now what? that I adored. “We just restarted the Universe. You know, whatever.” Gah! Brilliant.

Whatever tiny missteps we’ve seen over the course of the series, it is clear from “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” that everything was to a purpose. Everything had a payoff. This two-hour finale was a perfect end to a perfect beginning. We have a great new Doctor and companion (companions!) and I’m looking forward to seeing where they could possibly go after this! Thanks again, Mr. Moffat, for some damned amazing television.

And if I ever meet you in person, I promise I shall try to restrain myself.

Doctor Who returns to BBC America at Christmas!


Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like PinkRaygun.com, PopMatters.com, and CentralBooking.com (edited by Kevin Smokler). She is currently working on several fiction projects, including a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which she hopes to debut by the end of the year! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

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