Since Doctor Who has come under the guidance of Steven Moffat, the show has had a more consistent pacing and sense of humor than in previous seasons. This first part of the two part finale, written by Moffat, exemplifies those elements better than we’ve seen since his previous two-parter, “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”.
“The Pandorica Opens” begins with a series of short scenes involving supporting characters from previous episodes. Liz 10, Van Goth, Winston Churchill and the automaton Edwin Bracewell, and River Song all work together through different eras in the time stream to get a message to the Doctor. When the Doctor and Amy arrive at the most ancient of writings in the year 102 AD they see the message “Hello sweetie” along with temporal coordinates, an obvious message from River. After finding River imitating Cleopatra in a Roman army camp in England sometime in the second century AD, the three time travelers venture towards Stonehenge where they find the mythic Pandorica hidden underground. Now the fun begins as the doctor and Amy attempt to figure out what’s hiding within before it has time to open, as every alien thing the Doctor has ever faced converges on their location.
The first fishy moment - why would all the aliens in the universe converge on a location where the worst thing that has ever existed has been locked up for eternity? Unless, of course, the worst thing that has ever existed has yet to be locked up.
As usual Matt Smith plays the Doctor as manic and distracted, babbling his every thought but not always putting together the puzzle pieces in time to avert disaster. When Amy mentions that all the details of the Stonehenge scene sounded like things she’d read about as a child, the audience could begin piecing things together the Doctor could not, after dismissing the comment with “Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you’re busy, in which case always ignore a coincidence.” If only he had paid closer attention…
Many people have complained that Smith plays the Doctor in the same way as Tennant, and while I generally disagree, he definitely channeled David Tennant’s Doctor in his monologue, screamed at the sky full of incoming spaceships through a megaphone. Combined with his bumbling stream-of-consciousness mutterings upon seeing Rory’s return, but not really seeing Rory’s return, it proves that Smith, while a brilliant Doctor, still has a little bit more work to do to become a distinguishing, memorable Doctor.
This entire season has revolved around the strange occurrences in Amy Pond’s life. Though it hasn’t been clear whether the cracks in time have been following the TARDIS or Amy, it’s safe to assume that she definitely has a connection to the final destruction of all time and space. Karen Gillan, occasionally going over the top with the screams of terror while being attacked by the scuttling head of a Cyberman, still manages to portray Amy as sympathetic in her confusion and yet with a ballsy disregard for her own personal safety when adventure is at foot.
The return of Arthur Darvill as Rory probably didn’t surprise anyone, but he executed the confusion and excitement of waking up thousands of years before his death well. While there was obviously something sketchy about his reappearance, my last guess would have been that he was a Auton clone. After four seasons of near-predictable season finales (all will be solved through the push of a strategically placed button!) it’s nice to not only be surprised at the main, overarching plot, but also by the smaller character details.
River Song remains a mysterious badass, still an enigma swathed in mystery. How her timeline intermeshes with the Doctor’s is sketchy at best. The events at the Pandorica, including the exploding TARDIS she travels in to Amy’s current day home, appear to have occurred prior to the encounter with the Stone Angels, meaning that River somehow comes out unscathed from the explosion. Then again, the entire season is based around cracks in time and fluctuations in memory, so maybe by the end of next week’s “The Big Bang”, none of this will have happened to any of them anyway.
The idea of all the bad guys from the Doctor Who universe – the Daleks, Cybermen, Potato Heads Sontarans, Autons, Slitheens, Judoon, Atraxi, all the biggies they could find costumes for in their prop closet – joining together to take down the Doctor sounds great on the surface. Had the universe not been blacked out and their existence wiped from the history of time, this alliance would have lasted for about five minutes before they all attempted to kill each other. I can’t imagine the Sontarans walking away from so many potential combat victories without attempting to kill everyone.
So now we sit with the Doctor trapped in a giant, unbreakable metal box, Amy Pond dead in a plastic version of Rory’s arms, and River Song stuck in an exploding TARDIS somewhere around the date of June 28, 2010. Now that’s what I’d call a compelling cliffhanger.