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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Doctor Who: The Big Bang

The Big Bang truly was the finale to end all finales - and restore my faith in Doctor Who.

Continuing from last week's inescapable conclusion, The Doctor buzzed backwards and forwards in time (using the vortex manipulator) weaving a fantastic, audacious tapestry that led to him 'rebooting the universe', saving Amy in the process, and even bringing back key personalities from her past.

A rich and complex tale that, even though it was playing with the very fabric of time in its telling, was reasonably simple to follow thanks to some deft writing from showrunner Steven Moffat.

For the first time since The Doctor returned to our screens we actually got a finale that will stand the test of time; unlike Russell T Davies' tendency to rely on sound and fury, overwhelming our senses with gigantic spectacle that distracted us into thinking they were better than they were, The Big Bang actually delivered.

There was no need to "cut the show some slack" or "just let things ride" because you love Doctor Who so much, this was the season finale the show had always deserved.

Cleverly integrating itself into past episodes as the cracks in time healed (including the 'future Doctor' appearance in The Time Of Angels that many people picked up on), yet still leaving enough threads hanging for future adventures, we leave this season with a new sense of confidence that The Doctor is in very safe hands.

For a while I thought the mystery of River Song was going to wrapped up as well. I'm still 90 per cent behind the theory that she is, somehow, The TARDIS, but I also, for a moment, wondered if was, again somehow, Amy Pond from the future.

It's one of those mysteries that I almost don't want to know the answer to, because the guess work is more than half the fun.

Looking back over this season - season 31 - I'll confess that to start with I wasn't sure. I never had any doubts over Matt Smith as The Doctor (and with this episode he has cemented his place as my favourite incarnation) but while I adored Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, I was never particularly wowed by anything the character was given to do. For a long time, her main purpose seemed to be 'eye candy', but her character definitely developed in leaps and bounds in these final episodes.

The big surprise, among the central characters, was Rory (Arthur Darvill), who has grown to be a fantastic companion for the Doctor and a great foil for Amy. Initially I was expecting a Mickey-clone, but Rory rapidly became his own character, with his own energy and own motivation - helped enormously by the fact that Moffat has knocked on the head the whole, uncomfortable, idea of "companion/Doctor" relationships - even to the extent of making a passing comment on that point during the great wedding sequence in The Big Bang.

It was never the characters that made me doubt this new regime in Doctor Who, but the shaky early episodes as these marvelous characters found their legs.

I realise that some elements were planted by Moffat as elaborate foreshadowing for resolution in this intricate finale, but I still have a lot of issues with those early episodes and can't even think about The Beast Below without feeling tendrils of utter despair and boredom snaking into my brain (I couldn't say if it was the worst episode of new Who because I was so bored I lost interest).

But most of those fears and doubts have now been put to one side. What this season of Doctor Who has served to do for me is put the show in perspective. Swept up as I was during the RTD years (well, during David Tennant's run in the TARDIS anyway) that I'd often sit down to watch the show with my rose-tinted glasses on, I can now watch the Moffat era with a more rational and objective head.

The show is certainly more robust under Moffat's guidance that it no longer needs to be "cut some slack", because when it works - as it did more certainly in these last two episodes - it can be the best thing on television. I guess I always knew that, but there were times (The End Of Time - part two - I'm looking at you) when I felt myself stifling my disappointment because I thought the show was bigger than just a television programme and deserved more credit than it actually did.

This season has left me more confident about the show's future than I've genuinely felt in years, but simultaneously, I'm actually pleased that I've been able to rein my enthusiasm for it to a more sensible - less fanboyish - level, so I can really appreciate it when it's good and accept it for what it is when it isn't.

7 comments:

  1. I would like to say I was very disappointed with this episode 'Big Bang'. I got bored and nearly feel asleep. The time travelling with the Vortex Maniplulator was interesting, but the rest was predictable and for a season finale utterly boring. So far in the new series I think 'Parting of the Ways' was fantastic. I was expecting a few twist and turns in the finale and I hope Doctor Who received decent viewership. I think Stephen Moffatt needs to change direction in Series 6 and get out of this fairy tale like stories. I am a mega fan of Doctor Who and this season has given me some bad vibes. I found the Silurian episode super boring. The best episode was 'The Lodger'. It was nice to see River Song. I think she was one of the highlights of the season. In conclusion I would give Big Bang 6/10. I enjoyed the previous episode 'Panorica Opens' immensley and I give that 9/10.

    Vic Stathopoulos
    http://www.dialashop.com/vic/index.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed it, but I also liked The Beast Below! I think the main cast have been one of the show's strengths this season. Moffat's take on time-travel certainly appeals to me too, even if I don't always agree with his theories. (maybe I just don't understand them!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This finale was so not like RTD's. Less bombastic and spectacular for a start. So I can see why some might not have enjoyed it as much. In one way, it could be viewed as a disappointment following from last weeks set-up.

    But I really enjoyed it. Right from the bit before the title sequence when the Pandorica opened and inside was Amy, not the Doctor. Complicated indeed!

    Of course, when you start to analyse it, bits don't make sense. How did Amy get the blue book? (for a moment there, I thought we were going to find out that it was Amy's and she is River Song). If the Pandorica was supposed to be inescapeable and had deadlocks, how did the sonic screwdriver open it so easily? Can Amy just remember anything into existence? Etc, etc.

    And weirdly, this didn't explain everything. We didn't get to see the Big Bad who forced the Tardis to 26/6/10, blew it up and thus caused the cracks in time in the first place. That's left for a future finale.

    (also I love how the Doctor just picks things up and goes, "Fez's? They're cool")

    ReplyDelete
  4. Flea: Couldn't have said it better myself (though I'll try come Thursday).

    Vic: I don't understand you and let's leave it at that for now.

    Nimbus: I can answer those fairly easily...
    *The book: We see River in the window. She's the guest who left it as a wedding present to help Amy remember.
    *Deadlocks: It was designed to trap the Doctor. Presumably, the Axis of Evil gave it that particular weakness. He does say that it's easy to open from the outside, just impossible from the inside.
    *Remembering into existence: Yes and no. She can't remember something that she has no knowledge of, and it only works on stuff that might have gone through a crack. Think of Amy's head as the back-up drive of the universe. After the rebot, there was only the Doctor on the other side of the closed cracks she COULD remember. Once remembered, his timeline was restored and there's nothing left to remember for Amy.
    *Weirdly: I don't think it's weird for Moffat to play a longer game with his plot threads.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There I was mentally crafting answers for you all and Siskoid's done my job for me :-) Thanks! Looking forward to what you have to say on Thursday...

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Siskoid: Allow me to be a pedant and question those answers. :) (These can be explained by the whole timey-wimey stuff, I know).

    Why was River at the wedding at the first place? And why did she have a blue book that looked like the Tardis? She wouldn't have remembered the Doctor and his blue box. And she wouldn't have known Amy. As far as River was concerned, the Doctor never existed until Amy remembered her.

    It's been established that the one thing the sonic screwdriver can't open is deadlocks. And yet, here it does. That's convenient. Not much of an ultimate prison really.

    Yes, Amy can probably only bring back things that went through the crack and that she could have been aware of. But, until the end, we weren't even aware she had a family. What more might be hiding in her memories?

    And "weirdly" was not really the right word. "Pleasantly surprising" would be better. The Moff knows that he'll get a second series (and probably a third) so he can extend the story beyond this series. I just wasn't expecting it!

    Anyway, as mentioned, I thought this was a fantastic episode and... different.

    ReplyDelete
  7. River is a complex space-time event. The answer to your question is probably yet to come. (But it's been established that even once erased, there's always an echo or footprint. That would explain the book.)

    It's deadlocked from the inside, not necessarily from the outside as seen here. What we're told about the Pandorica isn't all true in any case, since it's a trap for the Doctor and not a myth.

    There's another explanation for Amy's rememberence of the Doctor if you don't like that one. He specifically makes her remember him when he goes back through his life where it intersects the cracks' appearances, even as Universe1 unravels. That sets up the "remember me so I can shunt back to Universe2 from the void. The links between the TARDIS and the wedding tradition, with a little extra boost from the book, spark the memory. The Doctor is remembered and that quantum locks him back into reality (if you buy the Weeping Angels, you buy this) and his timeline is restored. Companions suddently remember everything because it did happen (albeit with differences like parents etc... Amy was still only gone for a night from the time she boards the TARDIS to now).

    I'll shut up now, I still have to write my own review.

    ReplyDelete

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