The Big Bang
The Big Bang marks the finale of the Fifth Series. In the previous episode, things truly couldn't be any worse for the Doctor. He's trapped in an in-escapable box; the Tardis is exploding with River Song trapped in it; Amy has been shot by 'Plastic Rory'; and oh yeah, all the stars in the universe are going supernova. I think we are all curious exactly how Steven Moffat will manage to write himself out of the epic corner he has created for himself.
We start off 1,894 years after the Pandorica closes shut on the Doctor. This is the time of little Amy (1996). The crack in her wall remains and she's praying for some one to come and help her. At that moment the wind picks up outside, she rushes to the window, but there is nothing to see. Mirroring the opening of the first episode (The Eleventh Hour), the scene has changed so there is now no Tardis in her garden. The Doctor is gone. He isn't the only thing that's missing from this version of the Earth. There are also no stars in the sky. But that doesn't stop Amy from dreaming of them and painting pictures. Much to her Aunt's dismay.
A short while later little Amy gets a leaflet through the door for the “Pandorica” museum exhibition. She has to go. Upon arrival there, she escapes from her Aunt and rushes to check out the large box. It now sits pride of place in the middle of the museum, not far from some curious stone Daleks. Little Amy gets distracted when some one (who we don't see) steals her drink. Turning back to the box there is a note left for her “Stick around Pond”. She hangs around till everyone has left the museum and then approaches the Pandorica. As she touches it, it lights up all green and it opens to reveal, not the Doctor as you would expect, but Amy her (grown up) self. “Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated”.
Yes it does Amy. But basically the end result is that Doctor gets free, Amy comes back to life and River is saved. But shoe-horned in there with all this time travel jumpy fun, there is yet another epic story and all we see of it are a collection of beautiful images. Told as a legend this Earth has associated with the Pandorica. It shows how 'Rory the Plastic Roman' guards Amy in the box over the course of 2000 years. This little flourish in the episode, a romantic “I'm sorry for killing you” gesture on Rory's part, could have been expanded to an episode all on it's own. It's a fantastic idea, even if we only get the briefest of glimpses at it.
So then all is fine, apart from the fact the universe is slowly drawing in around the Earth circa 1996. The little pocket of fourth dimensional space around our characters is all that's left of space/time. The explosion of the Tardis, seen in the sky looking much like the sun, is the only light left to warm the Earth. Along with Rory's story, this is another one of the many genius touches Moffat has peppered this story with – I haven't even got to the best one yet.
To solve this pesky “end of the universe” problem the Doctor realises that he can kick start a second big bang and recreate the universe. The light inside the Pandorica was protected from the explosion of the Tardis, thus it was infused with all that was. This light that spills out of the Pandorica sadly has the side effect of bringing a 'stone echo' of a Dalek back to life. The Dalek zaps the Doctor and he's going to die. On his last legs he gets in the Pandorica and using River's time vortex wrist thing, he sends himself (and more importantly the Pandorica) on a collision course with the centre of the Tardis explosion. This will means that when the universe finally shrinks around the Tardis explosion, all of the deleted universe will again contain the light that holds the previous universe. So that means the new big bang will be infused with the last universe and that creates an identical copy. I'm fairly sure that's the idea anyway.
The only thing missing from “the universe 2” will be the Doctor. Because he and the Tardis are at the centre of the big bang, he will be thrown out into the void between universes. Since the Tardis isn't in the new universe, it can't blow it up. This results in the cracks in time healing themselves and Amy's life before the crack getting restored. But as always, the Doctor has a plan so that he can come back from the void of nothingness.
After the explosion, time winds back, the universe heals and the Doctor witnesses the entire series backwards. He visits the Amy at various places. One of which is when Amy is blind in the “Time of Angels” episode. This is another genius touch that was laced in earlier in the season for the eagle eyed fan to notice. Anyone keeping count of these genius bits? Lastly the Doctor ends up back in the first episode. Little Amelia has fallen asleep while waiting outside for the Tardis to return. The Doctor carries her inside her house and talks to her in her sleep. Here is the best of the moments of genius in the episode (series). Knowing that on her wedding day in the future Amy will inevitably want “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”; he plants the seed of thought that the Tardis itself is all of those things. With a little help from River, the prompt works and Amy remembers everything. So the Doctor pops back into existence. Sure, that is a bit messy “scientifically”. But thematically it was pitch perfect, so who cares.
This episode was excellent from the opening right till the end. But it did have one interesting problem that I think could have been done better. When the Doctor first pops up in the episode he instructs Rory to open the Pandorica with the sonic screwdriver. Unlike in the previous episode, the sonic just pops open the box. I did find a bit cheap to physically open the box like that. That obliterates the tension built in the previous episode where the box was un-openable. The paradoxes might also get some criticism for being a cheap way to solve the impossible situation created for the cliff-hanger. But I think those are fine. Firstly because they are kind of cool and have a nice instant “set-up and pay-off” dynamic about them. Secondly they were creatively built around getting the Doctor out of that box. It worked much like a magician who distracts you from the huge door swinging open at the back of an escape box. Purposely so he could wow you with the reveal of it being empty. You know it's a trick but a little bit of miss-direction and you have yourself something amazing. It's just ironic that the miss-direction which gave Rory that screwdriver was more impressive than cheap way the box itself physically opened. It was all trick and no prestige for me.
The performances in the episode are also easy to praise. Everyone involved was firing on all cylinders. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan worked great together. Smith's understated slow death of the Doctor was nice to see. You can imagine Tennant's Doctor getting angry, crying, sweating and gritting his teeth through these scenes. Smith's Doctor is very different to that and in this brief series he's already replaced Tennant as my favourite Doctor. His choices are never predictable and his sense of humour is tuned to Moffat's writing style.
Then there is Amy. Karen Gillan has settled into her role really well over the course of the series. I still don't think we've seen the best of what she can do. Don't get me wrong, she was good at the start and week on week she's gotten better and better. But I still feel she's holding back. We'll see what she can do next year. Rory also did great in the episode. You can absolutely see the slow arch of confidence Arthur Darvill has brought to the character over the series. The wedding scene at the end has him revert to the annoying person we saw at the beginning and then switch back to his improved self once he remembers everything. Great stuff. Last but not least is Alex Kingston in her jodhpurs. She's played the part of some one we know very little about, to perfection. The way River bounces off the Doctor and is a joy to watch. Plus she does badass very well when she dispenses with that Dalek. This bodes very well for the next series, where presumably she has an even bigger role. She too can only get better.
Moffat has woven a funny, poignant and clever story. A story which folded back into the series as a whole; left teasers for the next series and managed to ride the line of being both light entertainment and engaging science fiction. The idea Moffat had for the series was to bring 'Doctor Who' closer to the “Fairy Tale” it is at its essence. With the theme of the series being “Nothing remembered can ever truly be lost”, I think Moffat has succeeded. He's added a worthwhile metaphorical message that children (or adults) can take away from the story and apply to their own lives. It's great that TV still bothers to do that from time to time.
Ultimately this 5th series of New Who wasn't a masterpiece, its guest writers dropped the ball a few times. But Moffat himself has clearly constructed his contributions to the series with great care. He tied together any prominent lose ends, knew precisely when and where the show could be silly and most importantly made everything make sense. Nowhere did this series devolve into a meaningless mess. Those types of problems were the main criticisms the show has had for the past few years. Now they've been addressed. Moffat gave up a Hollywood writing career to run Doctor Who, so clearly this job isn't just a stepping stone to something else for him. That regard he has for the show has shone through. I hope it continues to do so for many more years.