It feels like we have learned all the secrets of the universe in the last year or so. We know all about the Cylon final five. We saw how the scenario from the Epitaph One episode of Dollhouse played out in Epitaph Two. We know why the passengers of Oceanic 815 were brought to the island and what the sideways stories meant. We know a little more about FlashForward is about, but might never get a full explanation unless someone else picks up the show. Now we know who was in the Pandorica, and how The Doctor got out. This contains major spoilers in case anyone who plans to has not done so yet.
Like The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang began with a spectacular introductory segment. The Pandorica was opened in modern times (in an alternative time line where the stars had gone out) but we were surprised to find Amy Pond, and not the Doctor inside. Amy was released by a younger version of herself from the time line without stars (although Amy believed in them as she believed in the Doctor in the original time line). Then things really got complicated.
The Doctor had long ago been released from The Pandorica by Rory and placed a dying Amy inside to help her recover. The manner in which the Doctor escaped is rather controversial, even without consideration of whether or not fez hats are cool. The Doctor simply went back in time to ask Rory to let him out. Since Rory had let him out, he was free in the future to go back in time to ask Rory to let him out. Fortunately for the Doctor the universe has been greatly condensed, allowing the Vortex Manipulator to work much better than in the full universe.
Sure, this is cheating. Time travel stories often cheat. The question is whether the viewer comes out feeling cheated or intrigued by such solutions. When Steven Moffat used a similar device in Blink there were no complaints. A big difference here is that we didn’t know until late in Blink that the timey wimey stuf was a device being used by The Doctor to get out of a predicament. It is a different matter when the season-ending two parter uses a cliff hanger with the Doctor being locked in an inescapable prison and then uses such a trick to get out so easily.
Moffat handled selling this to the audience in a different way than in Blink. A series of quick and amusing moves through time, along with the fez hat, made the sequence so much fun that it is easy to allow Moffat to get away with this. The problem remains that repeated use of such plot devices means that the Doctor is never really in danger as a future version can always come to save him. Making matters worse, that sonic screwdriver is turning into a magic wand which can do almost everything. It might become necessary to retire the sonic screwdriver, similar to how it became necessary to remove K-9 from the original series after he became too powerful.
Escaping from The Pandorica was a trivial manner compared to the real dilemma. The universe was coming to and end. Fortunately, due to proximity to the crack throughout her life, Amy’s subconscious was filled with all the information about the universe, allowing the universe to be recreated after the Tardis created a second big bang. Sure it is hard to believe, but is this really any worse than having the Tardis tow the earth through like in a Russel T. Davies season finale?
Along the way we saw the Doctor’s life be rewound. This included returning to the events of Flesh and Stone, showing that the scene with the Doctor dressed differently was intentional as opposed to a continuity error. Actually Moffat has largely saved himself from being accused of any continuity errors with previous shows by rebooting the entire universe in this manner. If Amy could bring back Rory and her parents in the new universe, other changes could also be present. I am assuming here that the Rory who Amy married is a recreation of the human Rory and not the plastic one.
Amy ultimately was able to bring back the Doctor as the Tardis turned out to be something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue at her wedding. Despite all the implausible aspects of the episode I have accepted, I cannot resist one nitpick on the wedding scene. If, in this recreated universe, Amy had no memory of the Doctor, she wouldn’t have spent her life speaking of what others thought was her imaginary friend. Therefore when she first mentioned wanting him at the wedding, others would not have responded by questioning Amy bringing him up again as presumably she had no reason to do so yet in this time line.
Many questions remain. River Song remains as big a mystery as she was going into the season, with warnings that the relationship between her and the Doctor might change for the worse in their next meeting. Could this be because she kills the Doctor (or gives the appearance of doing so), leading to her imprisonment? We don’t know who was behind the events of the season finale, including the explosion of the Tardis, the destruction of all the stars, and the warning that “silence will fall.” I suspect that the story of who was behind all of this, along with River Song’s story, is being continued into next season.
One change from the episode which definitely will carry into the Christmas special and next season is that for the first time ever the Doctor will have a married couple as his companions. The BBC has posted this wedding album, with some examples on this page. The Christmas special is rumored to include their honeymoon, monsters, and a new take on A Christmas Carol, and guest stars including Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and Katherine Jenkins. Steven Moffat had these comments on the special:
Oh, we’re going for broke with this one. It’s all your favorite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters. And the Doctor. And a honeymoon. And … oh, you’ll see. I’ve honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbors loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I’m fairly sure they did it ironically!”
Between the other news which got squeezed out from Doctor Who dominating SciFi Weekend and all the reports out of San Diego Comic-Con, I will post more science fiction news without waiting for next weekend’s installment. This includes updates on the upcoming season of Torchwood.