• 7th July 2010 • Review by Jonathan Capps •
So, after 11(+) weeks witnessing a story arc laid down by the THE GRAND MOFF, Lord King Master of all He Surveys, we have his delicious fruits laid bare for all to see with the first episode of the series 5 finale, The Pandorica Opens. It’s certainly fair to say that this has been the most talked about series arc since Bad Wolf, and despite the excellence of that series 1 finale, I think we were all hoping for a somewhat more meaty and satisfying conclusion this year.
As carefully as it’s obviously been laid over the season, the ongoing story of the crack in time has had a few wobbles. In Moffat episodes it’s mainly featured heavily as he builds up the mystery in an excellent fashion, but at time it’s felt tacked on to other episodes (I’m thinking mainly of Chibnal’s two parter and The Lodger) but the way the opening five minutes of TPO managed to weave together a number of characters from episodes throughout the series was beautifully and simply done, somehow managing to give people like Van Gogh, Churchil and Liz X such satisfying but ultimately short cameos without it feeling forced or tacked on is a great achievement. It gives extra meaning to their episodes that doesn’t demean them as stand-alones and serves to give the episode a big and important feel right from the off.
The pre-credits also brought River Song back in excellent fashion, even if it was almost a beat for beat recreation of her Time of Angels introduction. Right from the moment you see the guard pointing a gun at a lipstick drawing you know you’re watching a Moffat episode and you know everything is going to be fucking brilliant. The whole episode was the best example yet of TGM’s uncanny ability to get the balance of drama and humour absolutely cock on, with one never overshadowing the other and simultaneously mainlining the pure essence of all Doctor Who right into your astonished eyeballs and ears. Speaking of River, it’s been one of the great successes of this series that she’s been woven into the story with such skill and transformed the character from a (fairly) cheap trick in series 4 in to a proper, interesting and funny character. In very tight trousers.
Matt Smith spoke a lot in interviews leading up the Eleventh Hour of how proud he is of what the show and his performance developed into towards the end. At the time it smacked of him trying to lower expectation for his early episodes, which is clearly ludicrous in hindsight, but he was certainly right that he would get better and better. Even though the finale episodes were the in the second to last block, his performance gives an overwhelming feeling of progression that is appropriate for a newly regenerated Doctor anyway but is given weight by the fact we’re probably seeing the best Doctor that ever Doctored finding his stride helped not inconsiderably by some amazing speeches from the pen of TEH MOFF. I feel completely confident that the role is in the safest hands possible, mainly because you get a real feeling that Smith is not afraid to develop and change and he’s certainly got much better (and considerably less smug) foundations to build on than Tennant did after his first series.
When it comes to plotting, Moffat is rightly held up as a master in his field, but for some the memory of the quite considerably iffy conclusion to 2007’s Jekyll was weighing a little heavy considering it’s probably the only reference point we had for Moffat doing Big Drama. Thankfully, those concerns were unfounded away for the most part. Right from the brilliant cold opening through to the revelation of the whole set-up of the episode being linked to Amy’s mind was very satisfying, but if I was to pick problems I’d probably start with the arrival of Every Enemy Ever Whose Costume Isn’t On Display In Blackpool…
The revelation that the Pandorica has been built to contain The Doctor to stop him ending the Universe is a good one, but the fact that this has been masterminded by every enemy The Doctor has ever had smacks of an unthinking BIG moment that has not been properly earned or thought through. When we’ve had a whole series focusing mainly on the impending threat of the cracks and the cause of those cracks, seeing a completely unforeshadowed bunch of bastards turn up to do nothing of great use to anyone (dur, you forgot about the TARDIS you stupid alien fucks) seems like a cheap trick to get a great big squee out of the audience. I mean, why are The Silurians there when they left The Doctor on fairly decent terms? Why the merry fuck are Weevils there?! And, also, I know it’s all about allying to defeat a greater threat, but any race trusting The Daleks deserve to be hastily removed from the plot at the start of the next episode, frankly.
But… well, I’m finding it very hard to be all that fussed about that mis-step because with it it brought the properly AMAZING Auton reveal and an encounter with a damaged Cyberman that single handedly rescued them from the painful mediocrity of the last few years and, with the power of the sort of hindsight you only get when you’re epicly late with a review, I see now why this episode needed a Big Monster Moment due to the distinct lack of them in the concluding episode.
The biggest triumph of The Pandorica Opens is the fact that it managed to be so massive and even reminiscent of previous RTD finale set ups, but it still managed to engage and delight me for every second. In hindsight I have the odd issue, but that cynicism never encroached on the watching experience which, at the end of the day, is all that really matters.