Doctor Who S05E12 — The Pandorica Opens, Review

Doctor Who - The Pandorica Opens

So now we know who is inside the Pandor­ica. I’ll be honest, even avoid­ing spoil­ers, the answer was the one I was expect­ing. But that isn’t a crit­i­cism. It’s the most satis­fy­ing answer given the under­ly­ing story arc of the season. Spoil­ers will follow…

Doctor Who - The Pandorica OpensThe Pandor­ica Opens had most of the hall marks of modern Doctor Who season closers. Guest appear­ances from earlier episodes; a threat to the universe etc. But on top of that it had that Steven Moffat style. The snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect; some heart wrench­ing char­ac­ter moments; a story that holds to it’s own inter­nal logic and an under­ly­ing mystery (to be solved in the final episode perhaps).

From the open­ing scenes as a message winds its way through time from Van Gogh all the way to the Doctor (cour­tesy of River Song), I was capti­vated. The pace is fast from begin­ning to end, but the tone changes ever so slowly as the episode progresses. Start­ing off as pure action and adven­ture, it grad­u­ally devel­ops darker elements and by the final third I was just wait­ing for the shoe to drop.

You might argue that throw­ing quite so many aliens into a single episode is overkill, but Moffat made it work and gave us a threat big enough that the alliance was convinc­ing. He’s also created a cliffhanger that appears very diffi­cult to get out of with­out doing some sort of rewind. We’ll see, however.

The Pandor­ica Opens wasn’t perfect mind you. It was really never explained why there was a broken down Cyber­man near the Pandor­ica. Nor why if it could reat­tach its head, it hadn’t already. That sequence felt a bit like filler to me. Well done, but filler none the less.

The Rory scenes on the other hand were pure bril­liance. I’m still not sure we know the whole Amy story. Some­thing doesn’t feel quite right.  But the way the elements of Rory’s death in an earlier story and Amy’s lack of memory of that were woven into this was wonder­ful.  As was the echo­ing back to Victory of the Daleks as Amy tries to talk Rory into shak­ing off his program­ming. Great perfor­mances by both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill here made me really empathize with the char­ac­ters.

Speak­ing of perfor­mances, Matt Smith once again holds the whole thing together. His Doctor, some­times manic, some­times assured, always bril­liant is just capti­vat­ing to watch. There’s so much going on with his facial expres­sions, his hands as well as what he’s saying. For all that the Doctor is an over the top char­ac­ter, this is  a subtle perfor­mance giving it real depth.

I really can’t wait to see the season finale. Moffat has built up a lot of expec­ta­tions here. There are some major ques­tions to answer. How does the Doctor escape? Is Amy really dead? What is the deal with Amy anyway?  Who was that voice? Did the TARDIS really explode? Based on past perfor­mance I’m expect­ing good answers to all of these ques­tions.

Really I don’t know what more people could want from a Doctor Who finale. Or at least the first part of one.

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  • I think the phrase “Time Loop” will resolve most every­thing, includ­ing the dead Cyber­man and traces of energy weapons fired at Stone­henge.

    We had boat­loads of fun spec­u­lat­ing on this one on the Fusion Patrol Podcast when we were record­ing this morn­ing. There are so many little pieces that appear to have been woven through­out the series, that there’s loads of possi­bil­i­ties!

    • I’m always a bit nervous when things like “Time Loop” are bandied about. It can so easily descend into Deus ex Machina and devalue every­thing that preceded it.

      • Deus ex Machina” is actu­ally the Doctor’s real Gallifreyan name.

        I get a little uncom­fort­able about all the Moffat idol­a­try, but I’m prob­a­bly as guilty of it as anyone. I think if anyone can take a good stab at pulling off a closed time loop story, Moffat’s the best chance we’ve got. A time loop can never really make sense to our poor little linearly-locked minds, but he’s shown in Blink that he’s not afraid of trying and has done so success­fully (at least that seems to be the consen­sus — I’m sure there are some that disagree.)

        He’s also shown that he’s reused many of his plot ideas from previ­ous stories in this series, so he doesn’t seem likely to shy away from trying the timey whimey time loop again.

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