TARDIS File 05-13: The Big Bang
The Big Idea: The universe is almost dead. All that’s left is the Earth, and the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River have got to figure out a way to put it all back together again…
What’s So Great:
- The pre-credits sequence, which not only evokes the opening of The Eleventh Hour but becomes genuinely mind-blowing when its revealed that Amelia is a fantasist for believing that there is such a thing as “stars”…
- …and then there’s the end of the pre-credits sequence, which completely pulls the rug out from under the viewer when Amy turns out to be in the Pandorica
- The Doctor’s timey-wimey moving back and forth through time to make sure that Rory-in-the-past gets Amy into the Pandorica, makes sure Rory gets the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver into Amy’s pocket, makes sure that Amelia gets to the Pandorica exhibit and then ensures that Amelia’s hydrated by stealing Amelia’s own drink from several hours before. It’s funny when you see it all happening subjectively but it’s comic brilliance when you finally understand objectively what’s going on. And if you really want to understand how it all worked, check out this brilliant fan-made chart…
- River making the Dalek beg for mercy just by mentioning her name. Oh, Steven Moffat you tease…
- The Fez. It actually serves a plot purpose—to differentiate from the Doctor in the future from the Doctor in the past (and then, later, to differentiate between the Doctor in the present and the Doctor from the future—time travel really wreaks havoc on verb tenses and prepositions…). But we don’t care because the way it’s done as a genuine character eccentricity: Matt Smith totally sells that the Doctor would suddenly think that fezes are cool—in fact we actually kind of believe him, which makes the scene where River obliterates the fez both sad and hilarious…
- The Doctor talking to Amelia, where he’s both seeding his return to our universe and at the same time summing up his own life. It’s just lovely.
- The Doctor arrving at Amy and Rory’s wedding in style. This Doctor dances, but he dances dorkily. We love it.
Some Quick Bits of Trivia: There’s a funny dig at scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins who in the universe collapsing timeline now leads a cult of people who believe in the existence of stars.
Things To Geek Out About:
- The Doctor talks to Rory about his nature as an Auton duplicate, which harkens back to Spearhead From Space (1970) and Rose (2005)
- The story revisits other stories this season including The Lodger, Flesh and Stone and The Eleventh Hour
- The Doctor gagues the sonics are from different timestreams through an energy discharge that, while unnamed, is probably the Blinovitch Limitation Effect from the classic series story Mawdryn Undead (1983)—presumably it didn’t lead to a bigger explosion because of the universe-being-destroyed thing…
Did You Notice… We’re coming to the other end of some of the things we’ve noticed so far, including the Doctor telling Amy in Flesh and Stone to remember what she was told as a child. It turns out the Doctor is seeding his return as he rewinds backward in time. But we don’t have answers to some key questions, like who led the TARDIS to blow up, and what is behind the silence? Guess we’ll have to wait for 2011…
Not To Complain, But… How would Rory, now restored as a flesh and blood human being, have the memories of a plastic Auton duplicate created by the Nestene consciousness? Admittedly Rory’s punch convinces the Doctor that Auton Rory is Rory at a level beyond software, but there’s no reason why the two would share memories, and retroactive ones at that. (Unless Rory is still an Auton…)
All Things Considered… Wow. Rather like the Fez, the whole of The Big Bang is a massive exercise in misdirection. The great thing about it is that you don’t initially notice that they blew most of the budget on the previous episode and most of the episode is the four main characters and a (stone) Dalek running through an empty museum. The reason you don’t notice because it’s all breathlessly paced, brilliantly characterized, and moves back and forth through the fourth dimension like the script was written on a Snakes and Ladders game board. The result is something that feels incredibly epic but is actually wonderfully small scale.
But, then, paradoxes abound in this story as Amy is saved by her 10 year-old self and the Doctor conspires with his own past to save the future. And it’s done with such complete and total panache you love every second of it. And if you come for the time travel, you stay for the lovely character moments: Rory proving his love for Amy by waiting 2000 years for her, and punching out the Doctor. The Doctor’s insistence that fezes are cool and River and Amy’s response to save the Doctor from further dorkiness. River bickering with the Doctor (“Honey I’m home.” “Where have you been!?”) and then making a Dalek beg for mercy. The Doctor’s goodbye to Amy, and then to Amelia.
And with five actors running the show for most of the 60 minutes here, it’s a good thing that they’re as good as this cast. Matt Smith is brilliant at playing the self-deluded nerd, the cleverest man in the room and the impossibly sad old man—and will often shift between these modes in the same scene. Alex Kingston is a great sparring partner for him—the final scene between the two, hints at so much more and we’re looking forward to seeing it delivered in the next season. Arthur Darvill is so very, very funny (“Trust the plastic.”) but he is also so heartfelt too—you believe that he would wait 2000 years for Amy. And credit to Karen Gillan—given the task of having to show someone believing the Doctor into existence she rises to the challenge.
The Big Bang isn’t a perfect finale. It still suffers from the chronic Doctor Who finale complaint of painting itself into a corner with the high stakes jeopardy and then having to come up with a solution that comes, no matter how well seeded, from left field. Amy remembering the Doctor into existence is frankly not much different than Rose becoming a Time Goddess or the Doctor restoring himself through the faith of the humans thanks to Martha. (Perhaps it disguises it better by putting it in the denouement rather than the climax). But here’s the thing: that’s part of the fun of a Doctor Who finale. Would you rather see the highest possible stakes and the most exciting television possible, or something totally so airtight anything inside dies?
What’s really intriguing about the finale is everything that didn’t happen. We have a major dangling plot thread as the identity of whoever is behind the plot to destroy the universe is still unknown. And, rather than changing the decks with the leads at the end of the season, for the first time since the classic series, the same Doctor/companion team will be back next year. (And with Rory! It thrills us to say that!). All we can say is Christmas can’t come fast enough
Line of the Week: “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.”
TARDIS file prepared by Graeme Burk
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