This review may contain spoilers.
You may as well forget everything about The Pandorica Opens as the conclusion to the epic adventure, The Big Bang, has little in common with its opening act.
Forget the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarians and Silurians; forget the devastating note on which it ended, and certainly forget the thrill and excitement that made the episode a perfect bookend to Steve Moffats first year as showrunner.
Instead, The Big Bang is an uneven and convoluted affair, filled with easy coincidences, convenient twists and, of course, a deus ex machina to wipe the slate clean.
Tabula rasa seems to be the key word for the adventure; set against the backdrop of a universe where the Big Bang never occurred, the cosmos is a barren and desolate place and the only reason Planet Earth survived is because it resides in the eye of the storm and has temporarily evaded the unstitching of time.
All of the exciting plot points from The Pandorica Opens are cast aside, allowing for a more standalone story to be told. Almost like Doctor Whos take on A Night In The Museum, the episode revolves around an infinite chase through the National Museum after a newly re-awakened Dalek sets its sights on our leading quartet. What follows is a series of snap of the fingers time jump to push the story along in the absence of any substantial development.
In welcoming contradiction to the nature of time travel, the events of the night are strung together in a sequential narrative spanning thousands of years. Given the amount of time jumping that takes place, the adventure could easily have gotten out of hand and the careful construction of the timeline ensures that events do not spiral out of control entirely.
However, in doing so Moffat opens up a mountain of contradictions and paradoxes that only ruins what credibility the series has amassed. The prime example is the Doctors escape from the Pandorica – he was essentially released by himself from the future after he was released. In a similar respect, the final solution to the disaster was ludicrous at best: remember him (flash backs to Martha Jonesremembering The Doctor solution anyone?).
Thankfully, the poor plotting does not detract from the talents of what will soon be considered the Doctor Who core-four. Over the last few weeks, Matt Smith has finally extended himself beyond a student playing make believe Doctor Who and is now beginning to leave his own mark on the role. As already established in The Lodger, he is at his best when stories need him to be eccentric and bizarre : and running around a museum at night wearing a Fez hat certainly falls into both categories. Moffat would be wise to include more eccentric behavior next season as part of further establishing Smith as the legendary Time Lord.
Likewise, Karen Gillan and Arthur Davrill continue to be a terrific addition to the series, particularly in the final act as the couple tie the knot and set off on a new adventure. The duo brings a wonderful dynamic to the series and it has been a pleasure to join them on their weekly adventures. So much attention has been devoted to Smith as the new Doctor that it is easy to forget that he is just a third (sometimes even just a quarter) of what makes the casting of this new season so unique. This episode in particular gives a chance for the companions to shine and delivers a happy ending for the couple (a rare commodity in “Doctor Who”), not to mention a miraculous cure to Autonism.
Once again though, the addition of River Song means that the whole set-up is in no danger of becoming stale and Alex Kingston again offers more mystery and intrigue : including a very ominous hint for the future.
So, until Christmas :
Although it may shine a negative light on The Doctor, it was nice to see Rory finally accepted. The Doctor is normally accepting of all alien cultures and the people within them, however time has proven that he is over protective of his companions. Since Rory entered the series in The Eleventh Hour, he has done nothing but try to help and earn the Doctors respect. And all it took was to protect Amy for 2000 years. For fans of Rory, the conclusion to the episode will surely be a welcome one, guaranteeing his continued involvement in the show for at least another season and promoting him to a proper companion in all things Doctor Who.
Smith has made a remarkable progression as The Doctor over the last few weeks and has finally reached the point where he appears comfortable as the character and the Christmas special will undoubtedly be one of his finest achievements.
And, as cheesy as it may be, Amy’s wedding speech was something of a guilty pleasure (so much so that it is conceivable that the whole wedding scenario was concocted just for the opportunity to use it).
What Didn’t Work
Russell T. Davies was allowed one, now this is Moffats turn : the deus ex machina, otherwise known as a reboot switch. The conclusion to the third season of the series came as such a bittersweet event: the finale was dark, terrifying and filled with thrills. But, with such a harsh ending (the Master taking over the world and transforming a the last of Humanity into his minions), the reboot switch was the only viable option.
This time around, it was only a semi-reboot. The events of The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang really did happen (because our heroes remember them happening) but they didnt : another temporal conundrum to ponder over.
With that in mind, entire time travel routine was far too convenient to be accepted as a satisfying conclusion and even goes on to contradict pre-established rules surrounding the limitations of time travel. Back in the Eccleston days, Fathers Day was a terrific example of a lone human girl trying to change the future for her own personal gain : and it didnt turn out too well.
In The Big Bang, the same holds true with the Doctor zipping back and forth through time with the expressed intent to assist himself in avoiding a terrible fate. If such an occurrence were possible, why not zip back in time to another era entirely and prevent some other personal disaster (such as a regeneration). Of course, one possible solution to the question could be the Tardis – once fixed in events, the Tardis cannot re-visit them. With the Tardis, The Doctor is essentially free to traverse the time stream at will.
Even the very source of the deus ex machina was a bitter disappointment – the light within the Pandorica. The ancient prison was designed by some of the most advanced races of the galaxy to serve as a complex cell that will contain the biggest threat to existence : so how does a prison cell light bulb have the ability to awaken creatures from the ashes of time?
The biggest disappointment of all: nothing was really explained. The reason for the Tardis exploding and the owner of the sinister rasp, Silence will fall: remains unidentified. This individual essentially engineered the cracks in time but has never so much as made an appearance.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “The Big Bang” was written by Steve Moffat and directed by Toby Haynes.
“Doctor Who” returns to BBC One on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom and currently airs at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.