(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
“I need to find The Doctor…and I need to show him this”
Unfortunately, I know how ‘The Big Bang’ resolves ‘The Pandorica Opens.’ I watched them both several times. ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is one of Moffat’s best episodes, showing lots of promise, confidence and quality story-telling. There are a few questions answered, a lot more left unanswered, and even more posed by the cliffhanger. To say ‘The Big Bang’ is an underwhelming conclusion is something of an understatement. But, watching ‘The Pandorica Opens’ for the first time, I couldn’t wait for the finale! What I’d just watched was simply a great piece of television.
The pre-credits teaser was a typical Moffat wibbly, wobbly, timey wimey piece. It brought it various elements from the rest of Series 5. First we were greeted with a clearly distressed Van Gogh, a Van Gogh distressed about one of his own paintings. Now we have a clue as to why he still killed himself, even though The Doctor showed how appreciated Van Gogh would be in the future. Van Gogh was tormented by this vision of the end of everything. Then, we fly straight into Churchill’s War Room, and he’s presented with the painting. So he calls the ‘time vortex,’ hoping for The Doctor, but gets River Song instead (inside the storm cage…so for how long was she in prison? This takes place before ‘The Time of Angels). The entire pre-credits teaser is possibly the best part of the episode, edited and performed exquisitely.
As there was no room to breathe in this set-up, there was barely any room to breathe for the rest of the episode. There was little room for fluff; everything hurtled along at a great pace. The Doctor, Amy, and River travel to Stonehenge, where the Pandorica lies. Stonehenge is the ideal set for Doctor Who; a structure as mysterious and ancient as The Doctor himself. Inside, The Doctor is attacked by a Cyberman’s head and arm. It’s the most threatening they’ve been in the entirety of Nu-Who! Forget ‘Age of Steel’ and that awful Christmas Special, all Moffat needed was an arm and a head to make the Cybermen legitimate enemies again!
“Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe”
What we were given during ‘The Pandorica Opens’ was a well-plotted and paced episode? Brilliantly. The whole “every enemy ever!” facet could have usurped the rest of the episode, yet it didn’t. It was slightly overkill, but was done to prove the threat of The Doctor. How ironic is it that they believe they are stopping The Doctor from destroying the Universe? Of course, they don’t view themselves as evil, but we always assume/are told that they are evil. Yet, they create an alliance to stop the destruction of everything. Who is the real enemy here? That has been a question in quite a few of the previous episodes. But everything came neatly together at the end, and the BIG REVEAL was done almost perfectly. It may be the greatest cliffhanger of modern Doctor Who (of course, for sheer ‘WOW’ factor, The Doctor being shot and “regenerating” cannot be beaten). The silence was sheer excellence.
However, it does all hinge on the finale. And we’ve had a history of poor finales (Last of the Timelords and Journey’s End spring to mind). Of course, there are plenty of questions left to answer. It’s up to ‘The Big Bang’ to answer them all succinctly, logically and efficiently. But with ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ Moffat has given us another superlative episode.
VERDICT: 9/10. Thrilling, exciting, and jaw-dropping, ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is perhaps the best episode of Series 5. But it has a lot of competition!
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 11: The Lodger)