Monday, July 26, 2010

Have you tried switching it off, then switching it on again?

Well now, that's better.

And what's more, most of it made some kind of sense.

I see a couple of non sequiturs (or nons sequitur? or is it the same in singular and plural?) around the Pandorica. Last week it was an inescapable prison; this week it doesn't merely hold its prisoner in stasis (which makes perfectly good sense), but actually exudes some sort of healing radiation that allows Amy, the Dalek and (presumably, after he's been exterminated) the Doctor to come back from near death. It also flies. The idea that the inside of the thing, isolated from the collapsing version of the universe, could potentially be used as a back-up template for the universe as it used to be, seems fine to me, but I'm not sure about the rest of it. I'm also not clear on whether the Doctor's still meant to be flying it in the scenes when he gets to briefly stop off in previous episodes and set up his return.

The only other thing I'm not absolutely, entirely happy with is the bit where River Song pulls the now hackneyed “Look me up” trick on the Dalek, which promptly begs for mercy. I don't really know why, but that just doesn't sit right with me.

Otherwise, a satisfying finale. The Pandorica Opens still doesn't feel like the first part of this finale, more as though it was just what needed to be shown to set up for this, the proper story, the tale Moffat's been waiting all series to tell. I think of it in the same way as I think of Utopia, the set-up for 2007's finale, and I probably ought to promote it from a 6 to a 7 out of 10 to bring it into line with that. The Big Bang, meanwhile, is pretty darn tantalisingly close to being a full 10. I just don't know if it really deserves the top mark. But it is a magnificent bit of Who.

I probably ought to be mortified by it. After all, it's the biggest reset button the show has ever seen – not just the final episode, but the entire 2010 series (and potentially some earlier bits) has now no longer happened except inside the heads of the leading cast. And even though it's a reset that still allows for continued character development, I don't feel that Amy's developed at all – there doesn't seem to be any change whatsoever between ep1 Amy and ep13 Amy. (This is something I may pick up on in a separate blog post.) Funnily enough, Rory has changed, which just rubs it in more. But the big reset obviously fits in with the “fairy tale” theme Moffat's been pimping to anyone who'll listen, and (in the nicest possible way) I think it's right for the 2010 series.

Among the many things I liked:
  • The fossilization of all the villains who locked the Doctor into the Pandorica. It's a neat alternative to having them flip-flop in and out of existence in a time paradox kind of way, and it's very evocative.
  • On that note, the stone Dalek. Yes, I know I'm easily disgruntled by never-ending Dalek returns, but as long as they do interesting and unusual things with them, I'm happy. And although arguably the Dalek's role in this episode is not hugely different from the Cyberman's role in the previous episode, it's handled with sooo much more flair.
  • The opening few minutes of the episode, which were just perfect Who. Now, if there'd only been some way of having this bit at the start of the two-parter...
  • Tying the TARDIS in with “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”.
  • The Doctor's appearance at the wedding reception – it just wouldn't have been right any other way.

So there it is – best episode of the year. The rundown looks something like this:
The Big Bang
Vincent and the Doctor (a close second)
The Lodger
The Time of Angels
Flesh and Stone
Amy's Choice
The Eleventh Hour
The Pandorica Opens
The Vampires of Venice
The Hungry Earth
Victory of the Daleks
Cold Blood
The Beast Below
A series of extremes, I think, but then aren't they all? Further mumblings about the series as a whole may follow in due course.


Christopher Pittard said...

A final word on "The Beast Below"... worse than "Cold Blood"? Really? Even if you don't like TBB, you have to admit that it's trying a lot (and possibly failing), whereas CB is actually trying very little, and yet at points failing horrifically.

I think we're back to agreement after last week, although once again I find that thinking about it too closely doesn't pay. So... something can be brought back by remembering it? That's a pretty loose definition of being wiped from history. I've read elsewhere that there's no reason why this shouldn't be as offensive as the series three resolution, but for some reason, it isn't.

We differ on the River Song/Dalek scene; I thought this was superb. I think your unease might come from the fact that I've no idea where these Dalek 'records' are, since everything other than the Earth has, at this point, never existed. If I understand it correctly. I'm still not sure if all this means that Rory was *always* an Auton, at least until the reset (that is, if Auton Roman Rory is the same person as the present day Rory...). You'll also have appreciated the irony of taking the all new shiny Dalek and caking it in stone. The props department must feel very valued.

I've also heard complaints about the multi-function Pandorica. The flying bit does seem to come out of nowhere, but I have few problems with the restorative aspect of it. It's very specifically described as a incredibly long term prison rather than a tomb, so I feel we've been prepared for this particular bit. And in any case, had Moff made it explicit in the first half, the resolution of Amy's cliffhanger would have been obvious. As for the resolution of the Doctor's cliffhanger... hmm. A bit too easy, I thought. There's also the fact that it undermines almost every Who cliffhanger past, present, and yet to come.

I'm also hoping that the reference to the Orient Express is simply a poke at RTD's witless spectacles, and not actually the set up for the Christmas episode. We shall see.

Overall, a good 'un. 9?

John Toon said...

It's that old, old argument of whether it's better to be mediocre or to risk it but fail... I think it varies from case to case. In this case I feel TBB is not merely trying, but very trying... It's hard to call it between the two episodes, though.

The remembering bit has to specifically involve Amy, because she's got that long history with the cracks. She's the sort-of backup disk to the universe (since Moffat's started the computer metaphor). The cracks are like a Deleted bin that empties itself when you reboot, but it's possible to reload deleted stuff from the backup. Eh, anyway. I'm more concerned that Moffat's cheapened *even further* (if that's possible!) the death of any given character this series, but I plan to have a bit of a rant about that in the other, more general post I'm building up to.

Good spot on the Dalek records - no, there's just something about the idea of River Song being So Goshdarned Enigmatic that her very name makes a Dalek beg for mercy, that bugs me. After all this build-up, River's story had better get one hell of a pay-off.

Re Rortonicus, I think in "real" terms he's a completely separate entity, he just happens (through a combination of hand-waving and a large helping of fudge) to have all of Rory's memories and feelings. That bit of the story still doesn't make a lick of sense to me, not even airy-fairy aesthetic sense. But on the plus side it's given Rory a bit of character development, something poor old Amy has been denied, I feel.

Re the Doctor nipping back and saving himself, well, it would undermine all drama in the series if he made a habit out of it, but I believe the general suggestion is that on this occasion, since the entire universe is buggered anyway, he can get away with it. I found it interesting that they made a thing out of the two sonic screwdrivers touching, but made nothing at all out of Amy touching Amelia or the two Doctors touching; I suspect on reflection that this is another sign that the usual laws of time travel don't apply (or at least, we can rationalise it as such).

As for royalty and Egyptian gods on the Orient Express in space... well, we shall see. It does sound a bit like a knock at Voyage of the Damned, but you never know, Moffat might actually mean it. I should point out that he's on record effusively praising the Series 3 finale.