Doctor Who – The Pandorica Opens

Ooooookay. The 2010 Doctor Who series finale was big, complicated and, quite wonderful. Let’s take the two parts in order[1] and follow up with some general thoughts, comments, mutterings, or whatever else my brain can come up with. To avoid melting browsers or the internet, I’ll split this into a few posts, starting with this one on The Pandorica Opens, but you’d probably guessed that from the title.

Well, everything has been leading up to this. Throughout the series so far, quite apart from that nasty crack, assorted nasty types have been telling the Doctor that the Pandorica is going to open and that silence will fall. Quite apart from this being rather ominous, the Doctor is a bit miffed that everyone else seems to know what’s going on and he doesn’t, which is not they way round he’s used to. Then there’s the oddness surrounding Amy, and her lack of memory of the quite prominent Dalek invasions…

But we start back in the nineteenth century. Vincent van Gogh is screaming in the night. And he’s painted something which is apparently worse than his usual. The painting next appears in the Cabinet War Rooms in 1941, when our old robotic friend Professor Bracewell presents it to Winston Churchill. It’s a message which he has to deliver. And in a prison in 5145, a phone rings outside River Song’s cell. She persuades the guard to give her the phone, explains to Churchill that the TARDIS has re-routed the call to her, and that she’ll pass on the message. She then steals the painting from the Royal Collection, pausing only to have a chat with Liz Ten[2].

On the TARDIS, Amy is still looking at the ring she found. The Doctor vaguely explains it away, before deciding to visit an ancient inscription – believed to be the oldest writing in the universe, though it’s never been translated. He’ll do some TARDIS trickery and work it out. But when they get there, translation turns out to be quite unnecessary. There, in plain English are the words Hello Sweetie and some space-time coordinates, which lead the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge, where they meet some Romans. Amy’s quite clued up on the Romans, as they were her favourite subject at school, apparently. The Romans greet them politely with a quick “Hail Caesar” before taking them to see Cleopatra, who quite naturally turns out to be River Song[3], who’s there to show the Doctor Vincent’s painting, which has lots of Vincent-style swirly (and quite possibly exploding) stars and a quite definitely exploding TARDIS with space-time coordinates marked on the door.

And it’s at that point, that the opening titles came on.

The painting is, of course, called The Pandorica Opens. And that, we gather, is not a Good Thing.

Having realised that Stonehenge is in fact some kind of marker (you know, you’ve put something somewhere, so you need to remember where it is…), and what’s being marked would seem to be beneath the stones. Sure enough, all you have to do is slide one little stone aside to reveal steps leading to the Underhenge. That’s quite cool, actually, as it turns out that far from being quite large stones set in the earth, they’re actually bloody enormous stones reaching deep into the earth, much like Torchwood’s water tower did, before it was slightly dented in Children of Earth. What’s less cool is the disembodied Cyberman head that the Doctor, Amy and River totally fail to notice between the stones on the surface.

Down below, behind a pair of huge barred doors is the quite legendary, but apparently real Pandorica – a cube of stone containing, so we’re told, the “most feared being in all the cosmos”, who apparently got there when “a good wizard tricked it”. While Amy points out the parallel with the story of Pandora’s box (her favourite book as a child, she says), River mentions that the problem with wizards in old legends is that they usually turn out to be the Doctor. Also in the Underhenge, but not noticed by anyone, is another bit of damaged Cyberman – a loose arm…

The Doctor examines the Pandorica, and finds that it contains multiple levels of security, that it’s being opened from the inside and that the stones are broadcasting this fact into space for everyone with a suitable level of technology to detect.

A little bit of communications monitoring shows that there are Daleks in orbit. And Cybermen. And Sontarans. And, well, pretty much everybody the Doctor’s ever annoyed, which is quite a lot of races, come to think of it. There’s even Zygons up there, which must have generated a deafening level of Squeeeeee noises from fans of a certain age.

While the Doctor and Amy play with the Pandorica, River goes back to play with the Romans. Unfortunately, their commander has returned and he doesn’t believe that River is Cleopatra, what with Cleo being in Egypt. But being River, she manages to persuade him to give some assistance to the Doctor. He’s got a volunteer who really wants to help…

Back in the Underhenge, after a quick chat about the ring, and signs that Amy is almost but not quite remembering something, the Doctor tells her something Very Important[4]

If something is remembered, it can come back

But they don’t really get the chance to talk about that in any detail, because those various bits of Cyberman manage to find a body, which wants a new bit of human, and picks on Amy. The poor thing is obviously confused, because instead of offering Amy a free upgrade, it gets all Borgy and tells her she will be assimilated. Fortunately, the barb it shoots into her doesn’t contain anything nastier than a mild anaesthetic, though.

Amy is having a lot of trouble with the Cyberthing, but is rescued by the Roman soldier we saw earlier. Except now we get to see his face, which is oddly familiar. It’s Rory, who last time we saw him was ever so slightly dead. He can’t account for his presence, as all he knows that he woke up in a state of being Roman.

But there’s hardly time for a touching reunion, which is perhaps just as well, as Amy still doesn’t know who he is, what with him never having actually existed, because all those ships in orbit are coming down to have a look at what’s coming out of the Pandorica, which is opening with a tasteful green glow.

While the Doctor does some advanced shouting at the assorted alien spacecraft, and Rory tries to remind Amy of who he is,River tries to move the TARDIS, but runs into a bit of trouble. It makes some odder noises than normal, then arrives on Earth on 26 June 2010, a date which has been seen before, though I may not have mentioned it at the time. By a curious coincidence, it happens to be the date on which the final episode of the series was first shown. Not only is River on Earth in the 21st century with a sickly TARDIS, she’s right outside Amy’s house. Thinking that the TARDIS is trying to tell her something, she has a look around Amy’s oddly empty house. And finds a couple of interesting books. One is about the Romans, and shows drawings of some Roman soldiers who look quite remarkably like the ones hanging around Stonehenge. The other is about Pandora’s Box, and has a pretty picture on the front that looks remarkably like the Pandorica, which is a little unexpected. So, she gets back in the TARDIS, warns the Doctor[5] that he seems to be in some kind of trap, which means that someone wasn’t listening to him recently. The Romans must be some kind of replicas, who quite possibly don’t even know that they’re not really real Romans. But before they can have a nice chat about that, some external force takes over the TARDIS and takes River away.

And it’s around then that all the Romans suddenly slump for a moment, stop being Roman, stand up and do that flapping down hand thing that reveals them to be Autons. And that includes Rory, but he’s being awkward and attempts to resist the changing. And that’s the point at which Amy remembers who he is, which is a bit awkward, as it appears he isn’t who he is. Err, something like that, anyway.

But the Doctor’s too busy underground to deal with all that, as he’s been joined by some shiny new Daleks. And Cybermen, and Sontarans. And Siluri-err, whatever we’re supposed to call them now. And other guys, all of whom have been inconvenienced at some point or another by the Doctor. They’ve worked out that the Doctor is going to be responsible for destroying the Universe, and in a most unlikely alliance, they’ve worked together to create a complicated trap that would appeal to him. They’re going to seal him up in the Pandorica[6] to make sure he can’t do anything of the kind. This does of course answer the question about who the most dangerous being in the Universe is, why he’s in the Pandorica, and why the Doctor didn’t know who was in there. Nicely done, Mr Moffat.

The Doctor realises that the misbehaving TARDIS is what’s going to explode and do the destroying, and that it’s going to happen with River on board. The Sontarans in particular aren’t having any of this, as they’re quite sure than only the Doctor can fly the TARDIS, suggesting that they haven’t been introduced to River Song as yet.

And if you think that’s bad, Rory is overwhelmed by his Auton side and shoots Amy dead.

And the Doctor is sealed into a box even he can’t get out of in time to stop the TARDIS exploding, all the stars in the Universe exploding leaving the Earth alone in space.

And that, my dears, is how to really do a cliffhanger.  No trailer for the next part, no hints, no clues. Just everybody apparently trapped or dead. Or an Auton, which is also pretty bad.

I was seriously impressed by this story. Quite apart from all the threads from the series coming together, there was so enough going on to overwhelm the senses, blast the brain and generally create an atmosphere of confusion, excitement and loads of other cool things.

The big question of how the Doctor gets out of this one will be answered when I manage to write another mega post on the final episode – The Big Bang. And if you thought this one was complicated, that one will warp your fragile little minds…

[1] Taking them in reverse order would be excessively wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey even for a Steven Moffat masterpiece
[2] Completing a nice line-up of friends the Doctor has made this year….
[3] If you think this bit is complicated, you may want to have a lie down before going on much further
[4] This will become clearer later. Much later at the rate this post is going
[5] Fancy phones…
[6] Yes, it’s the James Bond/Batman thing again. Why don’t villains just be villainous and kill their opponents? Hmmm?