Doctor Who – The Big Bang

Frankly if there weren’t a few plot holes in THAT there’s no justice in the world.

What a joyous romp this season finale has turned out to be. In some ways Moffat has out RTD’d Russell T Davies, but while there are some familiar overtones to this epic, breathless explosion of character and incident I can’t help focusing on what’s new. In a word: cleverness. Cleverness for its own sake? Possibly. Cleverness for the sheer pleasure of being clever? Certainly. This is cleverness of a kind that brings an ever-broadening smile of childlike enjoyment to your face and repays a hundredfold the attention it requires from the viewer. I’m sure it’s not perfect, and no doubt someone will soon explain to me in great detail why the whole thing doesn’t make a lick of sense and could never work because it breaks its own causality. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s still clever, and it’s still a pleasure from start to finish.

After a fantastic opening (echoing the start of ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and leading to the perfect non-sequitur of Amy being in the Pandorica) the beginning of the episode is the weakest aspect. I’m a sucker for all the timey-wimey shennanigans, but even I found the Bill and Ted logic of the Doctor engineering his own rescue after he’d been rescued a bit cheap. Following this logic he can escape from any possible predicament in which he isn’t actually dead by simply remembering to come back and rescue himself later. Best not follow that logic through in the future, then. The space-time manipulator bracelet, although well-established on the show previously, is also a bit deus ex machina and hopefully won’t see much use in the future. There’s a reason Captain Jack’s is mostly broken.

Once we get past that, however, we find ourselves on an ever-accelerating rollercoaster ride of bonkers ideas. Mad, impossible, pulp SF ideas involving time machines exploding at all points in the Universe, the entire Universe being extrapolated from a few atoms, and the deletion of everything in the Universe in a way that takes thousands of years to close in on the Earth. Somewhat remarkably, each and every one of these ideas is made to seem at least halfway plausible by a gabble of logical jumps that Agent Mulder would shy away from. But it works. Through sheer momentum and imagination, on a cheery wing and a prayer, it works.

The fairy tale overtones are also back in full force. From Murray Gold’s music channelling a Tim Burton movie to the mythic overtones of the storyline, to the Doctor himself, surviving the entire series of events as a story, an imaginary friend in the mind of a little girl. Amy is The Girl Who Waited. Rory is The Man Who Waited. River Song is… something else entirely. Amy’s remembering the Doctor is telegraphed but his journey back through his own timeline, setting right Amy’s troubled life, hits all the right notes, and the gentle, almost epilogue feel to the wedding is welcome.

Karen Gillan does some good work this week, and Rory is much improved. I said before that dying is the best thing that ever happened to the character and the relationship, and that continues to be true. The Rory who we’ve seen reincarnated as an Auton and who stands watch over Amy for two thousand years is a far more interesting and ‘worthy’ subject of her affections than the slightly wet Doctor-lite we saw in The Eleventh Hour. It’s only since Rory’s death I’ve actually been convinced that she cares for him, and finally this week I could believe in their marriage. The Doctor refusing the kiss was a nice touch.

Interestingly, after a closing scene that’s just *slightly* too smug and cheesy for its own good (it can almost be read as a pastiche/spoof of a Russell T Davies “What what what?” cliffhanger), we are still left with unresolved threads. The Doctor explicitly leaves open the question of who manipulated the Tardis, and the waiting Silence. That kind of continuing story thread from season to season is pretty much unheard of.

Other random observations:

* “I wear a Fez now. Fezzes are cool.” That line had me chuckling for a full five minutes.

* Finally it’s explained why Amy is quite so odd, and what happened to her parents. It’ll be interesting to see to what extent having an different set of life experiences alters Amy’s character next season, if at all. On this evidence, not very much, but I’ve been surprised at the level of episode-to-episode continuity this year so you never know.

* It’s really quite fortunate that the deletion of the Universe takes precisely long enough for Amy to be born and visit the museum. It takes almost exactly as long for the Universe to end as it does to save. Phew!

* A lovely dark side to River. Making the Dalek beg for mercy was an odd scene but effective.

* River clearly remembered the Doctor enough to drop off her journal at the wedding, and her journal and its cover survived even if the content was deleted. How? Not a plot hole as it’s clearly part of her mystery.

* This week showcased probably Matt Smith’s best dramatic acting in the series to date (as opposed to character acting / humour).

* “You are LATE for my wedding!”

* Love the stone Daleks, and the idea that things that never existed leave echoes. Makes no sense. Makes perfect sense. Pretty much true of the whole episode, really.

* “Nothing is forgotten.” I was convinced this was a classic Who quote. Turns out it’s Robin of Sherwood.

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