Note: The following review contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Doctor Who, including the most recent, “The Pandorica Opens.”
Wibbly. Wobbly. Timey. Wimey. Really, what else can one say about the penultimate episode of this season of Doctor Who? Until we see the very final episode, it’s impossible to say with authority what exactly is going on, though there’s a certain amount that seems to be what Moffatt is implying so far. It seems that the Pandorica, this legendary, fairy-tale box that supposedly holds the greatest threat that the universe has ever known actually hasn’t begun to contain this danger until now. Of course, temporally speaking, it has happened already–just as we’ve seen the cracks in the universe throughout this series, before they’ve begun to form in this episode, and just as River and the Doctor’s relationship keeps playing out, out of order–because that’s time travel, kids. Like many other people, I guessed the Doctor would be inside the Pandorica. I, however, assumed it would be a future version of the Doctor, not that it would be this Doctor, nor that he wasn’t inside it yet. The other genius part of this twist, of course, is that all of the major villainous races that we’ve seen in the Whoniverse up to this point unite to save the universe and plan on doing so by capturing the Doctor, not for nefarious purposes, but because they believe him to be the Big Bad who will end it all.
Little do they know that the Doctor isn’t the only one who can fly the TARDIS, which seems as if it’s about to explode. But if the TARDIS explodes right now, with River Song inside it, how will she be there in the “future” to meet the Doctor? Or do the cracks forming now, seemingly at all points in history, override all of that? Another question: How exactly do the cracks work? Since we saw them appear at the end of The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks, I would’ve thought that the people in those time periods, such as Churchill and Liz 10 should have been erased (and how thrilling it was to see them again), although what with the timey wimeyness of it all, it’s also completely possible that that will only happen now. It seems as if all of the times the Doctor visited this season are only going to be corrupted by the cracks once the TARDIS goes boom. Or given the name of next week’s episode, The Big Bang, bang. By the way, who or what is causing this to happen to the TARDIS?
There’s not much more I can say about this episode until I see its epic conclusion next week, except to praise a number of things:
- The absolutely ingenious teaser, which makes the entire season come together gloriously. While it is great to see Churchill, Ironside, Liz 10, and, naturally, River again, I am probably most excited by Vincent. His painting of the TARDIS exploding is particularly great, as it looks so very Van Gogh, blending his trademark swirls with an impressionistic depiction of the TARDIS, as it rips apart.
- The supremely creepy moment where the Cyberman head stalks and attacks Amy, its cables reaching out like tentacles, before joining with (most of) the rest of its body. A beautifully nightmarish moment.
- Robot Roman legionnaires? I love you, Doctor Who.
- River trying to get the Doctor to escape is an interesting indication that she might be on the Doctor’s side, after all. The last time we saw her, it seemed to be implied that she will murder him one day. Not that this necessarily precludes that.
- The reappearance of Rory, which at first seems as if it might be an indication that the cracks redistribute people across time, a la the Weeping Angels, but ultimately turns out to be because he is an illusion, crafted from Amy’s memories. Amy’s attempt to convince him that he is Rory because he has Rory’s memories, no matter what might have created him, is a gorgeous callback to what the Doctor and Amy told Professor Ironside in Victory of the Daleks, that he is a human despite his origins, because his memories and emotions make him so. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to have been quite enough to fully override this Rorybot’s programming.
- The Doctor’s delayed reaction to Rory’s return.
- Amy’s tears.
- Amy’s shocking death. River stuck in the about-to-explode TARDIS. The Doctor sealed up in the Pandorica. Omigod, is this for real?
- “Does it ever bother you, Amy, that your life doesn’t make any sense?”
This next week is going to be torture, I tell you. Torture.