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So anyway,
Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Bang Bang, I shot you down 
27th-Jun-2010 01:44 pm
Tardisavatar
Like a lot of people on my twitter stream, I've spent the last few days with the "crooked smile" crack in the universe over my twitter userpic. I guess I'll have to put it back to normal now though because this year's Doctor Who series is over - seems to have gone very quickly considering how long the wait was for it to start.

Moffat or no Moffat, I was a bit worried at the end of "The Pandorica Opens." Not because it wasn't good, but because it was too good. After all, the last couple of seasons of the RTD years were typified by series finales with a strong Part 1 that got your hopes up, only to be crushed by a ludicrous Part 2. So I was worried when "The Pandorica Opens" was such a tour de force. There's so much that's great about it, right from the start as we get many of the series' more memorable characters returning - Vincent, Churchill, Liz Ten, and of course the latter gets a scene with one of the best things about the two-parter, River Song back and more awesome than ever (even if it's rather obvious that Sophie Okonedo and Alex Kingston didn't shoot their scene together.) Kingston also gets to deliver the episode's big mislead, about how wizards in fairytales always turn out to be the Doctor. Actually I guessed the twist that he was actually the "trickster" pretty early on but if anything that made me enjoy the episode more, as I watched the Doctor gleefully and blindly walk into the trap that had been constructed for him.

I'd seen spoilers of Rory's return, right down to the fact that he'd be an "evil" Rory (although the spoilers never mentioned he'd be an Auton) who mostly fought against his evil nature, but again the whole storyline was beautifully played out, from his reappearance, through to his exposure as a fake, to him killing Amy against his will. After the sheer amount of times he's died and come back in the course of one series alone, I hope we get Arthur Darvill added to the credits from Christmas onwards, surely he's earned his spurs by now and can get a proper series' worth of stories as a companion. Partly, of course, because although I don't hate Karen Gillan's Amy like some people seem to, she's my least favourite of the new-Who companions and I can take or leave her, whereas Rory adds a more interesting dynamic. Besides, and I know I've been saying this since the show relaunched, but just because overburdening Peter Davison with companions in the 1980s didn't work, doesn't mean that a single companion is the only dynamic that should ever be attempted again (Hartnell and Troughton never had less than two companions, Pertwee too for the most part if you count the Brig) and six years into the new run surely it's something that can be attempted. And a married couple of companions no less, that's got to be worth exploring.

As with Moffat's previous two-parter, Part 2 is something of a different beast. "The Big Bang" is kind of what everyone had predicted it would be, namely a whole load of timey-wimey. That was pretty obvious from the clues dropped throughout the series, but even before he took over running the show many people had commented that Steven Moffat was one of the few writers in the show's history to absolutely take to heart that this is a story about time travel. There was "Blink" of course, which entirely revolved around timey-wimey, the introduction of River Song (not universally liked after the library two-parter but by now she feels to me like an indispensible part of the Whoniverse) and even "The Girl in the Fireplace" messes around with time (speaking of that episode, we can definitely include unashamed romance as a trademark of The Moff what with Plastic Rory guarding Amy for 2000 years; and only cottoning on sometime after WWII that changing out of his Roman garb might make him less conspicuous.)

I have to say on the first viewing of "The Big Bang" I couldn't decide if its sheer audacity made it amazing or terrible. On second viewing I'm happier to go for a straightforward positive viewing. Yes, you do have to fanwank a bit for certain things to make sense (if all the non-local lifeforms were wiped out of existence by the crack, how did Rory, technically a Nestene, survive long enough to fulfil his vital plot purpose? I'm going for the solution that the Doctor's "they got more than they bargained for" speech about Auton Rory covers this) but at least Moffat makes the fanwanking fairly easy. The constant paradoxes stretch even this show's internal logic but sheer energy means it just about gets away with it. There turned out to be less clues scattered around the series than I'd expected - the main one was the "Flesh and Stone" one that everyone knew about by now anyway - I thought there'd be a load of "how could I miss that!" stuff as well, but it's interesting how these moments turned out not to be quite what they looked like. Yes, the episode did involve the Doctor jumping back and forth through his own time stream, but these particular moments weren't from that section, and were actually him reliving his life backwards - and dropping hints to Amy that would lead to his own resurrection. As for rebooting the whole universe (or perhaps reconfiguring it into a Universe 2.1 that's ever-so-slightly better and includes Amy's parents alive and well) it's another audacious move but Moffat gets away with it. I can't blame him for going for the huge all-of-reality-in-peril finale, it being his first series in charge, but I still hope future finales go for a smaller, more emotionally resonant peril. However creative you get about it, having the apocalypse once or twice a year does eventually devalue it.

Finally an interesting point is that this is a two-part series finale with no bad guy. Or rather, with a bad guy we never see or identify. I now suspect that we won't find out who or what the "Silence" is, and whether it's the same as whoever blew up the TARDIS, until either Moffat or Matt Smith leaves the show. Instead some of the series' most iconic villains come back in a doomed coalition (one element of the story I wasn't crazy about was them joining to "save the Universe." Now, them not realising the Crack's implications, and joining forces simply to get rid of their common enemy, I could buy a lot easier.) Again I get the feeling the BBC have stipulated the use of the Daleks but by bringing things back to a single, stone Dalek stalking the leads in the museum, the Doctor's nemesis regains a lot of its threat (but by being underpowered can be disposed of quickly enough that it doesn't overtake the rest of the story.) Still, that's nothing compared to the monster-movie moment in "The Pandorica Opens" - I'm one of those who's been unconvinced by the post-2005 cybermen. They've never seemed menacing, but here a couple of body parts are scarier than entire armies of the things have been in the past.

I haven't said much about Matt Smith because I've said it all in past reviews; he continues to be the most blatantly alien Doctor since Tom Baker, and in these episodes sometimes the most manipulative one since Sylvester McCoy. Roll on Christmas and Series 6.
Comments 
27th-Jun-2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
Not really sure I can properly comment yet. I've only watched the finale once and whilst I loved it, I think I need to watch it again to give any kind of reasonable view of it. There was just so much there that to take all the detail in one viewing was almost impossible. Having said that, it did make sense, which I guess after some of the hole filled plots we've got used to in the big finales (not usually my favourite part of the Who series') then this was a joy to watch.
27th-Jun-2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
It's definitely one to watch more than once. The first time I watched it I knew I'd enjoyed it, but given the mad pace of it all I wasn't sure if the internal logic would completely crumble on a second viewing. It didn't, but I think it's very deliberately structured as a story that balances on a knife-edge of whether it makes any sense or not. Which is pretty bold for his first series finale really.
30th-Jun-2010 12:04 am (UTC) - Just Finished ...
... And rather impressed. I enjoy the sense of madness and humour that helps define this Doctor and, indeed, this episode.

One main criticism, though ... whilst madness is good, I'm not sure you should need to watch a TV series twice to check whether the internal logic works and to fathom what it is telling us. It's just a tad too complicated for its own good - and a little too aware of its own cleverness. It became a bit like a Stoppard play: being clever and knowing for a minority but slightly alienating for the majority. Pseudo-philosophy can come across as pretension.

That said, on the basis of these episodes, I don't miss RTD as this is just as good as anything he gave us. One last thought: is the conclusion of Rory not just to add contrast to Amy? Does he not provide some good eye-candy, too?!
30th-Jun-2010 01:02 pm (UTC) - Re: Just Finished ...
One main criticism, though ... whilst madness is good, I'm not sure you should need to watch a TV series twice to check whether the internal logic works and to fathom what it is telling us. It's just a tad too complicated for its own good - and a little too aware of its own cleverness.

I don't particularly think you need to watch it more than once to understand it; more that there's enough levels to it that it rewards repeat viewing, which has to be a good thing. Where "The Big Bang" in particular is concerned, I think it makes sense the first time, in terms of being able to follow the story, and with the fast pace of it you get acught up in it all, but because you're wrapped up in what's going on I felt as if I wanted to see it again from a slightly more detached perspective, to see if the plot twists all actually held up as well as they initially seemed to (and for the most part they did.)

One last thought: is the conclusion of Rory not just to add contrast to Amy? Does he not provide some good eye-candy, too?!

He does add eye-candy (I prefer him to Matt Smith in that respect; I think Smith's perfect as the Doctor but that awesomeness doesn't quite translate to "sexy" for me the way it does for some people) but I was trying to avoid mentioning that because I wanted it to be clear I actually like having him around because he's good, not just to look at LOL. But yes, if he can be the one with the shower scene next year I won't complain. (He's multi-talented as well - it was only about halfway through the series that I realised I saw a musical he wrote the music for last year.)
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