Tonight’s Doctor Who, The Big Bang, was farce. Not quite pure farce. More like 90% farce. Not bad farce. Proper farce. Farce in a good way. In a The Importance of Being Earnest or Noises Off kind of way. It could take its spiritual importance from the second half of The Importance of Being Earnest’s full title: Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.
Steven Moffat had real fun playing with the timelines this week. Each of the characters in the story has a timeline that we dip in and out of. The Big Bang shows the power of the point of view in a story. We have the camera’s time line which starts out following Amelia Pond. The Doctor keeps steering her to be in the right place at the right time for the Pandorica’s opening. When did he put the postit on the Pandorica and when did he write it?
Then it swaps to Rory in 102AD (1894 years ago) anchoring us to the love story and to the Previously. Then we get the first view of the farce. One of the Noises Off sections where the Doctor gives Rory his instructions so he can escape from the Pandorica. I’m not entirely sure there isn’t a paradox there. Given the Doctor is trapped in the Pandorica with the sonic screw driver how did he escape the first time? That’s really going to play with the heads of anyone who takes Who too seriously. However he did it it was soon enough that he could still get River Song’s time travel doodad.
Then we get the Doctor’s alternative way of looking at life. He can put Amy in the Pandorica for 1894 years to get healed. Rory guarding Amy for 2000 years sets up his love and allows his dramatic entry to save the day.
Once the Doctor hops forward using the doodad we begin to follow him almost immediately. We get a brief moment of Amy to set up her knowing of Rory’s 2000 year vigil that sets up their reunion and his coming to the rescue. That lets us tie up the earlier action with Rory and Amelia. We follow him up to the point where he is shot by the Dalek then it switches to Amy except for an excursion to River Song in the exploding TARDIS.
River Song’s time line trapped in a loop but unlike Groundhog Day or the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Cause and Effect this is an unvarying time loop of just a few seconds that she has been trapped in for an eternity. 2 billion to 10 billion times. No wonder she says “And what sort of time do you call this?”
Amy then has to sell the sadness of the Doctor’s sacrifice. That no one will remember him.
Then its back to the Doctor as he rewinds back through his timeline. The moment he checks himself echos a post regeneration. He knows he’s escaped but isn’t 100% sure he hasn’t been regenerated. He discovers Amy can hear him and before sacrificing himself to close the crack he plants a thought in her head and reinforces it before he does. The line in Flesh and Stone which didn’t make perfect sense at the time is explained now we see it wasn’t the Doctor from that episode but the Doctor from this episode who spoke it. Then he sacrifices himself into the crack.
So finally to Amy again on her wedding day. Slightly confused. Trying to work it out. Glad they avoided the wedding and skipped to the reception. TV weddings have a way of feeling artificial. The River Song, the blank diary, the bow tie and the man wearing braces. The embarrassed guests at the reception. All of that to set up the TARDIS makes its big entry. Love the way the TARDIS makes its big entry. Karen Gillan really sells her delivery of a cliché that takes on a whole new meaning. The dramatic incidental music becomes more and more powerful each time its used. Its almost more powerful than the main theme now. In combination the two of them can be played as a double emotional whammy as they use it at the end.
All of this took a lot of plotting, writing and planning to make it make sense. The camera is clever and it helps us follow the story and play some tricks on us but we’ll forgive it for that.
There are just some really fun things in the episode…
A Dalek in a Museum 🙂
Someone had fun dressing the set putting the time anomalies together leading up to the Pandorica. Plus a certain someone as the leader of a star cult.
The Pandorica looks so cool. It opens and closes in such a fun way. Need Pandorica dice. And again – one broken down DALEK scarier and cooler than an army of DALEKs.
“I dated a Nestine duplicate once swappable head, did keep things fresh.” River gets such good lines. Then the moment, just a glance, between Amy and River when they destroy the Fez.
The writing has a wonderful knowingness without being smug. A universe reboot not just a figurative or cynical, marketing ploy. A character plotting one. A literal one. To save the universe. It adds onto River’s work to avoid spoilers.
The Doctor dancing like a drunk giraffe. Fun and reminding us he doesn’t entirely fit in.
The solution to the destruction of time and space has a mad logic that has been set up over thirteen episodes. It’s crazy but it was set up.
The fez: that is going to really upset the hate the bow tie crowd. It’s a really clever technique to let us keep track of the timeline. If there is a Fez craze for kids next Christmas I’ll have a good laugh.
Having the Doctor have to work it out as he is going on. Setting out each leap, no matter how fantastic, as logical.
Once its all over and we’ve had a moment to enjoy their success we have the set up for the Christmas special. Alongside that we’ve the next series mystery – why did the TARDIS go then?
Who is River Song. River casual high noon moment with the DALEK. Is there a hint there when she tells the Dalek to recheck his records about her being one of the Doctor’s companions? The Dalek’s fear moments later after, presumably, rechecking and discovering something. Is it just that she will kill or that it finds something more? Anyone that can scare a Dalek is emphatically someone to take seriously. Yet on the flip side she nudges Amy to free the Doctor and her unguarded “I’m sorry my love.” Whoever she is I don’t think she’ll do a sixth season Buffy Bad Willow on us.
And of course what is The Silence? Is that a reference to Silence in the Library? Is that just a red herring.
All in all both an excellent finish to the two part story and an excellent end to the series. Do you agree?