Several weeks back, I promised that I would take the next few “Doctor Who” episodes off, then return with a review after the finale. At the time I made that promise, I didn’t realize that the finale would air during Comic-Con, nor that I wouldn’t have time to write anything sooner due to Comic-Con prep. But a promise is a promise, so my thoughts (perhaps not as elaborate as I’d otherwise like) on “The Big Bang,” and this first Steven Moffat/Matt Smith season as a whole, coming up just as soon as I tell you that I wear a fez now…
“In your dreams, I’ll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond. And days that never came.” -The Doctor
With “The Pandorica Opens,” it seemed like Moffat was trying out one of those Russell T. Davies-esque finales that’s mainly concerned with topping the ones that came before. Most of The Doctor’s significant enemies banding together to stop him? Amy being killed? The universe being destroyed?
“The Big Bang” had the same stakes, but it felt much more like a Moffat-sized episode. Because the universe had been destroyed, the only characters we were dealing with were The Doctor, Amy, plastic Rory, River and young Amelia, plus a stray Dalek who was mainly there to provide some jeopardy before the climax. As tales of the apocalypse go, it was surprisingly intimate, and madcap (the bit with the women’s hatred of the fez in particular, but pretty much any deed The Doctor performed with the vortex manipulator). And in Rory’s insistence on staying with Amy through the centuries, it not only created this great romantic backstory for Rory – making him a clearly worthy companion and not just the guy tagging along with Amy – but revisited one of Moffat’s pet themes for the series: people having to travel through time the long way.
There was a lot of wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimey hand-waving about how The Doctor rebooted the universe, and then about how he set up Amy to remember him and bring him back to life, but the emotions were spot-on, Smith was fantastic at both the silly stuff (his Doctor has become more stubbornly childlike as the season went on) and his exhausted, dramatic sacrifice, and The Doctor’s appearance at Amy’s wedding was a marvelous moment.
I also was pleased to see just how much this entire season tied into the two-part finale, from the extended prologue to “The Pandorica Opens” featuring Van Gogh, Churchill, Liz Ten, etc. to the revelation that Amy’s conversation with The Doctor in the forest in “Flesh and Stone” didn’t involve The Doctor from that episode. (And good on the many eagle-eyed viewers among you who were suspicious about The Doctor’s outfit being different in that scene.)
It’s also interesting that the finale only resolved part of the season-long arc. We find out what caused the cracks in the universe (the TARDIS ran into a trap and exploded), but not who or what caused the event that caused the cracks. So there’s a whole additional mystery for The Doctor, Amy and Rory to chase next season, on top of finding out who it was River killed that put her in prison.(*) And after River’s fantastic showdown with the Dalek, where she made it beg for mercy, I hope we see as much of her as possible next season.
(*) So many of us have predicted that River kills The Doctor himself that I have to assume it’s misdirection on Moffat’s part. Though I did have a long conversation with a fellow fan last night at Comic-Con where we discussed the possibility of River having killed the Paul McGann Doctor (since it’s never been 100% clear whether McGann ended the time war and then regenerated into Eccleston, or if Eccleston himself ended the time war). So the show does have a kind of loophole if it wants to kill a Doctor and not get rid of Matt Smith after only a season.
The Moffat/Smith “Doctor Who” is not a radical departure from the Davies/Tennant era, which is reassuring for some and frustrating for others, I’m sure. Me, I’ve loved it – Moffat’s been able to combine his usual cerebral plotting with a style that more openly tugs at heartstrings – and the next Christmas movie can’t come soon enough.
What did everybody else think?