Doctor Who Series Finale - The Big Bang (S05E13) - Episode review

Doctor Who Series Finale - The Big Bang (S05E13) - Episode review

It's 26-06-2010, the day the universe ends. Or something. But back in 102AD, Rory is a plastic Roman, Amy is seemingly dead, The Doctor is trapped in a prison inspired by Pandora's Box. Oh yeah, and the TARDIS has exploded with River Song trapped inside. Women drivers, eh? (rolls eyes)

Oh, readers. I've just finished watching it, that final episode. Twice. It. Was. Stunning.

The Big Bang closes off an incredible series of Doctor Who. When we last left the Doctor and chums, they were all in some kind of mortal peril. And within a few short minutes, they're not. It's a brilliant and daring escape that makes not much sense at all, but your head is spinning throughout and the whole thing is laced with mystery and humour.

Though we could whinge about the paradox that enables The Doctor to escape the Pandorica, it set up some excellent headsmacking moments. From the outset, we see The Doctor's hand in a million little details - nudging little Amelia toward the museum where the Pandorica is being displayed. And we see the logic behind his frequent reappearances to Rory. Both from when he initially makes them, then from the future, where he's receiving new information from his companions and flipping back in time to tidy up the details.

Naturally, the implosion of the universe isn't something that just happens. Thankfully, The Doctor and his companions have a little bit of time to play with. Time to adopt a fez as his new fashion accessory. Time to rescue River from the exploding TARDIS and have her shoot that fez to smithereens. And time to think up a plan to reboot the universe.

Yes, reboot the universe. Because whatever caused the TARDIS to explode in the first place - and tantalisingly, that enigma has been left hanging until next series - coupled with the Pandorica is the solution to the dying universe. Cleverly, The Doctor has worked out that he can exploit those cracks in space and time and use the Pandorica's ability to restore life to kick start the universe. The Big Bang 2, possibly the smartest thing The Doctor has ever done, because he's used technology created by his greatest enemies to restore the universe.

Though I have to wonder if that doesn't create some deification of the good Doc. The last guy to allegedly kickstart the universe at least had a few cults in his name.

Back to the story. Of course, there can be no restoration of the universe without self-sacrifice. And Gallifrey boy courageously nominates himself. So he flies the Pandorica into the heart of the exploding TARDIS and something odd happens. He wakes up on the floor of the intact TARDIS.

He deduces that he's being erased from existence. Very Marty McFly, but in a more linear, backwards manner. He sees events from the last few weeks and eventually ends up in young Amelia's place on the night he first stood her up. He lifts her from her garden and puts her to bed and talks while she sleeps. The last we see of him, he walks into the final crack and it closes behind him.

Amy Pond wakes up on her wedding morning and the house is buzzing. Her mother and father never died and they're with her now. It's only during the wedding reception that Amy suddenly pieces together the fact that someone's missing. She makes a hilarious, cringey speech about her imaginary childhood friend and - har har to all you Russell T Davies haters - her words bring him back! Echoes of the Martha Jones "Pray to The Doctor" remedy in there, right?

Still, we don't dwell on this for long. Wedding reception over, The Doctor stands outside the TARDIS, accidentally comically proposes to River and in turn receives an ominous warning from her about the future.

The best bit is saved for last. The Doctor, Amy and Rory end up in the TARDIS together, and he's about to jet off to some new emergency. The newlyweds stick with him and choose to honeymoon on the Orient Express...in space. It may have been a slightly wasted opportunity to slap a "Just Married" banner on the back of the TARDIS and some empty cans, but the look on Amy Pond's face as she worked the console was full of hope and excitement. The perfect ending moment for the series, and one of my personal favourite moments from series 5 overall.

Acting

I want to take a moment out to commend the actors for a fantastic job throughout the series. Matt Smith in particular excelled in The Big Bang. From his usual oddball energy to the tired, injured Doctor who flew the Pandorica off, he was simply brilliant. Steven Moffat was right...he may look like a young guy, but those eyes gave off the atmosphere of an old, tired Time Lord, ready to sacrifice himself in order to save the universe. Let's put it this way, I believed.

Karen Gillan and her little cousin Caitlin Blackwood were fantastic in their first scenes together in the series. Little nod to The Time Traveler's Wife there, with Amy meeting her younger self in a museum? There's a similar scene in that book. And Arthur Darvill as Rory. I think after everything that Rory's endured during the series now, he's earned his place as a full time companion. Don't you?

Big Bad Wolf

What's most unique about this episode - and we almost should have expected it from Moffat - was that the sinister rasping voice that said "Silence will fall" was never explained. Nor was the reason for the TARDIS exploding.

For one thing, it was - as most people have suggested - too late to introduce a complex, classic Who villain like Omega (who most people thought it was), and there was no space left in the episode to start explaining those things.

I'm a big fan of this approach, because it starts the new series with already established mysteries and now loads of time to drip information about who's behind this. And of course, they may be capable of messing with the TARDIS next time round too.

Holy Deus Ex Machina, Moffman!

OK, Moffat managed to deliver a fantastic finale to close off his first series at the helm of Doctor Who. It wasn't the silver bullet to kill those deus ex machina endings RTD haters deplored. For instance, the ease with which The Doctor escaped the Pandorica (and the enormous paradox/plot hole behind it) were nearly as ridiculous as Gallifrey appearing over Earth in The End Of Time and being banished within about five minutes.

And sorry, viewers, but Amy's memory retrieving The Doctor from oblivion in time for her wedding reception had so many shades of Martha Jones that it was a little bit embarrassing.

It's perhaps a reminder to us that there will always be fantastical elements to Doctor Who that we'll have to learn to live with. After all, it's sometimes the emotional journey the episode takes you on that makes up for any plot holes that get in the way. As Rory nursing Amy's corpse while The Doctor flicks in and out wearing a fez was hilarious, and Amy wishing The Raggedy Doctor back into existence ended a moment of tension for us, they were each emotionally satisfying.

Perhaps the problem is that we spend so much time guessing what's ahead and creating our own little ideas of how the narrative will go that it's frustrating when something isn't as tightly plotted as we'd like.

Still, in summing up, I loved this. And now that we have a book-end for the fifth series, I feel satisfied by how this series has run. And The Big Bang was the perfect high to end on.

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Comments

jefft's picture

Spot on

A very nicely put case Gerard.

The episode was indeed stunning. At turns emotional and funny, and gripping, and...

Yes: I think any criticisms will definitely stem from having hyped up and over analysed the clues. A worthy end to the series, a great finale, a fantastic performance from Matt, and I loved Caitlin all over again.

Roll on Christmas!!

do me a melon's picture

YES!

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes... etc!

This is the moment we've been waiting for.  The moment Moffat is confirmed as  genius.  The moment Rory is confirmed as a legend.  When Amy Pond is confirmed as awesome.  And when Matt Smith is confirmed as THE Doctor.

The revelations of all those 'was it a goof or a carefully planned nugget of future plot' as the latter, were breathtaking.  I lost track of how many times I uttered the immortal phrase "No fucking way!" over the course of this episode (and the end of the previous one).  This is what makes Doctor Who untouchable.

Look past the echoes of Martha Jones.  Look past the mindmelting paradox of how the Doctor first got out to give Rory the sonic screwdriver, to allow him to escape and give Rory the screwdriver, to allow him to... gah!

This was exceptional TV, which should go down among the very best Who stories.

Bring on the next season, with the newly established status quo, mysteries and all!  COME ON! 

johnseavey's picture

Hmm.

I liked it, but...I didn't like it as much as I expected to, and I'm not quite sure why. I feel like Moffat punted on some of the big issues: Why did the TARDIS explode? Why was the explosion the same day as Amy's wedding? Who was behind it all? Sorry, that's all for next season's finale.

 

I also thought there was some expectation management. A lot of it was "problem solving", not "confrontation", and since problem solving in any sci-fi series involves a lot of technobabble, I'm always a bit disappointed with it. Crashing the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS fixes everything, because...SCIENCE! (No matter how you felt about it, you have to admit that the Doctor's explanation wins the Old Trek Award for Most Irrelevant Analogy. "Like a balloon when something bad happens!")

 

And yes, I'll admit that some of it was that I'd thought of a really clever way for the Doctor to get out of the Pandorica that didn't involve time travel, and I was bummed that it didn't happen. :)

 

But there was a lot of good stuff. The Doctor steadfastly insisting that he would, from now on, be wearing a fez. Rory holding his own wrist to steady his aim on his hand. Matt Smith teaching the little kids how to dance goofy at the wedding. Amelia opening the Pandorica to reveal...Amy. The explanation of how Earth still has a sun. The explanation of what happened to Amy's parents (and, although not explicitly mentioned, of why the duckpond has no ducks.) Rory, who was just generally full of win this week. "I guess this is goodbye. Goodbye!" It was good...I just feel like it was part one of the truly great season finale we'll get next season. :)

redblu's picture

Loved it

It was bold, it was adventurous, some of the most radical science fiction I've seen in a long, long time, and yes as a result it had it's share of problems (see later), but I thoroughly enjoyed it end (of the universe) to end. Many elements were really clever, the timey wimeyness of it for the most part worked superbly as you said, the line "ok kid, this is where it gets complicated" deserves to go down in history.

Well paced, gorgeous, and really had a wonderfully surreal feel to it, even more so than Amy's Choice this felt like the kind of new boundary that the show was born to push.

My two nitpicks will be

a) The ease of recreating the universe (did they really have enough information to do this, I will have to rewatch)

b) Amy's remembering the Doctor back into existence. It didn't bother me nearly so much as the chanting in the end of time, but that's not because it was better sci-fi, it wasn't *but* precedent had been set and it did feel less cheesy, so whilst it probably should have bothered me more it didn't. Saved by good story telling rather than good science I would say, but freely admit that is personal taste, I'd accept someone claiming it really bothered them.

I don't have any problem whatsoever with the cause preceding the effect (i.e. the Doctors escape), it's a little bit of a cop out, but it's not actually bad science fiction. 

One could say Robert Holmes almost never used such contrivances, but the show wasn't nearly so big and bombastic back then.

Very happy to see Rory as a full time companion next year, I think his character is superb! :)

Rob Irwin's picture

Most confusing...

What confused me the most -- and I touched on this in my review at androzani.net -- is that Matt Smith had said, "There’s an important character coming back but I can’t say who – it is very significant. It’s a cracker..." which was the moment we all but decided that Omega was coming back.

I can only assume Omega, the raspy voice and silence falling will be Series 6 territory...

 

 

 

 

redblu's picture

Surely...

...he meant Amelia. Admittedly Amy and Amelia are one in the same, but had he been more specific it likely would have given the game away.

Roanna's picture

Amelia or Rory

He could've been talking about Amelia or Rory

Roanna's picture

Unfortunate

Unfortunately I was disappointed with the series ending.  It had the feeling of the "It was all a dream" plot device that's so over-used.  I was afraid they were going to do something like that... All those things that were disappearing from the timeline couldn't be allowed to disappear.  At some point, they were going to hit the reset button.

Beyond that... the transition between Eccleston and Tennant was much smoother than with this new Doctor.  I just keep thinking, every episode, "What a jerk!"  I'm sure by this point that's considered one of his primary character traits, but he doesn't have the emotional depth of Tennant and he it's frequently very obnoxious.  I must admit I cheered when he got punched ;) 

If Tennant had acted in this episode just the difference between the actors would've given it a great deal more emotional impact.

I don't know that much about the primary writer, except that he wrote the Library and Blink... Fantastic episodes... it seems to me that he's better writing those one off amazing shows than trying to piece together an entire series plotline.

Jeffrey Scott's picture

Good and Bad

I thought the series finale was great. Not awesome, but great. Overall the story was well paced, I loved knowing Amy and Rory will be back next season. Nice to know we will finally find out who or what Riversong is.

What I didn't like: You can only take so many "wibbly wobbly timey whimey" explanations as resolution to a problem. The Doctor should not have been able to come back and help himself out of the Pandorican without at least some explanation of how it might have been possible for him to escape without his help in the first place. Also, where were all the aliens from the ending of last episode? Okay, they sort of explained that, but it would have been nice to have a few more petrified aliens to consider. And did it have to be Daleks to come back?

I'm hoping we have a Dalek free series one of these years. Can we concentrate on other aliens? You keep going back to the same well, sooner or later you get tired of the well.

silveredtears's picture

Haha, I definately agree with

Haha, I definately agree with Jeffrey on the Daleks, there has been only one series of the new five that have not ended with daleks, although at least in this episode it wasn't a primary cause, just a way to help with the problem solving, but seriously, they could have used a different allien!

I think my mother agrees with Roanna, She keeps thinking of the Matt Smith doctor in a 'What a Jerk' kind of way, but I really love him! I got very sick or Tennant by the specials and this series has really pushed him back in the line of favourite doctors (although i haven't watched ALOT of the old ones, mainly Hartnell and Davison)

I really like the 'something borrowed, something new, something old, something BLUE' ending, very nice with the doctors little story of the stolen blue box. :)

Heathcliffe01's picture

Season 5

This season I enjoyed more than the last four. I am one of the minority that didn't like David Tennants doctor. Way OTT acting all the time. Matt Smith characterisation is much more interesting. I feel I am watching the Doctor again not some super hero that DT doctor had become. For me RTD's Doctor Who was a soap opera. Steven Moffatt's is not.