Doctor Who – The Pandorica Opens (S05E12) – Episode review

Um…what just happened? If you’ve just switched off from the latest Doctor Who ep, [[The Pandorica Opens (Doctor Who episode)|The Pandorica Opens]], your head is probably spinning like an out of control Dalek.

Threads from across the entire series started to come together for the penultimate episode of [[Doctor Who Series 5|the fifth series]]. We had Van Gogh in hysterics about his latest painting (and a crafty hint that his encounter with The Doctor eventually led to his suicide), Churchill getting involved and the [[TARDIS (Doctor Who)|TARDIS]] acting as a celestial switchboard operator to reroute his call to River Song in prison. Song, in turn, goes to Starship UK and steals a painting from Liz 10, getting caught redhanded by the Cockney Queen.

Eventually, using her calling card of leaving messages for [[The Doctor (Doctor Who)|The Doctor]] all over space and time, River manages to redirect him to Stonehenge back in the early ADs. She’s there masquerading as Cleopatra and wittering about the Pandorica.

After discovering that Stonehenge is an ancient marker for the Pandorica, they discover the mysterious box hidden under the monument. To complicate matters, it’s opening – from the inside out. Oh yeah, and it’s broadcasting a message calling all of The Doctor’s enemies to Stonehenge.

For my taste, the episode spends far too much time setting up and reinforcing the enigma of the Pandorica. The Doctor runs laps around the thing, murmuring to it and asking it “What’ in there?” and “Have I met you before?” and “Hey baby, do you come here often?” There are endless debates about the box – which interestingly enough is the first box in the series to be exactly the expected size on the inside – and whether it’s fairytale, legend, a prison or a Club 800-950 resort.

Subtle. I’m kind of glad they didn’t graffiti it with “Big mystery awaits inside.”

In the best tradition of all those Russell T Davies two-part finales you all hated and bitched about for the past five years, Steven Moffat throws everything and the kitchen sink into this episode. Every conceivable enemy masses against The Doctor. And then he stands on a rock, shouts a bit like a deranged market seller and they run away for a while.

I could recap this all day, but essentially there’s a big bait and switch ahead – all of the legions of ‘enemies’ have formed an alliance, kind of an affirmative action plan for the universe. They’ve managed to associate The Doctor with the cracks in the universe, and so they’ve concocted this plan to capture him and lock him up to prevent him from doing any more damage. It’s bizarre, but it’s clever.

Well, not that clever, because it doesn’t quite explain why they needed millions of troops to capture The Doctor when in reality only a tiny subset were needed to push him into the box in the first place. It doesn’t quite explain how all those legions of spaceships were able to assemble in the past. I mean, how many of those alien races have the time travel technology to meet in Stonehenge?

The ruse with [[Amy Pond|Amy]]’s storybooks was inspired though, and the Romans were a great way to reintroduce us to the Nestene consciousness and the Autons. And what a twist to make Rory one of them!

Not a perfect episode by any stretch, but laced with clever twists and some great tension. Nice to see River Song not quite so cocky in this episode, and there’s not much danger of her being dead at the hands of the exploding TARDIS, because we’ve already seen her further forward in her own timeline. Reintroducing Rory was great for comic effect, firstly with The Doctor, then there was some angst when Amy didn’t recognise him. That subplot felt a little laboured in places, made up for by the fact that he shot her in the stomach. Oh, spoilers!

Definitely looking forward to next week’s finale episode. But no trailer at the end of the episode! Frustrating, but such a wise choice not to show possibly dead characters revived!

P.S. This week’s review is quite rushed, and I apologise to everybody who tunes in for them each week to chat about Doctor Who. Unfortunately, I’ve got an appointment in the pub. Don’t worry though! I’ll be tidying this up tomorrow morning and possibly adding to it. Especially the quotes section!

Quotes from The Pandorica Opens

  • The Doctor to River: “You grafittied the oldest cliff face in the universe.”
  • The Doctor: “There was a goblin or a trickster or a warrior, a nameless terrible thing…nothing could stop it or hold it or reason with it.”
  • River Song to The Doctor: “I hate the good wizards in fairytales, they always turn out to be you.”
  • River Song puts things in perspective for the Romans: “Your world has visitors. You’re all barbarians now.”
  • The Doctor: “Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely. If something is ever remembered, it can come back.”
  • The Doctor: “Does it ever bother you Amy that your life doesn’t make any sense?”
  • The Doctor advises Amy to stay away from the Cybermen: “Just like being an organ donor, except you’re alive and kind of screaming.”
  • How is Rory alive? “It’s kinda fuzzy. I died and turned into a Roman. It’s very distracting.”

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  1. alexwlchan

    I’ll put forward a theory as to why millions of troops were “needed” to capture the Doctor, which hinges on the internal size of the box. I’m not so sure it was the same size on the inside and outside – all the locking mechanisms had to be stored somewhere, but they just seemed to be in the walls of the thing.

    The Doctor talked about the multiple layers of security. I’d imagine every species, not trusting the others, would insist on building in their own technology to the Pandorica, to make it completely impenetrable for the Doctor. And they’d want to see their work completed – the malice in their eyes was very clear – they wanted to see him suffer.

    As to how they got there? I’d guess they were sharing technology, like that used to build the Pandorica – we know the Daleks at least have time travel, and they’d share it as part of “the Alliance.”

    Anyway, great episode, and looking forward to seeing these cliffhangers being resolved.

    [edit] One other question – when the Doctor is put in the Pandorica, the Supreme Dalek’s head lights flash, but we don’t hear anything. An edit mistake, or did it say something significant? Hmm… [\edit]

  2. jefft

    Definitely in my top 10 episodes ever. And most of the rest came from Mr Moffat’s pen.

    More tomorrow after a rewatch. 

  3. redblu

    Keeping an open mind on this one, of the plot issues you mention the only one that would bug me if left unresolved is time travel, I do hope it will be addressed, the Daleks have time travel technology and it is possible they’d have shared it, but it would be nice if they touched upon in next week.

    As cliffhanger after cliffhanger built up I was the edge of my seat; I’d prefer lower key finales but I can’t see them ever coming back so I’m simply inclined to enjoy the ride… what does worry me if the tendancy for magic buttons in these situations, if the item River picked up, called a vortex manipulator, in any way rewinds time or destroys every ship in the fleet then I’ll be most disappointed.

    None of the mentioned holes seem unresolvable, so many have already been tied up, but the actual cliffhangers themselves… as talented as Moffat is I’m worried for next weeks, my overall opinion could lie anywhere in the spectrum of 0 to 10 out of 10, but for now, I’m having fun 🙂

    1. jefft


      Where to start? Well, the stuff with Van Gogh’s painting, Bracewell, Churchill, Liz and so on was a nice start to the episode, although (unless I missed it) actually nothing to do with the story per se. But it was nice to see the faces again. And a second neat entrance for River. ‘Hello Sweetie’. I feel sure that was a nod to Douglas Adams’  God’s Last Message section from the HHGG.

      The doctor puts his phone onto forwarding to River? Hmmm.

      Hooray : it’s Rory! Ermm. what, no plausible reason.. no ‘sent back in time’? Thats a bit..err. WHAT? He’s an AUTON???

      Great twist. And yes, it does look like it’s all about Amy. By the time she got shot, I had convinced myself she didnt exist either.

      In fact.. come to think of it.. didn’t she say right in episode one: ‘Amelia Pond hasnt lived here for 6 months’?

      Those Roman and Pandora books weren’t visible on the shelves in episode one, tho.

      Who is the voice in the TARDIS? Who has been manipulating Amy all along?

      What left the marks in the garden?

      Who sliced up the Cyberman sentry at the Pandorica? (that disembodied head: shades of ‘The Thing’…wow.. first time since 2005 that the cybermen have looked scary! And unlike the cybers of the new games, this one did have the cybus logo)

      Why wouldnt the other aliens leave their own guards at the site?

      Amy and Rory waving from outside the mining village? She can’t be dead.

      Is it all a dream? Is it all happening in the ‘other’ tenth doctor’s universe?


      But I love it. 


  4. Rosie-Lee

    Great episode.  Is Davros going to appear, I wonder?  But why did they need to ride a horse to Stonehenge rather than take the Tardis there and then River having to ride back again to the Tardis.  Did I miss something?

  5. Jeffrey Scott

    I feel sure that was a nod to Douglas Adams’  God’s Last Message section from the HHGG.

    Douglas Adams – I’m glad you caught this also. I was thinking the same thing, but have noticed throughout the series several nods to Douglas Adams. The perception filter is much like the SEP Douglas used. It didn’t turn things invisible, it just forced you to not notice it, (considering it as someone else’s problem). Also, the entire second episode with Amy in her dressing gown, very much like Arthur Dent. Even the alien race with two heads, similar to Zaphod Beeblebrox. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I’m not convinced. So who knows, perhaps the episode will be solved with the help of dolphins or two talking mice.

    Alien races – We got to see the Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, Daleks, Autons and the Judoon. Did I miss anyone? I heard the Draconians were mentioned and I think I spotted one but not quite sure. I’m going to have to freeze frame and look again. Of course as far as I recall the Draconions were allies. Also, considering they were at Stonehenge it would have been neat to see the Ogri. (From the original series)

    Time Travel – Total agree with everyone, this certainly needs to be addressed. Even if the Daleks were able to share their knowledge of Time Travel, I find that hard to believe. My crack-pot theory? Another Timelord is helping all the alien races, along with his/her own Tardis, which by story end will explode. Why it’ll be disguised like the Doctors Tardis is beyond me. Unless the Tardis River Song is in, is not the Doctors. Thus it was disguised so to fool her.


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