Doctor Who – The Pandorica Opens – the good and the bad

OK, as promised after yesterday’s review, I’ve had a second watching of The Pandorica Opens (always advisable with a [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]] episode). What captivates me with this episode is how much it raises the stakes, and it’s not even the series finale yet!

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To sum up this episode is quite simple – there were errors and questions raised about the plot that I’m not sure are going to be completely answered in the series finale. But…as with most things Doctor Who, the crumbling credibility of some plot devices was more than made up for with suspense, a little humour and a climactic cliffhanger.

What follows here are some of the major talking points from the episode that I wanted to raise for us to chat about here.

Stunning special effects: Yes, for all those character-based episodes that I loved, apparently the producers were stashing money away for a CGI bonanza. Money well spent, I might add. Space ports and thousands of ships in the sky above Stonehenge were arguably the finest effects in the Doctor Who’s venerable history.

The Rory Story: Yes, Rory reborn as an Auton, complete with full memories of RealRory’s life. A fantastic way of reviving the character without reneging on Rory’s death at the end of [[Cold Blood (Doctor Who episode)|Cold Blood]]. The perfect trap for The Doctor, and of course, now Amy remembers what she’s lost. Shame he shot her in the stomach though. That scene didn’t look for a moment like a premature ejac!

Oh yeah – watch that scene where [[The Doctor (Doctor Who)|The Doctor]] pokes Rory in the chest. He sways back and forward, but makes a very plastic-sounding noise as her sways.

The Unusual Alliance: Say what now? Daleks, Cybermen and a host of other Whoniverse baddies all lining up to capture The Doctor? Clearly these new, pureblood Daleks don’t remember Davros trying to detonate a reality bomb, or their Nazi-style mission to destroy everything in the universe that isn’t a squidgy tentacled thing inside a colourful tank-like suit? Steven Moffat rebooted the most evil of evils, only to have their first ‘proper’ storyline being to save the universe.

Erm…so what were the Silurians doing among the Alliance then?

Timey-wimey? Wonkey Donkey? People who despise Russell T Davies’ reign as showrunner frequently bang deus ex machina into blog posts everywhere as evidence of his failings. But Mr Moffat is as susceptible as anyone for using implausible devices. Alliance or not, Dalek time travel tech surely could not be powerful enough to pull thousands of different species to one point in time. And I can’t help wondering from which era each of those Whovian nasties was recruited? This plot device, as grand and as wonderful as it seems on first viewing, is a tiny piece of thread that, once you pull on it, threatens to unravel entirely. Who identified the threat to the universe? Who congregated the alliance?

Sigh…yes, I know that deus ex machina is usually used for something which resolves a plot. But surely it can be used in the example of something which sets up a storyline in a completely implausible way?

Cybersnapper: Equally unbelievable was the decapitated Cyberman trying to capture Amy. Who knew those things could seek out a new brain? Still, a distracting piece of humour it was, even if it was utterly silly – the fact that Amy was facing it, the inexplicable moving tendrils and their ability to shoot knock-out darts. Still, it was a funny moment to break the tension in the episode.

Hello Sweetie: Yes, the time vandal River Song returns, this time defacing a cliff face with her over-familiar greeting. Luckily, she plays the role rather straight this time around and the escape from the Stormcage was rather inspired! There wasn’t any time for building enigma around the character or any other cross-timeline nonsense, and that went some way toward redeeming her character somewhat.

Inaccurate? The Doctor suggests that some alien force has visited [[Amy Pond]]’s house and recreated her memories from some kind of essence within the house. Okaaaaay, I’ll buy that. But…Amy hasn’t been home since before Rory died, so how come AutoRory remembers being in the cave and dying…then waking up as a Roman?

Moffat is NOT a god: Outside the episode for a moment, look at some of the sickeningly fauning comments reserved for Steven Moffat: “testament to the skill of Steven Moffat“, “given Moffat’s imaginative capabilities” and “those beautiful words magnificently crafted by Steven Moffat“.

I’ve got a real problem with this level of adulation. Moffat has proved that given control of a full series, the quality has to slip out of necessity. He fumbled the ball with his Time Of Angels/Flesh and Stone two-parter, and this episode was laced with absurd moments that – think about it for a second – don’t make a lot of sense.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some really clever moments. The lovely string of continuity at the start of the episode, referencing characters and scenarios from earlier in the series was amazing. The concept of the Pandorica itself, a prison for The Doctor made by his worst enemies, is fascinating. That idea of Doctor as Oncoming Storm, is referenced but magnified a million times as he’s seen to be the destroyer of the entire universe. And that’s inspiration for the megalomaniacs and freakish baddies of the universe to band together and contain him for the good of the universe. The concept is brilliant, even if the execution is flawed slightly.

So, with some criticism, [[The Pandorica Opens (Doctor Who episode)|The Pandorica Opens]] remained a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat adventure that has set up up for a (hopefully) thrilling finale. I just hope there isn’t a Bobby Ewing ending to all of this.

Selected quotes from this episode

  • River Song: “A box, a cage, a prison. It was built to contain the most feared thing in the entire universe.”
  • The Doctor: “There was goblin, or a trickster. Or a warrior. A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. Nothing could stop it or hold it or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.”
  • The Doctor: “What could inspire that level of fear. Hello you. Have we met?”
  • The Doctor: “We’ve got a surprise on our side. They’ll never expect three people to attack 12,000 battleships….because we’d be killed instantly.”
  • River Song: “Where I come from. Your world has visitors. You’re all barbarians now.”
  • The Doctor to Amy: “People fall out of the world sometimes, but they always leave traces…Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely. And if something can be remembered, it can come back.”
  • The Doctor: “Does it ever bother you Amy that your life doesn’t make any sense?”
  • The Doctor: “It’s just like being an organ donor, except you’re alive and screaming.”
  • Cyberman: “You will be assimilated. Amy: Yeah? You and whose body?”
  • The Doctor: “Rory, I’m not trying to be rude, but you died.”
  • Rory: “I died and turned into a Roman. It’s very distracting.”
  • The Doctor: “Hello Stonehenge! Whoever takes the Pandorica takes the universe…”
  • Rory: “My men are up there, they’ll look after you. Amy: Yeah…love a Roman…”
  • Rory: “I was in the cave with you and Amy. I was dying. And then I was just here, a Roman soldier. A proper Roman. Head full of Roman…stuff…a whole other like. Like I’d woken up from a dream. I started to think it was a dream.”
  • The Doctor: “Something’s using her memories. Amy’s memories. If they’ve been to the house, they could use psychic residue.”
  • River Song: “It’s a trap. It has to be. They used Amy to get close to you.”
  • River Song: “There’s something wrong with the TARDIS, like something else is controlling it.”
  • The Doctor: “Are you lot working together? An alliance? How is that possible?”
  • Cyberman: “The cracks in time are the work of The Doctor. It is confirmed.”
  • The Doctor: “The TARDIS is exploding right now and I’m the only one who can stop it.”

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  1. redblu

    The cybermen have never really done it for me, they just haven’t been that scary, so after the damage done to the Daleks I was pleasantly surprised to see both the Autons and the Cybermen given a taste of the fear treatment, both are now significantly more terrifying in my eyes now (for entirely different reasons).

    Hunting for a new brain… well ok, but the cyber tentacles and the ability to reassemble themselves took them beyond the 1960s; they had to my mind never seemed much more deadly than an angry toaster, and now are at a level of Jon Carpenter creepy.


    I think Moffats quality has slipped, but less than I’d braced myself for, having gone back and re-watched most of the series so far the only episode that didn’t quite do it for me was the Beast Below, it began and ended well, but nothing really tied the two pieces together.

    The Time of Angels that one seen with Amy with her eyes closed has come to bug me, but all in all he’s still one of the best writers on the show. The best episodes this season to my mind have been Vincent and the Doctor and Amy’s Choice, making this the first season where his aren’t my favourites, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them so the personal attack on his work seems unprovoked, all things considered I feel he’s done marvellously; The Eleventh Hour held up remarkably well to repeat viewings and I can forgive one fumble in the TOA/FAS two parter.

    I know RTD is a talented writer, I’ve seen his good work, but only once in all his tenure in Doctor Who did he ever remind me of it, Moffat is doing a comparably great job, to my mind, perfect? Indeed not, but then I don’t personally think show runner and lead writer should be the same man, they never used to be.


    My opinion on last nights will depend almost entirely on next weeks, I don’t mind a few dangling threads, you can’t build up the stakes this high without something slipping through the cracks, but a lot needs to be explained next episode. Without going into a point by point everything you’ve listed can be explained away with the usual geekary theorising, some of which I’m not fussed if isn’t addressed, but as you say, Moffat really needs to address the nature of the alliance and the fact that all these races suddenly appear to have the ability to time travel.

  2. jefft

    I don’t see that these races needed TimeTravel to be there, (apart from the Daleks, who already had it).

    I’m wondering when the Judoon became bad guys/enemies of the Doctor?

    Nuisances, perhaps. Thuggish and stupid, possibly, but they are after all the Universe’s police force, are they not?

    The Romans, Pandora’s Box, and Rory.. all from Amy’s mind.

    But she doesn’t remember the Daleks or the Cybermen, so clearly they didnt come from there. She would never have even seen the Judoon.

    And if Amy can’t recall the Daleks, the most obvious cause within this serie’s framework is that they went through the crack and never were..

  3. alexwlchan

    Overall, a good episode, although how it gets remembered will probably be dictated by next week’s episode, when SM either does a deus ex machina on us, or pulls a brilliantly planned Chekhov’s Gun. Totally agree on SM’s deification – brilliant writer, but only human, and as the Doctor so often reminds us, none of us are perfect.

    Interesting that so many people find the Alliance a bit wonky. I thought it made perfect sense.

    • Daleks – their overarching desire is to survive. If the universe is destroyed, that includes them. From a very logical point of view, surviving the destruction of the universe by allying themselves with other races is more sensible than total destruction. As for Davros, he (a) failed and (b) was keeping the Daleks alive, so they’d probably think that was ok.
    • Cybermen – almost as ruthlessly logical as the Daleks, they’d follow suit. Plus they’d relish the chance to get the Doctor off their backs.
    • Judoon – as the previous commenter mentioned, this isn’t entirely obvious. I think it comes from the end of the RTD era, when the Doctor fled the Shadow Proclamation – that hacked them off, and I imagine they’d want to settle the score. Plus I get the feeling he annoys them a lot anyway, without rubbing it in their faces like that.

    @jefft: I think they did need time travel to assemble though. Those robots were created by the Racnoss about 2000 years in the future; General Stark didn’t have his malice for the Doctor until after he faced him in the twenty-first century; the Cybermen universe seems to run parallel, time-wise, to ours, so they needed to get here somehow, and so on.

    How? Dunno. I’m not sure about the reviewer’s statement, “Dalek time travel tech surely could not be powerful enough to pull thousands of different species to one point in time.” Given that the Pandorica’s transmitter was going for such a long time, I thought they might have arrived at different points before it, then convened when it opened. But it wasn’t obvious, and SM could try harder to explain it.

    Still, looking forward to next week – I finish exams on Thursday, so it’ll be a nice end to the week ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. gregevigan

    “as wonderful as it seems on first viewing”, this is the key quote. If you watch it & enjoy it first time then that’s all you can ask. If you only see flaws on 2nd, 3rd etc viewing then it doesn’t bother me much & The Pandorica Opens was great, not watched it again

  5. gregevigan

    “as wonderful as it seems on first viewing”, this is the key quote. If you watch it & enjoy it first time then that’s all you can ask. If you only see flaws on 2nd, 3rd etc viewing then it doesn’t bother me much & The Pandorica Opens was great, not watched it again. You can pick apart any show if you over analyse it on repeated viewings, that’s not what shows are made for.

    1. redblu

      It’s still nice when a show has hidden depths you only discover on repeat viewings (such as the old fan favourite Ghost Light, or Silence in the Library). That said I don’t think the alliance is a plot hole yet, it’s something I can see explained away a dozen different ways, we may conclude at the end that it was done solely for the purpose of making fans get over-excited, but the presence of these races, especially the Silurians is significantly enough out of place everyone noted it on first viewing; I do think that this so called plot hole is one of the questions we’re actually supposed to be asking, rather than being something that has been overlooked.

  6. Mitnik

    Alliance: The doctor has caused them all black days (as he himself stated) they would all have reasons for wanting him out the way, and the old saying keep your friends close and your enemies closer springs to mind. In what was said by the alliance members, it was join our die and they have all shown the will to live over the years.

    Silurians = crack in there world which makes them a part of the alliance.

    Re: Dalek time travel. Time is cracking. Surely that creates holes and voids that can travelled thru enabling them all to assemble at that very powerful point in time?

    Cybersnapper: The cybermen needs that bit of human mind to function fully (Remember: I did my duty..) see I can see it being programmed to seek out another, seems typical of the drive not to die from John Lumic.

    Rorys memories of the Cave have thrown me though, cannot answer that one. We have the photo of his dressed as a Roman which explains him coming back as one, why he has all of rorys memories I don’t know unless we go back to the crack and the Daleks pulled him through to create his clone, that’s the only theory I’ve got too but moffat would really haveto explain that in the finale for it to be believable.

    I agree that Moffat isn’t the total master he could be.. I’d be interested in see how he might have handled the whole series himself, some episodes have felt like “filler” and I wonder if he’d have handled them completely different.





    I’m looking forward to the finale, and as we can already see from the BBC Website, the doctor somehow escapes the Pandorica & Reunites with young Amy so lots more questions than answers right now, and I love that before an episode.. I just hope it’s not the same at the end of the episode.

  7. Jeffrey Scott

    The Doctor with young Amy was hinted at in the very first episode. At the very end we see Amy sitting around waiting for the Tardis which she finally hears. Go check it out if you don’t remember.

    As for Rory remember dying, it’s possible Amy’s forgetting Rory was not permanent. Perhaps the memories were just hidden in her mind.

    Still, how could he remember it? If the alliance is using some form of technology to give Amy or take away memories it makes sense they can use those same memories once she has landed in the Tardis. Once Amy and the Doctor landed, Rory would have been activated and “uploaded” with all her current memories along with what she already had.

    Could Amy perhaps be a doomsday robot built by the Daleks? The real Amy could be held prisoner somewhere, while the Doctor has been travelling with her Dalek created clone.

    Judoon – Why would the Judoon throw in to get rid of the Doctor if they are a police force? Well, if the Doctor WAS responsible for destroying the universe, what greater crime could there be? The Judoon have never been known for their reasoning so it’s VERY likely they would want to put the Doctor away, no questions asked. (Or little to no questions asked.

    I listed a few of the races I notice earlier in another thread but forgot to mention the Weevil’s from Torchwood. Were there any other aliens you noticed?

    Riversong mentioned the Slitheen but I don’t recall seeing them. Perhaps they have yet to rear their ugly heads? (Pun intended).

  8. JPhantom

    anyone notice the master wasn’t there?  I know they finished him off but how many times have they finished the Daleks?  anyone think he may be the outside force ccontrolling the TARDIS

  9. Mitnik

    I said something similiar in the other thread Phantom.. I thought it was either the Master, Omega (or possibly the War Lord) we do know how they love a good “impossibly back from the dead” story on Who..

    Thing is it didn’t sound like John Simm, and he’s definitely not part of the cast. now it could be another regeneration of the master, but that’d be a real shame as I’d love to see Simm back in the Role.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      OK, if The Master hadn’t been involved in the End Of Time finale, I’d say this has a lot of credence. After all, it must be another Time Lord to be able to control the TARDIS, right? And with TARDIS technology in The Lodger too.

      Doesn’t have to be Simm, either. That’s the thing. If the Doctor can encounter his companions (River Song) at different points in their timeline, he can encounter The Master out of synch as well! So don’t rule out a goatee-bearded nemesis returning to the series!

        1. Gerard McGarry

          Yeah, I googled him after the earlier part of the conversation. Like an old Roger Delgado, innit? Funny, I often think of Tennant’s Doctor and Simm’s Master as fused. Tennant hollering “Mastahhhh!” at every turn. I can’t imagine Simm playing against the quirkier Smith.

          1. Mitnik

            Funny you should say that, I had a similiar conversation with my wife were we both agreed just that point.

            and we know how Moffat loves to reinterpret RTD Ideas, and he’d almost certainly want his own Master (to go with his own Tardis, Daleks, Silurians, etc. (and rumours of yet another alternative Cyber race coming in the Adventure game) – nothing like making your own mark *lol*)

  10. Jeffrey Scott

    Considering when the Doctor met the Master he was already on his (original) 12th body, it would make sense for him to meet an earlier version of the Master. Still, this may very well be a way to re-introduce another renegade Time-Lord as we have already been discussing. But which one? Rassilon? The Rani? Meddling Monk? War Chief (or was he the War Lord)? Lots of potential here, and with villains being villains, would make sense for more of them to have missed out on the time war and hid out somewhere.

    After watching the Lodger, I’m almost wondering if the Meddling Monk couldn’t be involved. Last we saw of him (outside of audio or books) he was stranded in Earth’s past. He’d certainly be on Earth trying to build/grow his own Tardis.

  11. Mitnik

    Have been wondering about the “too many rooms” comment about Amy’s House and when River went back it did look bigger.. ala The Lodger?

    Another Tardis Maybe? also in his latest interview Matt has said we see the “Big Bad” in the very first episode.. so.. Make of that what you will ๐Ÿ˜‰

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