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June 27, 2010

Just Like That...

Doctor Who: The Big Bang
Review by Neil Perryman

Bang1 Well, at least I don't have to eat my Tom Baker underpants.

I still feel like a bit of a berk, though. I may have been right about a future-Doctor gallivanting around the Byzantium but my subsequent theories, the ones I'd tirelessly harvested from apparent inconsistencies littered throughout this series, failed to bear fruit. So either I've been reading far too much into it or the story isn't over yet. It's frustrating to say the least.

As it currently stands, the Injustice League of Pandorica's plan still makes very little sense (see my grumbles last week), the duck-less pond turned out to be a blind alley after all, and Rory's ID badge means somebody should be fired; or was Rory a qualified nurse at the tender age of six?

Even worse, Amy's house wasn't "too big" because it was trans-dimensional, it was because her mum and dad weren't around when the Doctor originally came-a-calling. I'll have to watch The Eleventh Hour again to make sure but doesn't Amy tell the Doctor that she lives with her Aunt? And isn't it possible for people to live in a house that is too big for them without their lives failing to make any sense? I live in a bloody volcano and my life… erm… well, you get the general idea.

At least the predestination postcard (don't forget to use the red pen!) was vaguely significant. I guess.

This was a bit of a let-down for me, as was the catch-all explanation that the crack somehow made Amy "special", which just felt a bit easy, although I suppose it does explain how Auton-Rory can remember his own death at the hands of the Silurians. However, this understanding can only be arrived at once you've wrestled with the finer points of the timey-wimey narrative and you finally allow yourself to succumb to the conclusion that Amy's memories could include adventures that she hasn't actually had yet when the Nestene Conciseness turns up. I think. I really couldn't swear to it. And you should probably thank me for not spending another paragraph trying to explain it.

That took me two hours to work out. During the transmission itself, I was utterly bewildered.

the Injustice League of Pandorica's plan still makes very little sense...

Bang2 The way they handled Amy's "death" was disappointing but unless she stayed dead (highly unlikely, bordering on the impossible) how could it have been anything but? I suppose it all depends on how quickly you can accept that the Pandorica has a dual-function as a handy resurrector without any prior warning. Last week it was an impenetrable prison and now it's a giant reset button. That felt like a convenient switcheroo to me: keeping someone alive isn't the same as bringing someone back from the dead, is it? Even RTD would have balked at the speed of that particular turnaround.

But at least the increasingly odd safety features that we've encountered throughout Moffat's reign can now be said to form a theme of sorts. A really silly theme but a theme nonetheless. Both the Dalek's Progenitor and the pseudo-TARDIS from The Lodger required the right person to interact with a machine in just the right way to make it work, and now Amy brings herself back to life by doing just that. Say what you like, but at least Moffat is consistent, and while you may not like his ideas at least he has the decency to foreshadow them properly.

Here's another example: Amy's memories are used to create the scenario for the Alliance's overly-complicated trap and while this sounds unbearably cool in principle, it doesn't really bear any scrutiny (the Doctor arrives at Stonehenge with no tangible intervention from Amy at all). But that doesn't matter to Moffat - he treats the Alliance as complete idiots, so maybe this is just another massive cock-up on their part. Or perhaps they thought Amy would ask the Doctor to take her there one day, given her fascination for the subject? Yeah, that could work. But what really matters is that it helps to sell to the audience the conceit that Amy's memories can manifest themselves in the flesh/plastic. "If it can be remembered it can come back".

The problem I had with the initial set-up wasn't that Amy's memories could be used to recreate physical objects and people (I can suspend my disbelief as much as the next fan), it was the inconsistency and pointlessness of the recreations themselves that baffled me. But once you are able to toss that niggle aside then yes, by jove! It really does make sense!

I am actually talking myself into going along with this as I write this review, as if you hadn't guessed.

Even RTD would have balked at the speed of that particular turnaround...

Bang3 This was an episode that liked to cheat. The Doctor lies about being dead (although this makes sense as it keeps his companions moving) and he happily crosses his own time-line to deploy a couple of cheeky predestination paradoxes so he can save the day. Aaron Blinovitch must have been spinning in his grave, assuming he hadn't ceased to exist at that point; forget the Time Lord Victorious, this was the Time Lord Mischievous. I wonder if he'll keep this up? I mean, what's stopping him?

The Doctor's plan - to fly a magical box into his dying TARDIS so he can ignite a ret-conning Big Bang - was about as bold and as silly as this show gets. But given that we've seen the universe wiped out of existence the only practical solution was for a massive reset to occur. What possible alternative was there? And the only machina capable of being deus ex-ed at such short notice is sitting right in front of them and I suppose it could have been worse, it could have been left to the sonic screwdriver to sort the mess out.

So a reboot was completely unavoidable and carping on about it now would be a complete waste of time. So, I won't.

How the reboot was played out remains the most important thing and once again I'm slowly coming around to its singular charms. By time I reach the end of the next paragraph I may even grow to love it.

The Doctor's sacrifice was handled nicely, if predictably, and while the box's function will probably continue to irk me for quite some time to come, at least the sentiment felt right. Watching the Doctor spooling back through his adventures, heard but not seen, trying to influence events in the wrong order was inspired too; it's just a shame that more of this wasn't planted throughout the series. And the moment where the Doctor implores Amy to remember what he told her when she was seven, and you realise that he doesn't even know what he's going to tell her yet, skirts pretty close to genius in my book.

forget the Time Lord Victorious, this was the Time Lord Mischievous...

Bang4 The memory that he eventually plants in Amy's mind, which he specifically designs to be triggered during her wedding ("something borrowed, something blue"), is quite remarkable and I couldn't help but be moved by his triumphant return to reality via Amy's sheer force of will. It was a scene that managed to walk a very fine line between fairytale magic, metatextual mysticism, pseudo-scientific technobabble, oh and complete and utter BOBBINS.

Thankfully, in between all the head-scratching and leaps of faith, The Big Bang still offers some truly iconic moments, even if you you aren't seduced by Moffat's vision: the calcified Dalek begging for mercy, that eerie vision of TARDIS keeping the planet alive long enough for the Doctor to figure it all out, the thrill of two Doctors coming face-to-face, Rory's mythical sacrifice, the sheer joy of Matt Smith's dancing…  Ah yes, the joy that is Matt Smith. Sigh.

However, I must confess that the episode's climax lacked a certain something. And while I was relieved that the thread concerning the Big Bad lurking behind the TARDIS's destructive behaviour was left hanging, I was still a little surprised not to have been furnished with another hint as to their identity or next move. OK, I admit it, I was one of those poor saps who was expecting Philip Madoc to turn up as Omega. So sue me!

Instead, we were either treated to a sly dig at RTD ("The Orient Express. In space.") or we're in for one hell of a bizarre Christmas Special.

And I can't wait.

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