‘What Could You Possibly Be?’ — Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

Previously on Doctor Who: The Lodger.

Oh. My. God. Guess who?
This was magnificent. The twists, the turns, the tragedy. Everything. Steven Moffat, I bloody love you. At the same time: Curse you, Moffat! One, for nearly giving me a heart attack, two, for making me sob into my dinner, and three, for the most awesome cliffhanger I’ve seen in.. well, ever. Rory’s back! He’s back because he’s a part of Amy’s history, and because of that dress-uppy photo in Amy’s Roman Britain he’s linked to the cover story—and he’s an Auton, supplied by the Nestene Consciousness. And he shoots Amy. Great. And the director, Toby Haynes, has called this “the death of the Doctor as we know him.” Lovely.

The Doctor: “The Pandorica…”—River: “More than just a fairy tale.”

The Doctor is TALKING!

This was, in a nutshell, technically not the opening of the Pandorica, it was the making; the title a tormented Vincent Van Gogh gave the painting that served as the big warning, linking the first three episodes together before the opening credits, was slightly misleading. Then again, it wasn’t. Ah, nevermind. All that time, the Doctor thought this was the opening, the moment when whatever’s in there actually comes out to terrify the universe—and he’s completely crushed by the fact that, all that time he spent dancing around that strange box, he’s been fearing himself, unknowingly. (Ha, he’s always a “mad man with a box”, whatever box that might be.) The goblin, or trickster, or warrior, whatever he is or, rather, whatever he’s perceived to be by his enemies: it’s him who’s soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. I told you.

“Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the Universe! But bad news everyone–’cause guess who! Hah! Except you lot—all whizzing about, it’s very distracting. Could you all just stay still for a minute, because I. am. TALKING! Now, question of the hour is, Who’s got the Pandorica? Answer: I do—next question, Who’s coming to take it from me? Come on—look at me! No plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn—oh and something else, I don’t have anything to lose—so, if you’re sitting up there in your silly little spaceship with all of your silly little guns and you’ve got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way, remember every black day I ever stopped you and then—AND THEN—do the smart thing: let somebody else try first.”

And here come the twists:
The Doctor thinks the owners of the arriving space ships want the Pandorica for themselves; to use it for their own purposes, or merely to destroy it, and he thinks they’ll just keep “squabbling” over it, as the bad guys always to, which would then buy him time to sort it out. So, yes, his big speech—“I am TALKING!”—was smoking HOT, but also smoking USELESS. An alliance scarier than anything EVER, something the Doctor indeed cannot fight, wasn’t out for what he thought was in the Pandorica—they were out for him. So, they trapped him inside it to prevent the universe from cracking. Your usual preventive measure. But ooh, you’re so THICK, dear alliance!
Their premise is that, if the TARDIS caused the cracks, then the Doctor must be responsible. Ha, the thing is, the Doctor is evidently not the only one who can pilot the TARDIS¹. But, what do you know, this time, you can’t really fault them for what they did. They did what they thought was right in order to save reality—except they manage to ignore the fact that the Doctor is the only one who can actually fix it: simply because in that moment 1908 years in the future (wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey… stuff), the TARDIS is already exploding. The great big bad thing that thought up this conspiracy against the entire universe tricked them: the universe would already be cracked by the time they got the Doctor into the seat. So, of course, the alliance is not the real thing to be afraid of—it’s the creepy thing that whispers “Silence will fall” inside and controls the TARDIS; and therefore actually causes the cracks, negating all existence. Which means that the alliance didn’t actually come up with this thing entirely on their own, but the point still stands: This wasn’t an ideological attack, this wasn’t the typical let’s-try-and-get-rid-of-the-Doctor-the-stupid-bastard plot; not even on the part of the “Silence will fall” thingy—for him/her/it/them, it’s not just about the Doctor, it’s about using him to destroy the entire solar system. Of course, it’s very convenient for the alliance that the Doctor happens to be the one thing they have to lock up, but for them it’s just a bonus this time around, not the main course. They would’ve done this to any being that was able to cause this damage to the skin of the universe—and the Doctor would have done this, too, eventually. If presented with such a threat to the cosmos, he would’ve done it. He’s been known to lock stuff up indefinitely—the witches from The Shakespeare Code (3.02), for instance, or the titular Family of Blood. We might not like it, but they do have a point. They’re wrong and short-sighted—and hypocritical, especially the Daleks, because they’ve tried to destroy reality completely before—, but they have a point. And this is what makes this piece of writing by Steven Moffat so darn awesome.

The Doctor: “Look at me, I’m a target!”

So, similar to the series 4 finale, where the Daleks tinkered with the aforementioned Reality Bomb, we realize that the Doctor’s been used the whole time he spent with his companion. Again. Ten was used to draw him and Donna together and, thus, to seal his fate; and Eleven was manipulated into a trap he really couldn’t resist by using Amy’s memories, by creating a scenario out of what they found in her life. That brings up a few questions: The Doctor admits he lied to her when he took her away with him—because of her house.

“Too big, too many empty rooms. Does it ever bother you that your life doesn’t make any sense?”

So they manipulated her house as well, to get the Doctor interested? Did they kill her parents? And what the heck happened to her aunt? Is Amy actually part of the cover story, did they “make” her like the Daleks created Bracewell? Did she just appear somewhere, just as Rory just appeared in Rome, incomplete stories in her head about her family? And did she never wonder about it because, just like the other Autons (except for Rory!), she isn’t self-aware? At first, I asked myself, Why would they make everything else fit so snugly together, but give Amy such a crappy vita? But then I realized that they had to: otherwise, the Doctor wouldn’t have gotten interested in her.

Also, that’s where the questions that come with the horror of watching a two-parter really come up:

  • How’s the Doctor going to get out of that bloody thing? They left him his Sonic, yeah, but that would be… you know. Kind of cheating.
  • What’s the Big Bad Thing really behind all this? What is so keen on destroying the entire universe, what thing wants… Silence? Who is it?
  • How are they going to resurrect Amy? And what will happen to Rory once the alliance gets busted and the duplicants will (probably) disappear because that giant reset button is going to get hit: will he survive by hanging on to Amy and the fact that he is Rory, that she loves him? Or will Amy lose him again? Oh, please, Moffat, don’t do that to me! The Doctor said: things can be brought back if they are remembered, so maybe Amy can bring him back even after his Auton self winked out of existence.
  • And how is the Doctor going to tell Amy what she should now remember; how’s he going to get to that point in time when she was seven and he told her something really important, and then visit her in the Byzantium? Presuming that our theory about the other jacket worn by the twanging Doctor in that small forest scene in Flesh and Stone is correct—how the hell’s he going to get there?
  • Will River survive the explosion? If not, but we know she’s still going to have that picnic with the Doctor, then this will basically be the Day that Never Was, or what?¹
  • Also, seriously: What do they expect him to do in there? Will they just let him starve to death? Will he have to pee in his pants? Will they expect him to slowly rot in there? Technicalities, my friends!

The next episode is called The Big Bang. So—now that the universe is collapsing and the crack caused by River blowing up the TARDIS happily chews away: by the time the Doctor’s got it all repaired, we’ll need a new universe. The Doctor’s going to make the Big Bang happen again, creating the entire universe anew? Bloody gorgeous!

You see, lots of questions, and no answers really in sight. The BBC is releasing a clip from the finale at the beginning of this week, so perhaps there’ll be clues. Or perhaps it’ll just drive us nuts with a thousand more possibilities. The episode synopsis written by Moffat, however, claims that only “a little girl who still believes in stars” can save them all. So, Amy will most likely play the central role in getting back the universe. Perhaps she’ll just have to remember what the starry night looked like and then… naah, it’s not gonna be that easy. Also, it would be that strange psychic link thing from series 3 all over again. Anyway: Mind the poll!

In this script, Steven Moffat manages to pull a lot of strings together, to tie in lots of characters and places we’ve seen before—Churchill and Bracewell, the wonderful Liz Ten (“I’m the bloody Queen”), and of course Vincent—and there are a few nice touches that I just loved while watching:

  • Vincent sleeps next to the painting he dedicated to Amy 🙂
  • When River goes off to buy the Vortex Manipulator in 5145, the guy says: “A Vortex Manipulator, fresh off the wrist of a handsome Time Agent. *opens the wooden case* Ugh—I said off the wrist!” Erm, excuse me: JACK?! (I know, Jack isn’t a Time Agent anymore, but he might have just claimed to be one wherever he lost that hand; he’s a sneaky bastard, after all.) These are the little things I adore about Moffat. And, since Jack can’t die, I’m quite sure he can re-grow limbs—teeehee, re-growing a hand, of all things, too! (Yes, I am squeaking like an utterly dorky-nerdy fangirl would right now)—and I’m also quite sure that he’ll want that Vortex Manipulator back. So, either, he’ll show up whenever we see River again (or she’ll just tell the Doctor she met the Captain; but that would just be cheating), or the Doctor will ask her how exactly she travelled in time, recognize the Vortex Manipulator, and take it off her to give it back to Jack next time they meet. Or, this was just a really clever red herring to get me started on this, but hey. I loved it.

“Rory Williams, from Leadworth. My boyfriend. How could I ever forget you?”

What else did I love? The acting. Matt Smith is absolutely awesome, more than that, really; Karen Gillan continues to rock as the now emotionally very disturbed Amy; and Arthur Darvill, and Alex Kingston are the best that’s ever happened to series 5. In the most heart-wrenching cliffhanger EVER, the locking up of the Doctor, the destruction of the TARDIS and the second outright on-screen death of a companion, they are even more intense than we’ve seen them at their best over the past few weeks.

“I’m missing something obvious, Rory, something big, something right slap in front of me!”

The scene in which the Doctor finally realizes that Rory has somehow gotten back in time to meet them here is crackling dialogue, along with great comedic timing between the two actors, and a bit of slapstick as well—when the Doctor pushes Rory in the chest to see if he stays standing, what’s not to love? It’s also a trademark of Moffat that, with all the tragedy, there’s still room for fun, as I will explore below.

Something that changed: the relationship between the Doctor and River. He’s not even trying to stay away from her now—I think partly because he knows he needs her to sort things out, but I also think that he’s just accepted that he can’t stay away from her, no matter how much he tries, because, most of all, he wants to be with her—and that little smile he gives when he reads “Hello, sweetie” on that cliff face is an indicator of how much his perception of her changed in his mind (and hearts, perhaps). Throughout the episode, they work together, sharing glances and allowing their mutual understanding of each other and the situation to take over. Unlike in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, where they were squabbling and the Doctor tried to maintain a distance while staying close to and bonding with Amy, they now leave his companion out of the action a bit, explaining stuff to her when they find a moment to spare, but all Amy’s got to do this time is remember Rory.

What I liked most about River this time around, apart from her usual awesomeness: The way she treated the TARDIS like a sentient being with which she can actually communicate.¹ Martha did that when the Doctor was human John Smith, and it’s nice to see that picked up on again.

Random thoughts aka Great quotes:

The Doctor: “You graffitied the oldest cliff face in the universe!”—River: “You wouldn’t answer your phone!”

The Doctor: “Britain was invaded by the Romans several times during this period.”—Amy: “I know. It was my favourite topic at school: ‘Invasion of the Hot Italians.’”

The Doctor: “But if you buried the most dangerous thing in the universe, you’d want to remember where you put it.”

River: “I don’t like good wizards in fairy tales: they always turn out to be him.”

The Doctor, to the Pandorica (or whatever he thinks is inside it): “Hello, you. Have we met?”

The Doctor: “Dalek fleet, minimum of twelve thousand battle ships armed to the teeth, aaaaah! We’ve got surprise on our side, they’ll never expect three people to attack twelve thousand Dalek battle ships, because we’d be killed instantly, so it would be a very short surprise. *whacks himself in the forehead with the Sonic* Forget surprise!”

The Doctor: “Never ignore coincidence—unless you’re busy, in which case always ignore coincidence.”

Amy: “Is it safe up there?”—The Doctor: “Not remotely, but it’s fresh.”

The Doctor, to Rory: “Now, get upstairs, she’s Amy and she’s surrounded by Romans. Not sure history can take it.”

River, as she’s about to explode the TARDIS: “I’m sorry, my love.”

(Which could be another hint that she is the Doctor¹: We might assume that, in that moment, she’s talking to the Doctor whom she’s in love with, but she could also be the Doctor, talking to the TARDIS and apologizing that she’s got to do this to her one and only friend who’s stayed with her through all of time.) The scene where we see her plugging together the circuit to overload the engine was oddly reminiscent of how she dies in the Library, too…

Next episode: The Big Bang.

______________________

¹    You might take into consideration the quite popular and not-without-merit theory that River Song is, in fact, the Doctor. Hints towards that might be: the call that Churchill made got redirected to her prison, not the Doctor’s TARDIS, unlike last time he called in Victory of the Daleks, and the explanation she gave might just have been a diversion; the fact that she flies the TARDIS perfectly (and, as mentioned before, talks to her as if she can understand)—everything she said about having learnt from him could just be clever evasion: while lying, always stay close to the truth. What doesn’t add up for me, though: Why that insistence on a decidedly intimate relationship with the Doctor: I mean, of course, why wouldn’t she be allowed to have a bit of fun with her past incarnations—that would be freaky though, right, if the Doctor actually did regenerate into a girl one day?— and the acquaintance can certainly be described as intimate. It would make sense for her to lure the Tenth Doctor into trusting her/himself by telling him their real name (still leaves the question at what point he only ever could tell someone his real name, though, and how that would make him change his perspective). But wouldn’t she now be travelling backwards on her/his/their… whatever… personal timeline? Wouldn’t that call the reapers? Another thing: We watched her die. Is she going to regenerate in that chip, in that computer? If not, she’d have to be the Thirteenth Doctor, having used up the regeneration cycle, forced to die forever. That’d be nice, though. The Doctor, preserved in that computer—the last of the Time Lords, but still somehow alive. Ha.

The Doctor thinks they want the Pandorica to use it for their own purposes, or merely to destroy it, and he thinks they’ll just keep “squabbling” among themselves, as the bad guys always to, which would then buy him time to sort it out. So, yes, his big speech—“I am TALKING!”—was smoking HOT, but also smoking USELESS. An alliance scarier than anything EVER, something the Doctor indeed cannot fight, wasn’t out for the Pandorica—they were out for him
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