Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 13: The Big Bang

DVDfever.co.uk – Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 13 review by Dan Owen

Dan Owen reviews
Cover
“The Big Bang”Broadcast on BBC1, Saturday June 26th, 2010 As premiered on
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CoverSeries 5 Vol.1 Blu-ray:
Series 5 Vol.1 DVD:
2009 Specials (Blu-ray):

    Director:

      Toby Haynes

Screenplay:

    Steven Moffat

Cast:

    The Doctor: Matt Smith
    Amy Pond: Karen Gillan
    River Song: Alex Kingston
    Rory: Arthur Darvill
    Amelia: Caitlin Blackwood


Expect spoilers

A startling triumph, “The Big Bang” completed the fifth series with the relentless excitement and assured grip we’ve come to expect from Steven Moffat. The episode was undoubtedly loose and illogical plenty of times, but the core time-travel back-flips felt convincing and Moffat’s writing generally makes you forgive its sillier extremes. “The Big Bang” actually made the contentious “mistake” of hitting a symbolic reset button to solve the crisis, which is a tactic fans never liked Russell T. Davies employing during his era. But it worked better here, because Steven Moffat doesn’t use a narrative ejector seat to get him out of storytelling dead-ends (as his predecessor did), but instead has enormous fun taking you on a journey that solves the seemingly unsolvable…

To explain the episode is a Herculean task in itself, but to briefly recap: with The Doctor (Matt Smith) imprisoned inside the Pandorica by a coalition of his greatest foes, River Song (Alex Kingston) trapped in the exploding TARDIS, and Amy (Karen Gillan) shot dead by her doppelganger fiancé Rory (Arthur Darvill), “The Big Bang” worked to resolve the situation. This naturally meant an hour of Moffat indulging his fondness for temporal acrobatics, with The Doctor engineering his own escape by getting young Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood) to release him from the Pandorica in 1996, before using River’s Time Vortex Manipulator to change history so that “dead” Amy could be stored in the Pandorica in his place, with robot Rory keeping guard over her for millennia (how romantic), to be revived by her younger self in the Natural History Museum 2,000 years hence…

If you have a headache reading that paragraph, I sympathize. This episode is nigh impossible to recount without risking a brain aneurism, but suffice to say “The Big Bang” did an extraordinarily good job of reversing last week’s cliffhanger. In effect, The Doctor had to rescue his friends, escape captivity, and revive the collapsing universe with a second Big Bang using the Pandorica in a head-on collision with the “Sun” (which in the alternate timeline he found himself in, is actually just his TARDIS exploding while caught in a continuous emergency time-loop). Got all that?


As expected, and correctly predicted by many fans over the weeks, Amy’s nonsensical childhood had a big role to play, too. The so-called “Girl Who Waited” became the only person who could bring the sacrificial Doctor back into existence by simply remembering him on her wedding day, with a little nudge from River Song and her empty blue journal. Effectively, she imagining her imaginary friend “the Raggedy Doctor” back into existence, whose heroic act and advice had restored her missing parents — who had assumedly bled out of existence when the crack first appeared in her bedroom wall? The whole series has hinged around a nighttime adventure and bedtime story for Amelia, which feels like the perfect way to treat this show as a whole.

This was a mad, emotional, satisfying and beautiful episode. The direction from Toby Haynes was superb, particularly in the Night At The Museum-esque action sequences involving a resurrected fossilized Dalek. The show has improved its visual style this year, offering plenty of cinematic moments that often put far more expensive US dramas to shame. But while there were some fantastic sequences and special effects, but the story never relied on the excessive CGI we’ve come to expect from cluttered nu-Who finales. It was instead all about the story and the characters; a confluence that swept you along with a big grin on your face.

Steven Moffat been saying his intention is to turn Doctor Who into a fairy tale, and this was by far the best example of that desire. So much so that even the stupid things we were asked to swallow (plastic Rory waiting 2,000 years to be united with Amy) felt natural and no less implausible than giant beanstalks that lead to cloud-dwelling giants. It’s been a wise move on Moffat’s part, because nerdy nitpicks and a sneering attitude to Who’s pseudo-science can be deflected easier now. As long as it has heart and works within its own internal logic, I’m more than happy to go along for the ride.

It almost goes without saying that Matt Smith ends his freshman year with a rousing crescendo. He was marvellous throughout this episode, and has been steadily improving all series. Seeing The Doctor take charge and get himself out of his dilemma like a temporal escapologist was joyous from start to finish, while also being very funny in that bonkers, restless style Moffat’s writing has. I especially loved The Doctor’s newfound appreciation for Fez hats


What more is there to say? I could wax lyrical about the finer points of “The Big Bang” until I’m out of breath, there was so much to digest and rave about. A wonderfully confident episode chock-full of brilliant moments and sparkling dialogue. There’s a real sense of self-belief in Moffat’s writing — and you get the sense he’s just as aware of the nitpicks as the most anal fans, so takes time to answer a few of the more pertinent gripes along the way. I’m sure plenty of people were wondering how our Sun was still in existence if all the stars had been erased from the universe, for example, but an answer for that was just around the corner. In essence, there’s always just enough cleverness for you to relax about the silliness.

Also interesting was the realization that a few of this year’s mysteries have been kept alive for further exploration. The sinister voice proclaiming that “silence will fall”, and why the TARDIS was exploding, weren’t explained as part of this finale, so it feels like Doctor Who’s going to be tackling an inter-series arc. I guess Steven Moffat and the new producers can afford to think long-term because they know the show’s unlikely to be cancelled, and they’re at the start of a probable five-year commitment. “The Silence” could easily be this era’s Time War. I also wonder if the slightly vague ending to “The Lodger” (with an alien building its own TARDIS) is in some way related to this overarching mystery?

River Song is undoubtedly a major piece of Moffat’s non-linear jigsaw, and I was very intrigued by her inference to The Doctor that the next time they meet their relationship’s going to change… for the worse. In that case, “The Big Bang” probably marks the end of the honeymoon between River and The Doctor, but my love for nu-Who just hit a glorious fifth year anniversary.

Dan’s rating: 4/4.

Asides:

  • How great was the scene with River Song facing down a Stone Dalek and making it squeal for mercy? Very.
  • It was perhaps unfortunate the Pandorica became a deus ex machina of Russell T. Davies proportions (it’s not only an impermeable prison cube, but can resurrect the dead and reset the universe), but Moffat’s writing did a better job of making you accept the contrivance. In a RTD script, the Pandorica’s multiple abilities would have been revealed in the final few minutes, but here it was fed to us over the hour. And made enough loose sense that it didn’t irritate me.
  • “I wear Fezzes now. Fezzes are cool.” But I’m with Amy and River in hoping The Doctor drops that fad.
  • So the lack of ducks in the village duck pond meant nothing. Oh.
  • As predicted many weeks ago, that odd scene from “Flesh & Stone” was indeed tied to the finale, when The Doctor went spinning back through his own timeline. This confirmed there were actually two versions of The Doctor in that earlier episode (one with a tweed jacket, one without). It was a shame the series as a whole didn’t glue together in a tighter way, but considering the headaches involved in plotting one episode, let alone masterminding thirteen, I’m not going to grumble. It’s amazing Moffat’s able to plan this series as well as he does, really.
  • “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…” Pure genius. It’s that kind of clever snap Moffat brings to the table that I really respond to.
  • I really loved the effects throughout, but it was the little touches that impressed me most – like that “snap” of electricity and curl of smoke after the teleporting Doctor left Roman Rory in the field. A lovely touch. Or the wide shot of Amelia standing before the Pandorica as it opened, sending that crack of light out into the dark museum. Goosebumps.

Join in the discussion about this episode atDan’s Media Digest


DVDfever‘s rating
Review copyright © Dan Owen, 2010.E-mail Dan Owen

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Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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