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Published on June 27th, 2010 | by Christian Cawley

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The Big Bang Reviewed

I love being right.

Remember when Russell T Davies and David Tennant gave us the double whammy of bad news back in 2008 – that there would only be five episodes of Doctor Who in 2009 (a numerical claim that later changed, as we know) and that the Tenth Doctor would then be no more? Recall how we shook our heads in puzzlement, astonished that David Tennant didn’t want to work on a show which surely only Steven Moffat could take over?

Doctor Who - The Big Bang(You might also recall how yours truly here had a bit of a rant on these very pages, disgusted at a lack of a full series in 2009. They were of course right; the British public needed a rest from Doctor Who.)

As a big fan of the Grand Moff since childhood (stretching back to Press Gang, Dexter Fletcher, Julia Sawalha, et al) I was convinced he was capable of delivering since The Empty Child (and I’m talking that first episode, not the full story) so it came as no surprise that the current series of Doctor Who should end with such a stylish, large-scale-but-narrow-focus finale the type of which was either a) beyond his predecessor’s reach or b) only teased at by the other guy to keep certain fans happy.

By playing with our expectations of how the cliffhanger from The Pandorica Opens might play out, Moffat mined the time travel concept of Doctor Who with absolute ease in The Big Bang. A Doctor who leaves messages for himself is a concept hinted at throughout the years, given a bit more attention in the latter years of the original run, but vaguely touched upon in the new series.

It’s a great premise – one that cannot be overused but is perfect for a finale such as this, one in which our heroes have been left in dire straits at the thrilling end of the previous episode.

So to recap: the Doctor is in the Pandorica, Rory is an Auton and has shot Amy and River is trapped in an exploding TARDIS. As The Big Bang proceeds, we discover that it is in fact Amy who emerges from the PAndorica, Rory can live for 2000 years (due to him being plastic) and River has been time looped by the TARDIS for the Doctor to rescue later.

Doctor Who - The Big BangIt’s bonkers, isn’t it? But a brilliant bonkers, I think. Dialogue and interaction that is far more honest and less forced than previous finales, no setups designed to suit a departure from the TARDIS – simply good, honest, time travelling fun in which the Doctor attempts to great a second “big bang” to recreate the universe, get Amy and Rory to the wedding on time and have another go at finding out just who River Song is.

Before pressing on – a quick note. Earlier episodes of this series of Doctor Who have been guilty of not holding up visually to a number of benchmarks set by the 2008 series and The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, not to mention most of The Eleventh Hour. CGI has been ridiculed, the new Daleks caused a bit of a storm, and even the prosthetic work on the Silurians has been questioned. Cries of foul over perceived budget cuts were overshadowed by cries of foul over the length of Karen Gillan’s legs skirt, and basically there has been a bit of a fuss.

Watching The Big Bang, and the superbly polished direction of Toby Haynes, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps the Grand Moff was holding over some of the budget from earlier adventures in order to polish his own finale episodes. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and the truth is probably in truth down to a combination of more effective use of resources by the production team as the series progressed and cannier directors.

Of course, it still looks that way…

While it would be easy to sit and reel off the vents as they happened, I would rather not – if you’re sat baffled at my enthusing for a Doctor Who season finale (the best, in my mind, since Bad Wolf) then I can only urge you to go away and watch The Big Bang again. Whether you can’t make sense of it, or have no idea why you like it, remember that while the “remembering” of the Doctor brought him and the TARDIS back into being, this did nothing more than fulfill Steven Moffat’s “fairytale” agenda, something that he has been pushing since before the series started.

Doctor Who - The Big BangDoctor Who had a happy ending, one that was pre-empted by earlier elements seeded throughout the series rather than ripped from the jaws of a deus ex machina.

Throughout this series of Doctor Who we’ve been left clues and hints by the writers, all playing to Steven Moffat’s grand plan. Some of these have been dismissed as continuity errors, and one of them might be. However most of them come into play in The Big Bang, one way or another; yet there may be a division among fans who are dissatisfied by the apparent ignoring of the bigger threat, or even the lack of ducks in the pond in Leadworth.

In between the running around a museum with young Amelia Pond, Stone Daleks and the discovery Earth’s sun is not in fact a sun but the Doctor’s own TARDIS (a nice idea similar to a major plot in the Eighth Doctor BBC books) which he can use to save the universe with the use of the Pandorica, there would have been little time to address the main question – that of who took control of the TARDIS and keeps saying “Silence will fall.” As such I would argue that it was a sensible decision not to try and squeeze this in. We’ve seen in the past what happens when the showrunner squeezes too much into his finales, and it seems that Moffat has a grander plan anyway.

Just as every episode has contributed one way or another to this series of Doctor Who, so it seems likely that Steven Moffat intends each of his series to amount to a larger satisfying whole. Mysterious TARDISes on top of houses, voices in the TARDIS and duck ponds will have to wait, it seems.

Then again, if finding out what it all means is going to be as gripping and polished as not finding out, bring it on!

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




10 Responses to The Big Bang Reviewed

  1. avatar Rick714 says:

    I enjoyed it a great deal through and through! I’m very interested in River’s proclamation that he and River are getting together “very soon now”. I originnally wondered if we’ll never see River married to him as it will be forever in the future in some out of reach incarnation. now, I’m thinking we might see River married to Smith’s Doctor all the time leading up to his eventual regeneration and she gets locked up mistakenly for his “death” by authorities. I do think that Moffat will tie up the whole story of River Song by the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s reign.

    and long MAY he reign. Smith is really just brilliant and I get the feeling that the best is yet to come. I’m actually happy to see Rory and Amy both back with him for the next series.

  2. avatar Andrew Bates says:

    Fantastic episode. Not only did it not require a deus ex machina for its resolution, but despite all of our theories, it required no classic series or RTD-era characters or concepts to make a surprise return either. As I said to friends, we had all sorts of scenarios, but none of us planned for Moffatt and his time-travel weirdness.

    Just watched part 3 of The Aztecs, and the reactions on the faces of the 1st and 11th doctors are very similar when faced with the concept of accidental proposal. Hilarious.

  3. avatar bobbygaga says:

    I’m probably stating the obvious here but my take on River’s final comment to the Doctor is that he due to meet her for the first time (from her perspective) and that she isn’t going to be as honourable a person as she will later become or indeed perhaps appear to become. Here’s to 2011!

  4. avatar Carn says:

    i love this show.

  5. avatar themissingone says:

    O Grand Moff, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Doctor Who is back. The proper Doctor Who, not that sometimes-good-but-mostly-awful nightmare of the last few years. No bloody stupid hand-wringing, tear-stained, plotless rubbish! Scripts that make sense! A Doctor you can actually like! And a last episode that’s fun and exciting instead of a silly cop-out! Good grief, even Murray Gold has cut down on the weeping violins, it’s a win-win situation all round!

    Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling that The Grand Moff has been sticking two fingers up at RTD this season? These last 13 episodes have included a lorry-load of elements from the previous 4 seasons, and in each and every case have not just done them better, but wiped the floor with earlier efforts. For instance there’s…

    …the opening episode told from the companion’s viewpoint (Rose/ The Eleventh Hour)
    …the closing episode in which time is ‘reset’ (Last of the Time Lords/ The Big Bang)
    …the cookie-cutter Toby Whithouse plot (School Reunion/ Vampires In Venice)
    …the companion mind-wipe (Donna/ Amy – and both gingers!)
    …the companion fancies the Doctor (Rose Tyler/ Amy Pond)
    …the swashbuckling adventurer (Capt Jack/ River Song)
    …the Orwellian-future-for-us-Earthlings scenario (The Long Game/ The Beast Below)
    …the gung-ho Doctor’s catchphrase (Allons-y/ Geronimo)
    …the mythical monster recreated (Tooth And Claw/ Vampires In Venice)
    …the bit where someone cries (every bleedin’ episode/ Vincent And The Doctor)
    …the companion not-really death (Rose/ Rory)
    …the British PM as buddy (Harriet Jones/ Winston Churchill)
    …the companion-is-the-centre-of-creation scenario (Donna/ Amy)
    …the historical figure who’s the key to defeating the monster (Shakespeare/ Van Gogh)
    …the daleks in Earth history bit (Daleks In Manhatten/ Victory Of The Daleks)
    …the Doctor at a companion’s wedding bit (Runaway Bride/ The Big Bang)
    …the you’re doomed prophecy (knock four times/ silence will fall)
    …the monster lurking upstairs (Fear Her/ The Lodger)

    There are loads more. They’ve even re-used locations (End Of The World/ Cold Blood). It’s almost as if the production team said right, let’s throw out all the crap, start again, and get it right.

    Or is it just me? Anyway, this season has been crap-free. And I’m delighted. There’s only one thing worrying me: Grand Moff has said he’d like to see RTD write another script. I hope he’s joking.

  6. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    Please guys, enough of the Russell bashing! Yes it was a terrific series finale, it had a different feel to it than those that have come before, Steven did a great job, and does timey-wimey very well. But there’s absolutely no need to slag off RTD in the same breath!

    Themissingone – I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s just you, but I don’t agree. It’s very easy to go through episodes and see similarities. If I could be bothered, I could do the same with RTD and episodes that have gone before. And what it is you’re saying – The Moff ripped off ideas from RTD? I don’t think so, but it would be easy to read it that way. The two are very different writers, and much as I admire the ingenuity behind Moffat’s scripts, I much, much prefer the bombastic style of Russell’s work. I think it’s great that we have a variety of writers contributing to the show, but I don’t think we should turn it into a competition. And you know what? I miss not crying at every episode! I loved that about Russell’s era. But then, I’m just a big softy.

    Andrew: “it required no classic series or RTD-era characters or concepts to make a surprise return either”. Eh? Were you watching the same show as me? I’m sure I spotted Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Autons, Sycorax, Weevils, Silurians (and heard mention of Zygons) in the Pandorica Opens. The Moff’s devotion to ‘the classic series’ is in no doubt at all, although I expect he’d take issue with the whole concept of Classic/Nu Who – it’s all the same thing to him, see?

    Sorry to rant guys – I always get defensive when people start Russell bashing, I just don’t get it! To end on a postive – great series finale. I love the fact that we’ve got a married couple on board the TARDIS now, and what’s more, one of them is an Auton. There’s loads of places to go with that concept. And the Doctor’s dad-dancing to Queen was just a joy to behold! How long til Christmas?

  7. avatar themissingone says:

    To be fair, I think people get angry about RTD (and yeh, I’m one of them) because his scripts have been so radically unlike anything that came before. Since it began, Doctor Who has always been at its best when it’s been about IDEAS. Shoddy production values were forgiven because there were lots of interesting CONCEPTS on show. The reverse is true for RTD: his version of Doctor Who was all about EMOTION. Ideas, plot, logic etc were usually set aside in favour of character’s REACTIONS. Hence people like me saw a silly soap opera, while others saw a wonderful drama. It’s nothing personal, honest. Like everyone else, I’m eternally grateful to RTD for getting Doctor Who back into production in the first place. He’s just not a writer whose style suits it, that’s all.

  8. avatar jason_z says:

    “and what’s more, one of them is an Auton”

    Paul – I didn’t think so – I think he’s human now. Surely Amy’s parents never disappeared because the cracks never happened; and so Rory never got killed either (which happened because the Doctor was looking at a crack).

    Although, if I’m right and the universe was never cracked… how did he defeat the Angels? Um…

  9. avatar Carn says:

    ‘I much, much prefer the bombastic style of Russell’s work.’ While I enjoy some of this scripts I think that’s the thing I like least about his stuff and was waiting for somebody else to have a go at writing a finale and Moffat’s recent one just blew Davies stuff away in my opinion (The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords is among my least favorite Who stories of all time for a number of reasons). Moffat wasn’t actually my favorite writer during Davies’ tenure. While I liked his stuff I found Blink highly overrated (his The Empty Child was far better) and it’s actually Paul Cornell who became my favorite writer due to the excellent stories Father’s Day and (my personal favorite 10th Doctor story by far) Human Nature/The Family of Blood. I really hope Cornell is one of next seasons writers with Moffat and Gaiman as I feel it has the potential to be even more incredibly enjoyable as the just finished one has been.

    think i’m babbling again. i’m gonna go play with my 11th doctor TARDIS toy some more and then get some work done :D

  10. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    Jason – you’re quite right of course. I’ve been fretting about that since I posted it, and knew I’d have to retract it. It’s a shame because a plastic husband on the TARDIS is a great idea!

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