Published on June 27th, 2010 | by Christian Cawley
The Big Bang Reviewed
Remember when Russell T Davies and David Tennant gave us the double whammy of bad news back in 2008 â€“ 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 didnâ€™t want to work on a show which surely only Steven Moffat could take over?
(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 Iâ€™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 predecessorâ€™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.
Itâ€™s a great premise â€“ 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.
Itâ€™s bonkers, isnâ€™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 â€“ simply good, honest, time travelling fun in which the Doctor attempts to great a second â€œbig bangâ€ 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 â€“ 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 Gillanâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 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 weâ€™ve been left clues and hints by the writers, all playing to Steven Moffatâ€™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 Earthâ€™s sun is not in fact a sun but the Doctorâ€™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 â€“ that of who took control of the TARDIS and keeps saying â€œSilence will fall.â€ As such I would argue that it was a sensible decision not to try and squeeze this in. Weâ€™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.