Published on June 21st, 2010 | by Andrew Reynolds
The Pandorica Opens
The Doctor is trapped in a childâ€™s prison, Amy is dead at the hand of her Auton boyfriend, the TARDIS has been destroyed and all life as we know it has ceased to be- there are cliff-hangers and then thereâ€™s this.
Like the locks and codes keeping the Pandorica closed, all the stories have locked into place, pulling us towards this final reveal. Just what is the Pandorica and where did those cracks come from?
The mood is set from the off; a rain soaked Arles, the wails of a madman- this is going to be dark.
In Vincent van Goghâ€™s room a strange painting stands, its significance is unknown until it falls into the hands of Winston Churchill fifty one years later and already we can feel Moffat slowly revealing his great battle plan- moving all the key players from past episodes into play.
A rerouted phone call 3204 years in the future and River Song is speaking to Churchill, escaping with a quick kiss and stealing the painting from the Royal collection (with a grave blessing from Liz Ten.)
Then weâ€™re in a Whoniverse version of the Mos Eisley Cantina (one of many riffs on classic family films) buying time travel (off the wrist!) before the Doctor is greeted by the first words in the universe written across the cliffs of the first planet; â€œHello Sweetie.â€
For a moment weâ€™re living in the Doctorâ€™s world, time periods clash, events unfurl in any order and the palpable sense of doom hangs over everything.
Itâ€™s faint praise to call this audacious television; frankly itâ€™s one of the best openings in the showâ€™s history.
The pace never lets up. No sooner has the Doctor followed Riverâ€™s lead and taken her to stone-age transmitter, Stonehenge, weâ€™re swooped up into battle.
The glow of firelight, the roar of ships salivating overhead at the prize, and Matt Smith, giving what must be his best performance so far, a baffling, bumbling general slowly releasing heâ€™s in over his head. Half the tension of the early scenes of the Doctor and Amy fighting various parts of a lone Cyber-Sentry comes from his chaotic, flailing reactions.
His speech to the massing ships is one of the best since Voyage of the Damned, since The Waters of Mars, itâ€™s a moment we would all be talking about if the rest wasnâ€™t so magnificent.
We learn more of the â€™impossible girlâ€™, Amy Pond. A girl that drew from her short story â€œInvasion of the Hot Italiansâ€ to bring Romans to save her, who created Rory out of finding her engagement ring, and who finally trapped the Doctor in a memory from a dusty old fairy-tale. You get the feeling that when the Doctor left that little girl behind, sat on that suitcase, he left a lot of baggage with her.
The worst kept secret of Roryâ€™s return is heartbreaking; watching him in those final moments coming to terms with what he is and what heâ€™ll lose, in that final shot. Itâ€™s ground well covered in sci-fi terms, an automaton learning his true identity but in just a few short scenes, the Autons were more than just dummies in polyester suits.
The big reveal this time isnâ€™t the presence of an alliance of the Doctorâ€™s greatest foes but why theyâ€™re united together, as equals.
If anything its almost the reverse of The Stolen Earth. The idea itself of seeing all Doctor Whoâ€™s many aliens/warriors together was first spoken of in the development of that episode in The Writerâ€™s Tale.
Itâ€™s a very contemporary idea of a force uniting together in the belief theyâ€™re doing good only to ultimately bring destruction. The Cybermen, the Daleks, the Sontarans all standing about like statesmen, telling the Doctor just why he has to go â€“ clinging to their â€˜understandingâ€™.
Gone are abstract concepts like the Reality Bomb, weâ€™re in a coalition now donâ€™t you know?
The idea that the Doctor is the most dangerous creature in all existence has been there since the showâ€™s return in 2005 but to finally see him defeated, to watch him, strapped into the Pandorica, pleading with the alliance underneath his bedraggled hair- itâ€™s a heartbreaking, pulse quickening moment thatâ€™s been coming for a long time.
Just how he got into the mercy seat, the delicious plan that Moffat concocted and hoodwinked us with demands repeated viewing.
So with seven long days to wait until we finally see just how Moffat will rewrite the universe, thereâ€™s much to guess over: Just how can River fly the TARDIS if only the Doctor can? Why did the universe end when Amy died? Whose voice is it thatâ€™s telling us â€œsilence will fallâ€?
Cinematic in scope, overflowing with brilliant ideas and propelling Who into new uncharted territory; this was everything weâ€™d hoped for when Moffat was first announced as show runner.