A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens”
Prisoner Zero warned us: “The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall.”
River Song and Frank Sinatra were right: what the Doctor ignored in “The Eleventh Hour” and dismissed as a mere fairy tale in “Flesh and Stone” is proved real in the first half of this two-part season finale. Housed under Stonehenge and said to contain the most dangerous being in the entire universe, the Pandorica definitely exists, and we’re about to find out its purpose.
“The Pandorica Opens” is suspenseful and well-constructed, neatly tying together disparate threads from the entire season. It’s emotional—Rory’s Roman return and Amy’s realization of who he really is are intense, as is the moment where the Doctor realizes who the Pandorica is meant to house. It’s cinematic, too (writer and Who-runner Steven Moffat described his goals for the finale as “big” and “mad”). But above all, this episode was FUN, pulling in both friends and foes from the fifth season including Winston Churchill, Professor Edwin Bracewell, Liz 10, Vincent van Gogh, the Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, the rhinoceros-headed Judoon (who we kind of wish had been given at least a few lines of dialogue), and, of course, Ms. River “Call Me Cleopatra” Song.
The reason for the big reunion: those irksome cracks that have been following the Doctor and Amy around since we first met them.
Far from being some big secret, the cracks are common knowledge across the universe and it’s believed, by an alliance of the Doctor’s enemies, that separating him from the TARDIS will stop the spread and avoid an obliteration of everything in existence when the TARDIS explodes. Of course, they’re wrong.
But the trap they’ve set up is so perfectly right that the Doctor walks blindly into it. Using Amy’s memories, the alliance has constructed a time (102 AD) and place (Roman Britain) populated by Centurion autons who think they’re real when all of them, even Rory, are actually just figments stitched together from stuff found in Amy’s childhood bedroom, operating as part of the Nestene Consciousness.
Poor Rory fights the Nestene’s command but winds up shooting Amy when his robot arm refuses to abide by his own will. (If circuitry can be said to have a will.)
And though the Doctor does his damndest to keep the alliance from carrying out their ultimate goal (installing him, the most dangerous creature in the universe, inside the inescapable Pandorica), he finds himself overpowered, what with River stuck in the exploding TARDIS and Amy dead (temporarily, we hope—history can be rewritten, right?).
But then, just as you think that all hope is lost, that everyone’s been exploded or deleted or imprisoned or erased, the episode ends with all the stars and planets in the universe going dark. Silence does indeed fall. So, uh, yeah. Turns out you were right about that ‘all hope is lost’ thing.
Good think it’s a two-parter, otherwise we’d be worried!