‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Big Bang”

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “The Pandorica Opens”)
So, I was wrong. That’s okay (as the Doctor might say) — wrong is good. Wrong means I get to be surprised. Surprise is good.

And I was a bit surprised, in fact, that everything was pretty much what it seemed to be. The Daleks and the Cybermen and everything that ever hated the Doctor really did team up to imprison him in the Pandorica — which also a real thing, not a metaphor for the Doctor’s neuroses or anything — to stop him from, so they believed, destroying the universe. None of this was a dream, or all in the Doctor’s head, or any kind of fantasy (or nightmare). It was all timey whimey — boy, was it timey whimey! — and it was all a big reboot in the end, but it didn’t much feel like any kind of cheat.

It could have felt that way. It probably should have. Anytime a writer paints himself into this kind of a corner, almost anything he does to get out of that corner — assuming that he is not, in fact, actually going to kill off his protagonists and destroy the entire universe — is going to feel somewhat deux ex machiny. Clever of Steven Moffat to not hide the elephant in the room but to stick a party hat on it and throw confetti at it. Ridiculous miracle, indeed:

The variety of notions about where this season might have been going that I have been entertaining involved a lot more torment for the Doctor than having to wear a fez and carry a mop, a lot more angst and self-recrimination on his part. (I had been wondering if New Who was basically fan-fiction-proof, but I think the fact that what was in my head was much more intense and personal about the Doctor means that there still is room left here for fan-fiction extrapolations.)

Not this episode didn’t tear me apart. Yeah, hey: wait! Was I just praising Steven Moffat? I take it back. I hate him (no matter how many Princess Bride “mostly dead” references he trots out). I bawled my way through much of this episode… and, like Amy, I wasn’t even sure half the time why I was crying. I can take the usual sort of torture — the Doctor’s imprisoned forever; no, he isn’t; but it’s worse, he’s dead; no, he isn’t; but it’s worse, he’s gonna be erased forever…

But there was a lot more than that going on. This season has been so much… wow. So much crazy passionate fun ripping apart each episode and waiting for the next one with ludicrous, is-it-Saturday-yet anticipation — it’s been like the night before Christmas when you’re five since Easter. Part of my uncontrollable sobbing was, I’m sure, simply a physical release after months of tension now that it was finally over. Because even enjoyable tension is, you know, tense. (Was this the most perfect season of Doctor Who ever? I think maybe it was.)

I lost it for good, though, when the Doctor was talking to seven-year-old Amelia after he put her to bed. This brought a motif of the season full circle from “The Eleventh Hour,” and it’s a motif that I find deeply poignant, particularly when Moffat spins it (as he’s done before, like in “Girl in the Fireplace”). It’s the one about the Doctor as imaginary friend to all of us, at least to those of us who are in love with him. “I’ll be a story in your head,” he says sadly, talking to himself as much as to Amelia, lamenting himself. “You’ll dream about that box…” Crap, it almost felt like Moffat was wrapping up the show itself forever — this is how it would end, the Doctor sacrificing himself to save the universe, isn’t it? — and I don’t ever want to think about that. “I think I’ll skip the rest of the rewind, I hate repeats”? That’s what’s supposed to sustain us till there’s more new stuff to watch? arrgh

And Amy only has to wish to bring him back, to turn the imaginary real:

Why can’t I do that?

Then there’s River, who is pretty much the most awesome babe ever

and not just because she wears a thigh holster. Amy may be special because of the crack in the universe in her bedroom and that lets her remember the Doctor when no one else can. But how does River remember him? How is she even more special? River keeps her diary, even though it’s now blank, and gives it to Amy to force Amy to remember the Doctor back… but River has to remember him in order to do that.

So, next season, it seems, will be all about River. (Unless Moffat’s being a bastard again.) I was terrified she was going to be erased by the crack in the universe, thereby cleaning up a potential storytelling mess before it got any more cornered. And now I’m terrified about what Moffat is going to do with her. It’s clear that Doctor Who is not going to turn into a romance, at least not of the traditional sort. Knowing Moffat, it could well be one that’s thwarted until it’s doomed. Because they’re never ever going to be in the same place, are they? He’s just starting to fall for her… constantly has a little knowing smile for himself when she can’t see… is really enjoying flirting with her (“Hi, honey, I’m home”):

But he’s not quite there yet, and so she’s still waiting for him to catch up. I was forced to yell at the TV, during the Doctor and River’s final meeting outside the TARDIS, when he gives her back her diary and vortex manipulator, helpfully instructing her to just kiss him already:

But my pal bronxbee, watching with me, pointed out that she wants the moment to be mutual, so she can’t just kiss him yet.

River is going backwards, though, it seems. So there might be one brief moment where they’re both equally in love, but then it will pass, and he’ll be forever watching her know him less and less.

We’re in for a lot of heartache, I think. And a lot of ground to cover next year. We have to find out who River is and why she wouldn’t show a Dalek mercy. We have to find out who is controling the TARDIS and why the TARDIS exploded. And we have to find out why River would kill, ahem, the best man in the universe. Which is, presumably, “when everything changes.”

I’m gonna give this episode some time to settle into my head, and then I’ll rewatch the entire season, and see if any of my overall impressions change. I am already wondering, however, whether the many apparently anomalous things we’ve been noticing over the past 13 weeks that don’t seem to tally here can all have been accidents or unintentional goofs or just the kind of unavoidably messiness that is inevitable when producing an episodic TV series. (Is the Doctor’s line here about how “you can do loads in 12 minutes” meant to smooth over the several instances this past season when he seemed to accomplish way too much in only a few minutes?) I don’t doubt that Moffat might have thrown in deliberate red herrings simply to keep us on our toes. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he threw in things that won’t get resolved till next year.

Random thoughts on “The Big Bang”:

• Oh dear, Steven Moffat had to sit through those terrible Night at the Museum movies with his kids, didn’t he?

Well, his pain is our gain.

Those movies could have been so much better, so much smarter. And now we get a taste of, in detail, how. Like, for starters: penguins of the Nile, dinosaurs in ice, petrified Daleks, and a honking big mystery box.

• Hey, if the two sonic screwdrivers spark when they touch

shorting out the time differential, how come that doesn’t happen to Amy when she touches Amelia? Or when the Doctor touches himself from 12 minutes in the future? (Remember when the Doctor told Rose in “Father’s Day” not to touch the baby version of herself, because that would be as bad as crossing the streams?) Or does the almost-finished collapsing of the universe mean there’s little spacetime left to care about such things?

• Okay, so, on this alt starless Earth, does “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh still exist? I think it must, mustn’t it? Because now, in retrospect, though “Vincent and the Doctor” didn’t originally seem to have any connection to the season’s arc, it was foreshadowing the motif here about seeing with more than your eyes. Amelia’s drawing of the starry night sky is an obvious echo of Vincent’s painting, and this drawing next to her bed

sure reminds me of a Van Gogh irises picture, too.

• Poor sad sweet dedicated in-love Rory!

How did Rory not go mad for 1,894 years?

• See? The Doctor doesn’t need to headbutt someone to communicate telepathically:

• Couple of things we don’t know (yet):

= How much Amy and Rory remember. Presumably Rory does not remember babysitting Amy in the Pandorica for 2,000 years, since that wasn’t really him anyway. But if Rory remembers the Doctor then their memories have at least filled in from Prisoner Zero events onward. Does that mean the last thing he remembers is his own death? But how can that be, since he’s alive? Does Amy remember the universe ending, or not? My head hurts trying to think about this.

= Where River ended up after the Doctor flew the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS. She says “we all wake up where we ought to be,” but where ought she to be? We don’t know anything about her: not even where and when she’s from. Obviously she likes hanging out in the 51st century, but with that vortex manipulator — not to mention her relationship with the Doctor — that doesn’t mean she has to be from then. So: did River end up in 1996 on Earth, where she was when Big Bang 2 happened, and then lived on Earth till 2010 and Amy’s wedding?

• Nooooo!

“An Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express. In space.” That’s just a cheeky tease. “Don’t worry about a thing, Your Majesty — we’re on our way.” Is that Liz Ten on the other end of the line?

This is gonna be some honeymoon for Amy and Rory. A married couple as companions? That’s gonna bring a whole new kind of interesting to life on the TARDIS…

• Great quotes:

“I just don’t want her growing up and joining one of those star cults. I don’t trust that Richard Dawkins.” –Aunt Sharon, about Amelia

“I’ve got a future. That’s nice.” –the Doctor

“Your girlfriend isn’t more important than the whole universe.” –the Doctor
“She is to me!” –not-Rory

“Rubbish way to time-travel… Cheap and nasty. Very bad for you. I’m trying to give it up.” –the Doctor, about the vortex manipulator

“What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?” –River
“It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.” –the Doctor

(I think Moffat is testing all the little eight-year-old fans: Will they all start wearing fezzes? How far can he push the kids? Ah, the power, the mad sweet power, to make the children of an entire nation do anything, wear anything. There’s a Doctor Who villain for ya: the Pied Piper of the BBC.)

“That’s my TARDIS burning up.” –the Doctor

“I dated a Nestene duplicate once. Swappable head. Did keep things fresh.” –River (and that would be true of regenerating-Time Lord boyfriends, too, wouldn’t it?)

“Rule One: the Doctor lies.” –River

“I was lying.” –the Doctor

“You always dance at weddings, don’t you?” –River
“You tell me.” –the Doctor

“You just saved the whole of space and time. Take the evening off. Maybe a bit of tomorrow.” –Rory

(next: not till frakkin’ Christmas!)

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