Time for the penultimate dose of Doctor Who of the season, so with a loud creaking noise, here are some thoughts about The Pandorica Opens:
Oh look, it's everybody who's anybody from this series, popping back to say hello and push the plot along! This could have been hideously contrived, but I think it stayed on the right side of fun, as long as you don't think too hard about the plot logistics. And at least it makes it look like this episode has been carefully planned in advance, rather than cobbled together at the last minute. A promising sign, even if it's still early minutes.
I do enjoy seeing those little bits of River's life without the Doctor, where they manage to suggest that she has a thrilling spin-off series of her own somewhere, in which she dresses up like a 51st-century Modesty Blaise and has alien adventures with lipgloss and earrings. However, when she's actually with the Doctor, all she ever does is run back and forth, pressing buttons and yelling out bits of technobabble, and that's not very interesting. Still, I suppose it explains why she's so keen to be independent: she has much more fun NOT with him than with him.
However, all the cash spent on dressing-up outfits for River must have bust the budget, so they've had to make her space prison from the same bit of tunnel that cropped up in The Runaway Bride and Partners in Crime:
I know there's a recession on, but aren't there any other tunnels in Cardiff? Still, I did like River's fan art of herself on the wall. The hair was unmistakable.
A Time Vortex manipulator, fresh off the wrist of a handsome Time Agent? The $64,000 question is of course: anyone we know? It certainly looks like Jack's wriststrap when we see it lying next to the Doctor later (and so it can't be Captain John's because his is canonically smaller, nudge nudge), and I assume you could cut Jack's hand off and it'd grow back. (In Children of Earth, he grew back his entire body, so a hand must be a walk in the park.) But on the other hand (the one that didn't get cut off), it surely can't be Jack's, if only because he'll be needing it for the next series of Torchwood. Still, it's a nice little nod to the 51st century.
Oh look, a Theta Sigma shoutout! It's written in Greek letters underneath "Hello Sweetie", on the diamond cliff that doesn't look like it's made of diamond, on the planet of the cheaply drawn giant mushrooms. (More oversized plantlife next series, please! Nothing says classic sci-fi like colossal vegetables.)
River ordering the Romans around rather reminded me of her turn as Boudicca, although I don't particularly recommend the movie, not least because she elects to use a particularly silly West Country accent in it. (Which is a bit rich, given that Boudicca was from Essex.)
"If something can be remembered, it can come back." FORESHADOWING! Your clue to flagrant use of the reset button season finale drama for next week! However, it also strikes me that the same line could be interpreted as a comment on fanservice: anything from DW history that you can remember, we can bring it back! And in fact, we're about to do just that...
I enjoyed the attack of the be-tentacled Cyberhead, partially due to the wink-wink reference to The Thing, and partially because I know the seven-year-old me would have freaked out at the reveal of the rotting skull. (There are some good things about being a grown-up after all.)
Oh look, Rory's back and somehow I'm not very surprised. Nor am I very amused when the Doctor fails to notice him for some time, ha not-very-ha.
I thought the movement from "this box contains the most dangerous thing in the universe" to "the most dangerous thing in the universe is the Doctor!" was quite nicely done: it didn't feel like a huge shock, but they managed to distract me enough to stop me from working it out too far in advance. Having said that, I think the universe has been remiss in not noticing that the Doctor is like Santa (as the young Amelia Pond could have told them): he's only a bad thing if you've been Naughty (TM). Do the Daleks and the Cybermen and Sontarans and company ever think about being nice for a change? No, they don't. And that's why they can't have nice things.
Nonetheless, hooray for a free-for-all in the BBC costume department! Everybody grab a costume and see what you can fit into. Last one in has to be a Hoix, so get a move on. On the theme of multispecies mingling, I bet the Daleks wish they'd never opted for that multicoloured paint job now. When they hang out with other aliens, it doesn't exactly make them look hardcore, does it?
At first I assumed Rory was going to be a Bracewell-style android, but nope, he's actually an Auton. The Autons have got better at doing copies of people since the unconvincing Plastic Mickey from way back in "Rose", I take it. However, I'm unclear about how, if Rory was erased from time and never existed, there could still be psychic residue of him at Amy's house. Unless the timestream is even worse at cleaning up after itself than I am.
Fair play to Rory for pulling out some decent acting (at long bloody last) in his climactic scenes, but any heartfelt stuff in this scene felt rather undermined to me. Partly, it was due to the "and now, over to the Doctor and loads of aliens" intercuts, partly due to the bathos of dying due to your robot boyfriend literally not knowing what his right hand was doing, and partly due to the fact that I don't believe for a second that Amy will stay dead.
I could have lived without the slow-mo montage of doom at the end, but at least there wasn't an anthemic ballad playing at the time. Coldplay would have really killed the mood.
So if the Doctor is now shut in a box and we can't hear him yapping, does this mean that silence has fallen? Or is the silence falling a separate thing, to do with the stars going out (again)? Surely it can't have fallen yet, if only because there's now going to be the sound of several hundred warlike alien races having a very large cocktail party. With nibbles. And probably the occasional sound of a Judoon snogging a Silurian chick behind a rock.
A Book of Revelations fact: When the seventh seal opens, there's silence in heaven for half an hour. So when the Pandorica opens and silence falls, that may well be another thing that only lasts for half an hour. (Or fifty-five minutes, if the BBC's TV listings are to be believed.)
In conclusion: quite a lot of jolly throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fun. But is there a proper story in there? And more pertinently, I fear that this sort of convoluted plot bind can't be resolved without enormous quantities of handwaving and lavishly applied silliness. So I'm currently betting that a case of "part 1 good, part 2 stupid" may strike again. But let's look on the bright side. Sometimes I'm wrong about this stuff! Sometimes.
Next week: Your guess is as good as mine, frankly. How The Doctor Gave Those Cracks A Darn Good Filling? Why Amy's Life Doesn't Make Sense? Or just a really cheap show with nobody in it? I guess we'll find out soon enough.