Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S5E12 "THE PANDORICA OPENS"
For the entire run of the new series, the final episodes of the season have been a rollicking conclusion, dragging in details from all the previous episodes into a massive climax. This season is no different. The Spoilers are out in force, so watch your head as we descend...THE PANDORICA OPENS
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Toby HaynesThe episode starts with a series of brief vignettes of friends that The Doctor has met over the year in a series of events all through history. Vincent Van Gogh is in bed suffering from a terrible fit, having just completed a new painting, unseen by the audience. We jump to the Cabinet War Rooms in London in 1941, where Professor Bracewell is showing the selfsame painting (found decades later in an attic in France) to Churchill, saying that it's obviously a message to someone they both know. We jump quickly to the Stormcage prison in the year 5145 - a phone outside River Song's cell rings, and when a guard answers it, he's confused when he's asked for "The Doctor". River asks for the phone, has a brief conversation with Churchill, and promptly stages a prison break. She shows up on Starship UK, breaking into the national art archives, looking for and grabbing a very particular picture. Queen Elizabeth X, still on the throne, stops her, but as River explains that she's trying to find The Doctor, and shows her the painting, she's allowed to pass. River shows up next on The Maldovarium, a giant trading post, looking for access to Time Travel technology. A dealer offers her a Vortex Manipulator, which she offers to pay for with a device that will de-activate the micro-explosives she slipped into his drink. Back on the TARDIS, Amy Pond is examining the diamond ring she found in The Doctor's jacket, The Doctor tells her they'll be visiting Planet One, the first planet created in the universe, which bears a giant inscription on a cliff that no one has ever translated. However, the TARDIS will allow them to understand the message. When they exit the ship, it reads...Hello Sweetie...followed by a series of coordinates. The coordinates take them to Britain, during its occupation by the Romans in the early 2nd century. A Roman soldier runs to meet him, addressing him as Caesar, and tell him that Cleopatra will see them immediately. It's not Cleopatra, it's River, who finally is able to deliver Van Gogh's painting to The Doctor. It's a painting of the TARDIS exploding. Would you believe this is ALL before the opening credits? The time coordinates River left for The Doctor were in fact left by Van Gogh - they're painted on the door of the TARDIS in his painting. The painting is titled "The Pandorica Opens". The Pandorica, it's explained, is a cage for some nameless horror, the most dangerous thing in all creation. The Doctor maintains it's a fairy tale, as he has numerous times it's been mentioned over the year. River insists that it must be real, it's nearby, and it's opening. The Doctor realizes where it is - Stonehenge, only a brief ride from the Roman camp. The stones are a marker, and beneath them, the "Under-Henge", resting place of the Pandorica. As they descend, we realize that hidden by one of the stones is the head of a Cyberman. The moving head of a Cyberman. The Pandorica is a cube about eight feet high, and the room it's in looks like it's been locked for centuries. There's a Cyberman's arm in the room, suggesting that the room has had visitors over the years, and not friendly ones. The Doctor talks about the story of the Pandorica - a monstrous being, trapped within the jail of the cube, un-killable. And for some reason, the jail is beginning to open. Amy comments on the similarity to Pandora's Box, her favorite fable when she was a kid. The Doctor finds this an odd coincidence between the jail before them and her favorite story, but dismisses it, commenting "Never ignore coincidences, unless you're busy, in which case, always ignore coincidences." He's fascinated with the idea of what could be so dangerous that it required all this protection, and how powerful it must be to be able to be escaping as they stand there. They come upon a dreadful realization - the box is opening, and Stonehenge is beaming an alarm to the universe, through all times zones. People are coming, and not to re-imprison the captive, but to try to exploit it. River discovers there's at least 10,000 ships around the earth, alien races who have and will have fought The Doctor over the course of history, all coming to fight over what's in the box. River Song begs him to leave, but the Doctor realizes they have access to the greatest military machine in history -- the Roman Army. River races back to the Roman camp to plead for assistance. The commander is hesitant (he's still embarrassed that his men fell for River's line about being Cleopatra, considering she's been dead for years) but one soldier volunteers to assist. Back at Stonehenge, while The Doctor tries to find a way to hold off the oncoming aliens, Amy asks him about the ring she found. He describes it as a memory of someone he lost, but Amy seems to recognize it. The Doctor tries to suggest that if someone could remember the person, they won't really be lost. Amy doesn't take the bait, and hands it back to him. The Doctor changes the subject slightly, and tells Amy that way back when she first came on board, he lied to her when he said there was no reason he chose her. Her house was "too big, with too many empty rooms". He begins to elaborate, but laser fire ends the conversation quickly. The deactivated Cyberman arm he noticed earlier has become active, likely as a result of the cyber-ships in orbit. While he tries to deactivate the arm, the Head seen aboveground sneaks up behind Amy via prehensile cables and pulls her down. The head splits open, revealing and ejecting the desiccated skull of its former donor, now aiming to grab Amy's. She throws it to the ground, but it manages to fire a tranq-dart at her. The rest of the body marches in, grabbing the head and coming after her. She's saved at the last moment, not by The Doctor, but by the Roman soldier. He removes his helmet, and stands revealed as...Rory. Amy passes out from the tranquilizer before she can reply; The Doctor is completely boggled once he realizes who Rory is. Rory himself has no explanation - he remembers dying, but suddenly re-appeared in ancient Britain as a Roman, complete with a parallel series of memories of being a Roman. Before the conversation can get too deep, two things happen concurrently - the Pandorica opening process reaches its final phase, and the alien fleets begin to land. The Doctor sends River to the TARDIS to get equipment, and he does what he does best - bluff. He broadcasts to the ships that he is in possession of the Pandorica, and asks who is brave enough to try and take it from him. The ships all retreat. River enters the TARDIS and tries to bring it to Stonehenge, but it begins to malfunction and River can't control it. Back under the stones, Amy awakens, and Rory realizes that she doesn't even recognize him. He despairs, but The Doctor throws him their engagement ruing, and tells him to make her remember. River is finally able to land the TARDIS, back at Amy's house, on June 26th, 2010, the date from which the universe-shattering explosion will emanate. As River leaves the TARDIS, a mysterious voice from nowhere declares "Silence will fall" and the screen of the scanner cracks...or more correctly, Cracks. Outside, River makes a series of discoveries. One, an alien ship has landed and taken off again in Amy's backyard, leaving scorched landing gear marks. Two, the door to the house has been blown off the hinges. Three, in Amy's bedroom, along with all the Doctor dolls she's been making since childhood, there's a book about Pandora's Box, and another on the Roman occupation of Britain, with one massive curiosity. All the drawings of the soldiers , the campsite, everything...are dead ringers for the soldiers they met centuries before. She contacts the Doctor, and tells him to remain calm. Everything they see, the Romans, all of it, is a trap. There's even a picture of Rory dressed as a Roman. They realize that they are using Amy's memories as a blueprint for a trap for The Doctor...and Rory got grabbed as a Roman accidentally. But there's still no clue who could be behind it. The TARDIS goes wrong again, and when The Doctor realizes the date it's landed at, warns River to land anywhere, anywhen else, shut down, and get out of the ship. She can't, and the voice starts to talk about the Silence again, but this time River can hear it quite clearly. Up on the field, Rory and Amy are talking, and he's desperately trying to get her to remember him. She begins to remember, and they embrace. But as The Doctor realizes the truth below, the trap springs. The Romans are Auton duplicates including Rory. But while the Roman soldiers shed their human personalities easily, Rory, the only one made from an actual human, fights to maintain control. And then...we get title. The Pandorica finally splits open, light streaming from within. The Auton soldiers activate, their hands snapping down, revealing their trademark weapons. River is able to land the TARDIS, and The Doctor tells her to just leave the ship - with no one on board, the engines will shut down, and the explosion will be stopped. Upstairs, as Rory fights to prevent being taken over by his Auton programming and warning Amy to run, she remembers him, and embraces him. Then everything goes pear-shaped at once. The Pandorica is empty. It wasn't holding something in, it was scanning The Doctor. It's a cell, but designed to hold him. All of his enemies throughout time learn of the death of the universe, caused by the explosion of the TARDIS, and unite to create a perfect prison to hold The Doctor, the theory being that if he can't fly the ship, it will never explode. Rory is unable to hold back his programming, and his Auton hand-weapon fires, right into Amy's stomach. River, finally able to get the doors open, is horrified to realize she's landed inside solid rock. She can't leave the ship, the engines can't shut down, and the TARDIS explodes. As The Doctor begs his assembled Rogues' Gallery not to lock him inside the prison, the exploding TARDIS does what has been threatened throughout history - it causes every single star in the universe to go Supernova, causing the death of the universe. The episode ends with the stars flaring and dying, the Earth sheathed in darkness and vanishing. For all the cliffhangers the season and the new series has had, this is certainly the most gripping. With multiple threats from multiple fronts, all ending in a massive ball of Oh MyGod, it makes for a very long seven days. All of the ideas from the season fold back, including Rory's return, and the memories re-awakening in Amy. Emotion as well as action, the episode has it all. A lot of fans, reading the spoilers on many sites, went in thinking the ending was entirely different from what it was - the smart money had another Doctor in the Pandorica, one perhaps from the future or even another timeline. So the surety of their (okay, OUR) knowledge resulted in being twice as surprised at the ending. GUEST STAR REPORT Christopher Ryan (Sontaran Commander Stark) returns as one of the potato-headed extraterrestrials (he first played one in The Sontaran Stratagem) but he's far better know to members of the MTV Generation as Mike "The cool person" in the Britcom The Young Ones. He also appeared as Edina's ex-husband on Absolutely Fabulous. MONSTER REPORT - They don't appear on screen for long, and some don't appear at all, but the sky above the Earth is choked to bursting with almost every alien race that The Doctor has ever faced. Most mentioned come from the latest series, but there's a few very old names dropped in there and a couple "new" ones.
- The Tereliptils fought the Doctor in his fifth incarnation.
- The Chelonians are a race who've only appeared in the novels. This is their first mention in the series proper...perhaps a bit of foreshadowing? They were originally to appear in the story Planet of the Dead (written by their creator Gareth Roberts) but got written out as the heat of Dubai, where the episode was filmed, might prove dangerous to an actor in the heavy suit that such an alien would require.
- The Drahvins were the baddies in Galaxy Four, from way back in the Hartnell days.
- The Zygons had one appearance, in Terror of the Zygons and numerous reappearances in the novels, as many one-shot monsters have.
- The Draconians also only got one starring role on the series, The Frontier in Space, but a lot of novels written about them.
--It's hard to pinpoint the amount of time that has passed for Churchill and Bracewell since Victory of the Daleks, but considering Bracewell's knowledge of who The Doctor is, it clearly takes place after. Also note the gloved hand, hiding the replacement he fashioned himself after his original one was destroyed. We must assume that the PM convinced the Professor that the best place for him was working for England against the Axis.
--Based on statements made it Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone, the River Song we're seeing in this episode is from BEFORE that adventure. She was released from Stormcage to assist with the Byzantium. Also, she makes it abundantly clear that she's already lived through the events of this adventure at that time. So far, we're seeing River's interactions with The Doctor in the reverse order, which may or may not be important, as opposed to merely interesting.
--We're seeing Liz 10 in the vicinity of two millennia past the events of The Beast Below - the solar flares happened in the 29th century, The Doctor guessed Liz had been on the throne about three hundred years, placing the story in approximately the 32nd - 33rd century. The exact date that humans return to Earth after the flares is not given, so it's possible they just haven't returned yet.PICTURE BOOK, PICTURES OF YOUR MAMA TAKEN BY YOUR PAPA A LONG TIME AGO - There's nice bit full circle going in this episode. In the story Fires of Pompeii, the characters of the Roman family of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus were all pulled from a series standard Latin textbook as an in joke. And that episode featured the first appearance of Karen Gillan as one of the Soothsayers. So it's rather ironic that in this episode, the idea of basing characters the Doctor will meet from a children's book appears yet again. How delightfully meta. "Fresh off the wrist of a handsome Time Agent" - While many presumed the time agent in question may have been Captain Jack Harkness, that's unlikely as the odds of anyone getting his manipulator out of his possession are quite low. The Vortex Manipulator is standard equipment for the time agency, so there should be many agents who've had to come up with plausible stories as to where theirs have gone to over the years. "Writing, letters fifty feet high" - Almost everyone compared the message on Planet One to God's Final Message To His Creation, a similarly giant epitaph from Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' book So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. Adams was Script Editor for the show during the Baker Years, and wrote The Pirate Planet and Shada, also co-writing City of Death. He's gotten a few nods throughout the series - The Doctor mentions meeting Arthur Dent in The Christmas Invasion, he's reading one of Oolon Coluphid's books in Destiny of the Daleks, and quite a few more. BIG BAD UPDATE - You'd think there's no way to add more long-term clues at this date, but there they are. The mysterious voice saying "Silence will fall"? No idea. The implication that the voice may be able to pilot a TARDIS and perhaps sabotage it has made more than a few fans suspect the Time Lords, specifically ONE Time Lord, the FIRST Time Lord, Omega. Only a Clever Theory at this point, but it's amazing that we're already looking ahead to next season, what with the hopeless situation things are left in here. NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO - What, were you not paying attention? That's it, the universe just ended, and everyone died. Oh, OK, there might be a FEW things left over...