The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

* That’s a hell of an opening sequence, bringing together pretty much every major guest character from the series so far. Well, almost – if you were James Cordon or Meera Syal, you’d have to take it personally. It’s a new twist on the way the finale sits with the rest of the series – as well as there being seeds of the finale dotted throughout the preceeding episodes, bits of preceeding episodes are dotted throughout the finale. It makes the whole thing feel like it’s all been one big story – Series 5 is one long and varied chapter in The Doctor’s life, rather than several smaller ones.

* River Song Timeline Watch: The Weeping Angels story hasn’t happened to River yet. Is the implication that we’re following River’s story in exact reverse chronological order? That would be the easiest interpretation to follow, but hold on – she doesn’t seem to know who Rory is, so this can’t take place after any of her Series 6 or 7 stories. Unless she’s just pretending to not know Rory, in order to avoid any spoiler-related faux pas. Oh, I’m only three River stories in and I’ve gone cross-eyed.

* I really like the way the Cybermen are used here, like creatures in a horror flick. There’s the disembodied head scuttling about on spidery tentacles, then the skull falling out of the helmet, then the headless ghost coming to attack. Despite how unusual a Cyberman appearance this is, it’s the most effective they’ve been in the revival so far, and the skull is the closest they’ll come to nailing the body horror until they give up and bring back the Mondasians.

* Rory’s back. Hooray! I couldn’t quite remember all the details of how it happens, and considered the possibility that he’d remain an Auton for the rest of his life. That would have been great – The Doctor having a companion that’s ostensibly human in pretty much all respects, except that his hand can turn into a gun. And he might accidentally kill his wife when stressed.

* Quick status check at the end of the first part: The Doctor has been imprisoned by every monster he’s ever met, Amy has been reunited with Rory only for him to shoot her dead, River is trapped in an exploding TARDIS, and every star in every universe in every reality is going out, one-by-one. Yeah, that’s a pretty high-stakes cliffhanger.

* When things are this extreme, it makes me nervous, as it’s a big challenge to get out of situations like this in a satisfying way. Moffat handles this by once again tinkering with the format of a finale. It’s often the case that the first ep is largely one long set-up for the second ep, but here it feels more like two distinct stories. By not starting The Big Bang in the same time and place as The Pandorica Opens ended, it’s an indication that the answer to “how do they get out of that one?” is going to take the whole episode.

* It’s an answer that involves the return of young Amelia Pond, and she’s up against stone Daleks, which look a hell of a lot better than the New Paradigm bastards elsewhere in this series. We’re also introduced to The Doctor’s penchant for a fez, as part of a timey-wimey jigsaw puzzle of a plot, which sees the show once more channeling Bill & Ted-style time travel humour. This use of time travel as a story-telling device is something that would become a trademark of Moffat’s era, so it’s easy to forget how fresh, unusual and exciting it felt at the time.

* Inevitably, the ultimate conclusion to the story requires a little bit of what people like to refer to as a “reset button”, but there’s so much more it than that, and it avoids all the pitfalls that often make this term a pejorative one. Firstly, the show acknowledges exactly what it is – The Doctor is rebooting the universe, simple as that. Secondly, it’s not without its cost – The Doctor has to sacrifice his existence in order to make it happen, cleverly linking up with the rest of the series once more as he goes.

But mostly, the crucial part is that by the time everything’s worked itself out, the characters still remember everything that happened. Amy piecing everything together was a thing of joy, and it meant that all the things that the reboot erased were still “real” to her, Rory, River and The Doctor, even if that’s not what the history books will say. As far as they’re concerned, Rory spent the best part of 2,000 years guarding Amy, while she managed to bring both the men in her life back from the dead, and all the character development that goes along with these things will still apply.

So yeah, call it a “reset button” if you like, but it’s not a cheat – it’s our heroes fixing a problem and winning the day like they always do, even if nobody but them will know they did it.



  • Seasons/Series watched: 31 of 36
  • Stories watched: 212 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 769 of 839

What a fine series that was. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I was rewatching Series 1-4, seeing Eccleston and Tennant was like revisiting old friends, as I had been for Doctors 1-8. But with Smith, despite the fact that I adore Capaldi, I’ve been kind of forgetting that he’s not the current Doctor – he’s still so exciting to watch, and I’ve always thought he could have easily stuck around for longer.

Coming up next, I’m about to go on holiday for a week and a bit, which might rather dent my hopes of finishing this thing before Christmas. However, I’m taking my laptop and my Sarah Jane DVDs with me, just in case it rains…

The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood

* Alright Chibbers, show me what you can do with my favourite TARDIS team of the revived series so far. Turns out it’s not much. It’s a story that’s constantly on the precipice of being interesting, but never quite manages it. I’m beginning to think that maybe the Silurians should have been left as a one-off – there’s clearly tonnes of potential there, but nobody’s managed to tap in to it since 1970.

* Meera Syal! I’d completely forgotten she was in this, despite it being a fairly beefy role. Meanwhile, her co-worker is a bloke from Game of Thrones who was last seen screaming his head off in Torchwood. There’s also a dyslexic kid knocking about, and him and The Doctor get along beautifully until he goes and spoils it all by doing something stupid like letting him get kidnapped by the Silurians.

* After a couple of episodes where the team travel in threes, they’re separated early on by Rory being given a side mission of investigating a stolen corpse, while Amy is eaten by some evil soil. This means that The Doctor plus Rory is the main pairing for a while, which was something I was intrigued to see, but then Meera Syal demands that she get to be the companion, and The Doctor just goes along with it, leaving Rory behind. What a swizz.

* I see the Silurians have big poisonous licky tongues now. Or rather the Homo Reptilia do, as that seems to be the preferred terminology now. It’s political correctness gone mad. The new incarnations look great; they’re a big departure from the classic ones, but I liked that this was acknowledged, along with a reminder that all of this is at least partially The Brigadier’s fault, after he needlessly slaughtered the entirety of the first incarnation.

* The best thing about the new design is that they don’t all look the same; that’s a rarity for any species in Doctor Who, and having the Silurians appear just as varied as the humans helps reinforce the fact that they’re our cousins. Stephen Moore is the good Silurian – I recognised his voice straight away, but I didn’t realise that both of the main baddies were played by Neve McIntosh, later to become Madame Vastra. I guess it saved a few bob on prosthetic moulds.

* How difficult is it, when you’ve got a monster locked safely in the basement, to leave it alone for a few hours and not just kill it? Plot advancement that relies on characters behaving stupidly is one of my pet hates. The mum is well Brexit and her plan to restart the drill is fucking stupid on every level, not least because they’d all be killed too if they couldn’t escape within fifteen minutes.

* THE RORY WILLIAMS DEATH COUNTER: 2. The crack appearing out of nowhere like that seemed a bit tacked on; despite the fact that a Silurian was involved, it didn’t feel as interwoven with the rest of the plot as it did with the Angels. Also, despite how much I love and care about the Ponds, the emotional impact is somewhat hampered by the knowledge that he’ll be back in a couple of episodes.

* Did they ever do a bit where Amy, and possibly Rory, go back and wave at their past selves from across the hill? I can’t remember; it felt like something that was going to be resolved at the end of the story, but it wasn’t, particularly.


Amy’s Choice

* It turns out that people who wrote 90s sitcoms about differing male and female attitudes towards sex are brilliant at writing format-breaking episodes of Doctor Who. Maybe there’s something about the intricacies of sitcom plotting that translates well to twisty-turny sci-fi stories – both require careful timing of when certain details are revealed to the audience, and both are at their best when they tell us something about the characters and their relationships.

* For example, Amy’s ultimate nightmare is being married to a man with a ponytail. The two potential realities here couldn’t have been more different, so there was a danger of it being too obvious that Upper Leadworth – the place we’ve never seen before, with characters that are suddenly five years older – would be the fake. But the impossible icy sun in “our” reality casts just enough doubt to keep you guessing; I’d forgotten the exact answer in the intervening years, and so the eventual reveal managed to surprise me all over again.

* The Dream Lord is of course brilliant, as you’d expect from Toby Jones, delivering a performance every bit as creepy and unsettling as his recent turn as a Savile-a-like in Sherlock. The clues to his identity are there all along, his costume mirroring The Doctor’s throughout. It’s a shame he never came back – there’s so much potential for him to have been a recurring villain, like The Doctor’s own very-much-personal version of Sarah Jane’s Trickster.

* Wasn’t I just talking about how Amy is in a position of power over the two men? As reflected in the episode title, this is what the whole dilemma ultimately boils down to – it’s clear which reality The Doctor and Rory each want to believe, so it’s her responsibility to make the decision. They can’t survive without her.

* Ladies and gentlemen, introducing…


* This first death means that Amy’s choice isn’t actually about what type of life she wants, it’s about whether or not she wants any type of life without Rory. His powderisation essentially exonerates her from having to make a decision – she can have her cake and eat it by bringing Rory back to life and waking up on the TARDIS. It would perhaps have made for a bigger gesture of her loyalty if Rory had have pegged it in the TARDIS instead – would she have abandoned her life with The Doctor in order to be with Rory in a world so painfully dull?

* The fact that this was all The Doctor’s dream(s) obviously reveals a lot about the darker side of his personality, but consider this too: if the entire ordeal was the product of his subconscious, then the fact that Amy and Rory are now closer than ever was The Doctor’s act of kindness. Deep down, he manufactured the situation in order to make her realise how much she loved him, and to settle any lingering doubts as to where her loyalties lie, once and for all. Even when he’s trapped in the darkest pits of paranoia and self-loathing, The Doctor is fixing people.


The Vampires of Venice

Meanwhile in the TARDIS: More sexy shenanigans from Amy, but the scene develops into an examination of what the purpose of the Doctor’s companion actually is, if it’s not to be a live-in lover. This scene definitely feels like it’s aimed at older fans – not just for Amy’s risqué dialogue, but mainly the fan-servicing sequence where the TARDIS runs through all her previous young female inhabitants. You’d expect Rose to be the one our attention is drawn towards, but instead it’s Leela. It’s either an early example of Moffat being keener to revisit the classic series than RTD was, or just an excuse to reminisce about the leather bikini.

* I like a busy TARDIS, and I like Rory, so this is where the Eleventh Doctor’s era really kicks off for me, establishing a status quo that would last for all but half a series of his time on the show. Amy and Rory both seem slightly grumpy about the other one being there at first, which makes you think it’s going to go the same way as Rose and Mickey, and would have raised some worrying questions about The Doctor making the unilateral decision that this independent young woman needs her fiance around to keep her in check.

* However, thankfully, these initial worries are steered well clear of, and by the end of the episode everyone’s happy with the new set-up, and it feels like the final piece of the jigsaw is now in place. Rory knows what The Doctor is about, and is not afraid to call him out on his bullshit where necessary, but at the same time they’re not going to be competing in masculinity-offs for Amy’s attention, as neither of them are that type of guy. Crucially, it’s Amy who’s the alpha of the group – The Doctor is obviously still going to be in charge of fighting the aliens and whatnot, but on a day-to-day basis, she’s damned if either of those men will tell her what she can and can’t do.

* Helen McRory! Thankfully not doing the dreadful Brummie accent that makes me twitch every time I watch Peaky Blinders. She’s great as a very traditional vampire matriarch, which reminded me a little of State of Decay, for obvious reasons. This being Doctor Who, the vampires are in fact space piranhas with perception filters, and there’s a scientific explanation for all their characteristics. These ones aren’t susceptible to crucifixes, but they can be halted by “your mum” jokes.

* Hartnell on a library card. (I have nothing to add to this note I wrote during the episode, other than perhaps “I know, I know it’s serious”.)

* The Silence are mentioned for the first time, in conjunction with the cracks. As I’ve only watched most of these episodes once before, I can’t quite remember whether they’re referring to The Silence or just some actual silence. Rosanna says something about having seen the (S/s)ilence through the crack, so you’d think that if she’d seen The Silence, she wouldn’t have remembered it.

* Soon after this, The Doctor decides to fight the vampires because Rosanna couldn’t remember the name of one of her victims. This is another trait of the Eleventh Doctor’s that’s emerged: he’s as compassionate and open-minded as any other Doctor, but once you’ve offended his sense of right and wrong, he will have no compunction whatsoever about fucking you up.

* Any plot that climaxes with The Doctor having to climb a tall structure is to be distrusted. It’s a quick and unimaginative way of creating tension, which this episode certainly seems to lack – the character stuff is great, but the story itself is a little by-the-numbers, and completely unremarkable.


The Eleventh Hour

* This is hands down one of my favourite episodes ever. I have such fond memories of its debut – a big group of us all watching together for the first time in ages, and it was one of the last times as it happens, as work and families and geography started getting in the way. It was such a joyous occasion, not just because the episode was amazing, but because it was such a relief. I remember having serious reservations about both Matt and Karen – he was so young and she just didn’t seem to fit with him. It didn’t take me long to realise my fears were completely unfounded.

* I’m not a fan of the new theme tune – the extra elements at the start drown out the bassline, which takes it too far away from the spirit of the original. The new title sequence isn’t too bad; it’s a nice evolution of the previous one, rather than unnecessarily reinventing the wheel, but the effects haven’t aged particularly well, considering it’s only been seven years. Knowing how that version of the logo developed over time, it now seems weird to see the big “DW” thing in the middle, but I must admit I like how it animates into the TARDIS here. But the middle eight has gone from the end theme. Boo.

* I adore little Amelia Pond, and I adore that Moffat found an entirely new way of introducing a companion. It’s such a mission statement for the new regime – funny, clever, a hint of menace, and a timey-wimey twist at its heart. It’s exactly what you want from Moffat’s Who. And then the sight of her sitting on her suitcase, just waiting, is heartbreaking.

* What. A. Guest. Cast. Nina Wadia! Olivia Colman! Perry Benson! Annette Crosbie! Patrick Moore, the one-eyed right-wing astronomer! All of these people (apart from the last one) deserve to have had much more substantial roles in Doctor Who. It’s absolutely inconceivable now that you’d cast an actor of Olivia Colman’s caliber in such a tiny part.

* New additions to the list of things that Moffat wants to make children scared of: cracks in the wall, and literally anything that’s in the corner of your eye.

* Despite my love for this episode, I barely remembered anything about Prisoner Zero or the Atraxi. You’d have thought the godawful CGI would have stuck in my mind. But the story is so much about The Eleventh Doctor, Amy and their relationship that nothing else is important – the plot itself is just there to give them something to do while they get to know each other.

* In fact, it’s easy to forget that this episode actually introduces two companions, although Rory is still some distance away from reaching that status yet. He’s much more of a prat at this stage than he’d later become, but he plays the role he was given well. He’s already streaks ahead of Mickey when he was merely the slightly pathetic boyfriend; his insecurity about The Doctor describing Jeff as “the good looking one” tells us so much about his and Amy’s relationship.

* The Doctor finding his new outfit is a fine and noble tradition, and I had a huge grin on my face throughout the Atraxi showdown, which was essentially both The Doctor and Steven Moffat showing off and telling everyone to stay tuned. I obviously loved all the old footage, which included a glimpse of a Sea Devil, of all things. And then stepping through Tennant’s face to reveal the finished article – The Eleventh Doctor in full outfit, complete with bow tie. Perfection.

* I also love how The Doctor is so excited to see the new TARDIS interior. The episode seems to suggest that it regenerates too, and that you never know what you’re going to get when that happens, just like with a Time Lord. Crucially, we don’t see it until Amy does, confirming her position as the new focal point for the audience. Overall, I preferred the aesthetic of the previous one, but I do like all the weird and wonderful gadgets that make up the controls. The Doctor is a mad man in an equally mad box.

* Favourite lines that I’d previously forgotten: “You’re Scottish, fry something.” / “Carrots? Are you insane?” / “They’re all terrified of wood.” / “I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.” Other comedic highlights include The Doctor making an old woman’s mobility scooter whizz off on its own, and the inclusion in a list of prominent social networks of Bebo.