KT graffitied the oldest cliff face in the universe because you wouldn’t answer your phone.
DOCTOR WHO: 5.12 “The Pandorica Opens”
Welcome to part one of the season finale! Catch your breath now, because we’re about to do a lot of running. I’ll try to catch my breath now too, because I think I’m going to do a lot of talking about this one.
We open with another humdinger of an opening sequence, revisiting a host of people I didn’t expect to see again. Vincent Van Gogh moans in bed over a troubling painting he’s just completed. In the 1941, the picture is discovered in a French attic and gets sent to Churchill, who recognizes it as a message for the Doctor and attempts to phone him – but instead the call goes to River Song, sitting in prison in 5145. She tracks down the painting in her time, running into Liz Ten in the process, then bargains for a vortex manipulator (procured off a Time Agent, naturally, though not Jack) so she can leave another “Hello, sweetie” for the Doctor.
Amy and the Doctor find River dressed up as Cleopatra, sitting in the middle of a Roman Army camp in first century Britain. It’s all wild and clever and very funny, except for the painting itself. It shows the TARDIS exploding, and that’s pretty worrisome – companions can die, the Doctor can regenerate, but there’s really no show without the TARDIS. (Of course, since there’s no show without it, there’s really no reason to worry, but let’s not get that cynical so soon.)
Regardless, the story quickly shifts focus to the Pandorica that River mentioned back at the end of the Weeping Angel adventure. Despite the Doctor’s insistence that it’s a fairy tale, they find it in a barrow under Stonehenge: a massive stone box with runes carved into it.
The writing here is very clever as River and the Doctor explain the Pandorica legend to Amy. The Doctor describes the feared being inside the box as a “goblin or a trickster or a warrior” that “would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.” It was tricked into the Pandorica by a good wizard, he says, and then River has a line designed to throw us off: “I hate good wizards in fairy tales,” she says, “they always turn out to be him.” But don’t pay too much attention to her: listen to the Doctor and check out the self-portrait he just painted.
Before you can put too much thought into that, though, our characters realize that they aren’t the only ones who have learned that the Pandorica is opening. Starting with Daleks, River reels off an impressive list of Who villains that are suddenly waiting in orbit. But the Doctor realizes the one resource at his fingertips: the local Roman legion. That one tripped my “oh, please” meters a little — not that the Romans weren’t an impressive military force, merely that their technology is so ridiculously outclassed by all these aliens with various kinds of ray guns. But off we go to round up some Romans all the same — and to be fair, the next scene more than mollified my skepticism because it’s a very cool conversation between River and the Roman commander about how barbarians might view more advanced invaders.
[Meanwhile, after the jump…]
Meanwhile the Doctor continues to poke at the Pandorica and Amy takes the opportunity to ask him about the engagement ring that she doesn’t remember is actually hers. Amusingly, she assumes he plans to propose to someone (probably River), but we quickly transition into a quiet, bittersweet moment in which it is impressed on all of us that nothing is ever really forgotten and anything that can be remembered can maybe come back. Oh yeah, we’re getting Rory back, one way or another. Then we get a tantalizing reference to Amy’s big, mostly empty house and how her life doesn’t make any sense, but we’re interrupted by a Cyberman’s arm that suddenly comes back to life. Erm, well, “life,” I guess. Followed by the head, which is kind of hilarious in a pulp horror kind of way.
Just in time to save the day is a mysterious Roman centurion who turns out to be… Rory! Amy faints on sight, but when the Doctor comes in, distracted by the Cyberman and its weapons and the appearance of the Roman soldiers it takes him a good long speech before he finally turns around and realizes that RORY IS BACK AND THIS IS BIG, and just to make the whole thing funnier, the conversation that follows is understated and awkward and the whole scene is just great.
And then the Pandorica lights up and starts to open. The Doctor goes up to the middle of Stonehenge and makes a rousing — and rousingly shot — speech to all his foes about how he stands between all of them and this stone box they’re apparently after. That’s about to be ironically funny in about ten minutes.
But Amy doesn’t remember Rory, Rory is struggling with the fact of his own existence, and as River struggles with the TARDIS, she winds up in Amy’s house. Troublingly, there’s a storybook version of Pandora’s Box and a book about Roman Britain — starring the specific Romans from the first century camp — and a snapshot of Rory and Amy at a costume party. The eerie music takes over. River gives the Doctor an Admiral Ackbar warning while Amy’s brain struggles to rember Rory even as she’s crying tears of joy. Then we figure out what the Romans actually are. Even Rory. We know as soon as their plastic hands break open to reveal a machine gun. And of course Amy remembers her Rory just as he becomes a very great danger to her.
Then everyone starts to arrive. Daleks, Cybermen, Judoon, Sontarans, all announcing that the Pandorica is ready. It’s empty, of course, ready for the Doctor. His enemies, having deduced that the exploding TARDIS will destroy the universe, have allied to trap him.
It all looks very dire. The Doctor is strapped into the Pandorica. River is trapped inside the exploding TARDIS. Rory sits with a dying Amy in his arms. And then the stars start to go out.