The twelfth episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who, “The Pandorica Opens” is not only the penultimate episode, it also seems to portent the end of the universe as well. It all seems pretty grim as the truth behind the cracks in the universe is revealed, and our heroes are left in dire situations with no apparent way out. It’s a cliffhanger reminiscent of the classic series. But like many of the episodes in this series, it ends up being rather uneven in its consistency.
The episode starts with Van Gough in another depression after having just painted a picture that we can’t see. Jump 50 years to World War II and Professor Bracewell, who is talking to Churchill about the same painting. This prompts a call to the Doctor, but gets routed instead to River Song, who is once again in prison. She escapes and goes to the Spaceship Britain to retrieve the painting, but not before running into Liz X. Then it’s another improbably message from River to the Doctor that sends him and Amy back to Earth, England, circa 102 AD to search for the legendary Pandorica.
It doesn’t take long for the Pandorica to be found. Considering where they are, it’s not too surprising where it’s found either. Stonehenge has been everything from a map of ancient sites, or a machine of the apocalypse, so it can’t be too surprising have a giant mythic box under it. The majority of the episode is taken up with the mystery of the Pandorica. The Doctor recounts the legends of who is supposed to be inside,and it turns out to have a connection to Amy (again), as she states the myth of Pandora’s Box was a favorite of hers. Moffat pulls off another twist though, as it becomes not an issue of who is inside, but who is going inside. If you listen to the Doctor’s description of who’s supposed to be inside, it not that much of a surprise. Though I like my interpretation. In the myth, Pandora’s box was closed before hope could escape, therefore, despite all the other problems, humanity would always have hope.
The Pandorica’s opening also attracts a lot of unwanted visitors, as Earth’s skies are filled with spaceships belonging to many of the Doctor’s enemies. He gives a “you don’t want to mess with me” speech, filled again with all the arrogance that only the Doctor can espouse and get away with. And it seems he does again too, but we finally see this arrogance become his downfall. He lets his guard down and falls right into his enemies trap. I had a real problem with the scene with the enemies. Every race in the universe does not have the ability to time travel like the Doctor. The Daleks do, yes, but the Sontarans, Cybermen (from alternate universe) and Nestene do not. And what were the Silurians doing there? That clan won’t have a beef with the Doctor until 2020, so what are they doing in 101 BC? They are advanced, but not that advanced, otherwise they wouldn’t need to be in suspended animation. It was a cool concept, to have the Doctor walked past his enemies, but it just wasn’t realistic. And the Daleks working together, with anyone without their own agenda? Doesn’t happen, period.
This episode brings up a lot more questions than it answers. Why Amy? Why her wall? Why her memories? Why is the TARDIS going to explode? Absolutely nothing is done to explain, or even explore why the TARDIS might be unstable or on the verge of exploding. We see the TARDIS having problems here and there throughout the series, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the old girl. She’s always had her eccentricities, just like the Doctor. But I really think if something was really wrong with her, the Doctor could have and should have noticed. He is psychically linked with the TARDIS. It’s not just a space ship, and especially not to him. That’s what makes the scene when she takes River back to Amy’s house so troubling. A voice is heard again saying “Silence will fall”, just before the console monitor cracks. But what does that really mean? Is it the silence at the end of the universe? Or is it something else? And who or what could affect the TARDIS like that, or worse, make her explode?
As cliffhangers go, this one is a good one. A character from previous episodes returns, and there are some good shocks. Amy being menaced by the damaged Cyberman was especially good, and the final scene before the credits was visually stunning if not disheartening. You really wonder after that, how can there be an episode thirteen? Moffat will need to pull some really big rabbits from his hat to tie this up into a happy ending and/or lead in to the Christmas Special.