Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Big Bang: Big, Broad, Massive & Hard

'There's no such thing as stars!'

And so, a road well-travelled comes to an agonising end. And an end, at that, with some real surprises bordering it. Not initially, of course. We start the road much where we finished off last week. Amy's still dead, Rory's still plastic, the Doctor's still trapped in the big, massive, box-type thingy. River's ... God only knows where in an exploding TARDIS. Then, things change. And change, as we all know, is all about the passage of time. 'Okay, kid, this is where it gets complicated!' Indeed. The lights are going out across the universe. Even in Leadworth. Time's a funny thing though, because meanwhile (and, by meanwhile, I actually mean eighteen hundred odd years ago), Plastic-Roman-Rory is sadly telling Still-Dead-Amy 'so, the universe ended. You missed that.' And then, the Doctor arrives, wearing a Tommy Cooper fez, carrying a mop and coming, it would seem, from the future. 'I've got a future?' he asks when Rory gets him (or, rather, present-him rather than future-him) out of the Pandorica. With me so far? Good.

What happens thereafter, is that The Big Bang works. It shouldn't. It really shouldn't. I can't quite explain why, because it's madly entertaining and dramatic and funny and all of the things that you'd want it to be. But, on paper, it shouldn't work. It's mad. It's off the map. It's full of really intense emotional moments - beautifully acted by all concerned, incidentally - but mixed with more slapstick than you'd find at a Three Stooges convention. This is, I reckon anyway, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat saying, finally, 'Do you know what I'm going to do in this week's Doctor Who? ANYTHING I BLOODY WELL LIKE!!!!' And he does. And it works. Again, to repeat, it shouldn't. But it does. 'The Doctor said the Universe was huge and ridiculous and sometimes there were miracles. I could do with a ridiculous miracle about now.'

The 'two Amys' sequence is quite brilliant. Touching, but also witty and full of smart little directorial touches (like much of the rest of the episode. Real words of praise for Toby Haynes there). The other two scenes that stand-out - themeatically - from the rest of the episode are, firstly, Rory's heroism, sacrificing millennia of his plastic life for the woman he loves. 'Why do you have to be so ... human?' asks the Doctor with pointed and delicious irony. The other stand-out scene is when the Doctor is saying goodbye to Amy as he prepares to set the controls of the Pandorica for the heart of the exploding-TARDIS-sun. When Matt Smith calls Karen Gillan 'Amy Pond, the little girl who waited,' you will be reaching for tissues and snivelling like a good'un. Later, there's an even more weepy moment - and equally well played - when the Doctor tells a sleeping Little Amy that he has no regrets about being entirely wiped from history which appears to be his fate. 'We're all stories in the end. Just, make it a good one!'

I loved the really clever 'vortex manipulator' sequence in which a long-winded explanation about time reversal is, essentially, thrown away in ten seconds of anti-explanation; an extraordinary 'it's ... a thing, all right?' moment. Because, it doesn't matter. It only matters if you want it to matter. This isn't a story about the end - and the beginning - of the universe. Not really. It's a story about people. It's, actually, interestingly, a regeneration story without a regeneration. (Or, technically, with millions of regenerations.) And the script was funny, too. Little Amy apologising for knocking over the plastic penguins. 'Today, just dying is a result!' The Richard Dawkins joke. 'Hi honey, I'm home' to which River replies 'And, what time do you call this?!' Then there's 'I dated a Nestene Duplicate once. Swapable head!' Speaking of River Song (Alex Kingston is, again, wonderfully dry and pithy in this episode) she also gets to face-off with a Dalek which begs her for mercy. 'I'm River Song. Check your records again.' And, meanwhile, Matt Smith gets one of Steven Moffat's best ever lines of dialogue: 'Get that look off your plastic face, you're getting married in the morning!'

'If all the stars that ever existed are gone, then what is that?' asks the Doctor. It's something which even he cannot escape from. Or, so he believes, anyway. But, see, that's the other thing that The Big Bang (and, indeed, the whole of this series) has been about. Belief, in all its forms. 'Okay, so I escaped, then. I love it when I do that!' Unfortunately, he hasn't. As he soon discovers. 'I think I'll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats.' But, he's clever, the Doctor. He's planted a seed in Amy's mind: 'You'll dream about that box. It'll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever. And the times we had, eh? Would've had. Never had. In your dreams they'll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond and the days that never came.' And, in doing so, the happy ending - for the Doctor, Amy and Rory, at least - is well and truly complete. 'I only came for the dancing!'

So, they pulled it off. I didn't think they were going to for a while. It was big and shouty and mad as a box of badgers and I was loving every single minute of it but I kept on thinking, 'there's going to be a cop-out here. There has to be.' And, maybe there was. I'm not sure but, frankly, I don't care. I know there'll be some complaints, there always are. In fact, I know for a fact that within seconds of the episode finishing a number - a small number, admittedly - of sour-faced, thin-lipped, bile-spewing less-clever-than-they-think-they-are malcontents would have been filling the Internet with venomous spittal about how much they hated it and how better it would have been if they'd done this or that or the other instead. Maybe. Me, I prefer seeing Matt Smith dancing like a radish. I prefer happy endings. I prefer three in a TARDIS crew and the fact that we're going to be seeing some more of Rory. (I actually shouted 'yes' at that point! I know, I'm sad. Deal with it.) The wedding sequence, lightweight of not, had me punching the air that this mad, daft little show about time travel and space monsters just will not stop giving me pleasure. 'You always dance at weddings!' It's been doing so all my life. One day it might cease to be something I enjoy. One day I may watch Doctor Who and suddenly think, 'hey, I'm too old for this. I'm too old to revel in the dream of children any longer. I shouldn't have to suffer the mocking of, supposedly, more "grown up" people.' Sod 'em. What's their great contribution to society, then? I hope that if that does ever happen, somebody shoots me in the head about ten seconds later. Samuel Johnson once said 'if you are tired of London, you are tired of life.' (Thanks to two dear blog readers for pointing that out, I'd always thought it was Oscar Wilde! A little learning is a dangerous thing, it would seem. Mind you, I've also had correspondence with someone who believed it was Samuel Pepys as well!) Me, I grew tried of London decades ago. But I hope that I will never, ever grow tired of Doctor Who.

Is it nearly Christmas yet?


Anonymous said...

Great, a lovely exuberant review, completely in tune with the episode! The Big Bang was packed with great lines, crazy ideas, and sudden shocks of emotion. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, Mr. Topping!

Robin Brown said...

It shouldn't work but it did sums it up pretty well, but every season climax seems to raise the stakes even higher.

In the run up to - or actually in - this episode, all the regular died and the universe ended. Then everything came back to life. How do you top that?

If this was season five with Tennant and RTD I suspect I may finally have become bored of Doctor Who, but I loved Matt Smith, and the other regulars were great too. And the whole essence of it just seemed perfect.

Roll on Xmas indeed.