Last week was a hell of a cliffhanger and the start of a massive call to arms. This week we discover that the answer to the question “Where is the worst place in the universe to be standing?” is easily found out when you kidnap Amy Pond. A baby is born, a baby is kidnapped, a trap is sprung, some old friends return for the first time, we finally discover who River Song is, and this week on Doctor Who we discover that a battle can be lost and won simultaneously and that demons run when “A Good Man Goes To War.”
Last week on Doctor Who we got James Corden and low fi crazy roommate drama and this week, but this week as “The Pandorica Opens,” we got possibly one of the biggest, craziest episodes of the show ever.
Somehow the stakes are even higher than they were in “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End” and all the teases from this past season and from across time and space start to coalesce into something, like a puzzle assembling itself. Much like the Pandorica itself, a nasty puzzle box that was dreamt up in the mind of a little girl and can unlock itself from the inside…
Last week it was all about fighting invisible chicken monsters from outer space and getting inside the lonely, tragic head of a challenged painter who didn’t realize how important he would be in the eyes of all those who looked upon his works…
And that’s this weeks’ episode, “The Lodger,” written by Gareth Roberts and featuring James Corden, whom I don’t think many outside of England will know, and I don’t know much about him either, except that he was going to be in this episode and, of course, was recently a dick to Patrick Stewart:
A lot of times after viewing an episode and before I write one of these things, I’ll do a quick scan online to see where my feelings fit in with the rest of the online, er, “community,” and usually, it’s a match. Well, for the most part. This week, I have to say, I was quite shocked to find that most of the viewers loved this episode, and perhaps more than loved it. In the typical fashion of any television show reaching the conclusion of it’s season, there’s the slow down before the great big ramp up and exit, and many online compared to this to “Love And Monsters” and “Fear Her,” and how much better tonight’s episode was compared to those, though I didn’t dislike those episodes or look upon them negatively at all. At least not “Love And Monsters.” Though none of them will compared to “Utopia,” of course.
And don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t hate “The Lodger,” not at all. It was quite fine, actually, but I’m starting to notice perhaps the tiniest thread of disconnect between myself and other Doctor Who fans out there. Many, it seems, are quite eager to proclaim this new season the best yet (since the revival started, I imagine, and probably before as well), and I don’t know that I would go that far just yet.
That said, I really did like this episode, maybe not as much as others, but it was very good. The Eleventh Doctor, left behind by a manufacturing TARDIS, and having to spend a few days pretending to be a normal human as he figures out and tries to stop whatever it is that’s interfering with his time machine. Brilliant set up. I tend to like all forms of (good) sci fi, but especially that which pulls it out of space and tentacle rape and girls with three tits and brings it down to Earth in a normal setting, showing humans dealing with the fantastic. And this episode did that, even though it appeared to be more of a showcase for just how weird Matt Smith’s incarnation of the Doctor is.
That and, in case you didn’t know, that Matt Smith was just this close to becoming a professional footballer (that’s soccer for those of us stateside), until an injury derailed that and set him down the path towards acting.
Even more interesting to me is that the initial story to this episode started off as a comic strip in the Doctor Who magazine, and I always love that this show will mine other sources for it’s stories and adapt them. For example, Moffat’s own “Blink” was initially a short story starring a much younger version of Sally Sparrow, and the lovely two parter “The Family Of Blood” and “Human Nature” were based on a previous Doctor Who novel. Those two episodes, in particular, make you wonder why the Doctor would choose to go by “The Doctor” in this episode rather than his go to nom de plume of “John Smith.”
From what I can surmise though, the initial comic strip featured a then new Tenth Doctor getting separated from Rose and the TARDIS and having to move in with Mickey Smith for a week. Interesting enough, the angle of the comic strip was apparently how normal and more human-like David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was than his predecessor and how much of an irritant that was to Mickey Smith, how that split him from Rose even more. And I think that’s a more than valid point, especially since Tennant’s Doctor was so likable, and in such a human way, and was more prone to walk into any situation and master it within moments and get everyone on his side.
And I think it’s interesting how they flipped that with Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, almost making him the exact opposite of his predecessor, all bow ties and weird hair and an alien understanding of the normality of the humanity he seems so obsessed with. Whereas Tennant’s Doctor read the last Harry Potter book and cried or loves chips (french fries), Smith’s Doctor can’t tell how time progresses for normal humans or how to properly greet someone in a particular era. He has blithe, slightly telepathic conversations with cats and, thanks to slightly rushed feeling writing, head butts people in a rather slapstick fashion to pass along quick psychic infodumps.
And for a quirky, amusing story, I should add that the humor wasn’t unwelcome, but as I believe I said last week, I’m eagerly awaiting next week’s return of Moffat and the deadly seriousness he can bring. In my wildest dreams, Moffat would write like ten out of a given series’ 13 episodes. I know, I know, that’s insane. But just imagine it.
That said, again, liked the episode, but thought parts of it were a bit rushed feeling. The silhouetted villains at the top of the stairs and the flickering lights were brilliant, but let’s face it, kids are fucking terrifying. At least to me. I thought the notion of an alien ship trying to built itself a TARDIS left me more curious and intrigued than the episode probably meant to do and I liked the cameo of Van Gogh again (on the fridge)(and rumor has it that another Van Gogh appearance is slated for next week).
And despite all his quirks and brain being in a million different places other than right here and now, the Doctor seems a bit lazy and pedestrian (again, perhaps that’s merely the writing) in tackling the unseen menace upstairs. And in that infodump of the Doctor’s history, we get yet another roll call of previous Doctors. Makes you wonder if the show is still struggling to cement Matt Smith’s place in the history of these other incarnations or if it’s going somewhere next week, with the Doctor perhaps finding himself erased from history…
And if the episode had one major flaw, it’s something the last few episodes have shared: Not enough Amy Pond. She started off so strong this season and then was a bit wasted. But now’s found the engagement ring hidden there in the Doctor’s coat and perhaps she’s remembered Rory? Or perhaps it’s something else all together, but either way, part of me is glad this season is ending now. It’s been a fun ride and especially after tonight’s brief landing with a group of ordinary people who are fine going nowhere in their lives, I’m happy to follow the Doctor and Amy Pond and River Song as they zoom off into time and space and adventure…
Next time: Time and space and adventure! River Song returns and accompanies the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge. The return of a whole slew of nasty monsters and villains. Rory the Roman! And perhaps, at last, the Pandorica opens…
And that’s where we were left with last week’s episode of Doctor Who as the Doctor, Amy, River Song, and Father Octavian and his clerics were surrounded by the advancing Weeping Angels. The cliffhanger was deadly and our characters were down so low that they had only one way left to go… Up.
As promised at the end of last week’s episode, this week on Doctor Who we’re in the middle of London during the Blitz, sitting in cabinet war meetings with massive lion that is Winston Churchill and meeting with England’s new weapon against the Nazi Menace…
The humans call them “Ironsides,” thinking they’re a brand new creation, but they don’t realize just how old and deceptive and evil these metal incased creatures are, nor that they’re the Doctor’s oldest and most nefarious enemies, the Daleks.
And quite a victory it is. Not to get too spoilery here for you, but the Daleks don’t have some massive plan for conquest there in the past. They can’t. After their last encounter with the Doctor (in series four’s “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End”), they’re broken, weak, unworthy of their own Nazi-ish ideals of what their master race should be. Of course they survived that encounter though. Much like the Doctor, they always survive.
I remember having a good laugh with the denouement in that two parter in the last proper series of what the Daleks and Davros’ big plan was – the utter destruction of all reality, literally the end of all creation except for themselves – because we knew that Steven Moffat was taking over and I saw it as Russell T. Davies saying to his creator, “Ha! Take that. There’s no greater evil master plan than the attempt to destroy all reality, is there?” I’m sure Moffat isn’t afraid to take the challenge, but this episode wasn’t about that. This was about rebuilding his inherited Doctor Who mythos, bringing the Daleks back in a one off episode, showing that the Doctor does have enemies, does have desires for revenge and feels fear, and then moving this particular menace to the background, only to return at some point in the future.
Not a bad episode though, just filler, it felt like, no matter how fun it was. Mark Gattis delivers strong writing and Ian McNeice is lively as a caricature of Churchill. And Amy Pond gets another opportunity to show that she’s lively and amazing. Also, we get nutty android professors and a silly but amazing looking dogfight between British spitfires and the Dalek mothership in orbit above the Earth.
More importantly we get the return of the mysterious crack in time and space and a nod towards the bigger mystery than we’ve started to suspect was dangling before us: What year exactly is Amy Pond from?