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New Who 5.12: The Pandorica Opens

Well, that was pretty damned clever, wasn't it? RTD set out explicitly to ask questions which Classic Who had always left unresolved - like what about the companions' families? And what happens to them after they've left the TARDIS? Now Moffat is doing the same thing, but on the level of grand plots rather than small, human characters. What if all the Doctor's enemies worked together for once? And what if he was the one causing the universe to implode? They're important questions, and it's great to see them being explored.

I'm very impressed by all the people over on doctorwho who have been insisting for weeks that they saw someone moving around in Amy's house with a torch before Amy and the Doctor had got in there at the end of Flesh and Stone. We now know that they were dead right, and it was River. And I'm entirely prepared to believe that there will be more of this. Maybe jacket!Doctor is a projection of himself which he somehow manages from within the Pandorica? Not substantial enough to really do anything in the immediate present, but capable of projecting himself into bits of his own past to direct Amy (who surely won't really be dead) in the way he needs?

River generally was cool, of course. Very James Bondish, offering the blue guy in the bar the cure to the micro-explosives she's just slipped into his drink. And I also liked the idea of the Doctor's massed adversaries drawing on all Amy's childhood memories to create a scenario that she would believe, and that would therefore draw him in. I thought that was a nice comment on the role of the companion in helping the Doctor to connect meaningfully with the worlds and people he encounters.

Obviously the Romans were great, even when they turned out to be fake plastic Romans. In fact, I thought the way they were handled was very clever, really. Because what can the Romans ever be to us but pictures in books and little plastic soldiers which we bring to life with our minds? Normally Doctor Who indulges us in the fantasy that we can travel into the reality of the past - at least vicariously through the Doctor and his companions, anyway. But this time it made us think we were meeting real Romans, and then pulled the rug from under that, and made them explicitly fake after all. Very, very meta-referential.

Yet at the same time, the Doctor also keeps telling us that "if something can be remembered, it can come back". Obviously the immediate in-plot resonances of this are to do with Amy and Rory. But it's also as though, at the same time that Moffat is reminding us that Romans-on-TV aren't real, he's also saying that the real past does have genuine power and presence so long as we collectively remember it. I am so glad that Moffat chose to hang all this around an example from ancient history, rather than any other time period. ♥.

But that wasn't the only fun Moffat was having with history anyway. Amy's question about why Stonehenge doesn't look new in AD 102 draws our attention to how hard it is for human beings to really grasp the concept of long time periods. River playing at being Cleopatra in AD 102, and all the Roman legionaries falling for it, was good too - and in retrospect a pointer to the fact that none of the legionaries themselves were 'real' historical personalities either. And I couldn't help but fixate on the Doctor's line to Rory: "She's Amy and she's surrounded by Romans. Not sure history can take it." I know it was primarily just a joke, but there's a little baby nod to the idea of the Doctor as a defender of the course of Earth history in there somewhere, too.

And letting River get to start history off with the earliest written inscription was awesome! The Greek lettering, incidentally, began with the letters 'Theta Sigma' - i.e. the Doctor's Academy nickname. The rest didn't seem to mean anything I could work out, though. They ran 'Phi GAP Gamma Upsilon Delta an-archaic-form-of-Sigma'. It would be very odd to use that last letter in an inscription which also has the more regular classical-period Sigma; and I can't really make any sense out of the rest. So I guess it is either just meant to be the coordinates that the Doctor is talking about in the next scene, or maybe 'hello' in Old High Gallifreyan (to go with 'Theta Sigma' essentially meaning 'sweetie').

A few random questions which occurred to me:
  • How does hallucinogenic lipstick actually work? Doesn't it affect the wearer, as well as people she kisses?
  • What's the stone wall which River sees when she opens the TARDIS doors? Is it part of Stonehenge? Surely the TARDIS explosion can't blow up Stonehenge - especially since it seemed to be in exactly the same state of ruination which it is now already.
  • If the whole thing with the Pandorica is a trap set up by the Doctor's collected enemies, who damaged that Cyberman that was left lying around in pieces at Stonehenge? There's clearly been some kind of fight, there - so who was involved?
  • I know it isn't really likely to happen for boring real-world reasons. But if the Pandorica combined with Stonehenge is broadcasting a signal which brings the Eleventh Doctor to see what's going on, isn't is just possible that earlier Doctors (or indeed later ones, for that matter), might hear it too? Even just the Tenth would be nice.


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Comments

damien_mocata
Jun. 20th, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
My opinionated answers to your random questions:

How does hallucinogenic lipstick actually work? Doesn't it affect the wearer, as well as people she kisses?

My presumption is that it's something that River is possibly immune to, by some way of application (like never letting her lips touch), or that she's engineered immune to (having a gene sequence immunity).

What's the stone wall which River sees when she opens the TARDIS doors? Is it part of Stonehenge? Surely the TARDIS explosion can't blow up Stonehenge - especially since it seemed to be in exactly the same state of ruination which it is now already.

This wouldn't be the first time the TARDIS has done something metaphoric as a literal suggestion. After all, back in "The Edge of Destruction", the clock runs backward and melts because they're running out of time. I get the feeling the wall is a metaphor for "We should never have come here because we'll never leave. "

If the whole thing with the Pandorica is a trap set up by the Doctor's collected enemies, who damaged that Cyberman that was left lying around in pieces at Stonehenge? There's clearly been some kind of fight, there - so who was involved?

The Doctor does mention that the locals (i.e. Celts) are violent, and as Roman weapons are shown to actually kill and dismember a Cyberman, I imagine it's someone on Earth. Big question is why was the stupid thing wandering around outside it's ward?


I know it isn't really likely to happen for boring real-world reasons. But if the Pandorica combined with Stonehenge is broadcasting a signal which brings the Eleventh Doctor to see what's going on, isn't is just possible that earlier Doctors (or indeed later ones, for that matter), might hear it too? Even just the Tenth would be nice.

I don't think any Doctor can receive the signal because it's been engineered so that he can't! After all, The Daleks are now (in theory) the only race out there that can reliably time travel, so perhaps the signal is invisible to detection by a TARDIS (that said, I think the line of "The Doctor is the only one who can operate the TARDIS" was a bit daft, mainly because Daleks can operate their own damn ones!

As an aside, something must have brought all those aliens there in the first place. We know Sontarans don't have time travel, and without using Untelevised adventures, not all those races have encountered the Doctor at this stage of Time.
strange_complex
Jun. 20th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
On the last point, I guess that makes it likely that the Daleks are leading the alliance. Part of their preparations could have included zipping around time to pick up other races from the times when they had developed an enmity towards the Doctor.
rhube
Jun. 20th, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
This would also explain the confusion between Nestine autons and Dalek duplicates. The Doctor talks about a duplicate of Nestine design. Which is possibly sloppy thinking, or lack of Old Skool knowledge, but I'd like it better if they were a hybrid of duplicate and auton technology, formed of the alliance.
swisstone
Jun. 21st, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
We know Sontarans don't have time travel

Don't they? Has Time Warrior been retconned out?
damien_mocata
Jun. 21st, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Pretty much. In The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, Staal mentions that they weren't allowed to take part in the Time War. That certainly implies they don't have reliable time travel to fight in it.

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