A series of events ripples through time and space upon the completion of Vincent Van Gogh‘s latest painting depicting the fiery destruction of the TARDIS. Many of the Doctor’s friends and allies encounter the painting through time, from Winston Churchill to Liz 10 to, finally, River Song. River draws the Doctor to Earth at the time of the Roman Empire to show him the painting, which she believes is a warning Van Gogh received in a vision. Within the painting itself is a time and a location, leading the Doctor, Amy and River to Stonehenge.
The Doctor finds a chamber beneath Stonehenge, containing a large, cubical object of alien origin: the Pandorica, something which River has mentioned before but the Doctor believed was a myth. But before the Doctor can investigate or open the Pandorica, dozens of alien ships descend into the sky over Stonehenge: many of the Doctor’s enemies have come to call. While he bluffs his would-be captors into leaving, River attempts to move the TARDIS closer to the Pandorica, but the timeship begins behaving erratically and is flung violently through the time vortex. It begins to seem as though the Doctor is destined not to be at the controls of the TARDIS when it suffers the fate forseen by Van Gogh.
The Doctor’s enemies return to Stonehenge, and only then does the Doctor realize the horrifying truth: the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and many more have set aside their differences to conspire against their greatest enemy. With their combined forces against him, the Doctor may be doomed, and the universe along with him.
written by Steven Moffat
directed by Toby Haynes
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Alex Kingston (River Song), Arthur Darvill (Rory), Tony Curran (Vincent), Bill Paterson (Bracewell), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Sophie Okonedo (Liz Ten), Marcus O’Donovan (Claudio), Clive Wood (Commander), Christopher Ryan (Commander Stark), Ruari Mears (Cyber Leader), Paul Kasey (Judoon), Howard Lee (Doctor Gachet), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek), Simon Fisher Becker (Dorium), Joe Jacobs (Guard), Chrissie Cotterill (Madame Vernet), David Fynn (Marcellus), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek / Cyberman / Judoon voices)
Notes: This marks the first time Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans have all shared the screen in anything other than a flashback (if one wishes to count flashbacks, however, the first time would have been during the flashbacks experienced by the fourth Doctor at the end of part 4 of Logopolis). Classic Doctor Who aliens name-checked but not seen include Drahvins (Galaxy Four), Zygons (Terror Of The Zygons), and curiously, the Chelonians, a reptilian warrior race introduced in the New Adventures novels published in the 1990s (specifically, in “The Highest Science”). This marks the first time that an element specific to the New Adventures has been acknowledged by the new TV series. The Slitheen are also mentioned, but are not seen.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: The first half of Steven Moffat’s two-part season finale takes off at thundering speed, rocketing through callbacks to many of the season’s episodes and characters, connecting the dots and tightening the various loose plot threads of the season together. The real question is: can Moffat bring it all home with a satisfying conclusion?
The answer to that question really has to be answered by the second part, but where The Pandorica Opens is concerned, it’s obvious (as if we didn’t already know this) that Moffat can construct a cracking cliffhanger. How can you beat the whole universe fading to black and suddenly going silent? (And more to the point, how do you recover from it and tell another episode’s worth of story?)
Pandorica spends quite a bit of time on the re-introduction of Rory, only to bring our expectations for his inevitable reunion with Amy crashing down with the realization that he’s not who we thought he was – and may never have been. Arthur Darvill gives his best performance yet in the role, getting to show a much more serious side of Rory than we’ve seen thus far. Maybe serious isn’t the word – maybe “tragic” fits the bill better. Also returning is Alex Kingston as River Song, though for much of this episode she really seems to be a plot device rather than a character in her own right, propelling the Doctor and Amy forward from one critical set of events to the next. There is some interesting stuff with River, such as the Stormcage containment facility, but the crime that landed her there is left off the menu for this outing. And for such a secure facility, she seems to have little trouble escaping from it.
The two major developments here are the alliance between the Doctor’s many enemies and the strange twist that a great deal of the events of the season may have been directly influenced by Amy’s own mind. The latter remains to be explained thoroughly, and it seems to be closely connected to the alliance, but explanations are a bit thin on the ground at the conclusion of this episode. The notion of Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Autons and others joining forces to put the Doctor away forward is by far more interesting, though the audience already knows – beyond the fact that it puts our heroes in a bind – what a huge mistake it is. In some respects, this great gathering of Doctor Who’s greatest villains reminded me a bit of the BBC eighth Doctor novel “Alien Bodies”, though that’s where the similarities end. (One minor quibble: we see Cybermen, or at least parts of one, do things that we’ve never seen Cybermen do before, and more to the point, they do things that were once part of the function of the classic series’ Cybermats. Then again, these are still the “Lumic Cybermen,” apparently not bound by the same rules as the classic series Cybermen.)
With one hell of a “tune in next time” hook, and not even so much as a trailer for the next episod (but how can there be a next episode if the universe has already come to an end?), Moffat has managed to equal just about any of the cliffhangers from the Russell T. Davies era. It’s kind of hard to top making the whole cosmos vanish.