The Alliance has trapped the Eleventh Doctor in the Pandorica, the TARDIS has exploded with River inside, Rory has shot Amy and the cracks have swallowed everything but the Earth and the Moon.
The fate of all existence lies in the hands of a little girl who still believes in stars.
The first part of this two part finale had almost every Doctor Who alien ever seen in the show – and a few from the expanded universe and spin-offs – conspiring to put the Doctor into the perfect prison. So just how do you follow up an episode like that? Simple. With something completely different – four (or five, if we consider that Amy is there twice) characters, the end of the universe and a re-animated Dalek. Moffat’s era of Doctor Who is marked by these smaller finales that still have a suitably epic feel to them, and this is really where it all starts.
It may come as no surprise that I really like The Big Bang, which brings a really strong series to a close. It’s no surprise to see Steven Moffat playing around with time here as he deftly pulls together not only plot strands in this story but also across the series, like a needle pulling thread to connect two moments together. The best example of this is taking the time to show the Doctor going back to deliver his message to Rory, which the audience see him do at the beginning of the story. It is an episode that takes the time to hold the audience’s hand and let them know what is going on, acknowledging that the plot may seem complicated but willing to take the time to explain it properly. It also solves a mystery that has been present since Flesh and Stone – why the Doctor who appears to Amy in the forest has his tweed jacket. The rewind is one of my favourite parts of this episode, and the fact that he is able to realise that Amy can still hear him, giving him hope for survival after rebooting the universe. The stakes remain as high as the previous part despite the absence of the Doctor’s foes, with the Earth the only surviving planet as the universe ends due to the exploding TARDIS, and the story adds extra peril with the dying Doctor coming back from the future. There is also a revived Stone Dalek to add a sense of threat and I really like the look of this one – one of the problems with the New Paradigm Daleks is that they are are too clean and shiny but this one looks great with a bit of dirt, grime and stone. Whilst it mostly ties up the cracks storyline (we’ll come back to that a lot later), something I like about The Big Bang is that it doesn’t give you all the answers. As a fan, it builds up enthusiasm for what is to come and speculation about the following series, however I can see how it may be frustrating if this is the first series you’d watched and you prefer the way that Russell T Davies would wrap up the series arc in his finales, but it feels like a logical progression – having elements and mysteries continue really excited me at the time and that hasn’t changed on my various re-visitations of this episode.
Records indicate that you will show mercy. You are an associate of the Doctor.
I’m River Song. Check your records again.
Say it again.
Mercy!Dalek and River Song
River Song plays a crucial role here in this story too and gets some of the best moments of this story. Kingston seems exasperated with the Doctor at times, pulling off the role of exasperated spouse with aplomb, but she gets some great moments too. The infamous scene with the Dalek is great as we see the rare scenario of a Dalek begging for mercy before being killed (admittedly off-camera) which has to go down as one of the character’s best moments in televised Doctor Who. That scene is really well directed by Toby Haynes, keeping his camera angle low on the Dalek in a shot that is recognisable for any long term fan, but his framing of River completely shows who is in control of the scene, with her hero stance and the nonchalant way she dispenses with the Dalek. Kingston is such a solid actress and has good and easy chemistry with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, and she is a highlight whenever she crops up in the Eleventh Doctor’s era.
There’s someone missing. Someone important, someone so, so important. Sorry everyone, but when I was a kid I had an imaginary friend, the Raggedy Doctor, my Raggedy Doctor. But he wasn’t imaginary, he was real. I remember you! I remember! I brought the others back; I can bring you home too! Raggedy man, I remember you, and you are late for my wedding!Amy Pond
Matt Smith finishes his first series off with a great story and a great performance and brings his natural enthusiasm and energy to the part and is also capable of delivering monologues, like the one he gives to Amy before stepping through the crack in time, which are full of emotion. He is also great at brimming with nervous energy, like when he asks River if she is married. I think in 2010 I was fully expecting Amy and Rory to leave at the end of this series, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them stay, making them the first companions to serve for more than a series since Rose. It’s nice that Amy is able to prove that she wasn’t crazy as a child, being able to bring back the Doctor to her wedding in front of her friends and family and is another great moment in this strong story. Caitlin Blackwood puts in a great performance as the young Amelia. It’s also another great performance from Arthur Darvill, who despite spending most of this episode as an Auton, brings such humanity and heart to the story and it’s great that he stays on the TARDIS going forwards. He’s particularly great when Amy calls him on the morning of his wedding and is too scared to question her too intensely, to the extent that he goes onto auto-pilot. Rory’s dedication and loyalty to Amy by staying with the Pandorica for 2,000 years is never in doubt and it seems to make him more of a badass.
Verdict: The Big Bang wraps up the Eleventh Doctor’s first series with a great conclusion. 10/10
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Alex Kingston (River Song), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Caitlin Blackwood (Amelia), Susan Vidler (Aunt Sharon), Frances Ashman (Christine), Barnaby Edwards (Stone Dalek), William Pretsell (Dave), Halcro Johnston (Mr Pond), Karen Westwood (Tabetha) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks).
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Toby Haynes
Behind the Scenes
- The original broadcast date of this episode and the narrative date were the same – 26th June 2010. This was the second of four times that this had happened in the revived series. The other stories where this occurs are The End of Time, Part One, The Impossible Astronaut and Resolution.
- This was the first revived series finale not to feature a main character departure or David Tennant.
- The episode sets up a number of mysteries that would not pay off until later. The Silence would be explored to an extent in Series 6, but the reasons why they would seek to blow up the Doctor’s TARDIS would not be revealed until The Time of the Doctor, whilst the tease of an Egyptian Goddess loose on the Orient Express in space would be revisited in Mummy on the Orient Express.
- In 2013, Steven Moffat stated that this was his favourite script he had written. He also added that the title was a deliberate innuendo and referred to what would have happened moments after the closing credits rolled – the conception of River Song.
- Susan Vidler played Krige in two Bernice Summerfield stories, The Revenant’s Carnival and In Living Memory.
The moment Amy remembers the Doctor, summoning him back to the universe using the old wedding phrase: “Something old, something borrowed and something blue” – it’s frankly stunning that no-one had ever thought of using this in Doctor Who before.
That’s funny. I thought if you could hear me then I could hang on somehow. Silly me. Silly old Doctor. When you wake up, you’ll have a mum and dad, and you won’t even remember me. Well, you’ll remember me a little. I’ll be a story in your head. But that’s okay. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Cause it was, you know. It was the best. A daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well, I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back. Oh, that box. Amy, 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. The cracks are closing, but they can’t close properly until I’m on the other side. I don’t belong here anymore. I think I’ll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats. Live well. Love Rory. Bye-bye, Pond.The Eleventh Doctor
Previous Eleventh Doctor story: The Pandorica Opens
Other stories mentioned: