Reverse The Polarity: "The Lodger" & "The Pandorica Opens" Review
Posted By: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
On: June 24, 2010 Updated: 2 years 20 weeks ago
On: June 24, 2010 Updated: 2 years 20 weeks ago
REVERSE THE POLARITY
WITH DARREN BLACKBURN
The Lodger by Gareth Roberts
The Pandorica Opens by Steven Moffat
"I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him." -- River Song
Oh my giddy Aunt! Oh my! Blimey! Last night was broadcasted the first of this year's season finale and I can't yet get over how good it is. So much goodness crammed into 45 minutes of prime time teevee. But wait! I'm going to let you reside in a temporal eddy for a few mere minutes before I do a very spoilery review of The Pandorica Opens!
Back one step and it’s always a tradition in new Who to do a minor quiet masterpiece prior to the big finish, or as I often sum up Episode 11’s "the we need to do a simple story because we got to keep all the dosh for the last two" story. Back in Chris Ecclestones' brief tenure we got Boomtown, a story of a stranded Slitheen wanting to blow up Cardiff temporal rify so she could surf back to Raxicorapalapatourious (trying saying that fast when you're drunk). Then we got Tennants's Fear Her, a fairy tale of a little girl who could bring drawings to life and oh allowing the 10th Doctor to light the torch at the 2012 Olympics! Then Utopia where we were reintroduced to the Master, and last time Turn Left where Donna Noble got run over by a truck! All minor classics that have one thing in common: they often set the stage for the finale in some way.
The Lodger, like several stories this year, has connections to the ongoing arc – yes, another Crack in the Universe pops up at the end and yes, Amy in the last scene in the Tardis finds that the Doctor's been holding onto that Wedding Ring which becomes a significant plot device in Pandorica. And there is a potentiality that a major reveal in The Lodger, based on a comic strip from Doctor Who Monthly that originally featured the 10th Doctor and Rose Tyler, will turn up in the last episode. But mostly The Lodger is a character piece with a simple premise.
The Tardis is out of control and can't land properly because something is preventing it, something that produces localized temporal flux. When it does land, the Doctor gets separated from Amy who stays stranded on the time machine and may end up lost in time. What's the Doctor to do? Here the 11th tries his best to "act" normal and do "normal human things" like showering naked, burping, commenting to his flat mate played by James Corben that he sits in his sofa so much watching teevee that he's beginning to look like one; ignoring his friend who's obviously very much in love with him but can't quite get the connection since she loves gorillas and cuddy animals while he likes beer and playing soccer/football for the local Kings Arms pub team. (Yes, this is also the Who tribute to the World Cup, more obvious when The Doctor plays the game as a substitute -- since Matt Smith wanted to be a professional football, er, soccer player -- player and he's good … better than those idiots we have on our national team!)
So for the most part, The Lodger is a comedy episode with the Doctor trying to play normal: cooking a rather nice omelet, repairing the wiring of the house and even at one point taking over day job at the local Council because balanced with the normal is a slightly sinister side echoed by input from Steven Moffat all to do with the "person" that lives in the flat above. You see, there's a very nasty case of damp rot on the ceiling and every so often someone gets invited by the intercom on the front door of the above flat to come up. A little girl can't find her mum. An elderly gent has had a fall. And before you can say Harry Kruger, there's a flash of energy and someone dies! But what's in the flat above? And yes, you've guessed it’s what causing the temporal fluxes that are preventing the Tardis from landing!
When the reveal came, I jumped off my seat! It's quite clever and if you're an old Who fan you'd guess the cause straight away! But even as an old Who fan, it still made me jump since the set is brilliant. And added to that we get a nice in-joke from the Who novels when the Doctor has a conversation with a cat, asking it to spy on the flat above for him. I may explain that one day. The solution to the problem is slightly let down as it’s a typical RTD solution, not a Moffat one, which partly dents the episode a bit but overall The Lodger is good simple stuff.
… Which is more than you can say for The Pandorica Opens! Okay. I'll be fair. As River Song says … [Spoilers! So if you want to remain blind as a Kraface and not read on, or even better find a big black box and place it over your head for a fortnight, not surf the net and type in “Pandorica Opens” on Google or go and watch USA draw England all over again in a temporal loop ....don't read on!]
Okay, The Pandorica Opens is brilliant! It’s the best first part of a season finale since Parting of the Ways back in 2005! It's neatly plotted, calculating and complex with several very major reveals into the overall arc and will make you want to review the previous episodes of this season again because it seems everything we thought we knew isn't quite what we thought! It’s a mix of quiet human moments, bits of comedy but overall it’s drama and very dark … and has a tip to classic films The Thing and Indian Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark! It’s pure Steven Moffat at his best.
It begins with the longest pre-credit sequence so far where we get to revisit Doctor River Song in Stormcage Prison -- in another break-out sequence that's gorgeous -- because River has come across something that she needs to let the Doctor know. Back to Vincent Van Gogh first who’s had a terrible vision that he's committed to canvas, a lost Van Gogh painting that gets acquired by Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a raid in Provence (Victory of the Daleks) and ultimately ends in the Royal Exhibition of the 50th Century under the caretakership of Liz Ten (The Beast Below). This leaves a large memo on the oldest planet in existence. The Doctor and Amy arrive in Roman-occupied Britain where Queen Cleopatra bears an uncanny resemblance to River Song! And there she shows the Doctor Van Gogh's lost painting … of the Tardis exploding!
And so begins the final game. Clues lead to Stonehenge, one of the world's most famous ancient monuments, and a mysterious stone circle whose true purpose is explained in this very story with the reveal of the Underhenge where the Pandorica, the thing the Doctor thinks is just a fairy tale myth, resides! And it's slowly opening! And now things really begin to move along and you won't believe who turns up in this episode. All I will say is try and figure out what the worst nightmare scenario could be for the Doctor besides the Tardis exploding and it'll give you a hint of what's next. You get to see a lot of old enemies who are really sinister and even a old friendly face who was apparently dead who brings tears for Amy and yet … Nah! I won't say.
Even as the revelations of the Pandorica -- the ultimate prison for "the most terrible being in all the Universe" -- punch you in the face, River's own investigation takes a turn when a trip in the Tardis goes wrong and she ends up in Leadworth on Saturday, June 26, 2010 (the basecode of the Universe) at Amy's home. And here further mysteries crop up in Amy's bedroom, Something has been here and while figuring what has been here, River makes a surprising discovery that will make you think about the nature of Amy Pond's relationship to the Doctor! And then if that's not bad enough, we get a real sinister jolt when a crack appears on the Tardis's scanner and a hateful nasty voice echoes around the Console Room: "Silence Will Fall!"
About the last few minutes of Pandorica, I'm not going to even say anything. Suffice that you will be shocked by the true nature of the Pandorica, the Doctor's apparent fate and yes, the Tardis does explode in one of the most beautifully executed cliffhangers ever! Silence does indeed fall. God. It's bloody torture now waiting for a week! All the leads are in fine form and the engines are at full throttle as we head to The Big Bang. There was no "next time" preview this week. Plot details on the final episode are still shrouded in mystery but as ever spoilers may appear on the ‘net so be alert and don't peek into River Song's diary! Next time, I'll do The Big Bang. Not literally. See you at the end of the Universe!