Does Matt Smith's debut series go out with a bang? (Erm, obviously, but, anyway...)
Where to begin? While the Doctor may have only had a shrunken universe to cope with, he’s left all reviewers with a galaxy of points to make, bones to chew and moments to praise. Right from the record opening-length sequence to the phone call setting up the impending Christmas Special, Steven Moffat shows us exactly how 2-part season finales should be done. No offense Russell T Davies, but there was only so much hitting of the ‘Reset Button’ we could take. And while, to some extent, that does happen in The Big Bang, the whole ending is so carefully plotted we couldn’t care less.
The previous episode ended with the Doctor being cornered into a box by every one of his defeated foes- setting up a finale of epic proportions, as the Doctor finds himself struggling against a potentially universe-conquering team. However, in a brave move, Moffat quickly sweeps all -bar one Dalek- neatly under the mat, which freed up the story massively, as the Doctor could run about, do what he likes to try and get rid of the cracks in the universe and the exploding TARDIS. Massive praise to Moffat for realising even such a big event as the congregation of monsters is not more important than the plot.
The story never stops, with something else seemingly explained every three minutes. This breakneck pace was excellently conveyed by Moffat, carrying us from one scene to the next in expert style. We’re not going to spoil what revelations are made, but let’s just say we still don’t get how ‘The Moff’’s brain keeps on going keeps going- We would have thought gas-mask zombies, Quantum Locks and dream worlds would have taken it all out of him pre-series, but after six more whole episodes he still has plenty of ideas left. Surely he we’re in for an epic behind-the-scenes twist if he’s to keep going for another year?
Our only plot-based complaint is that some aspects of the story took us, Hard-noses Whovians, a second viewing to crack. While they were well enough explained for anyone to get them, the sheer number of answers we were getting meant that our brains where struggling to keep up with each one and link them together. While we’re happy to watch it a second time, that isn’t always practical for the ‘casual’ viewer that makes up over half of the show’s audience. This seems to be becoming somewhat of a theme in the Moffat/Wengler/Willis era- this is purists Doctor Who. Davies’ scripts may have been chock-a-block with stupid scenarios and easy escapes, but at least they where watchable for the majority of viewers. While Moffat’s obviously very good, and most can appreciate that, if they don’t get it and someone else does, this can lead to a sense of isolation and therefore them switching off- Which is the last thing everyone (Well, maybe except ITV) wants.
Where Moffat’s scripts do hit the whole audience in the same way is in his dialogue. Having a great plotline is one thing, but if you can’t deliver it then the show is going to fail, and that was one thing the old Moffenator was never going to let happen. He finds himself laughing at the darkness- (How very Doctor Who) If something can be made funny, it will be made funny. If a joke can be cracked, a joke will be cracked. But if the scene is a bit too heavy? The Doctor will wear a Fez. Sorted. Somehow, these comedic moments don’t seem at all out-of-place, and with the stakes so high, it’s nice to be able to have a laugh instead of being scared of everything we see. Humour was a device used very well at critical moments by Davies, and so we’re just glad to see Moffat isn’t overcome by the occasion either.
Best of all, the Doctor is playing on a chess board, not a cheese board this time around- Slotting things into place, figuring everything out, and gradually making his move, instead of being over sentimental, protective and emotional, something that Davies was guilty of making our hero do in all his ‘big-scale stories’ except his first and his last finales. (By which we mean The End of Time, not the OTT Journey’s End) We weren’t taught to worship the Doctor, just to see him as our most loyal friend. Matt Smith’s Doctor has come into his own. David Tennant was and still is one of the best actors not just in the UK but the world. Smith isn’t, (Not yet, anyway) but is strangely likeable. He just fits the role of the Doctor, and delivered another blinder in the latest instalment of the series.
Considering it’s someone with so little experience in television at the helm, (Pre-Doctor Who his only major TV work was BBC Three drama Party Animals) it was almost cruel of Moffat to ask Smith to do what he did. Every emotion has to be conveyed, so many square feet of museum have to be ran around, a convincing ‘death’ scene needs to be acted out. He’s asking the man to run around Stonehenge in a Fez holding a mop, for crying out loud! Is there anything Smith can’t do? It might have taken us 13 weeks, but we’re totally convinced he’s the Doctor and wouldn’t have it any other way. The way he delivered the last 15 minutes, especially the scene by Amelia’s bed, was outstanding. The music (Which was spot-on again this week. Congratulations, Murray Gold.) and the direction combined with Smith and Moffat’s various skills lead to some of the most beautiful television you’ll see this year.
Karen Gillan also puts in a stunning performance, as always, but the one who truly blew us away was her boyfriend (or, now, husband), Rory Williams himself, Arthur Darvill. Right from his monologue at the start as he lamented the ‘death’ of his girlfriend right through to trying to correct the Doctor on his understanding of Earth weddings, Darvill doesn’t put a foot wrong and reach stands out in an episode full of people with their hands raised to be ‘The one we decide to pick out’. After this incredible performance, just imagine how please we were when we saw that he is joining the TARDIS crew full-time as of next season.
However, not all of Rory’s role in the finale was perfect. While him wanting to protect Amy was understandable, the sudden ‘Zero to Hero’ thing has happened too quickly. He had been a clone of Rose’s boyfriend, Mickey Smith, however it took Mickey two years and a move to a parallel universe to be transformed into an all-action hero. Rory becomes ‘tough’ the moment he is revived. No real development of the character, just a sudden shift. Thankfully, though, Rory keeps the same slapstick quirks that Mickey lost when he developed his ‘No fear’ attitude.
But, at the end of the day, it’s not Rory growing up too quickly that we’re annoyed with, it’s the episode ending too quickly. Despite the BBC granting Moffat an extra ten minutes to play with, we felt that we could watch that one story all day. It’s not that we feel it would be better longer -Moffat expertly crafted it into 55 minutes in a way that many other writers would struggle- just when it did come to a somewhat daft ending (“Of course your majesty. We’re on our way!”) we were left wanting more. Especially since the Doctor just chucked a number of questions at us: Who was it that told us “Silence Will Fall”? Why did the TARDIS explode? This time next year can’t come soon enough...