DOCTOR WHO: SILENCE WILL FALL
All alone, staring on
Watching her life go by
When her days are grey
And her nights are black
Different shades of mundane
And the one-eyed furry toy that lies upon the bed
Has often heard her cry
And heard her whisper out a name long forgiven
But not forgotten
A bleeding heart torn apart
Left on an icy grave
In their room where they once lay
Face to face
Nothing could get in their way
But now the memories of the man are haunting her days
And the craving never fades
She's still dreaming of the man long forgiven
But not forgotten
Still alone, staring on
Wishing her life goodbye
As she goes searching for the man long forgiven
But not forgotten
You're forgiven, not forgotten,
No, you're not forgotten.
And onto the season finale. Was it just thirteen weeks ago we were gripped with panic that Doctor Who was completely screwed, with scripts that would insult the intelligence of a used teabag being performed by actors worse than unused teabags? There was a whole teabagging agenda, Gordon Brown was in power, Kevin Rudd was prime minister, and I was one nervous breakdown lighter - ooh, a dark and barbaric time before Glee and Stargate Universe were renewed, and the horrible truth about Gene Hunt was unreveal-ed. But now, in these enlightened times when the ABC is only two weeks behind England in broadcasting episodes (when once it was a YEAR behind), and when India Fisher is narrating Junior Masterchef episodes with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (oh, you know what I want to say next), we are suddenly at the end.
Except... well... it was the end at the start of the year. The End of Time. The Time Lords came back. The whole universe dreamed in horror of David Tennant's departure. It was the most epic epicness of big epics big epics ever did see. It was the ultimate adventure. Where do you go from there? The relative small-scale nature of the Eleventh Doctor's travels seemed to be the smart option, but the ongoing story arc kicked off has been showing things on a big canvas.
What we knew before this story: at some point, the TARDIS will materialize next Saturday and explode. The explosion will shatter all of time and space, unleashing a pestilential white glow that crudely subtracts anything it touches from existence and memory. The Doctor knows this but is understandably at a loss of what to do - he daren't explore next Saturday for fear of being blown to pieces, and what's more everyone on the cosmic grapevine APART from him seems to know what's what. And, unlike Ten, this Doctor is keeping his ear to the ground.
The only clue about the nature of the disaster is the mythical Pandorica opening when River Song is around to stir up trouble as she does.
It can't be denied that part one is fast. Only one other Doctor Who story is so giddyingly-quick-paced it feels like you've not noticed a brick's hit you in the face, and that's Time and the Rani part one. Seriously, check it out, especially after all fourteen episodes of Trial of a Time Lord, and you can feel the whiplash as it gets through more events in fifteen minutes than the last fifteen episodes.
Vincent Van Gough freaks out over a vision of the TARDIS exploding. His painting is found centuries later by Bracewell and Churchill, who try and contact the Doctor by the space-time telegraph, but the PM gets the wrong number and ends up dialing River Song in the 51st century when she's in jail. Learning about this impressionist warning, River Song breaks out of jail, collects the contemporary version of the painting from Liz 10 and then flies to the Uncharted Territories where she screws over some Delvian Farscape extras to hand over the severed arm of Captain Jack Harkness with Vortex Manipulator still attached.
She then travels back to the earliest days of the universe and graffitis the words "HELLO SWEETIE" into a cliff on the first inhabitable planet earlier, along with "River Song xxx"
Like the Master's resurrection, I almost long for a Doctor-lite episode to give these ideas space but it's quite clear Moffat's not interested in such in depth bollocks. If he'd written The Stolen Earth, RTD's plot would be over with ten minutes in, which is around the time that the Doctor, Amy and River break into a secret vault under Stonehenge and find the titular Pandorica - a giant Hellraiser-style puzzle box containing the Worst Thing EVER. And it's being opened from the inside. And Stonehenge is sending out the "Ooh, fuck!" signal throughout time and space, letting the entire universe know the Worst Thing EVER is breaking out.
The entire universe shows up to answer the signal.
It's around this point that Moffat clearly twigs that speeding things up to the hardcore pace of a Robin Hood episode has effectively knackered his season finale and takes it back a notch. Just as a bunch of horny Roman centurians are ready to double the fist against Every Single Alien That Can Fit On Camera, the Doctor gives a reasonably-done badass speech which translates to screaming "I AM NOT IN THE MOOD!" to 100 million alien battle fleets.
Said alien battle fleets bugger off quick smart.
"That should keep them away for half an hour," the Doctor assures us and Moffat takes the next chunk of the episode turning his bloodshot nightmare gaze onto the Cybermen, fulfilling a vague promise he's made since 2004. There's a very damaged lone Cyberman stumbling around Stonehenge. After stories like The Invasion or Attack of the Cybermen, you'd be forgiven for assuming one bitchy remark from Amy would be enough to reduce the silver git to tinfoil.
But you, like I, was wrong.
We'll just have to chalk down the return of the Cybus men as Moffat's honorable disinterest in budget and he simply couldn't be arsed worrying about designing new Cybermen outfits. The scenes themselves make it quite clear these Cybermen aren't the robot thugs Lumic was peddling at retail prices, these Cybermen are... something else. It's not so much a kind of survival suit, but a living technology that needs human flesh to work. "It's like being an organ donor," the Doctor surmises, "except only alive. And screaming."
When one of Moff's Cybermen gets beheaded, there's no simple display of pyrotechnics and a helmet bouncing away. If previous Cybermen dealt with violence like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, these guys react like The Thing. The severed head grows octopus-like cables and tries to face-hug humans to death, while its body lurches about like Vyvyan Bastard, reattaching limbs as needs be. These are no longer some wierd zombie communist idea, they are something out of a nightmare.
And nightmare sums up the opening instalment rather well.
In a good way, I mean. Rather like Zagreus, there is a strange, dream-like quality to events that allows any number of ridiculous and unbelievable plot twists to occur, as they literally crash into each other. No sooner do we discover that Rory has somehow survived his death by virtue of a Britain 102 version of Life on Mars (complete with Commander Genericus "Motherfucking" Huntientus of the Manchester Legion of Rome) we discover he's actually one of the Autons from Brave New Town. Just as River Song learns this is all a massive trap, the TARDIS explodes. And just as the Alliance of Every Single Monster the BBC can get into the studio, the universe ends. Amy's dead. River's dead. The Doctor lost. Rory's a clinically depressed waxwork. All in the space of a few minutes and with the devastating unreality of a certain tracking gallery on Gauda Prime.
I tell you, I never expected to feel the remotest upset at the thought of River Song getting nuked. Even her ultimate demise in Silence in the Library was solely memorable for the Doctor's reaction to it. This story probably is the best portrayal of the character so far - at least in terms of why any incarnation of the Doctor would spend time with her of his own free will. She shows intelligence, determination, compassion and is actually useful for once. There's none of her petty bitchiness and she takes things seriously for once. It's also the first time we see the Doctor even HINT at enjoying her presence, the first time they actually seem to act like people who love each other rather than a rock star and his annoying psycho fan. For all her numerous speeches about how badass and awesome "her" Doctor is, it's River Song's tearful gun rampage when she thinks he's dead that actually proves she cares about him. It's just a pity she's only bearable when she's young and we're going to be stuck with her insufferable older self more often than not.
The Doctor goes through the ringer through the story as well. Not only must he face up to the story arc he's been deliberately avoiding, he has to confront the deaths of his companions, the collapse of reality, the entire universe seemingly teaming up to stop him, not to mention facing simultaneously death and never existing. Coupled with that he continues to blend his 'cool' and 'uncool' personas, sending texts to his friends yet dressing up as Tommy Cooper, wearing formal wear to a wedding and then breakdancing like Ricky Gervais on cheap smack - and never once giving into despair like the RTD incarnations were prone to. (That's not a complaint, by the way, just an observation. Clearly being reminded what utter assholes the Time Lords were has done the Doc a lot of psychological good.)
With the universe going foom and our central characters literally clinging to a flaw in continuity for half an hour before they too are script edited out of existence, the epic season finale episode becomes... the main cast running around a museum being chased by a Dalek. It's a runaround that even the most cash-starved Hartnell ep would find lacking in drama, but Moffat combines Buffy, Red Dwarf and a generous helping of his own sitcoms to bulk it up. It's as much about the characters as the circumstances, and allows us to see Moffat's take on the dreaded trashcan bastards themselves. Whereas he redefines the Cybermen as unstoppable nightmares, here he takes the Daleks down a notch. Not only are they so weak and feeble they need to ally themselves with others to save the universe, they're also revealed to be basically cowardly bullies - a defenseless Supreme is left all but blubbering for mercy like Simpson in Hornblower. Nevertheless, they are still bloody dangerous, lethal even after 2000 years as a fossil, and their mindless hatred is shown for the weakness it is. The whole universe is ending, Zeg, but all you do is try and exterminate the single solitary person who might be able to stop it, out of nothing but malice.
Moffat was quietly confident that his season finale could top the ultimate annihilation of all past, present and future. Given it's pretty much the exact same premise, I waited for the cheeky sod to prove himself. And, well, he certainly ends up justifying his belief if nothing else. If The End of Time was Return of the Jedi, with the Doctor/Luke having to choose between Darth Vader/the Master and Palpatine/Rassilon, this returns to my favorite of films - Drop Dead Fred. Amy/Lizzie is faced with the most terrible fate, she can reclaim the proper life she's always needed, but lose the one friend she's always had, Fred/the Doctor. It's so similar yet so different I can't honestly say Moffat was thinking of it, but Rik Mayall and Matt Smith - normally huge and loud, now quiet and still - watching over the child-forms of their friends, living a life they cannot share. "I can't go back now," Fred says quietly, left to remain in the imagination. "You don't need me any more," he adds. The Doctor tells Amy, "You don't need your imaginary friend any more. I don't belong here now."
Now, for those of you anti-spoiler freaks look away now, because I am going to explain the entire epic finale. Why? BECAUSE IT HAS TAKEN ME THIS LONG TO EVEN GET IT TO MAKE A SCINTILLA OF LOGICAL SENSE, THAT'S WHY!! Published author CJ Mason will confirm I sweated bloody trying to make anything add up about this final sequence. Christ on a bike, say what you like about RTD, he never gave such a poorly-explained dues ex machina to resolve a plot, let alone a story arc! For someone as anal as Moffat is in the VERY SAME EPISODE, this is quite a shock. So - baring a typically Robin-Hood-esque move where the next season opener reveals everything we know is wrong - this is what happens.
The Pandorica has (justified via technobbable) the ability to magically restore people and objects to the pre-cracked universe. Its magical light turns a dead Dalek (reduced to a fossilized time paradox) back to life.
The Doctor flies the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS, so the energy therein will power the Pandorica and allow it to restore every single moment in history as it is wiped out.
This, however, will have the unpleasant side effect of painting the Doctor into a corner, as it were. The universe is being rebuilt AROUND the Pandorica. He is bricking himself up between the walls. And, being outside the universe means he will cease to exist in every sense. Ergo, everyone will forget he was ever born. The whole universe will be mindwiped.
BUT... the Doctor is an incredibly complicated time space event, and him ceasing to exist is not as simple as some schmuck from Palookaville! He finds himself hurtling backwards through his time line, an invisible guest star boneheading episodes of Season Fnarg. This, of course, plain sucks.
But what's this? Amy is the only person who can see and hear "the Future Doctor's" cameos, like when he popped into existence on the Byzantium. The Doctor suddenly gets a cunning plan. Amy, having grown up next to a crack in time, pouring spooky time energies into her imaginative mind, is thus unique. She is, to an extent, crack-proof, and can remember people and things who have fallen out of reality.
So, if the Doctor can get Amy to REMEMBER him it could be a kind of lifeline to stop him being erased. It's a brilliant and desperate plan. One problem, he's already 'rewound' through time to The Eleventh Hour, when Amy's seven years old and he doesn't have any time left to make a good impression. Understandably depressed - but sucking it up better than the Last Guy - he decides to cut the crap and jump through the crack in Amy's wall rather than spend time watching repeats of the RTD era and beyond. Thus, instead of the gradual unweaving, he neatly pops out of existence. The cracks seal and the universe is rebooted. Young Amelia will remember the Doctor... a bit... but just as an imaginary friend.
But what's this? Because of Amy's unique brain, during the reboot she was able to 'patch in' a few updates. In short, by remembering her parents and Rory during the process, she wakes up on her wedding day and her parents and Rory are back in reality. Things are good. Luckily, the universe is still 'cooling' (as it was earlier when the Earth was the only planet in the non-universe) and River Song is able to gatecrash the wedding, prompting Amy to remember the Doctor. With seconds to spare, she is able to manipulate the reboot and the Doctor and TARDIS pop back into existence. The mindwipe is undone. Things are REALLY good.
So, while it's taken me the better part of a month to sort out this explanation in my head, I have to say I cried like a baby-man when I actually watched it. Moffat was clearly going for an RTD-esque vibe where things make "emotional sense" rather than "logical sense". So, of course, the Doctor can be rewritten into existence by the love of his friends. It just would have been nice if, you know, there had been some Archangel network or somesuch fig leaf to justify it.
Nevertheless, for the first time since The Greatest Show in the Galaxy... (or, if you want to be faithful to the wishes of the preduction team)... Revelation of the Daleks, a season has ended on a happy note. We haven't had the final scene of the Doctor brooding over a companion who's abandoned him, or a Doctor dying miserably in front of upset companions. It's certainly a shock that the final shot ISN'T that of David Tennant pulling faces at the time rotor as the regular cast are changed so there's a new line-up next year.
Yes, it's the ultimate epic win - the Doctor's borderline-illegally-fit companion has got married to a mere mortal, BUT THEY WANT TO TRAVEL WITH HIM! After Susan, Vicki, Ian and Barbara, Ben and Polly, Jo, Leela, Peri, Erimem, Evelyn, Mel, Rose, Martha and Donna, they are actually prepared to follow the Time Lord back into the police box. It's NOT a tearful goodbye that ends the show, but our heroes heading off for a brand new adventure. That we will GET TO SEE.
When told "it's time to say goodbye", Amy steps out the TARDIS doors and waves at the audience, shouting "GOODBYE!" and jumps back inside. Remember when Tom Baker used to do that sort of thing all the time? Cause I sure as hell do. For once, the last episode of the season is NOT a reason to be upset. Thank Christ.
LET ME HEAR YOU SAY "AWWWWWW!!!"
Oh, how easy it would be to have the Doctor loitering in the shadows at the Leadworth Registery Office or whatever, silently heading back to the TARDIS and travelling off alone with that self-sacrifice-at-least-she'll-be-happy shtick that's been peddled since The Dalek Invasion of Earth (and do you know why? BECAUSE IT WORKS, YOU GIT!). But not this time. The Doctor's at the wedding making a scene of himself, catching the bouquet, embarassing all the adult and becoming the hero of all the kids with his judicious use of Venusian Disco Moves before rushing off with bride and groom. It's like Rose and Mickey without all that hideous grown-up angst and we're left with perhaps the most well-adjusted TARDIS team since the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. And of course, just like then, there's going to be sadacts on the net saying they're all shagging.
Looking back at it, it is almost as though RTD was terrified the series he was writing for would be the last. Each time, he's clearly written THE END after The Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, Last of the Time Lords and Journey's End. The AB frigging C always thought so, and even deliberately edited the final credits so there were no trailers or hints the series might continue. It is over. And perhaps that's why opinions are so divided over the Christmas specials, as they always follow the biggest epics ever! The Daleks are extinct, Jack is missing, Rose is mindwiped, the Doctor regenerated... surely anything will be a comedown after that? Or what about the Earth going post-apocalypse after a Dalek Cyberman war with the Tylers in another universe? And so on. But this time it doesn't end. The Doctor is still there, his companions still there and it's all but outright stated that next year the big things will be the truth about River Song (best hurry on that, Moff - see how many people still give a rat's anus about Jack Harkness' missing years?), what the Silence bollocks was all about and who was doing the Dr. Claw impersonations in the console room. Amazingly, not a single fan has suggested that it's the Rani. Amazingly, not a single fan has suggested it's actually Graham Norton, continuing his unintentional quest to ruin Who.
Same time next year, lads?
Next Time: ...ah... yeah... you noticed that, did you?
Must try harder next time, Moff.
Must try harder next time, Moff.