The Big Bang – my review. Spoilers, obviously.

I was on holiday when I watched, I’d just had a lovely day on the English Riviera and outside my window there were hundreds of people soaking up the sun and firing up the barbies, and I would not really have appreciated having my heart torn out and stamped on…

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…and spending the rest of the evening trying not to cry into my mussels (almost the only thing the local had left on the menu, since the glorious weather seemed to have caught them by surprise).

I had an awful lot of questions but I can live with them not all being answered. They weren’t, as it happens (duck pond, anyone? When did Amelia’s house get redecorated? Why is her dad a dead ringer for Mr Pickwick, and has nobody ever pointed out to Rory that it’s the Second Law of Dental Dynamics that the likelihood of toothpaste spattering is always in direct proportion to the price and importance of the outfit being worn?) 

But my biggest questions, as always, were emotional. Will David Tennant ever stop being my Doctor? (Probably not, but I discovered at the moment when Matt stepped out of the TARDIS dressed like Fred Astaire that there is a difference between my Doctor and the Doctor, and I am, finally, perfectly able to accept that he’s Da Man)

Will I ever really warm to River Song? Nope, but she’s more of an idea than a character, like many of Moffat’s creations, and the scene where she shoots the fez and then pwns the Dalek redeemed her an awful lot in my eyes. At this moment, I probably loved her, though I’ll never conventionally ship them (Also, she resembled Mme de Pompadour on the ultimate bad hair day at Versailles, at least from the neck up, and for some reason that amused me no end).

Will I ever really like Amy or find her a convincing character? The jury’s still out on that one, because we need to see how much the consequences of her childhood in a decaying reality affected her, and whether she’ll be any different now that she’s had the security of parents in her life. It does occur to me that it was an awfully clever way to season an inexperienced actress.

And Rory? I can’t believe in his character arc any more than I could in Martha walking the earth or Rose settling for 10.5, but the important thing was that this time the writer and the actor seemed to be working together to make it convincing on an emotional level, and that very much reduced the WTF effect.

I think a lot of what it takes to make me accept an actor as the Doctor happens when I identify his defining quality. There has been some inconsistent writing in this series, reaching its nadir in the Chibnell two-parter, but after that point something seemed to click into place and reach its natural conclusion in the beautifully tender scene where the Doctor put little Amelia to bed and came as close as he ever has in a Moffat script to talking about himself. That quality is kindness – we saw it when he nursed the bloke in The Lodger and when he followed his instinct to bring Van Gogh a measure of comfort. When Matt plays the Doctor, you really can believe he was a dad once, and that it brought him some happiness. It made me realise – and this isn’t a criticism because flawed characters are the most compelling – just how self-centered and needy the Tenth Doctor had become through his series of losses. As Eleven once remarked about Amy, it was all about him. He was a complex mixture of stoicism and entitlement. Eleven, by contrast, seems to have worked out what his place in the universe is – when it needs saving, even if it’ll erase him from existence, he quietly gets on with the job in a very British way.

That little scene in Amelia’s bedroom captured my heart; it was the perfect balance of the Doctor’s care for the whole universe and compassion for one lost little girl who loved him because she had nobody else. Both were equally important. And I liked the way that we never directly saw him vanish from existence, that he seemed in control of the event and at peace with it; he might not have wanted to go but he did anyway, and he didn’t expect a requiem from Murray Gold. He reminded me of the old chap who was recently presented with a medal for his wartime bravery, and said he didn’t do much, it was really all down to the Brigadier – but when he faced his German counterpart he said, “I’m here to help you stop this bloody war.” That’s the spirit.

I can’t say often enough how wonderful it was to finish on a high note with the Doctor actually happy – it could so easily have been one of those “everybody else has a partner, I’m lonely in the TARDIS and my life sucks,” downers that RTD just couldn’t resist. To have the companions taking the initiative and simply not letting him leave them behind. To have marriage celebrated instead of seen as the end of all adventures. To see people laughing around the console. I’m delighted that we’re going to have a married couple in the TARDIS again, and has anybody noticed that they’ve all become super-human in some way, the triangle of support in the Doctor’s life? (I really don’t think we can exclude River from companion status). He’s going to be all right, for a change. Really, not just Time Lord all right. 

But do you know what pleased me most? A redhead in a wedding dress, marrying someone who actually loved her rather than a loser or a user, a reception the Doctor danced through and enjoyed instead of propping up the bar missing Rose – and all tied to a plot about the impossibility of forgetting the Doctor, and the absolute importance of memory. If that wasn’t Moffat’s riposte to what Rusty did to Donna, I don’t know what is. I can forgive the Moff an awful lot for that alone. He didn’t have to do it. But he did.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re feeling small
Alone in the night you whisper
Thinking no one can hear you at all
You wait for the morning sunlight
To find fortune that is smiling on you
Don’t let your heart be full of sorrow
For all you know tomorrow
The dream that you wish will come true…

 

(…unless you’re an England fan, of course).

 


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24 thoughts on “The Big Bang – my review. Spoilers, obviously.

  1. As per my own review, I am really hoping that next series, shorn of the requirement to be a Screaming Plot Device, Amy might become a whole character and I may therefore start both believing in and caring about what happens to her (and by extension Rory). I found it terribly frustrating this series that because Moff killed off and resurrected Rory every five minutes according to the requirements of the current plot, I soon stopped believing anything that was said/shown about their relationship, since the writer(s) couldn’t be bothered to believe in it either.
    That’s a very interesting point about remembering-the-Doctor being a riposte to RTD; the one I spotted was the Doctor’s rewind of his timeline emphatically stopping while he was still Eleven, “won’t bother with the rest of the rewind, I hate repeats”. “I reject you, RTD, and all your works…“?

  2. I discovered at the moment when Matt stepped out of the TARDIS dressed like Fred Astaire that there is a difference between my Doctor and the Doctor, and I am, finally, perfectly able to accept that he’s Da Man
    This was the point for me as well. It was the first time the Doctor has looked healthy to me since he was shot down by that Dalek in Journey’s End. The first time he ever made me smile and this was the first time Matt really convinced me that he was old enough to play the part. I also liked when he put his fingers on Amy’s lips when she said you may kiss the bride. It was reflecting back to her as a child and him as the adult at her bedside. And Matt sold it to me.
    Will I ever really warm to River Song? Nope, but she’s more of an idea than a character, like many of Moffat’s creations, and the scene where she shoots the fez and then pwns the Dalek redeemed her an awful lot in my eyes.
    LMAO! I commented somewhere else that the Fez shooting is going to be the thing that divides the fandom from now on. There will be pro-Fez camps and anti-Fez camps. I really hated that moment and the Dalek begging for mercy business, too. I hated all of that grandstanding “I’m the man” business from the Doctor and his crew. They always seem very contrived and heavy handed to me. As if the writers weren’t really sure of the coolness of the characters. So they have to hit us over the head with…oh, this makes these characters cool. And what makes a character cool for me is just that I know that the Daleks should be scared. Not that the Doctor or River or the WRITERS tell me. Deeds not words are best in writing anything.
    But all of that said, I agree with the rest of your observations. It was so very refreshing to have everyone happy for a long stretch of time. I do wish that more people had watched this ending. I hope that some viewers do come back to it by watching the finale on tape or Ipod and then showing up for a happy Christmas special. We haven’t had one of those since the very first one.
    And I suppose, living well is the best revenge on RTD. I only wish that people were not so hard on David. David was brilliant and is a much better actor than Matt. Though Matt could turn out to be a lot more fun in the long run, that is just because RTD did the wrong thing with his ending. It all comes down to the endings, Cat! As writers, we should take that firmly to our hearts…perhaps even have it tattooed over them.
    Rae

  3. The Nine/Rose/Jack dynamic (the last significant trio) has been upended by Moffat. Rory has Rose’s compassion and bravery, while Amy has a rather obvious sexuality and outrageousness. It’s a nice way of subverting gender stereotypes without going down the Gay Agenda lane too far.
    That said, I can’t see them allowing the girl companion to pull a gun (okay, Leela had spears or something, but she wasn’t human). So I’ve a feeling Rory will retain his shootin’ hand for plot emergencies.
    Like you, it infuriates me when people say David Who?, etc. It doesn’t take long, does it? But let us take comfort from the fact that it’s allowing DT to live something resembling a normal life again, so he probably has no complaints. We’re a neophile culture, when all is said and done.
    Concerning the cool factor, I think the whole point about Eleven is that he’s like your dad trying to be cool and he gets it cringe-inducingly wrong. And the Dalek bit? Moff is very honest about it I think, more so than RTD in a way. He blatantly puts them in to please the kiddies.

  4. *Clears throat* … and Ten and Rose are living happily ever after in Pete’s world having tiem!babeez while Ten2, who is actually now 11, after gaining his second heart upon regeneration has finally reconciled feelings within himself, to the point where he’s ready to move on knowing that all is right with the world again. That, and the fact that he has to figure out who the hell River is and ditch her quick smart!
    No?

  5. Oh, yes, I have no complaints about Eleven’s lack of cool. It is River and Amy that bother me. River most of all. Because if she really is the greatest thing since time began…maybe we should see more of it on screen. See it not have her tell us about it. So far, she’s done very little beyond show up and act like she’s the greatest thing going…so we like her style. But style is not substance. Just like it doesn’t matter if the Doctor has a bow tie or a really long coat. Though I guess they are getting him a long coat for next year.
    Rae
    who does wonder about the gun use this year, actually, since River uses hers…but then she’s the mistress companion, she’s allowed to be naughty and a trial to him.

  6. Now there’s an idea…I wonder if Ten2 would grow a second heart if we put him in the Pandorica? But I want to fix the metacrisis completely…that means no more Ten2 I’m afraid…even though everyone loves him for no good reason at all.
    I will think on your idea…it might work.
    Already the second camp of people saying that Moff dissed all of RTD and Tennant’s work by having Eleven leave when he did, saying, “I hate repeats.” But to me, that is too close to call…because the regeneration is happening right then, as the explosion happens. I prefer to think Moff did that so that every fan had an out for their fandom. He has one for his Doctor being whole and happy. We have one for Ten/Rose but there is also one for Ten2/Rose fans to continue. It is all possible from that point.
    Rae

  7. It’s really the only way I’m able to explain 11 away. It also accounts for most of the OOC things ‘Ten’ did post WoM. Regenerate into a whole new man, who reverts back to that child like status as a coping mechanism.
    I’ve not seen the finale, so I can’t comment on that, well I could, but it wouldnt really be fair of me to do so. I think, if we really think logically, there’s always an out.
    Moffat really has no place dissing DT/RTD. I was mad with RTD after JE, but he maintains the Ten/Rose love story and I can’t hate him for that. As for DT, the man is brilliant. Matt Smith, eh, he’s a fine Doctor, but he’s not THE DOCTOR!
    I’m anxious to see what you come up with now, Rae.

  8. I have to admit I liked River tormenting the Dalek. To me it suggested more back story than all the glimpses of filled pages in her diary.
    She hated that thing. She really, really, hated it, and responded with a kind of steady, practiced, unelaborated rage that suggests a long history with them. And that’s something we haven’t even seen hinted before. (She’s turned up so many times it’s hard to remember, but this is the first time we’ve seen her and the Daleks in the same place.)

  9. Fascinating review. Like you, I am so relieved to end on a happy note. In many ways I prefer RTD to Moffat, but Uncle Rusty’s downer endings got old after a while. Admittedly, in many cases his actors were leaving (I know Chris, Billie, and David all chose to leave, not sure about Freema and Catherine), so there pretty much had to be at least a touch of sadness, but it’s possible for companions to leave without the Doctor morose and alone in the rain.
    I like your point about the Eleven reaching peace with his death. I loved Ten in many, many ways, but his exit left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Ten never had a healthy relationship with death, either raging and whining against it or practically seeking it out (Runaway Bride, Evolution of the Daleks). Eleven, huge dork that he is, finds dignity in the face of death.
    But do you know what pleased me most? A redhead in a wedding dress, marrying someone who actually loved her rather than a loser or a user, a reception the Doctor danced through and enjoyed instead of propping up the bar missing Rose – and all tied to a plot about the impossibility of forgetting the Doctor, and the absolute importance of memory. If that wasn’t Moffat’s riposte to what Rusty did to Donna, I don’t know what is.
    Oh, what a lovely way of thinking about it! That hadn’t occurred to me. (I did think when River said that the Doctor always danced at weddings that she clearly didn’t know him as well as she thought, because grief for Rose totally trumped any urge to dance at Donna’s first wedding.) The Doctor’s “I hate repeats” in his flashbacks annoyed me; it felt like an unnecessary jab against an era of DW that I love, even on rewatch. However, fighting back against what RTD did to Donna is something I can very much get behind.
    I hope that with a family behind her and Rory with her, Amy can blossom into a companion who I can believe and love. That didn’t ever happen this season, but I’ll give her another shot.

  10. Like you, it infuriates me when people say David Who?, etc. It doesn’t take long, does it?
    I’m with you on that, but I can’t help wondering how much of the reservation towards Matt from DT fans like you girls were due to subconsciously missing David and resenting his detractors. And you can sure count me on the list of DT fans who felt that a lot of the criticism David received was unfair. Personally I thought David was great; not just one of the best Doctors, but also one of the best actors active today, period.
    But I also remember how uncomfortable it was to see people stuck on Eccleston and rejecting David back when he started, unfairly complaining about DT’s gurning, accusing him of being too emo, etc. I think Matt had to revert a similar concern towards him as a replacement; which is natural and speaks loads about how good DT was at this role. But I’m glad to see you finally accepting him; I think he’s great. Definitively different, but every bit as good as DT. There was a moment on Big Bang when he barely manages to kiss Amy’s hand, and I’ll be damned if that’s not the kiss of an old grandpa to his granddaughter. Where does a man who’s not even a father find the resources to act it with such precision? And he’s only 27; my god. The sky’s the limit here.

  11. “I hate repeats”
    I don’t read that as dissing anyone in particular. It’s just a brief explanation for the fact that neither time nor budget constraints allow for bringing in previous actors and sets and opening up that can of worms.
    It would probably look like more of an insult to RTD for the present showrunner to go back and improve on his work in public. Also, it would be very unfair to Matt and the rest of the present cast to have the press screaming about the return of DT.

  12. Re: “I hate repeats”
    I wasn’t thinking that the Doctor should interact with people as he did in the events from this season or do anything that required bringing in previous actors. I agree, that would be an unnecessary media circus and too complicated to arrange.
    I would have loved to have seen Eleven inserted into the background of familiar shots, just watching for a few seconds. If accomplishing that through effects would be prohibitively expensive or difficult, Eleven could have said something like “let’s speed this up a bit.” They could have put together a quick rush of clips like what came between his longer stops. We’d have had just enough time to wave hi to Donna, Martha, Rose, Jack, Ten, Nine, and on through classic Who. Such a sequence would have made sense given the number of times this season has already shown previous faces of the Doctor, provided a nice treat for fans of previous Doctors without lasting long enough to shift the focus away from this season’s story.
    *shrug* Probably I’m being overly sensitive in hearing the “I hate repeats” line as anything other than a joke to move the plot along, but I still don’t like it.

  13. Re: “I hate repeats”
    Fair enough. Although I would have personally squeed at your suggestion, I think it would be compared to the last 15 minutes of TEOT and probably dissed as being over-indulgence on Rusty’s part. My own feeling is that SM made his views explicit by giving us a set up so like Donna’s entrance, but with such a contrasting outcome.

  14. Oi, less of the “girls” please – I’m 51.
    I think a lot of us bent over backwards to like 11 and not keep comparing him to 10, but in the end these things take time. Some better writing would have helped.

  15. I discovered at the moment when Matt stepped out of the TARDIS dressed like Fred Astaire that there is a difference between my Doctor and the Doctor.
    Definitely. I’m another of the “girls” (not!) who tried really hard to avoid making comparisons, and who was just waiting for Eleven to make us love him and see him as the Doctor. I’ve always liked Eleven, but it’s taken me longer to work him out – almost thirteen weeks, whereas with Nine and Ten it was pretty much immediate.
    I admit that, although I enjoyed the episode (5×13), it did leave me feeling a bit flat. Overall, I don’t think it was as good as the sum of its parts, good though some of those parts were. The comedy was good, I liked River and the scene where Eleven sits and talks to a sleeping Amelia was simply wonderful – beautifully played by Matt who did a fantastic job of showing us how old and tired he was. If we’d had a bit more of that sort of depth earlier on – nothing over the top and certainly not every week – perhaps the process of transition from one “era” to the next would have been easier for some of us.
    Let’s hope that marriage matures Amy somewhat and turns her into a nicer person next series!

  16. Hello,
    This is a lovely analysis.
    I think a lot of what it takes to make me accept an actor as the Doctor happens when I identify his defining quality.
    Thinking back, I needed to see Eleven acknowledge and accept what had happened to Ten before I could accept Eleven as The Doctor. For me that started to happen in “Amy’s Choice” with the Dream Lord; it continued in “The Hungry Earth” when he talked about how being the last of his kind felt. I finally accepted Eleven as the Doctor in “Vincent and the Doctor” when he talked about the balance of good things vs bad things regarding Van Gogh’s suicide. I saw then that he’d finally found peace with his life and moved on. The scene with Amelia in the bedroom sealed the deal: that’s when I finally saw his age and wisdom, whereas I’d felt I’d only been told that up to that moment.

  17. I think a lot of what it takes to make me accept an actor as the Doctor happens when I identify his defining quality … (Eleven’s) quality is kindness –
    Oh, yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head for me. The kindness that lives in Eleven’s face has been what drew me into him (along, paradoxically, with the extremely real-seeming alien rage that erupts from time to time.) I kinow I came late to your commentary, but I had to tell you how much I appreciated it.
    I also have to note this: It made me realise – and this isn’t a criticism because flawed characters are the most compelling – just how self-centered and needy the Tenth Doctor had become through his series of losses. As Eleven once remarked about Amy, it was all about him. He was a complex mixture of stoicism and entitlement. Eleven, by contrast, seems to have worked out what his place in the universe is – when it needs saving, even if it’ll erase him from existence, he quietly gets on with the job in a very British way.
    I think this is one of the more level-headed analyses of Ten that I’ve seen, one which doesn’t diss the interpretation given him by the actor or the writers. I’m not a Tennant fan, although I definitely didn’t dislike him; by the same token, I wasn’t a tremendous fan of Ten, although I became reasonably fond of him. However both Tennant and his interpretation of the Doctor were valid ones, and I think you helped highlight some of the reasons for me; that ultimately allows me to look back at Ten with more respect than I might have once had.

  18. But do you know what pleased me most? A redhead in a wedding dress, marrying someone who actually loved her rather than a loser or a user, a reception the Doctor danced through and enjoyed instead of propping up the bar missing Rose – and all tied to a plot about the impossibility of forgetting the Doctor, and the absolute importance of memory. If that wasn’t Moffat’s riposte to what Rusty did to Donna, I don’t know what is. I can forgive the Moff an awful lot for that alone. He didn’t have to do it. But he did.
    Um, yes. This. In the same way I felt like The Eleventh Hour was a riposte to The Christmas Invasion, The Big Bang felt like that riposte to Journey’s End. Even in the title (the big bang = the beginning of everything).
    Pah, England. If belief won World Cups, we’d have won ten times over. But it doesn’t.

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