Doctor Who: Big Bang

The second part of Steven Moffat’s series finale left many of the big questions unanswered, like who or what was responsible for destroying the TARDIS, who was the owner of the voice declaring that, “silence will fall” and what is so special about Amy?  Instead Moffat has simply kicked these into touch for use as the next series’ story arc.

From The Pandorica Opens where the entire Universe seems to be gunning for the Doctor we suddenly find that the story taking place in an ever shrinking bottle. Like some djinni trapped inside a lantern the characters are rushing around a confined space, literally. The fez that the Doctor wears for part of the story may, in fact, be a signifier to elements of Aladdin that Moffat seems to draw on. If the TARDIS is the magic lantern (it’s bigger on the inside then it is on the outside and a magical character, the Doctor, lives inside it) then the Vortex Manipulator is the magic ring with which the Doctor defeats the forces marshalled against him.  Aladdin uses the magic ring in the faerie story to transport himself to Maghreb. There he recovers his wife and the lamp and defeats the evil sorcerer. The Doctor also uses the Vortex Manipulator to travel ancient Stonehenge and the heart of the exploding TARDIS to recover his female companions, Amy and River Song and it enables him to defeat the forces working against him.

To Moffat the art of telling the story is more important than the story itself as once again his love of faerie stories comes to the fore. For this reason, perhaps, we feel inclined to forgive some of the ridiculous plotting. Like, for example, the plan to dispose of the Doctor by locking him inside the Pandorica. If the committee of aliens who formed that plan had then gone on to design a horse they’d have ended up with a Camel (but I can hear Zaphod Beeblebrox saying, “Hey, don’t knock it. It worked didn’t it?)

Under Moffat Doctor Who has increasingly become a tale of folklore. The role of the Doctor alternates from that of mystic and magician to Trickster (not to be confused with the character from the The Sarah Jane Adventures) who entices the young hero and heroine onto their road to adventure. This role of the Trickster is shared with River Song especially when the Doctor himself is induced onto an adventure. All of this is a refreshing change to the Skiffy that was the usual fare from Russell T. Davies, particularly the animal heads on human bodies aliens and the re-presenting of mainstream blockbuster hits and Buffy the Vampire Slayer dressed up to look like science fiction (with absolutely no regard to any actual science).

Perhaps the biggest irritation that has carried on from RTD’s time is the obsession with trying to raise the stakes for the season finale. The sequence goes something like this, End of the World, End of the Universe, End of Time (and therefore the Universe) and finally the Not Even  Beginning of the Universe Time –Space continuum thing. Where do we go from here?

Couldn’t we just have a cracking good story (whoops, no pun intended) where the end of the universe is metaphorical rather than needing to be literal? This perception that that’s what’s needed to create tension for the simpleton audience is making the vast, mysterious, mind-blowing entity that is the Universe seem awfully parochial.

Written by Peter Grehan



    July 1, 2010

    Peter, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your account, and had not thought of the Aladdin comparisons myself, but can quite see your point!

    I am equally irritated with the ‘End of World, End of Universe’ motif you describe! What next indeed; perhaps end of f**king Multiverse?

    It all reminds me somewhat, if one is allowed a little tangential leeway, of Tenacious D’s heavy metal spoof, ‘Tribute’, which satirises that musical genre’s habit of always wanting to produce ‘the best song in the world’. As you point out, Moffat would perhaps be better off working on the subtlety and nuance of his narrative, rather than have all of SpaceTime crumble as soon as he picks up his pen!

    Frank Sable

    July 2, 2010

    I wonder if the BBC’s Doctor Who production team would even be aware of the ‘Multiverse’ concept. Perhaps that’s a little too scientific (or should that be philosophical?) to even appear on their horizon? And if they are aware of it they might be afraid of horribly confusing the audience!

    Peter Grehan

    July 2, 2010

    Another thing that makes the Universe seem very parochial is the overuse of the same alien adversaries, particularly the Cybermen and Daleks. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they are starting to feel like those rival gangs in “the hood” and diluting their impact at the same time.
    When we do encounter a new alien the Doctor nearly always seems to have encountered them (or at least heard of them) before. This saves time and allows for efficient info-dumping of course, but God, it’s as though the Universe is like Tenerife, a place you go to on holiday where you keep bumping into the same old faces.
    I do miss the ‘old’ Hartnell and Troughton Doctors who had to puzzle out (with us) exactly what it was they had encountered. You could feel the Universe was full of unexplored places and mysteries then.


    July 2, 2010

    I hadn’t thought of that before, Peter, yes the Doctor does seem to bump into the same few folk, and yes it does render the cosmos rather parochial!

    But what kind of solution to the Drake Equation would the Doctor’s universe have us believe? Is it a cosmos replete and teeming with life, or is it a less populated realm, one with fewer intelligences, such as Daleks, Cybermen, and Peter Kay in a latex suit?

    Frank Sable

    July 3, 2010

    Maybe it was teeming with life, but between them the Sontarans, Cybermen and Daleks have conquered, assimilated or exterminated everything. That would also explain why they keep having to come to Earth. Nowhere else left to do the above!

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