Tag Archives: Judoon

The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

Epic finales have capped the past four and a bit seasons, so it was no surprise that season 5 went all out. In a scene reminiscent of what Russell T Davies probably intended in The Stolen Earth, every single available alien, robot and creature from the past five years gathers together at Stonehenge 102 AD (including, bizarrely, the Silurians, who shouldn’t even be awake at this point) to trap the Doctor in a giant box, thus stopping him from destroying the Universe when his Tardis explodes in the future.

The Universe's largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

The Universe’s largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

It’s a good twist, because you spend most of the first episode thinking there’s a monster inside the Pandorica, but in fact the monster is the Doctor and all the bad guys are there to save the Universe for a change. It must have taken an incredible amount of planning on their part, though. They had to read a psychic imprint of Amy’s mind to create the trap, ensure the coordinates were written on a painting that would get passed down to River Song, who would find a way to escape prison and bring the Doctor to the right place. Convoluted isn’t the word! You also have to wonder, if keeping the Doctor sealed away for eternity is so important, why make the Pandorica so easy to open again from the outside?

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated. With the first episode ending on the most extreme of cliffhangers, the Tardis exploding, the Doctor trapped forever, and the lights in the Universe blinking out of existence, it takes a hell of a job to undo it, but this is one of those occasions where it mostly works satisfyingly, thanks to Steven Moffat’s knack for planning out long-winded and complex plots and believing in the audience enough to keep up with it. Through a series of time jumps, the Doctor sets into motion an elaborate plan to rescue himself and works out how to undo the erasure of the Universe. These sequences are both amusing and clever, not to mention logically consistent (a rarity in a show that supposedly deals with time travel), so it’s a shame that a large part of the climax revolves around, basically, magic.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

This annoys me, because the story could rely on its use of hard temporal mechanics to sort itself out, but instead descends into wishy-washy metaphor. Erased from existence, the Doctor is brought back into the Universe by the power of memories or love or some such nonsense. How does that make any sense? The mind is not some magical thing that can overcome the laws of physics – either somebody exists in spacetime or they don’t. So now we have a situation where the Tardis was actually blown up, but now it wasn’t because it was undone, except that it still did happen because they remember it and still need to work out who was responsible for it, even though it quite obviously didn’t happen because the Tardis still exists. The Doctor was at the heart of the Big Bang version 2, except he clearly wasn’t because he still exists, and he only exists because Amy and Rory remember him… and so on, and so forth.

It's not quite as bad as "the whole world prays for the Doctor" but it's the same sort of thing.

It’s not quite as bad as “the whole world prays for the Doctor” but it’s the same sort of thing.

Well, whatever issues there are with the plot, I can’t deny that it’s bloody ambitious. I also love how the previous episodes from the season are incorporated into it, with Vincent’s painting passed down through history, and then later with the Doctor revisiting Amy in their previous adventures and finally explaining that weird scene from Flesh and Stone. Amy’s story arc also reaches a conclusion, with the mystery of her vanishing parents solved, the crack in her room being sealed, and Rory coming back into existence in time for their wedding day.

It's hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words "something old, something new, something borrowed... something blue". Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

It’s hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words “something old, something new, something borrowed… something blue”. Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

I suppose what I liked most about this finale is that all the overblown threat is contained with a minimum of bluster within part 1. After the big incident, the second part is relatively low-key. There’s this wonderful mix of the utterly bleak (all the stars have gone out, the Tardis is burning in the sky for two millennia, and the Earth will soon disappear), the heartwarmingly lovely (Auton-duplicate Rory standing guard over Amy for 2000 years) and the bloody funny (the stuff with the mop and the fez). There was never any doubt that everything would turn out fine in the end, but getting there is a fascinating journey. For that reason, it’s the best season finale of the new series, despite the problems I had with it.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

I was hoping to have revisited Matt Smith’s entire run before season 8 begins, but as I type this, Peter Capaldi’s debut is just days away, so I’m going to take this opportunity to take a ‘deep breath’, enjoy the new series and come back to this in a little while.

Smith and Jones

A platoon of Judoon, on the moon. This is the episode where an entire hospital is whisked away by intergalactic rent-a-cops searching for a shape-shifting Plasmavore. It also introduces the brand new companion for this season, Martha Jones.

The Doctor and Martha stand on a balcony, looking at the moon's surface. Martha had an identical twin cousin (erm...?) who died in the Canary Wharf attack.

The Doctor and Martha stand on a balcony, looking at the moon’s surface. Martha had an identical twin cousin (erm…?) who died in the Canary Wharf attack.

A medical student with a dysfunctional family straight out of Eastenders, Martha meets the Doctor by chance while he’s investigating the strange electrical activity surrounding the hospital (and posing as a patient, John Smith). It’s interesting that the Doctor claims he wants to travel alone, but when he picks a ‘new recruit’, we get a sense of how his selection process works. Martha’s instincts impress the Doctor. While everyone else is running around like headless chickens, Martha asks intelligent questions and sees things that others miss. She keeps a level head, even in the face of ridiculous events, and clicks with the Doctor straight away. In this sense, she’s not unlike Rose, although the Doctor makes it clear she is not her replacement.

Martha steps into the Tardis for the first time and we have to go through the whole "bigger on the inside routine". That never gets old, right?

Martha steps into the Tardis for the first time and we have to go through the whole “bigger on the inside routine”. That never gets old, right?

Smith and Jones depicts the planet Earth as just another insignificant orb in a vast universe of alien politics. I like the way it’s outside of Judoon jurisdiction, so they have to teleport a chunk of it to the neutral territory of the moon in order to conduct their search. The Judoon aren’t good or evil, they’re just soldiers for hire, logical but mindless, similar to the Sontarans (although less obsessed with the mechanics of war). Rhino-like in appearance, their commander is a striking presence (with fully animated features), but confirms a lack of originality in Doctor Who’s alien designs. We’ve had trees, pigs, spiders and now space-rhinos. It’s a zoo out there, apparently.

The Judoon commander scans the humans for signs of non-humanness.

The Judoon commander scans the humans for signs of non-humanness.

Despite everything going on in this episode, it does a lot with very little. It’s all set in a hospital (with the odd bit of green screen showing the moon’s surface), most of the Judoon are helmeted, the Plasmavore’s leathery henchman don leather jackets and motorcycle helmets, and the Plasmavore herself is in the form of an elderly woman who uses a plastic straw to drain her victims’ blood. This works on the basis that ordinary things are more scary than exotic ones – monsters hidden in plain sight.

Despite getting a straw in the neck vein, the Doctor doesn't appear to have any visible injury afterwards.

Despite getting a straw in the neck vein, the Doctor doesn’t appear to have any visible injury afterwards.

I enjoyed Smith and Jones; as an introduction to the new season and new companion, it ticks all the right boxes, whisks along at an exciting pace, and has a fun time-travel party trick to catch on a repeat viewing. I have a few issues with it, though: firstly, any possibility of humans being ignorant of alien life is well and truly up the spout now, surely, and yet life seems to go on as normal anyway. Secondly, I find it hard to believe that even an alien would be able to create a such a ridiculously deadly magnetic weapon capable of killing half the life on Earth… using an MRI machine. Did we really need that extra peril? (And where is the hospital’s power coming from, anyway?) Finally, and this is something that will manifest gradually, but the romantic tension has already been set up between Martha and the Doctor, and they only met each other earlier that day. Give it a rest; the Doctor should be a grumpy weirdo, not a sex object! Finally, at one point, the Doctor breaks his sonic screwdriver. “What a great excuse to finally get rid of it”, I thought – until ten minutes later when he’s made himself a new one.