Doctor Who The Pandorica Opens review (spoilers) – ‘you have been scanned, assessed, understood’

The Doctor speaks to his enemies at Stonehenge

The Doctor speaks to his enemies at Stonehenge


Forgive me for shouting and not maintaining my usual calm, professional prose style but sometimes you just have to yell out loud when you are witness to something so brilliant, so stunningly fantastic, that your head very nearly explodes.

Not that we didn’t deserve it! After all, Steven Moffat has seeded this series of Doctor Who with hints and references and clues that have driven me – and I guess, you too – mad trying to figure out what they all meant. Dreams, fairytales, silence, visions.

We have all invested so much in this and now we have been rewarded in spades by Moffat whose script was brilliant, and by everyone else who was involved in the production of this perfect masterpiece.

But do you know what’s got me nearly sick with excitement? The fact that as good as this was, the best is yet to come.

What do I mean? That this series’ big reveal will only happen next week in the final episode, The Big Bang.

Yes, we’ve now know the Pandorica is a trap baited with Amy’s memories of Pandora’s box, we know it was constructed by the Doctor’s greatest enemies and that it has been built specifically to contain him, forever.

But what about the silence will fall part? Because I don’t think that means no-one can hear the Doctor as he is trapped.

Instead it refers to the thing we have yet to see, the surrogate Moffat if you like, that created the ultimate trap within a trap, of which the Pandorica was only one intricate part.

It was that person or creature or force that took control of the TARDIS and blew it up to shatter reality, that conned the Doctor’s enemies into trapping him to save the universe (or so they thought), that spoke to River Song over the TARDIS monitor saying silence will fall.

Just who or what is that? That’s the big question. My answer? I don’t know, although it did sound – a little – like Davros. Would that be a disappointment if I’m right?

All of that was easy to overlook amid the pants-wetting excitement of an episode that definitely turned it up to 11 (as Moffat said on Confidential).

The pre-credit sequence was worthy of a Hugo all on its own, beautifully linking in earlier episodes as a vision painting from Van Gogh is transported through time to the Doctor, via Winston Churchill, Liz 10 and River Song.

There was also the most beautiful grace note to old Who, when as well writing Hello Sweetie on the oldest cliffs in the Universe, River also added the symbols theta sigma – the Doctor’s nickname at the academy on Gallifrey. Magic!

The rest of the episode continued in this jaw dropping vein as we finally got to see what Moffat could do with a proper budget, which he has obviously been hoarding for these episodes.

Stonehenge! Then the beautiful set of the Underhenge and the Pandorica itself (it said on Confidential the director played John WilliamsIndiana Jones score while filming that scene, to set the right tone. It more than lived up to its aural signifier).

And then the Medusa-like Cyberman attack on Amy, with reborn Rory slaying the monster, Perseus-style.

Then how about the enormous Alien armada? Truly spectacular, almost like a work of art in itself and another award winner to be. I still haven’t mentioned River Song’s spray-on jodhpurs. Talk about spoilers!

But at the centre was Moffat continuing theme of vision and perception, only this time it was the Doctor who was not what he seemed.

To us he is the eternal hero, but to the creatures he has defeated again and again?

They see him as a monster, or as he said himself a goblin or a trickster or a warrior, the most feared being in all the cosmos, drenched in blood – their blood.

To him when he said that, he was only reciting the harmless Pandorica fairytale. But as he explained in Cold Blood when telling the humans to prepare the world for the Silurians’ return in 1000 years by passing on what had happened through “legend or prophecy or religion”, truth can become fairytales given enough time.

So when he gave his triumphant speech challenging his foes to get past him to claim the Pandorica, he was not scaring them away as we thought, while we thrilled to his heroism and bravado.

“Remember who’s standing in your way, remember every black day I ever stopped you,” he cried and they did, as his words only redoubled their determination to spring their trap.

A key part of that trap and continuing that theme was Rory, seemingly returned from the dead.

Oh, has there ever been a more mesmeric scene in the whole of Doctor Who than when Rory begged Amy to see him for who we was to her? ‘It’s me, it’s me’ he sobbed, allowing Amy’s emotions to overcome the effects of the crack erasing him from time.

It was so beautiful, with Karen Gillen as Amy putting in her best performance of the series and Arthur Darvill’s Rory just as touching.

Yet when we thought we knew what was going on, Moffat switched it again by revealing Rory as an Auton, who was powerless to resist his programming. Was he always one?

‘It’s me’ became ‘I’m a thing, I’ll kill you’ as playful banter became a joyful reunion became Amy’s shattering death. Truly majestic television.

But we weren’t finished yet, with my geek alarm going into overdrive as the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans (how great was it to see Christopher Ryan’s Commander Stahl again?!) got together to spring their trap on the Doctor.

As a quick search of wikipedia will tell you, Pandora’s Box  on which the Pandorica was based contained all the evils of the world which escaped when it was opened, leaving only hope inside.

Here those evils were the Doctor’s enemies and their intentions (both of which only became clear once the box had opened) and the Doctor – as he has said so often this series – is the hope.

I wonder if the Doctor has even watched The Shawshank Redemption? I bet he has, because I think it would have appealed to him, especially the main character Andy Dufresne’s line about hope.

“It is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies,” he said.

It was that hope that helped Andy escape from Shawshank, along with a rock hammer and the application of pressure over time as his friend Red comments.

Like Andy, the Doctor has plenty of all three, as well as – I suspect – the time vortex manipulator River Song used and then left lying next to the Pandorica.

So when he gets busy living (that’s enough Shawshank references – ed)and busts out of the Pandorica, what then?

Like I said, I don’t know, but given that the Doctor told the Weeping Angels that he was one thing you never put in a trap “if you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow”, you can bet the bad guys won’t like it.

I will also bet we haven’t seen the last of Amy’s house that makes no sense.

What is in those empty rooms? Could the Doctor have left the key to salvation among Amy’s raggedy Doctor keepsakes?

And – this only just occured to me – why does an old house with a downstairs, an upstairs and a loft have a second flight of stairs leading to a third floor?

River Song with the stairs to ... where?

River Song with the stairs to ... where?

Now, that’s got me thinking.

Could there be another perception filter up there, like in The Lodger, hiding something that doesn’t want to be seen, or at least not yet? The Doctor maybe? Another TARDIS? The big bad?

We shall find out in seven days, but here’s hoping The Big Bang delivers on this magnificent scene setter, which was a classic.

Bravo Mr Moffat, bravo.

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29 thoughts on “Doctor Who The Pandorica Opens review (spoilers) – ‘you have been scanned, assessed, understood’

  • norathar


    did river say ” why do i let you out doctor” when shes looking over amy ponds room for the first time?

  • Does anyone think River may be a future version of the Doctor? Even the Dalek said

    “Only the Doctor can pilot the TARDIS” the Dalek says this as River is flying the TARDIS

  • Didn’t River say to the Doctor explicitly in this episode; about flying the TARDIS, “YOU taught me.” But had said something else before ….

  • mark


    I just clicked to something! the landing burn marks on amys lawn look like they could be from the ship from the lodger! it had like tripod legs and just vanished without explanation of where to. and the doc said in that ep that someone was trying to build a tardis and sure the tardis couldnt land? remote control? similar to what hapened with river? maybe coincidence but it seems so connected. i definately think the ship landed in amys front garden.

  • Levi


    Thanks for that great review, just read it minutes after watching the ep.
    I love the fact that the ‘villians’ banded together without it being a betrayal of their personas. the survival instinct was the only thing holding them together, the big bang looks to be awesome, even with the cheaply made daleks and all.

  • SPOILER: Thought I saw something on this page about the doctor’s coat in the Weeping Angles ep but I can’t find it now. Anyway a quick google reveals the theory there were two doctor’s running around the crashed Byzantum (one without a coat after the Angels snatched it and one (possible future doctor) with a coat who came back to tell Amy, with her eyes shut, to remember what he told her when she was six). So I guess this possible second doctor is a future doctor from the last episode who has jumped in time to give Amy this clue. I guess the thing he was asking her to remember is the thing he said to her (off screen) when he revisited her (the second TARDIS) in the first ep? Which means whatever knowledge he gave her she has been hiding from the norml timeline Doctor for the whole series. I guess Amy knows more than the Doctor about what is going on and has done all her life.

    • Aleks


      I rewatched Episode 1 and noticed that the Doctor gave Amy some advice upon their first trip in the Tardis. The Doctor told Amy that there was one thing for her to understand about him and that oneday her life may depend upon it, namely, that he is ‘definitely a madman with a box’.

      We’ll see how the next episode all plays out, but it is interesting that the Doctor said that he is a madman with a box, not a blue box, but just a box. The Pandorica is a box also, so this may be a reference to the Pandorica box as well.

      And, with memories of individuals being identified as important to bring them back, regardless of ‘the crack’, we may find some unexpected possibilities in the storyline.

      Just looking forward to all of the fun created by Moff and Company. Cheers to you all!


  • Sam Shepherd


    Until Rory turned out to have a gun where his hand should be I had my money on the Roman era actually being “his time”, and that he might somehow have been pulled through time to Amy, and that’s how come he ended up back there after he died. I also had my money on the thing in the Pandorica being a version of the Doctor, somehow, so I get a point there, right?

    Now I haven’t got a clue what’s going on but I’d bet that every episode has been a clue of some kind. The crime that put River in prison, the persistent not being able to believe what you see with your eyes and the Dream Lord, plus Amy’s life “not making sense” – nothing’s ever just background with the Moff, right?

    PS anyone else notice that the patterns the Tardis screen was making at the end looked a lot like the wallpaper in Amy’s house? Never ignore a coincidence!

  • Marsha Green


    SPOILER ALERT: There are photos of a young amy standing next to 11 in a museum like setting – prehaphs he was actually stuck in the pandorica untill Amy found him on a school trip? But i think that if this entire plot was created from Amy’s memories, prehaps River Song goes back in time or the Doc uses his psycic abilities (Series 3 finale anyone?) and changes them in order to re-writethem – remember howshe was so synical at the beginning of the series, prehaps the Big-Bad is Amy herself as she would need to believe in order for this to work, and she hasn’t truly believed since the doc let her down all those years ago.

    • Didn’t see that pic Marsha, but intriguing. In the 11th Hour young Amy was smiling when the TARDIS returned, even though the Doctor supposedly didn’t come back for 15 years or so. He also said she had to remember what he told her when she was six in Flesh and Stone.

      What does that mean? I don’t know, but fun isn’t it?

  • Aleks


    It looks like this blog does not support Unicode so I will type it in English letters

    Theta Sigma Phi Gamma gamma Delta sigma

    (actually, the last character sigma is the “qoppa form” for stigma but it is fundamentally the character sigma in the Greek alphabet)

  • Aleks


    I was wondering if anyone could explain the full reference to the phrase under “Hello Sweetie” in this episode:
    ?? ? ????

    I am aware of the Theta-Sigma reference to the Doctor in the Library episode and with the reference to a nickname from his academy days. But, I am not sure of the meaning of the whole phrase.

    Any information is much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Grifter


      Wow. Huh. Did you not notice that’s how River Song greets him all the time? That’s all it is to it.

  • Gary


    Amy’s house reminds me of the TARDIS with its blue doors and wallpaper. Could it be a TARDIS in disgise as in the Lodger? Also I think we haven’t seen the last of ‘young Amy’, the ten year old version, as we still don’t know who turned up in the TARDIS after The Doctor left her for the first time in The Eleventh Hour.

    One minor plot hole. If the Autons or whoever, used items from her room to recreate the Romans and Rory (from the picture on the wall), or psychic resonances or whatever… how come Rory’s photograph was stil on the wall when he had previously been erased from time?

    • Have been wondering that myself. So far, have got either the ‘other’ Doctor put it there, the guy with the coat on from Flesh and Stone, as part of his behind the scenes work to escape the Pandorica, or it was a wibbly-wobbly echo caused by Amy remembering him in the past.

      Any ideas anyone else?

  • I know who I want the big bad to be. But can he be done justice in a 45 minute episode? With the Moff probably.

    I will confess that there have been times this series where you’ve wondered if it’s all going RTD shaped, but the “clues” weren’t over done, and often beautifully interwoven into the individual plots making it feel more like a proper story arc than a series of clues to big bad and the epic “throw everything we’ve got at it” finales. Okay, everything has been thrown at it monster wise, but with the twist that they have risen against the Doctor. (A twist on something the Doc says way back in Genesis of The Dalek, how the Daleks were a force that united former enemies to fight against them)

    That speech to the gathering enemies was amazing, dare I even say that in Ten’s hand it would not have worked as well? It would have just added to his God complex, here it just worked as what seemed to be a moment of triumph (but as we now know it wasn’t that at all.)

    I watched the episode with jaw on the floor for most of it, completely immersed in the action and gasping at the twists and turns (and, I admit, trying not to laugh at the Cyber head bit, I’m sure it was meant to be scary but I’m afraid I just found it funny!)

    I can’t wait to watch next week, I’ll be avoiding spoilers and hoping for a return of one my personal favourite baddies…but even if it’s not him I do believe I’m going to enjoy the adventure!

  • Charles


    Great article, I have one small theory to posit…could Moffat be trying to resurrect a very old, very bad enemy of the Doctor. I think he could possibly be bringing back another old Time Lord, like when the Master was brought back into the series. Seeing that only Time Lords and apparently River Song can pilot the Tardis (except that time Martha, Rose, Jack, the Doctor an all did it together). And since none of the normal enemies of the Doctor could ever get inside the Tardis, much less control it remotely and overload it, I’m guessing a pissed off Time Lord with an agenda that goes beyond destroying the universe is at work. That horrific voice that kept saying “Silence will fall.” I think, quite possibly, that the enemy working behind the scenes is The Omega. Just a theory.

  • ..and a nod to the Borg “You will be assimilated”

    …and the house in The Lodger also didn’t have as many rooms as it initially appeared

    …and ‘Amy Pond’ is almost an anagram of Pandora

    …and I can’t fooking wait for 26 06 2010

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