There’s no doubt there had been a lot of expectation here. Series openers and finales had been the sole territory of Russell T Davies since Doctor Who returns, and Moffat knocked his first series opener out of the park with The Eleventh Hour. So, what would he give us for a finale?
In many ways, Steven Moffat has stuck to quite an established format for the finale. The stakes are raised to “end of the universe” levels and there’s some big fanservice thrown in, be it Dalek fleets, Cybermen versus Daleks, or a massive Companion team up, RTD always new how to please the fans with spectacle. In that way, Steven Moffat has stuck to what people know, with a mammoth alliance of the Doctors old friends and enemies revealed towards the end of the episode, having joined forces in light of the oncoming universal extinction.
However he has also woven his own series feel in amongst this, with the fairytale theme of the series again present, in the form of a story about The Pandorica. An ancient box supposed to hold the most dangerous warrior in existence, having been tricked into it by a good wizard.
The destruction of the TARDIS and the crack, obviously take centre stage in this story, as we open with a brilliant sequence in which the high profile guest stars of this series all feature in which Van Gogh has a vision of the coming destruction, and his painting of it is passed down through the years, before finally retrieved from Liz Ten by River Song. It was a fantastic opening to the episode, that immediately showed the level of planning that’s obviously gone into this story arc. Previously RTD always focused more on hints and teases rather than actual story arcs (and understandably so – you don’t want to scare off casual viewers), but I think this opening showed that we’re not just dealing with a 2-part finale that’s been teased, but rather the culmination of a story arc that’s been carefully planned throughout the run.
From there, we get a superb build up to the final scenes, as River, Amy and the Doctor find the Pandorica surprisingly quickly. Instead Steven Moffat wisely uses the slow unlocking of the Pandorica to ratchet up the tension, adding in a Cyberman attack for good measure.
And talking of the Cybermen, while they look the same (and refer to “all universes” being at threat, implying they’re definitely the Cybusmen), they’ve been updated slightly to be more in line with the originals. The Cyberhead trying to attach itself to Amy, and the reveal of the rotting skull inside it was a great horror moment, and shows they’ve evolved from the “brain in a box” Lumic originally designed. Personally I’m very glad by this, as I always thought that made them too robotic, versus the body horror aspect of the Cybermen (and so well captured by Star Trek’s Borg).
By this point, Matt Smith seems pretty comfortable with his take on the Doctor, and as always was a joy to watch as he scrabbled around trying to figure things out. His Doctor immediately drawn the mystery of the Pandorica, a thing he previously thought only a myth (in a similar way to how the Tenth Doctor was drawn to the mystery of the Satan Pit). It made a heck of a lot of sense that the alliance knew this would be how to ensnare him, and those final scenes of him being dragged into the Pandorica, as he desperately tries to argue that only he can stop the TARDIS exploding made for a powerful ending.
And to wrap everything off, we’ve got the much-speculated return of Rory, but with one heck of a twist. Obviously, something related to the crack allowed him to be reborn into this Auton version of his body, but the reveal that that’s what he was, as he struggled to stop himself killing Amy. Wow.
The only downside I can see to this awesome first part, is how part 2 must now live up to it. These two-part stories tend to be better judged as a whole, and traditionally part 1 tends to be an excellent setup. The trick is in coming up with a believable way out of the universe-threatening peril. However, Steven Moffat has been responsible for more than his fair share of quality 2-parters throughout the show’s run (most recently, the superb Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone), so my hopes are high that Saturday could well be one of the best series finales we’ve had.