Doctor Who: Series 5 - Volume 4 (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros check out the final quartet of episodes in Series Five...
After encountering the Silurians for the third time and seeing another companion die, the Doctor will soon meet another legendary figure from Earth’s history, will face living in a flat by himself and will ultimately confront what lurks inside the mysterious Pandorica…
Vincent and the Doctor
Following the loss of Amy’s fiancée, Rory, the Doctor takes Amy (who has had all memory of her beloved erased and is now completely oblivious to her recent bereavement) to an art gallery, where a painting of a church by Van Gough depicts a mysterious figure with burning eyes. A bell rings in the back of our time-travelling friend’s mind, and is sure he might have encountered their like before…
The Doctor and Amy rush back to 1890 to question Van Gough himself as to the nature of the creature, instead discovering a man who is a shadow of his former self and near the end of his life. Whilst they try and get some sense out of the down-and-out artist, the Doctor and Amy realise that bigger things are afoot than Van Gough simply going off the rails—the mysterious figure in the painting is actually a rampaging monster that threatens to destroy anything in its path.
Tony Curran is great as Van Gough—aside from really looking the part, he paints (pun intended) the artist as a deeply-flawed character but one who ultimately wants to enjoy life even though he was haunted by the black clouds of depression and alcohol. Curran had such a raw deal with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as he played (an) Invisible Man, which meant not only was a saddled with a Cock-er-ney accent, but you didn’t get to see his face properly, so it’s nice to get to see him really show his worth here.
It was pleasing to see actor Bill Nighy in a nice cameo as Dr Black, who shows the Doctor, Amy and others around the museum at the start of the episode. Nighy was being heavily touted for the role of the Doctor, and in a piece of casting to rival The Curse of the Fatal Death, Nighy finally found himself in Doctor Who. The casting of Nighy in this story was almost certainly as a result of Richard Curtis penning the episode. Our enduring memory of Mr Nighy was when we were being “zombified” in the makeup trailer on Shaun of the Dead, and Nighy walked in wearing a white coat and hilariously 70’s glasses. We thought he was playing some kind of “boffin” in the film, but they turned out to be his real specs, and the coat was to protect his wardrobe. Oops.
In the funeral cortège, we thought we saw a face from the past, and was only watching the end credits which confirmed we were right. Ms Chrissie Cotterill, whom we remember fondly from the 80s’ C4 series Prospects, plays the mother of the dead, and was quite an alarming experience to see how the ravages of time have affected her. It could be worse: look how long Gary Olsen has been dead.
Whilst it’s a fun ride, when Vincent and the Doctor is over there is a feeling that you have been manipulated—the final scene in the museum was intended to be poignant, but the heavy use of emo music just renders the sequence intolerable to all but the emotionally constipated (which is appropriate really, seeing as Richard Curtis’ rom-coms are aimed at similarly afflicted people); instead of being a thought-provoking coda, it just pushes bile up into your throat.
As is becoming commonplace in Nu-Who, there is a repetition of themes to be found, and this one is the power of art. Not on an emotional level, but on an almost metaphysical one. In The Shakespeare Code, the Bard is able to banish the invading evil though his written word, whilst here Van Gough can visualise the Krafayis on his canvas, using his abilities to lead it into the climactic church showdown. It’s a nice way to express the shockingly under-appreciated medium of classical art, but once more might be construed as too often.
This might be a result of us having an aversion to said work of Richard Curtis, or at least the rom-coms which have given him a very comfortable life. We have stated before that we consider that particular genre to be the lowest form of cinema, with no ideas or outré concepts to challenge the brain, only existing to make it easier to get girlies to assume a “Y”-shape position after the movie. It was Curtis’ Love Actually which opening with the contentious gambit of: “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge—they were all messages of love…”. Jesus.
The rear-view mirror device that the Doctor uses to see the Krafayis is pretty naff and brought back shuddering memories of the 3D glasses and vacuum-cleaner thing that David Tennant had strapped to his back in the two-part finale of series two—however, it was with great relief that Matt Smith didn't sing some of the Ghostbusters theme song in this story.
Vincent and the Doctor seems like another example of New-Who where the story was originally a character piece and the only monsters to be battled were ones that existed in the mind, but the Krafayis just seem like they were included in a later draft of the script and harkens back to the days of John Nathan-Turner, where every Doctor Who story had to have a “monster” in it—Peter Davison's finale, The Caves of Androzani was nearly ruined by having a silly monster in it. This also happened with series three’s The Lazarus Experiment and the “must have a monster” dictate is even more obvious here, which is frustrating, as the episode could have existed perfectly well without it. We can safely say that a form of Gene Roddenberry/Fred Freiberger disparity is in effect here.
The Doctor is unceremoniously thrown out of the TARDIS and finds himself in a park in Colchester. Amy is stuck inside the TARDIS, as mysterious force has locked it in time-loop and the Doctor has to become a lodger in a house whilst he works out what to do about his present predicament. This everyday mundane existence is not quite as routine as it appears, as previous tenants in the flat are inexplicably disappearing within the house.
The Lodger is a very entertaining change-of-pace story that comes at the point in the series that had previously been used for "Doctor-Lite" episodes—Smith will probably develop enough clout to demand one for series six—but the Doctor is the central character here and the nature of the story allows Smith to stretch a little by showing the Doctor in situations that are ordinarily be (pardon the term) alien to him. Seeing the Doctor playing football with a pub team is a little bizarre, but seeing as Matt Smith was a promising footballer before injury forced him to rethink his career path, it all works out and he gets to show his stuff on-screen.
Continuing the New-Who trend of casting comedy actors in dramatic roles, The Lodger sees James Corden in a relatively straight role. To be fair, he's not too bad in this, but we have had an intense dislike of him since his ghastly collaborative efforts with Matthew Horne. With the domestic nature of the project, it would have been easy to have let Cordon milk the situation for his usual brand of comedy, but has been tamed by a combination of directorial sensibilities and the good work of Corden himself. Yeah, that really sticks in the throat.
There are shades of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, with various characters drawn to strangeness lurking in the attic of a communal house. Sure, Pinter’s magnet for weirdness is a mentally-retarded guy looking for company, but as we are in Doctor Who territory, it won’t be much of a spoiler when we say that they go down the Sci-Fi route of having a time machine lurking on the highest floor of the residence. What should have been a surprise reveal of said device isn’t, as anyone watching the show now knows what to expect, and this might be a good indicator that the programme might need to go on hiatus for a while. Still, Star Trek: The Next Generation did variations on this kind of plot twenty years ago, but it is still nice to see it being done over here, even though the concept might not be as fresh as it once was.
It might be a touch nerdy to say this, but when the reveal of the alien spacecraft happens near the end of the story, our hopes were raised a little by the fact that it looks more than a little like the Jagaroth ship in the classic Tom Baker story, City of Death—it obviously was our overactive imaginations being engaged in "wishful thinking mode", but never mind...
As we have already said, The Lodger is an interesting change-of-pace, that provides that same kind of light relief that the average Doctor-Lite stories offer just before diving headlong into the final story of the series.
The Pandorica Opens
From various points in history, there are signs that something big is going to happen. Significant historical figures know that something is coming—Van Gough, Churchill, Elizabeth the 10th. River Song is languishing in prison until she receives vital news and engineers her escape.
Van Gough's painting depicts the TARDIS exploding and River Song leaves a message carved on one of the oldest cliff-faces in the universe for the Doctor, along with a set of temporal co-ordinates.
The TARDIS materialises in 102AD and The Doctor and Amy encounter Roman soldiers; they eventually meet Cleopatra, who turns out to be River Song masquerading as the Egyptian queen and together they realises that the Pandorica, a prison, is located beneath Stonehenge and they set off to find it.
When discovered, the Pandorica attracts ships from many of the races that have fallen afoul of the Doctor over the years, all of whom hover over Stonehenge in the night sky. All hell eventually begins to break loose and River Song is catapulted forward to 26th June 2010, which just happens to also be the base code of the universe. The Roman soldiers are revealed to be Autons, along with one particular soldier, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Rory, who desperately tries to get Amy to remember him. Will she be able to remember him and get her beloved boyfriend back, or will she have to make do with a plastic substitute?
The Pandorica Opens is an enjoyable romp that sets up the last episode in the series quite nicely; there are times when so many elements are introduced and so much is going on that it threatens to tip over into the Russell T Davies school of first-part-of-the-end-of-series-closer writing, but thankfully, it is reigned in and builds to a climax and a shock revelation that most clued-in Doctor Who viewers saw coming a mile off.
The concept of a zombified Cyberman stalking the unwary at Stonehenge is creepy and the manner in which the sequence is executed is to be commended, as it finally starts to restore an element to the Cyberman that RTD had obliterated when he redesigned them for New-Who. Executive Producer (we steadfastly refuse to use that idiotic American term "Show-Runner") Steven Moffat has always preferred the Mondas Cybermen and even though this story uses one of the camp New-Who Cybus Industries ones, he at least doesn't have it marching like one of the Village People and exclaiming "delete, delete!". Thank God.
The location filming at Stonehenge really augments the sense of wonder to this story; The Pandorica Opens represents the first time that the production has ventured outside Wales for extensive location work (other episodes of New-Who have had London footage, but this was mainly confined to second-unit work and some small scenes with the principles) and the results are handsome. The continuation of the scenes set at Stonehenge, but shot away from the monument match up perfectly and the viewer feels as though the real Stonehenge was used throughout.
The production tried to keep some of surprise appearances as just that—surprises. Doctor Who fandom has a way of ferreting out information and more leaks appear than a South American drug informant—there were indeed leaks, but we resisted looking at them, as we wanted to be surprised. We were expecting some big-name cameos or faces from the past, but all they really turned out to be were characters from previous episodes in this series, who obviously all shot their appearances for The Pandorica Opens whilst filming their main stories.
Speaking of surprises, the whole concept of bringing back Amy's fiancée Rory from the dead was almost as foregone a conclusion as pitting Stephen Hawking against Mike Tyson in a thirteen-round pugilism bout. It was screamingly obvious that Rory was going to reappear in some capacity for the final story, but this is done so in a more inventive way than many would have given credit; having Rory return as an Auton and not entirely human was an interesting idea, and having him wrestle with his new Nestine side adds an extra edge to the drama, particularly when incorporated into the multiple cliff-hangers that occur at the end of this episode. The Amy/Rory shock cliff-hanger is far and away the strongest part of the climax and the site of the Doctor being seemingly done away with for all eternity pales in comparison to what happens between his assistant and his recently-deceased assistant.
Matt Smith's "rock star" moment, where he addresses all of the hovering ships above him, with various searchlights flashing around him is more than a little camp, and seeing as he's at Stonehenge, the rock group that it's most reminiscent of is Spinal Tap. We’d have been so happy if he'd have proven that banshees reside at that particular monument, and that they do live comfortably.
The whole idea of having many of the Doctor's adversaries forming an alliance in order to get rid of him once and for all falls squarely into the category of "fan-wank"—there has been much speculation as to why such-and-such a race would ever agree to join when such-and-such is a part of it, and that sort of thing. Too much brain-power has been expended upon trying to think of a reason that would fit in with it—the concept of intelligent design is easier to swallow—but the simple answer as to why so many races would be in the Alliance is because the costumes were hanging in the back of the wardrobe...
The Big Bang
Continuing straight on from the end of the previous episode, all of the elements that have been slowly building up throughout this series have come into play and things look pretty bleak for Amy, who has just been killed by her Auton replica fiancée, Rory and also for the Doctor, who has been imprisoned in the Pandorica, seemingly forever. Silence has indeed fallen as the stars in the sky explode, leaving only Earth in the middle of a black void.
However, back in 1996, young Amelia Pond has been exercising her creativity once again, drawing a picture of the night sky, but there are no stars in the her sky. At a museum, Amelia comes across the Pandorica and it opens, revealing her older self—very much alive. Not only that, it seems that he plastic lover Rory has taken a leaf out of Marvin the Paranoid Android's book and has been waiting around for centuries, waiting for Amy to re-emerge. Along with Rory, the museum has another mysterious sentinel—a stone Dalek that turns out not to be quite an inanimate as first thought.
Steven Moffat likes his cryptic three-worded warnings—[/i]"count the shadows"[/i] was used in series three's two-part story Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead and running all the way through series five, there has been the portentous "silence will fall".
Having the base code of the universe the same date as the broadcast of the final episode of the series (26062010) is pretty cool in the run up to the final episode and is involving during the broadcast, but the novelty is lost when watching it afterwards. That's the trouble when something's of the moment, the moment is glorious, but it dates faster than anything that doesn't try hard to be topical or current—it's very much like watching repeats of Have I Got News For You on Dave. Still, I suppose you could just jump in the TARDIS and travel back in time to watch it again and again just to get that same sensation.
There are a ridiculous amount of twists and turns in this two-part story, with most of them happening in The Big Bang, as there narrative hair-pin bends and all manner of surprises that build to what is quite possibly the most satisfying climax to a series of New-Who—usually, the first part of a two-part finale is more enjoyable, but this story bucks the trend, delivering a latter episode that manages to wrap everything up without seeming particularly trite or contrived. Steven Moffat carefully built the structure of the story-arc and increased the sense of tension as series five went on and actually delivered on the premise. It could be argued that this is the first two-part finale that actually feels cohesive and not one where the writer was not entirely sure how to end things
The performances in the two-part finale are as good as usual, with Smith and Gillan's chemistry very much in evidence. Smith spends some time of this story sporting a fez and trying to convince those around him that "fezes are cool"—Sylvester McCoy wore one (albeit briefly) over twenty years before in Silver Nemesis, and if you want to get somewhat anal, the Eighth Doctor also sported that most popular of North African/Middle-Eastern headgear in Doctor Who and the Nightmare Game.
Arthur Darville is also very good as Rory, the loyal returned-from-the-dead-well-sort-of fiancée, who adds a more human side to the story (funny really, seeing as he is now no longer a member of the homo sapien species).
It was great to see young actress Caitlin Blackwood back as Amelia Pond, and playing such an integral part in the story—she was wonderful back in The Eleventh Hour and was arguably more fun to watch than the older version of her character.
Alex Kingston is more bearable than usual as River Song, but whatever merits her performance has in this story, it is somewhat overshadowed by the impressive backside she has, which is augmented by what looks like a pair of jodhpurs. OK, we're Doctor Who fans, but we're also unashamed arse-men, too...
Things end on a happy note, as the wedding that had been mentioned, alluded to, thrown out of the window and seemingly postponed indefinitely finally goes ahead and there is a nice collection of items that are gathered together for the "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". The schmaltz factor rises alarmingly during this scene, but given all the dramatic events that have taken place between Amy and Rory over the course of this series, a wallow in sentimental slush can be forgiven. The story concludes with what is almost certainly the set-up for the Christmas special, which involves an Egyptian goddess on the Orient Express in outer space—we're hoping that this is just a throwaway thing, as it sounds awfully trite, but only time will tell...
Doctor Who: Series 5 Volume 4 has pretty much the same look to it that the previous volumes had; they're bright and colourful, with a reasonably high amount of detail—obviously, they can't compete with the Blu-ray copies, but they're still pretty good.
Much like the others in the series, the audio is a fairly solid Dolby Digital 2.0 affair, with clear dialogue, sporadic spot-effects and a not-inconsiderable amount of low-frequencies now and again.
The Monster Files: Continuing 2Entertain's policy of having some sort of extra feature on their individual Series 5 discs, they have seen fit to present the viewer with another brief Monster File, which this time looks at the Alliance. This ten-minute look at who is in the Alliance has Executive Producer Steven Moffat confirming that the deciding factor behind who was in the Alliance was simply which costumes and outfits were available at the time, and yet straight after Moffat admits this, fellow Executive Producer Piers Wenger immediately comes out with the sort of bullshit that Moffat just exploded. The Cyber-head and Rory the Auton are also discussed in this entertaining, but also pretty empty Doctor Who Confidential: Cut-Down Cut-Down.
Doctor Who: Series 5 Volume 4 is possibly the most consist volume in this series; Vincent and the Doctor was patchy, but reasonably enjoyable; The Lodger offers an interesting change-of-pace, whilst still offering a mystery to be solved and The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang presents a fitting conclusion to the first series with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in the lead roles and Steven Moffat in the captain's chair.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 6th September 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: The Monster Files
Easter Egg: No
Director: Catherine Moorshead, Toby Haynes
Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Tony Curran, James Corden, Alex Kingston,
Length: 195 minutes
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