Well, that was definitely not a disappointment.
It’s a testament to just how good Steven Moffat is that a season finale that actually didn’t answer the big questions about what actually happened, who was behind the destruction of the TARDIS and whose voice that was at the end of last week’s episode, was nonetheless completely satisfying, and filled with a playfulness that kept things going during what, otherwise, could’ve been long scenes of exposition (The timejumping at the start of the episode, and then seeing it again from the other side, later on, was wonderful). As with last week’s “The Pandorica Opens,” there were plenty of shout-outs to earlier episodes this season – most obviously, the opening episode “The Eleventh Hour,” and wasn’t that “There’s no such thing as stars” a classic something-so-simple-but-so-large Moffat moment? – giving the season a cohesiveness that I’m not sure it’s ever really had before (Earlier season finales have often had cameos or explanations that haven’t, really, connected to what we’ve seen before (Exhibit A: “Bad Wolf”), but it was the unexpected Rory development – That he protected Amy for almost 2000 years while she slept, and so overcame her fascination with the Doctor (Amy was “the girl who waited” for him, the first night she met him, but Rory waited millennia for Amy) – that made the episode for me. I loved that Rory and Amy got married, and that it was ultimately their relationship that gave this season its heart.
(Also: Was it just me, or did this episode feel much more like an ensemble piece? Rory and Amy and River all contributed as much to the final saving of the universe as the Doctor, in their own ways, and the dynamic feels much less “Doctor and whoever the companion may be” than it usually does. Maybe I’m so happy to see both Rory and Amy back that I’m overreaching, mind you.)
Other things I particularly enjoyed about “The Big Bang”:
* The continual glee of the Doctor in surprising himself: “I’ve got a future! That’s nice.” and “I escaped? I like it when I do that.” Matt Smith’s Doctor has continually been a joy this year, and this episode was a great example of why. Especially “It’s a fez. I’m wearing a fez now. Fezes are cool.” It was funny when he said it about bow ties, but funnier when it’s a fez…
* The Doctor talking to a sleeping seven-year-old Amelia was infinitely more sad than David Tennant’s thirty-minute pre-death sequence in his last episode. Even on rewatching, “Live well. Love Rory. Bye bye, Pond” completely gets me.
* The Princess Bride shout-out was unexpected (Amy wasn’t dead, but “mostly dead”), but fit perfectly, considering the fairy tale nature of the story (Amy is the little girl who manages to wish her parents back to life; that’s a pretty great fairy tale to me).
* For a season that I once suspected was all about reboots (After the Doctor’s resurrection and the Daleks’ rebirth), this episode kind of proved me right: The universe is rebooted… but is everything really the way it was before? We didn’t really see anything to suggest it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this done to allow for old characters to be given new life without having to explain away old continuity.
And now, we’re left waiting for the next season, and the next piece in the puzzle of who, exactly, is behind all the bad things happening… I’m unsure how I feel about this, to be honest, if only because the most obvious solution (the Master) has been seemingly dealt with already, and I’m worried about the eventual revelation being a letdown, but if there’s one thing this season has proven to me, it’s that trusting in Steven Moffat has worked out pretty well so far. This has been the strongest Doctor Who has been since… maybe the first season of the revival, if not way back in its 1970s heyday; the writing has been consistently impressive, mixing comedy and thrills and wonder and occasional scares with ease, and the core performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillen, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston have been wonderful. This show really can’t come back soon enough for me.
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