Doctor Who Review: The Pandorica Opens

Lots of threads come together for the first part of the first series finale of Steven Moffat’s reign.

Cast and Crew

Matt Smith as the Doctor
Karen Gillan as Amy Pond
Alex Kingston as River Song
Arthur Darvill as Rory
Tony Curran as Vincent
Bill Paterson as Bracewell
Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill
Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten
Marcus O’Donovan as Claudio
Clive Wood as Commander
Christopher Ryan as Commander Stark
Ruari Mears as Cyber Leader
Paul Kasey as Judoon
Howard Lee as Doctor Gachet
Barnaby Edwards as Dalek
Simon Fisher Becker as Dorium
Joe Jacobs as Guard
Chrissie Cotterill as Madame Vernet
David Fynn as Marcellus

Written by Steven Moffat

Produced by Peter Bennett

Directed by Toby Haynes

Originally aired on the 19th of June 2010 on BBC One/BBC HD in the United Kingdom.


In a chain through time and space, various people the Doctor has met before manage to pass on a warning – a painting of the TARDIS exploding, a lost work of Van Gogh, with time/space coordinates included. Going there, the Doctor discovers the Pandorica, and it’s opening. But what’s inside, and who else is interested?

High Points

  • “I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him.”

Low Points

  • The end

The Scores

Originality: Well, it’s not really been done in Doctor Who before… five out of six.

Effects: Very pretty. Six out of six. I do like those teleports.

Story: Lots of threads from this series are now coming together into quite an interesting puzzle, but I did feel it went too far by the end of the episode. The validity of that will be shown by what happens next week. Four out of six.

Acting: Pretty much uniformly excellent. Six out of six.

Emotional response: Maybe I’m supposed to care more than I actually did. There’s a point where it tips over too far and my disbelief’s antigravity field fails catastrophically. Four out of six.

Production: Very atmospheric, but the moorlands really did look more or less exactly like modern England. Four out of six.

Overall: I’m more worried than excited about next week, but it was a good episode. Five out of six.

The Pandorica Opens receives a grand total of thirty-four out of forty-two.

19 replies on “Doctor Who Review: The Pandorica Opens”

  1. “The Pandorica Opens receives a grand total of out of forty-two.”

    Its strangely surrealistic, but that score somehow soothes my soul :)

    • I just remembered that I’d forgotten to do the arithmetic and put in the answer, rushed back to edit it and you’d already posted!

  2. That was a fantastic episode. I think the trepidation you feel might come from the fact that for almost all of RTD’s two part finales, the first part was generally very good, but the second part always seemed to come up short, sometimes profoundly short.

    I’m hoping Moffat has had the final resolution planned from the beginning. That could make for a very good episode indeed.

    Upon viewing, the doctor in the pandoricum was almost the only possible answer, but this episode delivered it brilliantly.

    So far, I’m really really impressed with this season. I also loved how the opener of this episode had a bit of a shoutout to all the other episodes. Also, I would love seeing River Song as a companion for 3 or 4 episodes every year. Season 5 has been the best yet of the new incarnation of Doctor Who.

    • I guessed what was in the Pandorica some weeks back, but how it got there caught me completely off guard and makes the resolution next week potentially much more interesting. There must have been some foresight too; there were several references to 26th June 2010 which is, of course, the original air date in the UK – either they were shot afterwards or the schedule was decided with the BBC up front. Either way, we’re seeing at least some forward planning here…

      River Song as companion for 3 or 4 episodes a year? It’s a start – I’d be more than happy to see her as the permanent companion once Amy and Rory sail off into the sunset together as well. I suspect though that River Song’s Benjamin Button style relationship with The Doctor is going to be a casualty of something that The Doctor said at the start of the series; “History can be re-written!?!”

      • I love how the date is going to be 26 06 2010 ;)

        And I love how the Stonehenge visit was aired on the Summer Solstice! :)

        Very nice touch.

    • I’m pretty happy with Matt Smith’s doctor, and Amy Pond is a decent assistant. I’ve enjoyed most of the stories this year, but for me none of the high points of this season approached “The Empty Child” or “Blink.” Still, I see great promise. As you point out, this season was consistently good.

      This episode? I think it set a new high point for special effects. The scene with the Doctor challenging the space fleet circling Stonehenge was beautiful. It reminded me strongly of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” PRETTY lights. As special effects advance (or BBC’s fx budget for Doctor Who grows), I’m hopeful we’ll get more eye candy. :)

      The ending was certainly bleak. Is this a villain with everything we’ve seen actually happening, or the Doctor opposing himself à la the feezing sun / space pollen dream of “Amy’s Choice”. I hope it’s not the latter. Too many “it was all a dream” endings give me flashbacks of “Dallas”.

      Oh, and I like how Doctor Who under Moffat has repeatedly referenced the Doctor’s existence as a being with multiple incarnations. I like being reminded of his other selves. It probably sells DVD’s for the Beeb, too. ;)


      • If there hadn’t already been a dream episode, I’d be worried that the answer from the next episode would be some kind of dream. I do agree that that would be extremely disappointing.

        I’m sure Moffat has something better than that planned…

  3. Damn.

    I knew I should’ve just let this one sit there till I have next week’s so I could watch them both together.

  4. I spent a while painting in the house today, so it gave me lots of time to think about the Pandorica episode. I think the Dr. has already been there (whether he knows this now is questionable). When he was there the first time, he partially destroyed the Cyberman that attacks Amy and the Dr.). When he was there, he destroyed the box. He has set up the Protardis (is that what it was called in “The Lodger”?) to give the illusion that it is the Pandorica. He has the key in his pocket. I think grown up Amy is dead and she had to die in order that the young Amy can do something important. How does that sound? The Dr. once put his hand in the crack, but he has not gone further in. Why? Has he actually been in there once? There is something that he can’t remember / does not know, which might suggest that his memory has indeed been scrambled by the crack of s and t. Also, if the Dr knew that the trap was going to be set for him, did he arrange for something else to be left in Amy’s bedroom that might help. Did we miss it? Were the fumes in that paint too strong?

    • I like the way you think, and no I don’t think the paint fumes were too strong.

  5. Some quotes from earlier in the season:

    “Amy Pond there is something you better understand about me because it is important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman with a box.” – Dr.
    From the episode 11th Hour

    “… a big big mistake, really huge. Didn’t anyone ever tell you there is 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 there is one thing you never ever put in a trap.” – Dr
    “And what would that be sir?” -Bob
    “Me.” – Dr
    From the episode Time of the Angels.

  6. A very good point VC.

    I had another thought…the Protardis is not the pandorica, it is Stone Henge and all within it. The story of Pandora’s Box is that all the bad things are locked inside it (so you have all the bad guys there). The Dr. is in there too, so my thinking is: is he “hope”, or do we need a young Amelia in there too as hope. The population of Earth so far this series have no recollection of all the bad guys. They need to be taken back through space and time with hope so that they did exist and people do remember.

    Something else is bugging me. A thing the Dr. said this episode to Amy was “Have you ever wondered why you life has no meaning?” Like saying it’s meaningless. This was subtle, but is a fairly provocative thing to say (nowt unusual there mind!), but it is obviously a reference that Amy’s life as it has turned out does have no meaning because she should have done something when she was younger. Is this the something that we are going to see? This something would have been done if things had been remembered by everyone, if an event had not occurred to make them forget (possibly the bad guys going through the crack in T+S). The Dr. has to make them remember by dragging the baddies back in the box, time has to go back and Amy has to be Amelia so that she can do her thing and relative harmony can be restored.

    There are still paint fumes in the house.

    • I don’t think he actually said that Amy’s life didn’t have any meaning, I think he asked if it bothered her that her life made no sense, which with time travel being sprinkled in could mean a lot of things.

      I’m beginning to agree with you on the point that the doctor’s being late to come and pick up Ameila was a big, big mistake. Also of note is that in promotional shots for this episode were shots of the younger Amy, so young Amy will be in next weeks episode.

      • Prisoner Zero has escaped. We now know Prisoner Zero would most likely be the Doctor? :)


  7. Sorry. No one I know is watching Dr. Who. Just watched snippets of the last episode again and have these hopefully final thoughts:

    River is waiting for the call. So she is aware of what is to come.

    Churchill’s scientist: after the dr had been there, he was to disappear because he was part Dalek. Was this scene b4 or after the dr had been. If it was after, the guy should not have been there, unless that encounter with the Daleks had been wiped from memory due to the Daleks going through the crack.

    Why does liz know how to contact the dr?

    In the Tardis the dr says “can’t believe not thought of it before”. (going to planet 1). What inspired him to do this?

    River answers what a Pandorica is “a box, a cage a prison”, so it can be anything in appearance, not just a box (Stonehenge?)

    Dr “if you’d buried the most dangerous thing in the universe, you’d want to know where you’d put it” Did the Dr. make it and somehow make the Daleks etc. think they did it. Is River a double agent? Did she gain the trust of the alliance by once (in the future) killing the Dr. (knowing he would regenerate)? Did she organise the baddies in accordance with the drs instructions that he has forgotten or does not yet know?

    Dr “Hello you, have we met?” to the box. So he has a feeling they have.

    On Amy’s dressing table (from which the alliance take their “trap elements”) is a pink-ish box (is this the Pandorica to be?). A grown up Amy doll, a smaller female doll, the Dr and two older versions of Amy and the Dr. (not as good and probably made when younger. In the case, there is a Tardis and 3 models, the dr. Amy and a small girl (again). Are Amelia and Amy going to co-exist temporarily?

    River says “Oh Dr. why do I let you out?” Out of where?

    Does the Dr. lock himself and the alliance in the Pandorica – him being the hope, leaving Amelia with the decision to leave it closed or open it? Does Amelia end up in there with them, leaving him with the choice to leave it or open it?

  8. but the moorlands really did look more or less exactly like modern England

    But then the moors have looked much the same since before Stonehenge was built, give or take the occasional tarmaced road and line of telegraph poles.

  9. It was a bit sloppy wasn’t it. Not quite so complicated as I thought it would be, but funny none the less.

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