Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated."

So I've just watched the final episode of season 31, and I'm in a bit of a daze.

Did I enjoy it? Yes!

Was it any good? I'm actually not sure.

Was it as complicated as Amy made out in the quote above? Yes, it was. No, wait, no it wasn't. Well, both I guess.

The individual actions of our four heroes were certainly complex, particularly in the first half of episode two. However the story's backbone - that the TARDIS' destruction both destroyed the universe and also created it - was probably the fuzziest plot-development in the show's history.

I think that this story is best-understood when examined in the light of the tenth Doctor's oft-quoted line from Blink:

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... timey wimey... stuff."

What that wibbly-wobbliness really turns out to mean in this story, is that cause and effect don't follow through strictly.

Which, now that the same author who is credited with writing that soundbite has been let loose on the series as a whole, makes one absolutely ginormous parachute when it comes to plotting.

Initially, the 'strict progression of cause to effect' in this story is a thing to behold.

In 1890, Vincent van Gogh from Vincent And The Doctor paints a premonition of the TARDIS' destruction. In 1941, Winston Churchill and Bracewell from Victory Of The Daleks find the painting and phone the Doctor to warn him. Their call gets routed through to 5145, where River Song, at a point in her life prior to The Time Of Angels / Flesh And Stone, breaks out from prison. She then steals the canvas from Queen Elizabeth X, some time after the events of The Beast Below.

Generally, this appears to be strict cause and effect, although we could debate about Vincent's new found psychic abilities, or indeed whether he spent his entire life hearing the message that is later revealed to have been sent across all time-zones from 102 AD.

I guess the first hint of real wibbly-wobbliness would be whether Queen Elizabeth X actually lives for 2,000 years. Hey - in a thousand years' time, why shouldn't she?

I've often criticised the show on this blog for featuring events that, after they have happened, do not remain in a state of having happened. For example, the countless number of times that Earth's population have been turned into zombies, only to forget it afterwards, along with all the video of it.

However from where I sit, the state of the Doctor Who universe tonight is this:

When an event takes place in this show, it remains happened, but only to a certain extent. Not completely, and not not at all.

In 102 AD, an alliance of the Doctor's enemies (though they may as well be any old single villain) ensnares him in a trap, which has been devised out of Amy's residual memories from today. (literally today - 26th June 2010)

Consequently, this fabricated scenario includes a version of Rory, who has not only been reconstructed from Amy's memories but also, it's implied, from a photo of him that Amy keeps in her bedroom.

Huge plot-holes there. How can this version of Rory recall events (such as his death) that had not happened to Amy by the last time that she was at her house in Flesh And Stone?

Furthermore, Rory was wiped from history in Cold Blood, which is why 'our' Amy now has no memory of him. Therefore he cannot have been reconstructed from memories that Amy's earlier self could not have had either. Also, if they have now never met, then there certainly can’t be a whacking great photo of him in her bedroom!

However, earlier on in this first episode, the Doctor comes out with the following gentle speech:

"People fall out of the world sometimes, but they-they always leave traces. Little things we can't quite account for. Faces in photographs, luggage, half-eaten meals… rings. Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely, and, if something can be remembered… it… can come back."

It can be argued that this, and the quote from Blink further above, are the support and axis on which this story operates.

Rory died, but he comes back because he is remembered. The Doctor dies, but he comes back when he is remembered. The universe gets destroyed, but it comes back because it is remembered, albeit in a different way.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't memories infamous for misremembering things?

To be more direct, I suppose that I really have two problems with this story:

1. That the exploding TARDIS can handily be used to reconstruct the universe too.

2. That there is now no real threat from any action in any other Doctor Who story, because affecting history matters little if someone can simply remember the alternative hard enough.

However, if those are the very broad rules that the series is being written within now, then that's okay by me, so long as they don't break them. In fact, I don't think it's even possible to break rules like those. Any possible contradiction in any story can now be allowed in the light of how this one operates. After all, if the crack really did run right through the universe, then everyone across time and space has been as exposed to it as Amy.

Is the version of the Doctor that we now have constructed only out of Amy's (and maybe River's?) incomplete knowledge of him? Ah, doesn't matter though, because all those other facets of his character and history can just slip through anyway, like the photos, half-eaten meals and lost luggage etc.

Why lock Amy in the Pandorica for 2,000 years instead of just bringing Amelia back to 102 AD from 1996?

When the Doctor gets trapped outside the repairing universe, why does he rewind through Amy's life instead of his own?

When he leaves through the crack in Amy's bedroom wall, what happens to him with Prisoner Zero in the Atraxi prison?

Rory now possesses a memory spanning 2,000 years of life-experiences. Somehow he now seems even less well-matched to 22-year-old Amy than before. (she was asleep for her 2,000 years)

That's all on that subject. In the past I've often rewatched Steven Moffat's work and found lines that catch potential holes, so I'm sure there's more than I picked up on.

Onto more positive impressions, and top marks in this story must go to the first half of episode two. This features the Doctor effortlessly nipping back and forth in time to interact with his friends, and himself, in any order but the chronological one. The eleventh Doctor has a real glee to way he does this, and even admits to a slight addiction to the device that he's using to achieve it.

This is the Doctor as I think I've always wanted to see him realised. He's exploiting his fluency in time-travel, and really earning his status as a 'Time Lord'. When he loses his sonic screwdriver, he nips back 2,000 years to get someone to stow it for him. When he's incarcerated, he arranges for his rescue after he has been rescued. When he sees his future self die, he turns it into a lie. (still not quite sure how he actually survived getting exterminated though)

Wonderful stuff, let's see more of this ingenuity, but hopefully better directed next time. Some of his dematerialisations were not clearly shown, making his appearances in the past look more like flashbacks. (which one could argue they were)

Worst weakness in the direction though would have to be the cliffhanger in which the TARDIS blew up and the universe began to end. What a cataclysmic cliffhanger! What a shame I was only sure what was meant to be taking place there after episode two had begun. It's not as if we'd seen the Police Box blow up or the stars actually going out. It seemed to me that those events were still going to happen, and therefore still avoidable.

There are also still plenty of questions left unanswered at the end of this season finale.

Back in The Eleventh Hour, how did Prisoner Zero, and indeed the Atraxi, escape through the crack in Amy's wall? And indeed what were they doing behind there?

What is the universe that unintentionally touches this one?

Who took-over the TARDIS and blew it up, and why?

Why does Ledworth have a duckpond with no ducks?

In fact, there are so many of them, that surely we must be returning to them at some point in the future…

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