"Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue."
IN THIS ONE... History is collapsing, the Doctor triggers a new Big Bang but his time stream is unraveled, until Amy remembers him at her wedding.
REVIEW: As good a finale as we've ever gotten, I think it still ranks as probably the best. Something a showrunner's first series perhaps needs to do is purge the previous administration's legacy, stand on its first merits and yet, please the fans who are there because of that previous regime. With The Big Bang, Moffat manages to close out Series 5 in just such a way. While epic in pretty much the same way RTD's finales were, it rejects the notion of the epic, by reducing the climax to an intimate affair. Rebooting the universe within an exploding TARDIS isn't the climax; Amy remembering her imaginary friend at her small wedding is. No cheering crowds here, but more important, no sad ending! Maybe RTD had little choice, having to write a cast member out every season, but his finales ended on such heavy notes, they have to have a kooky epilogue just to relieve the tension. Moffat unabashedly gives us a happy ending, one in which a married couple is permitted to travel aboard the TARDIS, and that obviates the "lonely" ending the episode telegraphs. Another subversion can be found in the Doctor's dancing. Moffat introduced the metaphor of dance as sex back in The Empty Child, and here shows us a Doctor who dances at the level of a child. His role in romance is always that of catalyst, making sure his friends find love in their lives. He doesn't provide it. Rebooting the universe is, in fact, a writerly act of negation, striking down all that went before. RTD purged.
Beyond that meta-textual statement, The Big Bang is an internally consistent spectacular that goes crazy with the concept of time travel in a most delightful way. What the 10th Doctor could do as a parlour trick (the tie business in Smith and Jones, for example), the 11th makes useful. There was some of this in previous episodes (notably in The Lodger, but River Song is a long, complicated instance of this), but here, and perhaps more easily because space-time is collapsing, he manages clever paradoxical feats to get himself out of the Pandorica and to save Amy from certain death. Looking at it too closely will make you wonder if we can have eggs without chickens or vice-versa, so don't. Just enjoy the unbridled power of a Time Lord essentially saving himself from his own future. There's also the idea that history is collapsing around Earth, and humanity not noticing (as per the cracks' usual effect, which is very much the same as the warp bubble's in ST TNG's Remember Me). No stars, weird historical amalgams in the museum, and no one wonders why. Throw in the Doctor's time stream rewinding and his visits to various points in his past where he can make a small, but crucial difference, and you've got a fantastical feast of temporal tricks, somehow working together in unison. You can question the physics of it if you like, but who knows what its laws are in such a universe.
There are a lot of fun ideas here - the fez, Amy appearing to her young self where you're expecting the Doctor to be, Amelia showing up at all, the repeat of THAT scene from Flesh and Stone, the TARDIS acting as a sun, the best use of "Geronimo" ever, River teasing the Doctor about their impending nuptials - but at the heart of the story is Amy asserting her willpower on the universe and getting both her boys back. The Doctor engineers his own return with that wonderful bedtime story, so well performed by Matt Smith, but it's Amy that takes the story and makes it real. Her recitation of the "old wedding thing", which is so brilliant in how it mirrors the TARDIS' characteristics, like a magical summoning, gets me every time. The sequence is impeccably designed so that you come up with the solution just before Amy does and are rewarded for your cleverness. And it all happens with her dad trying to finish his wedding speech in the background, and it's not complete in the same way the universe isn't without the Doctor in it. She gets Rory back too, and events have turned him into "the boy who waited", just as she's "the girl that waited", a perfect match, and an epic love story. This makes Rory twice as old as the Doctor himself! "This is goodbye" to Leadworth is a perfect finish to an often admirable season. If only everything could have been explained - who blew up the TARDIS, and whose voice was taunting us with "Silence will fall", two things that are much too slow in coming - it would have been perfect. Darn close though.
SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, 10 and 1 Things About The Big Bang, was overwhelmingly enthusiastic as well, and spends a little time on the difference between myth and fairy tale in the context of the RTD/Moffat eras.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Hugely entertaining and very clever, I don't think Doctor Who finales were ever this good again (or earlier).