The Pandorica Opens
The Pandorica Opens was the twelfth episode of series 5 of Doctor Who. It was the first of a two-part series finale. Its narrative concluded in the following episode. River Song made a reappearance in this episode, as did the Autons, along with the stunning return of Rory Williams, after losing his life and every trace of his existence, save one link that provided the means for his resurrection.
At the time of its release, it was unique among BBC Wales series finales as the first series-ender with significant principal photography outside Wales. It was also the first to have been the Doctor Who debut of its director and cinematographer. It was the first finale to have used major guest actors — aside from companions — who had featured in previous single episodes of the series. Finally, it featured the largest number of individual alien species seen in a single episode of Doctor Who ever.
In 1890 France, Vincent Van Gogh, who has finished his sunflower painting and dedicated it to Amy, screams and sobs unceasingly. Doctor Gachet and Madame Vernet are at his bedside; Gachet tries to calm Vincent with Venet complaining about how much worse Vincent’s screaming is compared to his drinking as the whole neighborhood can hear him. Gachet firmly tells Venert Vincent is ill before she notes the painting displayed on a nearby easel is worse than his usual work. Gachet stops attending to Vincent briefly to see the painting; both wonder what it can be.
In the Cabinet War Rooms in 1941, Professor Edwin Bracewell (now with a working replacement left hand) carries a rolled-up canvas to Winston Churchill’s office. Bracewell shows it to the Prime Minister, explaining it’s a Van Gogh original found behind a wall in an attic in France. Obviously, the painting is a message; Churchill doesn’t understand it. However, Bracewell points out that he’s not to understand it, but to deliver the message instead; they both know who needs to see it.
At the Stormcage Containment Facility in 5145, a guard answers the phone outside River Song’s cell and says there is no “Doctor” in the prison. River tells the guard she’s entitled to phone calls and receives the phone. Once she realizes it’s not the Doctor on the other end of the line, Churchill demands to know where the Eleventh Doctor is. River explains that phoning the Time Vortex doesn’t always work; however, the TARDIS cleverly rerouted the call to her. River demands the message. She returns the phone to the guard and asks if this is his first day. When he says it is, she apologizes and kisses him. Her hallucinogenic lipstick makes him delirious and enables her escape.
In the Royal Collection that same year, River walks among the paintings in the gallery. She finds the one she is looking for, but trips an alarm on her way out and is held at gunpoint by Liz 10. River asks Liz if she has met the Doctor, making the Queen smile while remembering her adventure with him; she explains to Liz that the Doctor is in trouble, making the Queen wonder why she is stealing a painting if it’s true. River explains the Doctor must see the painting; she has Liz look at the painting, which horrifies the Queen.
River speaks to Dorium Maldovar at the Maldovarium. Dorium has heard rumors that she is seeking time travel; he offers her a vortex manipulator taken from the wrist of a Time Agent. Dorium informs her that it is not cheap, wondering if she’s brought him another “pretty toy.” River offers him a Callisto Pulse, which can deactivate micro-explosives from up to twenty feet away. Dorium wonders why he’d need it and learns that she had slipped some slipped micro-explosives into his wine.
In the TARDIS, Amy is sitting on the swing below the console floor, examining the ring she found in the Doctor’s jacket before. The Doctor pops his head down from above, making her hide the ring. The Time Lord tells Amy that he has just had the most brilliant idea; they’re going to visit Planet One, the oldest planet in the universe, where a message has been carved into a diamond cliff face and never translated before. The TARDIS translation matrix will crack the inscription and reveal to them the oldest message in creation. When they step out to see it, the message reads, “Hello, sweetie,” with a set of temporal coordinates carved beneath.
The coordinates lead them to Roman Britain in the 2nd century, where Amy notes that Roman history was her favorite topic at school. They are greeted by a Roman soldier with a lipstick smear across his mouth; he thinks the Doctor is Caesar. He takes them to meet “Cleopatra,” who is actually River in disguise. he scolds River for her graffiti, only for her to retort that he doesn’t answer his phone. She shows them Vincent’s painting; they are shocked to see it’s a painting of the TARDIS exploding. As the Doctor has already retrieved a TARDIS fragment from a Time Field in a Silurian city, this new find worries him greatly. He asks if it has a title; River informs him it’s “The Pandorica Opens”, and that Vincent left coordinates in the painting to lead him there. Amy wonders what it is; River explains the Pandorica is a prison designed to contain the most feared thing in all the universe. The Doctor then begins looking at maps, despite River’s protest that it won’t be on one; however, the Doctor says that if someone buried the most feared thing of all, they’d want to remember where.
The Doctor, Amy and River ride to Stonehenge to find the Pandorica. Amy explains to River that she warned them about this after climbing out of Byzantium; River says that she hasn’t, but will. River’s scanner also gives a reading that shows energy weapons have been fired on that spot, implying that the Pandorica is there. The Doctor quickly deduces that they need to get underground; by nightfall River has placed devices that move a stone on the ground away from a secret entrance. They descend, not noticing a Cyber-head, which begins to reactivate. They discover the Pandorica, much to the Doctor’s disbelief, as he thought it was simply a fairy tale. He goes on to reexplain that the most feared being in all creation, a trickster soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies, who could not be reasoned with, was locked in the Pandorica. Amy wonders how; the Doctor says that like most fairy tales, a good wizard tricked it. River expresses her hatred for good wizards in fairy tales as she feels they always turn out to be the Doctor. Amy notes the name is similar to Pandora’s box, her favorite childhood story.
The Doctor quickly notes the link between the Pandorica and the Romans… both of them have been claimed by Amy to be her favorites; he tells her that one should never ignore a coincidence, “unless you’re busy; in which case, always ignore a coincidence.” Scanning the Pandorica and the surrounding area, River finds its security fail-safes are turning on and the box is opening. Amy then wonders how Vincent could know about it, prompting the Doctor to scan the pillars of the room; the pillars are acting a big transmitters, sending a warning to every across time and space that the Pandorica is opening. Poor Vincent heard the message in his dreams. River then makes the Doctor realize that anyone who can hear the message might be showing up; they quickly reverse the signal to scan for any time-active species, learning, much to their horror, that there at least ten thousand ships into Earth’s orbit. Every one belongs to the Doctor’s enemies.
They return topside, where they see several ships entering Earth’s atmosphere. River warns the Doctor that “everything that ever hated you is coming here tonight,” asking him to run for once. The Doctor ask where he can run, making River wonder how he can fight. The Doctor simply tells his worrying companions, “the best fighting machine in the history of the universe — the Romans!” The Doctor sends Rive
r back to camp to appeal to the Roman commander for help. However, he has realized that she is not actually Cleopatra and refuses. River fires a pistol shaped advanced energy weapon, disintegrating a cabinet to demonstrate her power. Before the commander can grasp the implications, a centurion arrives to volunteer.
Back at Stonehenge, the Doctor monitors the Pandorica and uses its force field technology to buy them half an hour. She then wonders what the Pandorica has to do with the TARDIS exploding, but the Doctor tells her that they have to focus on one problem at a time. Amy asks about the engagement ring she found in his jacket pocket. He explains that it belongs to a friend of his and that it’s a memory of that friend; he says sometimes people fall out of the universe, but leave traces behind that can bring them back. Not getting what the Doctor is encouraging her to remember, Amy asks if his friend was nice. He then asks her if she remembers the night she flew away with him. He admits he was lying when he told her there wasn’t a reason he was taking her. He draws her attention to her house; it’s too big with too many empty rooms and her life doesn’t make any sense. Before she can respond, a dismembered Cyber-arm shoots at them.
The Doctor tries scrambling its circuits with the sonic screwdriver, but knows it could be bluffing. Amy is ordered to stay a safe distance away, but she is grabbed by the wires coming out of the Cyber-head, which has worked its way down the steps, as the arm shocks the Doctor unconscious. The head grabs Amy’s arms with its wires and opens, ejecting the skull of its last occupant and tries to assimilate Amy. She shakes the head off and it fires a dart into her neck. The head tells Amy she will be assimilated, calling its body to it; reattaching its head the Cyber-sit advances on an increasingly drowsy Amy. She takes cover in a side chamber, where she hears it banging on the doors in its attempt to get in. However, when things grow silent, she wonders if the Doctor woke and stopped it. Suddenly a blade comes through the door, barely missing her head and the doors open to reveal the Cyberman stuck to the door. Seeing a centurion on the other side, Amy asks who it is. The centurion steps into the light and removes his helmet to reveal Rory. Amy finally succumbs to the dart’s effects and faints.
The Doctor wakes and enters the side chamber to find Amy alright. He initially doesn’t register Rory’s reappearance, as he’s trying to puzzle out the latest attack. He notices that the room is a sentry box with Cyberman weaponry, and the “headless wonder” was a sentry that the Cybermen left behind that got damaged by the locals. However, the Doctor is only left further confused; is it a Cyber thing in the box? He then thinks better of the idea, knowing the Cybermen won’t lock up one of their own. He tells Rory that he is missing something standing right in front of him. As he still hasn’t really noticed him, Rory emphatically agrees; the Doctor says he’ll figure it out in a minute. He leaves the room, only to return a moment later to prod Rory in the chest in disbelief. They have an awkward conversation. Rory knows he died near the Silurian city, but can’t account for how he ended up in the 2nd century. They are alerted to the descending alien fleet and the Doctor leads the way outside. He stands on a rock and addresses his enemies over a communicator. He informs them that he has the Pandorica and it’s opening. They have plenty of weapons, but he has nothing to lose. He reminds them of all the times he has defeated them in the past, and encourages them to consider who wants to go first. The fleet promptly flees.
Rory and the Doctor return to the Pandorica and try to make sense of what has happened; Rory explains his time with Amy and the Doctor felt like a dream he woke from when he found himself a Roman in this era. Amy wakes, but fails to recognize Rory, devastating him. The Doctor admits he can’t explain Rory’s appearance, supposing it to be something like a miracle, which he hasn’t seen in all his years. He gives Rory the engagement ring and encourages him to go after Amy; “she’s Amy, and she’s surrounded by Romans; I’m not sure history can take it.”
River tries to return the TARDIS to the Doctor, but the engine take-off noise is not quite right, making her wonder what’s wrong with it. The TARDIS is thrown through the vortex and materializes outside Amy’s house on 26 June 2010, the date of the explosion that caused the cracks in time and space. As she leaves the TARDIS to explore, a crack splits the scanner screen and a voice cries, “Silence will fall!” River notes landing patterns of alien crafts and enters the house. She realizes it belongs to Amy. In Amy’s room, she finds a book on Roman Britain and a copy of The Legend of Pandora’s Box. There is also a photograph of Rory and Amy, where Rory is dressed as a centurion. All of the pictures from the books resemble things and people back in the second century, near the Doctor. She rushes to the TARDIS and, once there, contacts him to warn him.
The Doctor has become impatient with River and demands to know where she is. River explains her discovery and is confused as to how they can be fake as her lipstick works on them. The Doctor comes to the conclusion that these projections or duplicates may believe that they’re real — the perfect disguise. However, when River tells him the date, the Doctor tells her about the cracks and to go to any other date to prevent them from occurring. When this doesn’t work, he tells her to land and leave the TARDIS as the engines will shut down automatically when there is no-one inside. Though she manages to land, the doors are locked.
A piercing, shrill noise comes from the Pandorica, that can be heard above ground; the Romans begin falling asleep on their feet. Even Rory, who is talking to Amy, has to resist shutting down. The Romans wake and advance on the Doctor. They are Autons controlled by the Nestene Consciousness. They seize the Doctor, explaining the Pandorica is ready. Much to the Doctor’s shock, he sees Daleks, Cybermen, Sycorax, Judoon, Silurians, Sontarans, Roboforms, Hoix, Zygons, Terileptils, Slitheen, and many other past foes materialize in the room. They explain that the Pandorica is ready for him; inside the box is a chair meant to hold one person.
Above, the Auton Rory continues to fight against the Nestene’s command to drop his personality and join the other mindless drones. Repeatedly yelling that he is Rory, he manages to finally jog Amy’s memory. She asks him if he remembers the ring he never let her wear in case she lost it; he shows her the ring. As Rory continues crying, Amy hugs him, saying she won’t lose him again. However, Rory’s Auton body betrays him as his hand opens to reveal the gun inside; he shoots Amy in the stomach. Amy hugs Rory as she dies; Rory is left to grieve while fighting for control of himself.
Back below, the Autons drag the Doctor to the prison and clamp him into the chair inside. The Doctor is aghast that all of these races have managed to form an alliance and asks how that is possible. They explain that it is an alliance against him, as he will cause the end of the universe. They know that the TARDIS will be at the center of the explosion that ends the universe and (as they wrongly believe) he is the only one who can fly the TARDIS; they will imprison him in the Pandorica to stop the explosion. To lure him to this spot, they built the perfect trap, using Amy’s memories as building blocks. He shouts his innocence, that the threat to the universe is the TARDIS, not him as the alliance doesn’t know about River and that he can stop the explosion. The alliance refuses to listen to their hated enemy, and the Cyber-Leader orders the Pandorica closed over his desperate pleas.
Somewhere in time, River improvises a way to open the TARDIS doors by using a controlled explosion. However, upon opening the doors, River finds a stone wall blocking her departure. Apologizing to her love, she turns to face the exploding TARDIS console just before it is destroyed.
Thousands of echoing explosions erupt across the sky, ripping the universe apart.
Earth is left in the middle of a spreading, black void.