When you look at the brilliant darkness of "The Pandorica Opens," you're filled with despair about the fate of the Doctor and his companions. The Doctor was locked inside a giant box, Amy was shot fatally by plastic Rory, and River was trapped inside an exploding TARDIS. How could any of them have a happy ending?
In contrast, "The Big Bang" was that happy ending. The danger felt in the first part of the serial seemed to evaporate as soon as the Pandorica opened and Amy was revealed inside. It was all just a puzzle to put together, not a universe to save.
Of course, the universe did have to be saved, but it was done so rather quickly and with a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo between the Doctor and River. The entire universe-rescue plot was a little boring, actually, but the characters made the episode one of the best ever.
In a way, "The Big Bang," shows just how different Steven Moffat is from Russell T. Davies. In the Davies era of who, the entire episode focused on the plot, and the characters were just means to an end for the plot. There were some heartbreaking moments in every finale, of course, but that was the limit of Davies' writing's emotional range.
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