Review: ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’

Things we learned about Doctor Who this week:

1. The TARDIS is about the most indestructible ship in the universe. It’s survived volcanic lava, corrosive acid and the Doctor can fix holes caused by Titanic-shaped spacecraft in three minutes flat. But apparently you can’t fly the thing (or at least Clara can’t) without turning off the shield oscillators, and if you then take a couple of knocks the old police box will basically self-destruct. Nine hundred years of time travel, and the Doctor still hasn’t sorted this out. Presumably it’s just one of those things he hasn’t round to doing yet. You know, like when you forget to pay your gas bill.

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2.  You remember that first question? The one hidden in plain sight, the one that must never be answered? The one that’s going to cause the cataclysm to end all cataclysms if its solution is discovered? Well, the answer is written in a book. In the TARDIS library. And not hidden away in an obscure volume at the back of storage, or in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”. It’s an enormous tome called History of the Time War on a reading stand in the middle of the room. Of course, the answer is probably only written once, “tucked away in the corner”, but the book happened to flop open at more or less that page in the same way that my unmarried friend’s mail order catalogues have a tendency to flop open at the lingerie pages. Either this is a tremendous double bluff and the information given there is false, or the Doctor’s real name is in fact the worst-kept secret since the existence of Torchwood.

3.  Speaking of libraries, the Doctor is a fan of Harry Potter. He has corked glass encyclopaedias that speak. I’m guessing he pinched them from Hogwarts, decanted the bottles and refilled them with stuff about his home world.

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4. The Doctor is thick. Having been dragged into a gigantic spacecraft by three dodgy-looking geezers running an illegal salvaging scam, he then takes them on board the TARDIS to find Clara by lying through his teeth, promising them a salvage to end all salvages before admitting he didn’t mean it,  and seems genuinely surprised when, rather than cooperating without question, they start nicking stuff. Of course, they’re not all bad. In the spirit of diversity we will recognise that we may classify them accordingly as the Unethical One, the Big, Thick One Who Follows Orders and the Sensitive One. It’s also worth noticing that the Sensitive One has an affinity with the sentient machinery of the TARDIS, being an android himself, unambiguously and with no sign of any ludicrous plot twist that would threaten to undermine this sense of connection.

 

(And I don’t care how much of this was about him dragging them into things so he could figure out why the one who was apparently an android still needed equipment. It was a stupid command decision.)

5. When you have a few minutes to fill, it’s always a good idea to have people running around the same bit of corridor repeatedly. It’s a good nod to the original series, in which the same bit of corridor shot from another angle was supposed to be a different bit of corridor in another part of the complex. In this episode, it’s the same corridor, because the characters are lost. It worked in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. Hey, it worked in Matrix Revolutions. Oh, and show us a scene we already saw earlier in the episode, and then have the Doctor say “We’re witnessing the past”. You know, just in case we missed it.

Lots of this, there was.

Lots of this, there was.

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6. Clara genuinely doesn’t know anything of her other encounters with the Doctor. He’s only just figured this out, which is bizarre as most of us had cottoned on by the end of ‘The Bells of Saint John’. Oh, and if you have both characters in a crisis point, the best thing to do is take a metaphorical leap of faith into the unknown.

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Which is fine, and not at all what Doctor Who did very recently.

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7. A note about pleasing all the people all the time: if you’re panicking that all this TARDIS intricacy (which personally doesn’t bother me at all) is too much Rewriting The Show, the best way to satisfy the fanboys is to drop in a bit of radio noise from Classic Who. Susan Foreman’s ‘An Unearthly Child’ explanation should do nicely. That’ll give the conspiracy theorists more ways to connect Clara with the Doctor’s granddaughter. Better drop in a bit of Pertwee as well, though, just to throw them off the scent. Oh, and have a nice picture of the Eye of Harmony, to make things consistent.

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8. Apparently, Clara is “feisty”. And even the Doctor now thinks so.

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9. Two of the three Eastenders rejects have been complicit in what is possibly the lamest practical joke in history, in that they pretended their third brother was an android simply to pass the time. This consisted of giving him optical implants and a vocoder. This is almost as ridiculous as the episode of Red Dwarf in which a temporal pocket of false reality causes the crew to believe that Lister is an android, for all of five minutes. And this one didn’t even have an interlaced log cabin built from chocolate fingers.

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(Note: at some point or other, Moffat must have got wind of this and demanded a rewrite. The ‘joke’ is now justified by sibling rivalry. But sorry. Too little too late.)

10. Finally: if you’re stuck for a monster, a Silent Hill knock-off will do nicely.

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There is nothing I could commit to paper that could justify this irredeemable, inexcusable mess for what was once a great show – but if nothing else, the episode does one thing right. The Doctor manages to rewrite history with a metaphorical Big Friendly Button which turns out to be, in fact, an actual Big Friendly Button. It’s your standard reset button approach taken to literal extremes, with the sort of ontological paradox that Moffat loves and that he probably suggested to Stephen Thompson when he got stuck for an ending. But it was Emily who pointed out that this would be a handy gadget to have lying around the home. “Because,” she said, “I’d be able to rewrite time so that I’d never have to watch the bloody thing in the first place”.

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To be honest, I can’t argue.

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Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’

  1. I have many things to say, but it’s bedtime and commenting from the phone is a pain in the ass.

    For now, just know that I giggled at the fact that The Book with The Doctor’s Name was located in the same place as the plans for that bypass.

    • reverend61

      I only wish it was! Instead of in the Hallowed Spot in the library…!

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