Reviews

“The Doctor’s Library!” Review of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Tardis’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 10

Overview

As I wrote last week,  when Doctor Who features big industrial spaceships I’m already happy – The Girl in the Fireplace and The Satan Pit are two episodes where this trope is used best – but this episode also gave us a journey through the bowels of the universe’s most mysterious blue box, making it by far my favourite of the the series so far. In the end it was an episode for the fans – but hey, I’m a fan so I loved it.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Full review – huge spoilers

Opening scene and cue the aforementioned industrial spaceship, an enormous salvage vessel searching the galaxy for junk, scrap and hopefully treasure. On board a young man uses his bionic eyes to get a reading of a ship that keeps appearing and disappearing. At first I thought these were just implants but then another crew member called him an android – thankfully my Whovian radar is still functioning adequately and my first guess would later be proved right.

On the TARDIS the Doctor and Clara have an argument about the fact that Clara and the TARDIS are not exactly getting on very well. The Doctor tries to mend the rift between his two favourite girls by having Clara try piloting the ship. Then the salvage ship disturbs the test drive by capturing the TARDIS with a ‘magnetic grab’, which also causes a violent reaction from inside the console room. During the usual explosions and thrashing about, Clara notices a small silver object rolling towards her that she picks up, burning her hand.

We return after the opening credits to see the TARDIS being passed along by huge mechanical arms (with the help of some unfortunate Doctor Who CGI) into the salvage yard where the crew try to crack it open. The Doctor makes his entrance with a friendly, “It’s rude to whisper” as three crewmen debate whether to dump the TARDIS and his body. After quickly explaining that he knows they have used an illegal piece of tech to grab his ship he promises the men the salvage of a lifetime if they come with him to help find Clara.

We then cut to Clara who wakes up covered in TARDIS parts and nursing her burnt hand. As she wonders around dodging fireballs she starts to notice that the burn looks like it might be something more than it first appears.

Back with the Doctor and the crewmen. Now we of course knew that he wouldn’t actually give them the TARDIS, but trapping them inside and setting a self-destruct timer so they are forced to help does seem a little harsh. He warns them of their mistake with my favourite line from the episode – “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman, didn’t anyone ever teach you that?”

Then the episode got really interesting for fans as we got to stroll around some of the deepest parts of the TARDIS with Clara – before needing to run around them as she is chased by horrible burning lava zombies. We see a little Time Lord’s crib, the famous swimming pool and, of course, the library! Oh, the library! For someone who loves a bit of book porn this was Doctor Who heaven. Luckily, instead of wading through copies of Agatha Christie, Clara went straight to the History of the Time War and finds out the Doctor’s real name – a fact she will of course forget as she must do for the story arc of the series to continue.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Whilst Clara is catching up on her reading, the least savoury crewman is of course doing something unsavoury by stealing some living metal from a glowing tree that has the ability to make any other machine. The Doctor warns of a TARDIS tantrum but the episode wouldn’t have been interesting if the crewman just did as he was told and put it back.

After hiding behind the Encyclopedia Gallifrey, which is contained in an interesting liquid word technology, Clara is chased out of the geek paradise by the lava zombie. And, speaking of lava zombies, we then see the rather slow-witted crewman, who has been tasked by his unsavoury brother to strip the console room apart, killed by one of these burning baddies – oh well, that was bound to happen so it was hard to feel sorry for him.

The Doctor, the unsavoury and unhuman crewmen are now stuck in the labyrinth that the TARDIS has created within itself and Clara also feels these effects as she finds herself in an echo of a control room that she can’t escape. The Doctor duly saves her and, just before she is fried by one of the lava creatures, reveals that the self-destruct countdown was just a rouse (using the “wiggle some buttons trick”) to frighten the crew into helping. But again that wouldn’t have been dramatic enough so we find out that the TARDIS is about to explode for real because of the effects of the magnetic grab and now everyone has to go straight to the centre of the ship to stop this from happening.

On the way Clara gets lost again (of course she bloody does) and encounters some ghostly memory versions of herself and the doctor as the past starts to leak in around them. After finding each other aand running away to avoid the TARDIS impaling them with metal spikes, they come across the crewmen and see that the android has already been skewered, which forces the unsavoury crewman to admit that the android is really his brother with a few implants (I knew it!) and that the android thing was all some sick joke to allow the unsavoury brother to be captain – brotherly love indeed.

Then things got weird and interesting. As our group find their way to the exploding star kept in a permanent state of decay that powers the TARDIS (you have to love Time Lord engineering), they are then trapped by the lava zombies. The crewman’s scanner then uncovers the secret that the Doctor has been hiding – that at least one of the zombies is a future version of Clara (yes, this is the weird and interesting part). So, the Doctor brought Clara to the TARDIS to keep her safe from whatever happens to her but seems unable to stop whatever it is that is causing her horrible end – confusing, but in a good way. After they fight off some of the zombies and touch each other exactly when the Doctor warns them not to (silly secondary characters), the crewmen brothers meld together into the creepy conjoined zombie that they have just killed – timey wimey stuff I suppose.

The Doctor and Clara run out of the chamber and stop just before going over a chasm. The Doctor explains the history of his encounters with her and her other versions – well he might as well if they’re about to explode – to try and force her into telling him who she is, but she genuinely doesn’t know. After a nice hug the Doctor realises that the chasm is just the TARDIS trying to frighten them and they take a leap of faith into the heart of the TARDIS that has already exploded but is temporally held in stasis for the Doctor to fix. He despairs before noticing the backwards writing on Clara’s hand “BIG FRIENDLY BUTTON” and figures out how pin-point the right moment through the music (thankfully there was a reason for it) and rewrite time so that the whole episode doesn’t happen – well at least we get to remember that awesome library.

Before the Doctor does the rewriting and kills this version of himself in the process, Clara tells the Doctor that she knows his name but he stops her from revealing it – damn you Doctor! We then go back to the moment of the magnetic grab. The Doctor hits the big friendly button on the remote and time is rewritten with some unusual side-effects i.e. the unsavoury brother is now kinder to the still-thinks-he’s-an-android brother.

Overall this was a great episode for one that didn’t happen. The side characters were more interesting than the ususal expendable drones, and although there wasn’t a particularly strong narrative, the tour around the TARDIS and teasing nods at Clara’s mystery were enough to please any fanboy or girl. This journey gets a strong 7 out of 10.

Next week

‘The Crimson Horror’ – a Victorian mystery with Strax, Vastra and Jenny. I predict there will be the usual fun high-jinks from this threesome but I’m not optimistic about the plot from what we saw from the trailer. If something more is revealed about the Clara mystery then I’ll be happy but my expectations are low.

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Reviews

“Ghosts, busted.” Review of ‘Hide’, Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 9

Overview

It was a dark and stormy 70s and the Doctor and Clara are hunting a ghost… or are they? This episode worked best when the Doctor and Clara stuck to exchanging witty remarks in a house haunted by spooky cliches but the convoluted plot and dull side characters soured what could have been a great ghost story.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Full episode review – huge spoilers

The episode opens with two ghost hunters (Professor Palmer and Emma Grayling) as they go through a quick seance with the ‘witch of the well’. Immediately afterwards the Doctor and Clara announce their arrival with a jovial ‘Boo!’ before the opening credits role. Next comes my favourite scene – the Doctor’s whirlwind entrance. Complete with witty banter and confuddeld supporting characters, in these entrance scenes (which almost every episode contains) the Doctor can be his most eccentric and the companion play his apologist/fellow-eccentric. Best bits from this week’s whirlwind introduction were:

Doctor – “I’m the Doctor.”

Professor Palmer -”Doctor What?”

Doctor – “Oh, I suppose that’ll do.”

and

Doctor – “I do love a toggle switch. Also, the word ‘toggle’. Nice vowel, excellent verb!”

The whirlwind was followed by the standard set up and this week’s was a wonderfully creepy ghost story. Primerally recounted by the Professor, the tale of the Caliburn ghost contained some choice spooky cliches such as “The witch in the well is accompanied by a knocking that sounds as if the devil himself is demanding entry” and “Written on the wall was “for the love of god, stop screaming””- chilling indeed.
One thing I that I didn’t really like in this episode was the Doctor’s patronising tone towards Clara. The best example of this came straight after the ghost story set up. Being the last remaining Lord of Space and Time means that talking down to his companions comes naturally to the Doctor but “I dare you. No takesies backies” and “your pants are so on fire” took the talking to a child tone a little too far and I hope this doesn’t continue through the rest of the series. That being said, in ‘Hide’ the Doctor and Clara looked more comfortable together than ever before and she is beginning to feel like a real companion, which is odd because it is actually the first episode that Jenna Louise-Coleman filmed for the season.

Throughout the episode, there was a subplot of unspoken love between Professor Palmer and Grayling but unfortunately these side characters were extremely forgettable (they are no Thomas Kincade Brannigan from ‘Deadlock’). It’s ironic that in an episode in which an empath plays a vital part, the Professor and his psychic love-interest assistant left me as cold as the Doctor’s icy hearts.

Whilst the dull side characters were failing to express their love for each other, the Doctor and Clara explored the dark corridors with a candelabra that begged to be blown out by a mysterious gust of wind, which of course happened about five minutes later. The cliches came thick and fast: Cold spot, chalk on the floor, dodgy ghost-detecting machinery, a huge drop in temperature, ‘HELP ME’ being written on the wall, and the classic “if you are not holding my hand, who is?” Cliched? Yes, but these ‘the Doctor meets a ghost story’ scenes were the most enjoyable and saved the episode from its flabby narrative.

The rest of the story followed along the usual lines – mini-scary part, a lull in which the characters have deep conversations and the Doctor figures out what is really going on, followed by the bigger dramatic scary bit.

This week’s lull involved the doctor have a manly war chat that included carrier pigeons and Grayling and Clara have a heart-to-heart culminating in the former telling the latter not trust the Doctor. The Doctor and Clara then travel in time (but not space) so that the Doctor can take pictures of the ghost who he has worked out is a pioneer of time travel (named Hila) trapped in a pocket universe – as usual the you really have to ignore the appalling pseudo-science. During this sequence there was a lovely reappearance of the orange heat suit from ‘The Satan Pit’ and Clara and the Doctor have an exchange in which she claims that the Doctor must view us all as ghosts. The Doctor responds by saying that “you” (not clear whether it is Clara or humans/mortals in general) “are the only mystery worth solving”.

Now that the Doctor has solved the problem, he rescues the pioneer using Ms Grayling’s empathic powers and a make shift psychochronograph (wonderfull pseudo-science again). Unfortunately, the rescue leaves the Doctor trapped in the misty pocket universe alone with the monster (a crawling boney creature) that has been causing the pioneer all the distress felt by Grayling. At this point I was praying that as he didn’t have to get out using love and memories like the last time he ended up trapped on the outside of reality (‘The Big Bang’). Thankfully, it was Clara and the TARDIS who come to the Doctor’s rescue and he hitches a ride back to safety.

In the episode’s resolution phase, the Doctor reveals to Emma Grayling that he came here for her and not the ghost because he wanted her to ‘read’ Clara and tell him if there was anything odd. To the Doctor’s annoyance Grayling says she is just an ordinary girl.

After the Doctor lets slip that the link between Hila and Grayling was so strong because the former is the latter’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter he has a head-slapping ‘Doh!’ moment and realises that the monster he met in the pocket universe was just trying to get his mate. It only remains for the Doctor to reunite ‘old romeo’ with his corridor dwelling love, which he does before the credits role.

Next week

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ looks like my favourite kind of Doctor Who episode – dark industrial space drama; I just hope this episode can combine the elements of this promising genre with a tight narrative so that is doesn’t leave me as cold as this week’s did.

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