TARDIS File 06-04: The Doctor’s Wife

TARDIS File 06-04: The Doctor’s Wife

The Big Idea… The Doctor receives a distress call from a Time Lord and the TARDIS crew end up in a cosmic drain hole with a sentient asteroid, an Ood and a very old friend.

What’s so great…

  • Suranne Jones shines as Idris, the personification of the TARDIS. She channels a bit of Helena Bonham Carter and, interestingly, a touch of the Eleventh Doctor himself. Her chemistry with Matt Smith is lovely.
  • Matt Smith is several sorts of wonderful in the story. From his joy at possibly finding more Time Lords to his anger at House’s slaughtering of them, and the utter naivety which he extols the virtues of bunk beds to his incredulous companions—he rocks.
  • Murray Gold’s music punctuates the action brilliantly without overwhelming it. A mix of old and new themes (including that one from the Russell T Davies era that accompanied the denouement).
  • The magical junkyard is wonderfully eccentric and evocative and it brings to mind the very first Doctor Who story, The Unearthly Child, where two school teachers discover the TARDIS in a very different kind of junkyard.
  • Michael Sheen’s voice work as House is forceful, creepy and deeply disturbing. It actually suggests more about the entity than is actually revealed in the script.
  • Idris referring to Rory as “the pretty one” is priceless. After all the ribbing that the poor guy has taken over his looks and particularly his nose, its poetic justice that the TARDIS is rather taken with him.

Some Quick Bits of Trivia: Neil Gaiman, who penned the episode, is a well-respected genre writer responsible for writing the graphic novel The Sandman and the novels American Gods, Stardust, and Coraline.  Among his billions of awards he’s won the Newberry Prize for best Children’s fiction. He also wrote the teleplay for the 1996 BBC2 production of Neverwhere (which he later adapted to novel form).  Suranne Jones who plays Idris is best known for her role as Karen on Coronation Street. She also appeared as the Mona Lisa in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Mona Lisa’s Revenge . Michael Sheen, who provides the voice for House is a well respected movie actor known for such roles as David Frost in Frost/Nixon and Tony Blair in The Queen. This story was originally supposed to have appeared in Series Five (in the slot that eventually became The Lodger) but budgetary considerations pushed it into this season. This meant Gaiman had to rewrite the story to feature Rory (who in the Series Five version was still erased from time by the crack). Russell T Davies got a credit for creating the Ood.

Things to geek out about…

  • Well, really the whole story. It’s another love letter to the fans, but specifically…
  • Idris divulges that the TARDIS chose the Doctor. The revelation subtly shifts the entire mythology of the series off by a few degrees, but in a logical and pleasing fashion.
  • The telepathic distress-call cubes are used for the first time since 1969’s The War Games where the Doctor employs one to solicit help from the Time Lords.
  • Artron energy has been referenced numerous times in the series since it was first introduced into the series back in The Deadly Assassin.
  • The Doctor admits that he’s looking for absolution from fellow Time Lords for his actions in destroying his race at the end of the Time War.
  • An Ood (referred to as nephew) appears. This is the first time we’ve seen a member of that race since The End of Time Part 2. The Doctor also laments that once again he’s failed to save an Ood.
  • The TARDIS is able to create more thrust/escape velocity by deleting rooms, as seen in Season 18’s Logopolis and Season 19’s Castrovalva.
  • The Doctor suggests visiting the Eye of Orion. The fifth Doctor was always promising to show his companion Tegan this tranquil location and they finally made it there during the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctor’s.
  • The TARDIS cloister bell can be heard tolling for thee.
  • Welcome back old TARDIS control room! Your elegant lines have been missed.

Did you notice: Idris delivered the cryptic line to Rory: “The only water in the forest is a river.”

Not to complain but: What the heck is going on with Rory seemingly dying in almost every episode this season (not to mention already ceasing to be last season)? Is Moffat going for something larger here? All we know is Kenny from South Park called—he wants his shtick back.

All Things Considered: Expectations for The Doctor’s Wife were extremely high. Written by Neil Gaiman, with a provocative title and following the rather low-key The Curse of the Black Spot, fans were hoping for something special. Thankfully (at least depending on your tastes), the story delivered. The Doctor’s Wife walks that delicate line between fan service and good imaginative drama. Suranne Jones and Matt Smith sparkle, managing to find the right balance between madcap eccentricity and moving pathos. The pace of the story feels really natural too. Doctor Who has often struggled with the 45 minute format in terms of storytelling, often feeling rushed or truncated. The key here is taking an epic concept and giving it an intimate feel.

Some may argue that the Amy and Rory sequences were mere padding and if they are they’re very engaging padding. Perhaps I’m just high on seeing actual TARDIS corridors again, but I actually found the scenes between Rory and Amy quite interesting. There’s a really darkness revealed in traveling in time and space as a married couple. And the story offers a little retroactive poignancy to all the past Doctor Who stories where the TARDIS appeared to be acting with a consciousness (bringing the mortally wounded Third Doctor home to regenerate for example).

All in all, this story really lived up to the whimsical fairy tale quality often attributed to Moffat’s take on Doctor Who. Particularly in the realization of patchwork people Auntie and Uncle or the living-on-top-of-the-giant-sentient-creature bit that Moffat himself employed in last year’s The Beast Below. I would argue that it ultimately works because it’s not done too frequently. Viva la variety in Doctor Who.

Line of the week: “Hello Doctor, it’s so very nice to meet you.”

TARDIS file prepared by Scott Clarke

 

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