“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”
Doctor Who 7×10
No matter what your shipping choices are (Ten x Rose, Eleven x Amy, Eleven x River, Eleven x Rory, Captain Jack Harkness x Every Living Thing in the Universe), everyone knows that the Ultimate OTP of Doctor Who is Doctor x TARDIS. While hints of this great love affair have always been around and the TARDIS has always had a personality, the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who has really hammered this concept home, down to the TARDIS becoming a woman in the award-winning episode “The Doctor’s Wife”.
Another hallmark of the Moffat era has been the comparison of The Eleventh Doctor to the character of Peter Pan (with Amy Pond filling the role of Wendy). Well if the Doctor is Peter Pan, then the TARDIS is most definitely Peter’s faithful companion Tinkerbell. Both are the means of transport to a magical place and hopelessly devoted to their companions. And both are a bit…temperamental. Some would even say bitchy. And thus far this series we have seen that Clara and “Sexy” (as we all know that is her name) get along about as well as Tinkerbell and Wendy do.
We’ve never seen the TARDIS behave this way with any past companion, with maybe the exception of Jack Harkness, but it was never to this extent. We’ve seen that the TARDIS didn’t start translating for Clara straight away (the barking Alien in “Rings”) though that had been set right by “Cold War”. The TARDIS has refused to open for her on numerous occasions, even when she is in peril. She’s been downright unaccepting of Clara as HER Doctor’s new companion.
So what is it about Clara that has the TARDIS in such a fit? It’s certainly not the fact that she is a strong woman, as Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, Sarah Jane Smith, et al are certainly not weaklings. Is Sexy remembering the time Clara called her a “snog box” and holding a grudge (I mean…I would)? Or does it have more to do with her ongoing mystery as the Impossible Girl who has died twice already? Is the TARDIS actually trying to protect The Doctor from whatever the answer to that mystery is? WHAT ANSWERS DO YOU HAVE IN STORE FOR US, STEVEN MOFFAT?!
When they announced that we would be spending an episode exploring the TARDIS there was a LOT of expectation and excitement. After all, we really have only spent time in the main console room (With the exception of “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Doctor’s Wife”) but we have HEARD about the wonders of the TARDIS for 50 years now. A library! A swimming pool! A room that provides era appropriate clothes when needed! infinite rooms all contained within a blue police box that is bigger on the inside. Once the synopsis for “Journey Into the Centre of the TARDIS” was released, I got even more excited, given the relationship between Clara and the TARDIS thus far. A whole episode where Clara is lost within the bowels of the TARDIS and The Doctor must find her before time runs out? Sign me up.
Except…guys…I basically hated this episode.
It pains me to say so, as we always try to be positive at Head Over Feels…but that doesn’t mean we love things blindly. There WERE some things that worked, but I felt the episode as a whole was overstuffed and tried to do too much. Let me break it down into what worked and what didn’t work…
What Worked: Clara Exploring the TARDIS. Honestly, I could have probably spent a whole episode watching Clara explore the rooms of the TARDIS…but there would have been zero dramatic stakes to that, yes?
Obviously, my favorite room was the room that seemed to house trinkets and treasures from all the companions. The mini TARDIS Clara held up was Amy’s. I looked and looked for a reference to Rose but then remembered that The Doctor has left her bedroom intact, so clearly all of her stuff would be there (#headcanon #sorrynotsorry). Also, that is CLEARLY Clara’s umbrella from “The Snowmen”, right? Especially considering the way she catches it. I also loved seeing the observatory (with a telescope very much like the one from “Tooth and Claw”), the swimming pool, and THAT LIBRARY. That library WAS showing off…in the best way possible. I would spend all my time there and it would definitely merit doing this all the time:
What did NOT work:
REALLY? If The Doctor’s name is that much of a secret, why is it just sitting there in a book for anyone to discover it? Also, we DO NOT want to know his name, Steven Moffat. What in the world makes you think, after 50 years of NOT knowing, that YOU are the one who has the right to tell us??
– What worked: The Cinematography and Production design
The episode was GORGEOUS to look at.
– What Worked: The Doctor FINALLY revealing to Clara that he had met her before and watched her die before.
Because Matt and Jenna sold the hell out of that. It’s about TIME The Doctor had an outburst like that in regards to the mystery of Clara. And I do like that (thus far) it seems THIS Clara is exactly what she purports herself to be: a perfectly ordinary girl. She doesn’t have memories of her past lives, though she has shown similarities to them.
What Worked: The scene in the Engine Room
Again…it’s beautifully filmed. And I loved how The Doctor was genuinely upset at how he had let his beloved TARDIS down. And the interactions with Clara are wonderful. Matt and Jenna have developed a lovely chemistry, but I am beginning to fear that the writers are relying too much on the audience’s good will towards their performances.
What Did NOT work: The Time Zombies. I am very confused at to why they were so murderous, especially if they were future versions of all of the characters. Were they trying to put their past selves out of their misery before they died a terrible death burning in the Eye of Harmony room? When you combine the Time Zombies with the Injured TARDIS with the search for Clara AND the story of the Van Baalen Brothers you have TOO MUCH GOING ON IN AN EPISODE. Speaking of which…
What Did NOT work: The story of the Van Baalen Brothers. I understand that we needed an outside reason to injure the TARDIS. I even accept The Doctor roping them in to help him find Clara and the fact that all they really wanted to do was strip the TARDIS of all its valuables. They could have been the straight up bad guys of the story and that would have been fine. They were as much of a threat to the TARDIS as her injuries were, and you could have had them turn AGAINST The Doctor and Clara and it would have worked just fine. It became too much with the reveal that the android was ACTUALLY the human third brother. Were we supposed to feel sympathy and then long for redemption of the brothers? All I felt was there was too much going on in the episode.
WHAT REALLY DIDN’T WORK: The resolution of the episode yet again being Timey-Wimey.
Doc Brown warned us in Back to the Future that crossing your own timeline can be catastrophic and result in you never being born. We learned in Harry Potter that wizards who have abused time turners have gone mad when they have run into their past or future selves. It was the whole POINT of everything that happened with Rose, Pete, and the Ninth Doctor in “Father’s Day”. SO WHY DOES STEVEN MOFFAT CONTINUE TO RELY ON TIME BEING ABLE TO BE REWRITTEN? The Doctor SEEING his future self throwing him the “big friendly button” seems to fly in the face of all the rules we have known in the past. To quote Clara, not interacting with your past or future self is “the number one rule of storytelling”. So why does this keep happening? We saw The Doctor rewrite time in the series 5 finale “The Big Bang” and “The Pandorica Opens”. The entirety of series 6 emphasized that the Doctor’s Death was a fixed point in time that could not be avoided. But here in series 7 it’s okay for the Doctor to interact with his past self in order to prevent catastrophe (Those of you who are Classic Who scholars, please correct me if I am wrong and all of this has happened before).
I just hate that it feels like Moffat and the writing team is becoming a one trick pony and relying on manipulating the rules of time too much. They are changing the rules every other episode to fit whatever story they want to tell. And that is just lazy writing. It also (to me) lowers the stakes when all of a sudden The Doctor can rewrite time and the revelations and events that we just witnessed never happened. Clara doesn’t REMEMBER that she’s met The Doctor twice and died twice. She doesn’t remember that she read his name…or DOES she? The episode hinted at the end, with the eldest (?) Van Baalen brother saying that he maybe had a shred of decency after all, which is something said to him in the Eye of Harmony room. And it certainly felt like the Doctor remembered everything that had happened. So does Clara? We shall see, I guess. If she does…I’ll say it again. It’s lazy writing. It’s being too obsessed with the cleverness of your ideas to the point of sacrificing the integrity of the show. I am afraid that THAT is what is happening in this current series.
Of course, if it is all tied into an amazing package in the finale, I will take this all back. But still…it’s about the journey, Moffat, not just the clever reveal at the end.
– Clara’s dress is ADORABLE. And apparently is from Urban Outfitters UK, but no longer available. I think they would be wise to MAKE it available so I (along with every other woman at Gallifrey One) can cosplay this episode. 🙂
– Among the voices heard when the TARDIS console was being dismantled? Amy Pond’s joyful “We are in SPACE!”
– Second episode in a row we’ve gotten a “Geronimo!”. Which ALSO makes me miss The Ponds.
– “I feel a TARDIS tantrum coming.” (I will now always have to use Tinkerbell gifs whenever I talk about the TARDIS)
– “It’s rude to whisper.”
That’s it for this week. Sage will be on Who duty next week for the fantastic looking Victorian-set “The Crimson Horror”. Madame Vastra, Strax and Jenny return! Yay!