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Published on May 18th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

Big Reaction to The Doctor’s Wife

We’ve had a few days to get our thoughts in order concerning the magic of The Doctor’s Wife, and in that time Doctor Who seems to have attracted far more attention than normal.

Could it have been the script? The acting and direction?

Or could it have been the presence of one Neil Gaiman as scriptwriter?

Certainly Doctor Who Series 6 has been the subject of more online reviews than any other (and a few podKast discussions), which is why we’ve held off with our round up of reviews while we waited for them to be published.

Let’s start at the top. If The Doctor’s Wife had been a stage play, it would have had a cast reunion at the end to bow to the audience, who on their feet would be applauding and throwing flowers.

‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is one of, if not the, best episode of Moffat and Smith’s run up to this point The tone is fabulous, the writing is perfect, the acting is spectacular and the monster is every bit as threatening as he should be considering the stakes. As far as stand alone stories go, I predict this will be at or near the top of many Whovian’s top lists for years to come.

Meanwhile Sam Morgan at Hollywood.com offers a lead-in to a review of the episode that I can completely sympathise with; I’ve still got the bruises…

Who has had a long history of attracting great British sci-fi writers (Douglas Adams to name the most well known) and I believe The Doctor’s Wife can go right along there with Adams’ City of Death. Had this not been written by Gaiman though, it would still be a classic. Personifying the TARDIS so the Doctor can finally speak to her? Absolutely brilliant.

That’s the kind of idea you see and smack your head while repeatedly cursing to yourself “Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so simple and brilliant!” At least that’s what I did and why Gaiman is married to a rock star chick.

One respected online review source is Crave Online who were right to heap praise on guest star Suranne Jones, in a remarkable turn from the actress who once brought us the terminally stroppy Karen McDonald in Coronation Street.

Of the guest stars, Suranne Jones was a knockout with her manic portrayal of Idris; who almost seemed like Helena Bonham Carter on acid. One of my qualms about River Song as the potential wife of the Doctor is that I don’t think she’s a good fit for his personality. The opposite is true for Idris as the TARDIS personified.

Everything seems to come together so perfectly in The Doctor’s Wife; in terms of the regular cast it is of course Matt Smith who is rightly the star this time around, considers the popular TOR site.

…Matt Smith’s heartrending performance of The Doctor meeting the love of his life for the first time was a perfect balance for hers… By the time he tearfully speaks to the TARDIS for the last time, I was crying buckets. That guy can act.

Now here’s an interesting one. Viewers on BBC America are getting episodes of Doctor Who this year with an opening narration from Karen Gillan, in character as Amy Pond. Various people have criticised this over the last few weeks. MTV say you’re wrong, however

…once again get Amy Pond’s narration, which gives us the rundown of everything we need to know about Doctor Who. And it’s come to my attention that some people don’t like this. Some people: you are wrong. This season of Who, in particular, is not new viewer friendly, something that the past forty years have strived for. So any olive branch to a new viewer is important.

Doctor Who - The Doctor's WifeLast week we ran an article on the number of times Rory had been killed. It seems that tricking us into thinking that Mr Pond is dead is something that is just going to keep on happening. However, the moment which it occured was pretty disturbing for some viewers (this one included!), not least Pajiba’s C Roberto Dmitri.

We were inflicted with Rory death fatigue for the second week in a row, but I did think the payoff of Amy’s hallucination of his rotted corpse and walls scrawled with mad ramblings of how much he hated her was a creepy enough payoff to justify it.

Over at BlogCritics, Gaiman’s punchy dialogue is the real winner. There were plenty of gems in the episode, none moreso than pretty much everything that Idris utters in her “all moments at once” manner.

Special mention, however, must go to the line: “Biting’s excellent. It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.” Only a genius of Gaiman’s calibre could’ve come up with that, and I was so enamoured with the line that I immediately texted it to my girlfriend with the thought that she might appreciate it. (She did.)

Local paper The Shropshire Star often features Doctor Who-related content; sometimes good, sometimes bad. While every other review we have featured here comes from the pen of a blogger with a name, it seems that in Shropshire it’s not good form to share these details when you’re slating the current run of Doctor Who

Fantastic stuff – clever, witty and enjoying playing with the idea of time and spacey wayceyness but without being smug or clever for cleverness’s sake. Although it wasn’t entirely perfect – the climax, where they finally defeated the mysterious House – was over a bit too quickly, but that’s a small gripe.

Blimey. I’m actually really excited about next week’s episode. And that can mean only one thing.

Yup. They’re bound to cock it up again.

Pillock.

Speaking of which, Gavin Fuller managed to pay attention this week, which means the man who continues to dine out on his Mastermind success answering Doctor Who questions 20 years ago had something good to say. Naturally his early drafts will have had references to Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, not to mention Philip Hinchcliffe, but his editor sensibly edited those out. He still managed to be trivial, however…

Not since the beginning of the 1980s have people with a track record in the sci-fi/fantasy field got as far as having a story commissioned, and unlike Christopher Priest and Tanith Lee, Gaiman has seen his story come to fruition.

Doctor Who - The Doctor's WifeThe reviews just keep on coming, as you can see – The Doctor’s Wife was hugely successful, a rare case of a much-anticipated TV event actually coming off. Den of Geek’s Simon Brew was suitably excited:

Yet, the understandable and entirely correct excitement over Gaiman’s maiden Doctor Who script (and please, if you’re reading, Mr Gaiman: write another) shouldn’t overshadow the many other things that went right here. Director Richard Clark had a massive task here, capturing an episode that was, by turns, emotional, sinister, scary and action-packed. He turned out to be absolutely the right choice, and – matched by some brilliant production design and effects work – he turned in a superbly shot piece of television.

IGN have also offered a review that praises Matt Smith’s performance and Neil Gaiman’s ability to add to the relationship between Rory and Amy.

Smith was given free reign to explore sides to his Doctor we haven’t seen as yet (from vulnerable to bad-ass in one fell swoop) and – despite budgetary restraints restricting Rory and Amy’s torturous Groundhog Day riff to the same bland corridor over and again – Gaiman managed to add subtle layers to their relationship in poignant style.

 

Curiously, Digital Spy (who otherwise enthuse about the episode) have this rather dull opinion of the defeat of House, one that kind of misses the point…

The means of defeating the seemingly-invulnerable House (an unrecognisable Michael Sheen) is also slightly disappointing, as the death of Idris’s human body leads to a literal deus ex machina resolution.

How did they miss that the “literal deus ex machina resolution” is actually bloody clever? How often do we see a literal deus ex machina in modern fiction, as opposed to last minute, cack-handed attempts to screw the reader because the writer got it wrong earlier in the plot?

Doctor Who - The Doctor's WifeOver at SFX, the champions of British sci-fi and fantasy contrast the episode with The Curse of the Black Spot.

Considerably more rewarding in every respect than last week’s pirate yarn, Neil Gaiman’s first dip into the waters of Doctor Who does not disappoint. The Stardust and Coraline scribe has created a story that is enmeshed in the show’s mythology but isn’t self-indulgent or inaccessible to non-acolytes: that’s thanks to a script that provides both an endless stream of brilliant dialogue and has a remarkable knack of following funny with emotional with scary with funny with emotional with scary – and so on.

The popularity of Neil Gaiman might not be the sort of thing to impress the man in the street – after all, he hasn’t reached J.K. Rowling levels of success – but he is big enough to be a considerable catch for any TV show, in the way that perhaps getting Douglas Adams to write a script in the mid 1980s might have been. ScreenRant are certainly aware of this, and rightly use this fact to spread the word about Doctor Who.

If you’re reading this, you are probably a fan of Doctor Who too. If you’re not, I highly encourage you to start watching the show, because it really is something special. How many shows out there can land Neil Gaiman as a guest writer?

As you can see, respect for The Doctor’s Wife is massive, and it genuinely feels like a modern day classic. I personally don’t like to get over excited about things like this but I reckon Monsters and Critics have a point:

All in all this was one hell of an episode and I’d love to see Neil Gaiman write more Doctor Who. In fact I’d go as far as to say that this is a potential HUGO Winner.

So there you have it – The Doctor’s Wife was as rare and unusual a treat in every way possible!

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About the Author

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




5 Responses to Big Reaction to The Doctor’s Wife

  1. 23skidoo says:

    Monsters and Critics has it right. The Hugos gravitate (usually) towards the human stories as opposed to the big and brash. This punches all the right buttons for them. I’d also go so far as to predict that there’s every chance The Doctor’s Wife could become the “foot in the door” for Doctor Who to finally get some Emmy consideration. Certainly Matt Smith’s performance is Best Actor in a Drama-worthy throughout, but this episode was his show-reel. Suranne Jones would be a walkaway for a Guest Performance category. Neil Gaiman deserves a nomination for the teleplay. And frankly if the season continues to keep this high level of quality, it deserves a Best Drama nomination too.

    The only thing that’s worrisome here is that I wouldn’t wish the follow-up on a dog. Matthew Graham, despite his Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars pedigree, rather unfairly has a lot of bad blood against him because he wrote Fear Her, which is considered (per DWM’s Mighty 200 poll) to be the worst modern-era DW episode to date (though strangely I’ve seen a couple of maverick forum posts by a few discontents who want to put The Doctor’s Wife down there!). The pressure is immense for them to get it right with the Rebel Flesh/Almost People two-parter, otherwise the fanbase is going to be merciless. Moffat is also under extreme pressure to get it right for the mid-season finale. The Doctor’s Wife is a real treasure, but the expectation that every week will be like that is going to make things a bit rough for upcoming episodes, especially the next “middle of the road” episode that comes along (because you need middle of the road and outright bad episodes in order to have classics, right?).

  2. TimeChaser says:

    This episode definitely deserves to win awards. I consider it one of the very few New Series stories really deserving of the “classic” label, along with Blink and Midnight.

    As for the upcoming 2-parter, I prefer to be hopeful that it will be good. Not every writer is going to hit the mark; RTD wrote some (in my opinion) poor stories, and yet he could create such a brilliant and uncomfortable masterpiece like Midnight. Fear Her was fluff, but from the trailers and previews, The Rebel Flesh/The Almost people looks more like serious, hard core Doctor Who.

  3. Greig Byrne says:

    The man himself just linked to this article via twitter (@neilhimself)

  4. PocketGal says:

    We too in Australia are also getting the narration by Amy Pond. I agree that it seems out of place. It is very jarring. It would have been fine in just the premiere to help along the first time viewer, I am looking forward greatly to The Doctor’s Wife this weekend, but am disappointed that the narration seems to be staying.

  5. The Ood Cast says:

    Love all this outpouring of positivity for the episode.

    We’ve also been quite excited about The Doctor’s Wife over at The Ood Cast.

    Why not have a listen at http://theoodcast.com/2011/05/s03e17/ ?

    There are songs and everything. And a sketch where someone’s jaw falls off to hilarious effect…

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