Sometimes I talk to my electronics, an eccentric little quirk I picked up from some television show or another (I forget which one) and I am always getting eye-rolls from my fiance, as it is “not normal behavior”, apparently. Yet although we have the same model smart phone mine always seems to work better, something I attribute to the affection I give my machinery.
This of course is all ridiculous in the extreme, machinery does not talk back and does not perform betteras a reaction to the user’s encouragement… or does it?
Neil Gaiman would like us to think about such possibility’s as we step into the fourth episode of this series, The Doctor’s Wife and it has to be one of the better episodes so far this year if not of the whole of the new era of Doctor Who. It was indeed a fan boy’s dream wrapped in a simple yet deep plot, one that saw many moments of joy, sadness and fear, and a very special old friend that we have known since the series began. This one goes all the way back to the very beginning and gives more insight inot the mystery of the Doctor’s origins.
Admittedly I was pretty thrown off about the meaning of the title, never guessed that the Doctor’s real wife would be the TARDIS herself, but it makes perfect sense, the TARDIS is the one constant companion in an ever changing universe. Of course once this fact was realized early on I knew we were in for a ride and I was not wrong. If I told you we would have an episode in which the TARDIS gets put into the mind of a woman and can actually speak, we get to see see more of the TARDIS interior, the Ood appear and the Doctor builds a TARDIS console from old cast off TARDIS bits left by Time Lords who were killed after being drawn into a trap devised by an evil Artron eating force, would that get you excited?
Well it should do as this one was pure genius and once again shows how a complicated plot that has elements that appeal to both fans and casual viewers alike can also be a viable and emotional story that has impact and depth without losing the non Doctor Who fanatic along the way. It does not even seem to matter that most of the adventure is set in the TARDIS and really the TARDIS is the focus here in all her forms and desktop themes. She is the reason and the drive to the plot. Make no mistake, this is the TARDIS’ adventure, the Doctor and company are just along for the ride; she says it has always been that way anyway.
Russell T Davies was most likely in tears by the end of this one as The Doctor’s Wife flirts with so much of what he did right (and sadly at times did too much) with Doctor Who in his era, building up a relationship between two of the main players so that when a big event happens it really does throw your heart into the grinder. Of course in this case the relationship between the Doctor and his ship has been building for almost fifty years, but really the Doctor’s outburst of emotion at the end was so real and inspired that it almost drove me to tears. This is not your grandfather’s Doctor Who but it does show that they were all part of a greater whole and it works to perfection.
Much excitement was built up going into this episode about Gaiman being in the driver’s seat and really much like Steven Moffat’s scripts you can defiantly see the quality shining through. Supporting characters are well drawn even in brief moments on screen and every detail is well thought out both in relation to the history of the show through objects like the psychic distress boxes last seen in the 1969 serial The War Games and even the back wall panel in the Doctor’s makeshift console room could have been removed off the set of a Peter Davison or Tom Baker era serial.
As concepts go and how to rate those concepts this has to be a ten of ten, it has something for everyone and the good bits just keep coming almost through the entire episode. I wish I could make Neil Gaiman write a couple Doctor Who scripts each season, but hopefully from the love of the show he seemed to have in the Doctor Who Confidential this will not be the last opening sequence that bears his name.
Rough spots were few and far between in this one but easily the part that was lacking was Rory and Amy running from the House entity through the corridors of the TARDIS. Although I am overjoyed that we finally after six series get to see more of the TARDIS interior (Though to be honest I’m not quite sure if I like the new look), the scenes themselves were odd and disjointed and never really seemed to be as good as what was happening between the Doctor and the TARDIS in human form. It did not really seem to be particularly interesting either and the odd way the House played with the married couple did not interest me at all. They also killed Rory again, even though it was only an illusion.
I also have a little issue with a throwaway line that states Time Lords can regenerate into either sex, male or female. The little joke Tom Baker and former producer John Nathan-Turner decided to play at Tom’s press conference as he was leaving as the Fourth Doctor has really gone too far. I can only think of what poor Leela would think if Andred turned into someone named Adriana one fine morning or what David Campbell might think when the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan turns into a man named Solomon.
The Ood also seemed like a throw in at times, but honestly considering this was described as a “sinkhole” outside the universe it is possible that an Ood got there somehow just as much as any other creature, and they do have a history of possession by outside forces.
Ultimately though despite small flaws this was an excellent adventure and a great story, one that should fall into the category of an instant classic as both a stand alone event and also as a episode that gave us more clues to the Doctor’s past and added more knowledge into the Doctor Who mythos and the mystery of the Doctor’s origins.