Published on April 30th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
The library; the swimming pool, the workshop… the Eye of Harmony. Four fan-pleasing features of the TARDIS that were all revealed in the latest episode of Doctor Who, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
Last mentioned, well, in Hide, the Eye of Harmony hasn’t been seen since 1996′s TV Movie starring the incomparable Paul McGann (check the Big Finish Eighth Doctor adventures for evidence of this particular description), and before that barely mentioned beyond 1976′s The Deadly Assassin. For years the myth of the Eye of Harmony – a collapsed sun through which the Time Lords get their power – has been discussed at length as fans tried to work out just how this single item of Time Lord lore could have possibly found its way into the TARDIS. The most obvious answer is that all TARDISes are linked to the one on Gallifrey (although this doesn’t explain how it can still exist if the Doctor’s home planet was destroyed….)
Now, that paragraph above is a whole lot of fandom-pleasing stuff, don’t you think? So too, I feel, was Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, in which the Doctor and Clara engaged in an ill-judged dropping of the ship’s shields only to wind up as targets of some interplanetary scrap merchants. The main consequence of the TARDIS’s capture was that the engines in the time ship became damaged, necessitating the trip to the centre of the (infinite) vessel.
Resorting to some classic Doctor Who tropes (splitting off the companion), teaming the Doctor up with the newcomers, mysterious monsters stalking all), the episode manages to build suspense and mystery as it proceeds, with some classic, nightmarish time leaks teamed up with the TARDIS attacking the newcomer Van Baalen brothers with MC Escher-style endless, looped corridors.
All in all, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is a pleasing episode, continuing the Series 7b habit of throwing in a 50th anniversary Easter egg for the hardcore fans. I loved it, but I am aware of some issues with it that have upset some fans:
Reset button – yes, Journey… does rely on a “big friendly button” to sort things out. But – and this is crucial – it isn’t a deus ex machina button introduced at the last minute to get the writer out of a hole. Instead, it was there are the very beginning of the story. Did you spot it? No? Well, tough.
TARDIS design – personally, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. When we had coral, it wasn’t “traditional enough”. When Matt’s Doctor checked out his new TARDIS at the end of The Eleventh Hour, it was too “bric-a-brac” and “not futuristic”. Now we finally have a superb, BAFTA-nominated designer who turned 1986 into 1969 for Withnail & I who revises the TARDIS into something that is both futuristic and harks back to the original 50 years ago and people still complain.
The Van Baalen Brothers – I’ve heard rumblings about this trio’s acting ability and the likelihood of the younger brother actually being unaware of not being an android, not to mention the reasonable question “why didn’t he die?” when the rod skewered him. I don’t have answers, but then, I’ve never been conned/drugged by my brothers into thinking I was built and not born, so how could I?
But look, beyond these things (we’ve complained over far worse in the past!) this is one of the more memorable episodes of the Moffat era. The Eye of Harmony, for goodness sake, (okay, I’ll stop now), as well as an answer to the Clara Question (certainly as far as she is concerned) and of course, the book of The Time War.
Wouldn’t it be good if we could buy that particular piece of merchandise…?
The questions that particular scene and Clara’s subsequent conversation with the Doctor raise are of course the setup to the Series 7b finale – but we’ve still got a few weeks to go before we get there, and hopefully unwrap the goodies that Steven Moffat has been hiding throughout the series (and perhaps, all the way back to 2008′s Silence in the Library)…