Neil Gaiman made me cry. He also made my heart soar and my brain whirr. The Doctor’s Wife is a masterpiece. It is Doctor Who at its very best and further to this week’s Spoilergate conversations, if you haven’t seen it at least once (and you might need to watch some bits twice), then don’t blame me if reading this first ruins it for you.
Actually, talking of spoilers, this is a perfect example of how you tread the fine line between whetting an audience’s appetite (releasing the title a few weeks ago) and ruin the story for them (we’re going to make the TARDIS take human form).
Ever since Steven Moffat became head honcho, there’s been an intensifying of the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS – whether that was the set-up for this (which was originally planned for series one, but had to be bumped) or just a coincidence – this is a lovely pay-off to all those little moments.
First we’re tantalised with the prospect of a surviving ‘good’ Time Lord, then we’re ripping off ‘out of the universe’ towards a ‘sentient’ asteroid called House. Actually, no, first we’re intrigued by Nephew, a green-eyed Ood, emptying Idris (Suranne Jones) of her mind and soul so that something else can go in there. “There’ll be a Time Lord coming,” says Auntie.
Away from the Scrapheap Challenge in Space set, and back in the cosy amber glow of the TARDIS control room, we’re borrowing from Up with an impossible knock on the front door. It isn’t a wilderness explorer called Russell, but it is ‘mail’ – an emergency message from another Time Lord, the Corsair. Who isn’t IN the universe (which explains why he (or perhaps she – “she was a bad girl!” declares the Doctor with glee) escaped the Doctor’s genocide. The Doctor goes on to burn up TARDIS rooms (goodbye swimming pool, scullery and squash court 7) to give them the welly they need to leave the universe.
Having made it through the rift and landed on the asteroid, the TARDIS suddenly becomes dark and lifeless – the matrix stolen and placed inside Idris.
As Rory and Amy explore their surroundings and get the usual not-very-helpful explanantions from the Doctor (“Imagine a great big soap bubble with one of those tiny little bubbles on the outside. Well it’s nothing like that.”) Idris comes storming through the debris (which on second viewing is much more identifiable) and throws herself at the Doctor, ranting “Hey, hey, you’re my thief. Look at you! Goodbye, no the other one…”
There follows a tumble of conversation, kissing, biting and chasing which appears to make no sense. Idris is struggling with tenses and finding the right words to express herself – although she does seem to be able to predict the future: “The little boxes will make you angry.” Not to mention providing an unasked-for definition of petrichor, before passing out.
As Auntie asks Nephew to put Idris somewhere safe, Amy and Rory get a little freaked out by their first Ood. “It’s alright, Oods are good. Love an Ood,” soothes the Doctor, before going on to fix Nephew’s communicator and filling the air with the distressed voices of Time Lords.
The mystery continues as we ‘meet’ House and learn that there have indeed been many Time Lords here before. After watching Auntie caress Amy’s cheek, the Doctor hurries his companions away to explore the ‘friendly planet’.
In a dark corridor a small moment of big emotion is played out as Amy and the Doctor confront his reasons for wanting to save the remaining Time Lords, even though he’ll have to tell them what he did to the rest. “You want to be forgiven,” she says. “Don’t we all?” replies the Doctor poignantly, before sending Amy and Rory back to the TARDIS on a wild-goose chase for his sonic screwdriver. (Where they get locked in.)
As the Doctor continues to look for the missing Time Lords, he stumbles across a little cupboard that bears more than a passing resemblance to a 1950s police box. Which is both cute and nonsensical, because only his TARDIS looks like a police box, but shouldn’t detract from its contents: lots of emergency messages from long dead Time Lords.
Sad, angry Doctor is a familiar sight, but always a little chilling as he reveals Auntie and Uncle to be patchwork people, mended by House using parts of old Time Lords. “You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous, god knows what it will do to me.”
But redemption of sorts is never far away in Doctor Who, as Idris struggles to reveal her true identity and the Doctor initially fails to believe her. “You’re a bitey mad lady. The TARDIS is up-and-downy stuff in a big blue box.”
But as Neil Gaiman adds a little to the show mythology – “You stole me. And I stole you”, the Doctor realises the truth, and releases Idris from her cage. “Are all people like this?” she asks “So much bigger on the inside.”
If you don’t like timey-wimey, then the conversation in which the Doctor and Idris work out what House is up to probably made your head hurt. I’m certainly not going to attempt to do it justice here (ham-fisted wouldn’t begin to cover it) – but by the end of it we know that House deletes the TARDIS matrix in order to consume the TARDIS and its residual energy. And that means Amy and Rory are completely not safe.
As the Doctor tries to get Rory and Amy out of the TARDIS, it’s suddenly clear that it wasn’t him who locked them in, and as the TARDIS disappears in front of his eyes, for the first time he doesn’t know what to do.
Inside a green-lit control room, Rory tries to comfort Amy: “Whatever happens at least we’re together. And we’re in the TARDIS, so we’re safe.” However, the cold voice of House echoes around the ship to dispel that last thought. “You’re half-right,” and asks why he shouldn’t just kill them now.
As the TARDIS becomes a companion and helps the Doctor to find a solution – build a new TARDIS from the wreckage around them – Amy and Rory have their head messed with by House as they run for their lives through the TARDIS’s corridors.
As Idris mourns her sisters, the Doctor eyes ‘their corpses’ and starts constructing the tiniest TARDIS ever. His brilliance isn’t enough though and it won’t work without a kiss of energy from Idris that sends the scrappiest TARDIS ever hurtling into the rift after the blue police box.
In order to land inside the police box, Amy and Rory need to get to a spare control room (Idris sends a psychic message to Rory (mistaking him for Amy when using the description, the pretty one) telling them where to go) and we learn there are about 30 spare control rooms because the TARDIS has archived them all. All of which is leading to a moment of pure joy (for me anyway) when Rory and Amy stumble into a very familiar room – David Tennant’s control room.
I’ve stood right next to that actual console at the Doctor Who Exhibition (which, is bloody brilliant by the way), but it didn’t make me feel that pure surge of happiness I experienced on Saturday night when I saw it all alive again.
House, like so many before him, toys with his victims only to allow the Doctor to trick him. The Doctor tells him how to delete rooms (to get more energy to the engines), but doesn’t point out that deleting the one they’re in means they will automatically by transported to the main control room where the TARDIS will be able to leave Idris’s dying human body and take her rightful place in the heart of the ship.
And having finished off House, the TARDIS speaks to her Doctor one last time, and leaves me (and him) in tears: “I just wanted to say ‘hello’. Hello Doctor, it’s so very, very nice to meet you.”
And watching the Doctor dancing around that console at the end, just made me cry all over again. This really may be the best episode ever.
Those throw-away lines of dialogue that are too good to throw away:
- The Doctor: “Oh, it’s the warning lights. I’m getting rid of those. They never stop.”
- When the Doctor fails to give a straight answer to what sort of trouble the Corsair was in: Amy “You can’t just say you don’t know.”
- Idris: “Biting’s excellent. It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.”
- The Doctor sending Amy and Rory back for his screwdriver: “It’s in my jacket.” Rory: “You’re wearing your jacket.” Doctor: “My other jacket.” Rory: “You have two of those?”
- Amy tells Rory that he’s supposed to be looking after the Doctor. Rory: “He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord.” Amy: “It’s just what they’re called. It doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.”
- Idris to the Doctor. “Don’t get emotional. Hmm. That’s what the orangey girl says. Focus.”
- Doctor to Idris: “Do you have a name?”. Idris: “700 years. Finally, he asks.” “But, what do I call you?” “I think you call me … sexy.” “But only when we’re alone.” “We are alone.” “Oh, come on then sexy.”
- The Doctor and Idris bickering as they rebuild the TARDIS. “I have rebuilt the TARDIS before you know. I know what I’m doing.” “You’re like a nine-year-old trying to rebuild a motorbike in his bedroom. And you never read the instructions.”
- “You know, since we’re talking with mouths, not really an opportunity that comes along very often, I just want to say, you have never been very reliable… you didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.” “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”
- The Doctor introducing Amy to Idris: “She’s a woman and she’s the TARDIS.” Amy: “Did you wish really hard?”
- House: “I can kill you just as easily here as anywhere. Fear me, I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.” Doctor: “Fear me, I’ve killed all of them.”
- A clue for the future: “The only water in the forest is the river.” I’m NOT capping up that ‘r’. Though I probably should.
- The Doctor refusing to put a double bed in Rory and Amy’s new bedroom: “Bunk beds are cool. A bed with a ladder. You can’t beat that.” No wonder the scanner isn’t sure if Amy’s pregnant or not…
Posted by Jo the Hat