Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Doctor’s Wife written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Richard Clar

What’s it about: The Doctor gets to talk to the TARDIS for the first and last time…

Nutty Professor: Matt Smith’s signature episode. This is the eleventh Doctor at his absolute finest. The myriad of emotions and different tones Smith has to pitch his performance at is asking a lot of any actor and he steps up to the plate and pulls it off with absolute conviction. He’s going to get rid of the warning lights because they never stop bothering him. Another renegade Time Lord that the Doctor admired greatly as he was growing up was the Corsair who had the same tattoo in every regeneration, be it male or female. I did wonder if he/she would turn up at some point but I guess that ship has sailed now. The Doctor burns up TARDIS rooms Christopher H Bidmead style (bye bye swimming pool) in order to leave this universe, which is a little touch of Castrovalva. His chin is hilarious, apparently. When he realises that there could be lots and lots of Time Lords nearby his reaction is excited but cautious and that is perfectly understandable given the last time he rubbed shoulders with his own kind it was the Master and Rassilon, both with crazy plans of world/universal domination.. Amy confronts him about why he has a need to see his people again and he admits that he wants forgiveness but imagine the amount of explaining he would have to do if he ever met one (or go and read the EDA The Gallifrey Chronicles to see how it's done). It's so refreshing to see the Doctor’s throwaway admission that he is the last Time Lord finally have some terrifying consequences – maybe he will be a little more careful who he spills that out to in the future. He was given hope and had it snatched away in the worst possible way, by reminding him of the atrocity he committed to his people…goodness knows what that will do to him. The TARDIS was already a museum piece when the Doctor was young and when he first touched her he said she was the most beautiful thing he had ever known. When the TARDIS dematerialises in front of him he genuinely has no idea what to do and he smiles at that new feeling. Smith goes from confidence to wide eyed embarrassment when the TARDIS reveals his nickname for her. It's a very Steven Moffat nickname at that. Not reliable, runs around and brings home strays – the TARDIS has him pegged correctly and no mistake. Nephew is another Ood he failed to save. The Doctor goes from being devastatingly aggressive (‘Finish him off girl!’) to the weakest we have ever seen him, tears crawling down his face because he cannot bear to say goodbye to his Ship. For an old fanboy like me its too much to take and I fall to pieces every time I watch it. Has the word hello ever been so devastating? 

Scots Tart: At this stage Amy knows the Doctor better than anyone and she orders him not to get emotional because that is when he makes mistakes. Interesting that Amy’s worst fear is leaving Rory waiting for 2000 years again and hating her for it. Maybe she has learnt something from the previous season after all. Amy’s reaction to Rory’s corpse and the walls covered in graffiti damning her is horrific, she screams and clutches her stomach as though she is in pain. It's interesting to note that when Moffat isn't writing for Amy (although I am reliably informed that he may have rewritten a lot of this) that she is a far more likeable character. As proven here all you have to do is torture her horribly in order to give a damn about her. She'll never be one of my favourites but I have to admit this is a very responsible take on her character. Probably because the plot isn't all about her.  

Rory the Roman: I love Rory’s little Ood impression to Amy. Oh bless, Amy knows exactly why the Doctor has locked them in the TARDIS while naïve, trusting Rory is still looking for his jacket.
Lady TARDIS: I would never have thought that any single actress would be able to personify the TARDIS and it would be enough for the fans. Suranne Jones received huge plaudits for her performance in this episode and as far as I am concerned she is the TARDIS. She nailed it. One of the finest character to step from the New Series by a country mile - the female embodiment of the TARDIS and she is delightful, whimsical and slightly mad. She runs up to the Doctor declaring him her ‘thief’ and snogs the face off him before laughing her head off about it! The time travelling nature of the TARDIS has imbued Idris with visions of the future and she can see a moment when the word alive will be so sad because it will be over. Its hilarious how Idris gets all the technical explanations out of the way so the Doctor doesn’t have to…because she has heard him say it in the future…which he doesn’t actually say now! The TARDIS wanted to see the universe so she stole a Time Lord and ran away and the Doctor was the only one mad enough to give it a go. I don’t know if I have seen a more beautiful sight than Idris kissing the console with fire in her eyes. The TARDIS has archived all the old control rooms – she has about 30 now (and wouldn’t it be wonderful to skip through them all?). She always liked it when the Doctor called her old girl. A dazzling performance and a terrific character, giving full justice to the Ship that we have cherished all these years. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘And then we discovered it wasn’t the Robot King after all but the real one. Fortunately I was able to reattach the head.’ Ugh! I’m glad we weren’t present in that adventure!
‘Biting’s excellent! Its like kissing only there’s a winner!’
‘Where’s my thief?’
‘I’m a madman in a box without a box and I’m stuck down a plughole at the end of the universe on a stupid old junkyard!’
‘You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go!’ ‘No but I always took you where I needed to go!’ – that is probably my favourite moment in Doctor Who ever. It struck a chord with my far more than the tears at the end because it was perfect pay off to all of those wayward adventures in the TARDIS that ended up exactly where he was needed.
‘Oh my beautiful idiot. You have what you have always had. You’ve got me.’
‘She’s a woman and she’s the TARDIS!’ ‘Did you wish really hard?’
‘Fear me, I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords’ ‘Fear me, I’ve killed all of them.’ 

The Good Stuff: Immediately this feels like it is going to be something a bit different with the very creepy set up of Auntie and Uncle and their pet Ood helping Idris into a machine that is ‘really gonna hurt.’ The aesthetic of the story is especially fresh, gothic, gloomy, almost a little steampunk in places. I was very impressed with the art photography and wish more stories could have taken this approach. Atmosphere created through lighting and simple effects is something Doctor Who should capatilise on more often. The teaser scene in the TARDIS is wonderfully affirming for a series that has gone a little plot mad; the Doctor chasing the Time Lord communication box around the console room before declaring ‘I’ve got mail!’ The lighting when the TARDIS has its soul ripped out is very atmospheric – I wish they would turn the lights down more often in that wine lounge console room because it looks so much more moody. Amy's Choice was similarly effective in that regard. The storytelling in the teaser is crystal clear so we see a clear progression of the TARDIS being torn out and shoved into Idris. It's nice to be one step ahead of the Doctor for a change. The junkyard set with the phenomenally menacing rocket engines looming from above is a startling visual – you won't see anything like this on television apart from on Doctor Who. There’s a washing machine, deck chairs and a fish slice! Vintage stuff! Adrian Schiller (‘Sorry about the mad person’) and Elisabeth Berrington (‘Well we’re dying, my love’) deliver wonderfully skewed performances as Auntie and Uncle – they are as dolally as everybody else but with just a hint of sanity. How creepy is the voice of House? Brrr… I love the super spooky visual of the green cloud enveloping the shell of the TARDIS (and the beams of light streaming through the interior windows), the dark fantasy elements of the Moffat era hit the spot again. The moment the Doctor discovers the cupboard full of distress boxes I sank into the sofa with horror. The episode suddenly takes a much darker tone as we realise all of the Time Lords lured here have been killed. People made up of bits of long dead Time Lords is deliciously macabre. We finally get to move beyond the console room in the TARDIS. In the classic series it was a labyrinth of rooms but for some reason in the new series we are contained to one room (and a wardorbe room). Okay so we only venture out into corridors...but it is a start. You never know, this might tempt the creators to venture to the centre of the TARDIS at some point. I bet that would be the best episode ever (I'm naughty). The valley of half eaten TARDISes is the sort of genius concept that only comes around every now and again and it should be applauded for its mind bending awesomeness. The scenes of Amy and Rory being menaced through the TARDIS corridors could have felt remarkably cheap but thanks to some claustrophobic direction and lighting they are screaming with tension. Insane Rory is terrifying (Darvill refuses to hold back) and the wall of abusive scrawl might just be one of the most disturbing thing Doctor Who has ever presented us with. Amy grabbing the Ood tendrils - ugh ugh uggghhhh! It's wonderful to see the old Eccleston/Tennant control room and how spacious does it look? Cobbling together a functioning Possibly my favourite visual effect ever comes as the TARDIS pours out of Idris and dances around the Doctor dancing around the console room. It works so beautifully because it is both emotionally and visually stunning. 

The Bad Stuff: My one tiny complaint is that I would have told the scene where the lights go out in the corridor entirely from Amy’s point of view rather than switching back and forth from light and dark which blunts the mood a tiny bit.

The Shallow Bit: Suranne Jones is beautiful. Those eyes.

Result: You find me another show that can feature a living malevolent asteroid that tears the souls out of time ships and personifies them in female form so it can devour the remains. The Doctor’s Wife is unlike anything we have ever seen in Doctor Who before and it ticked every single box of what I think kicks ass in the series. Its dark, twisted, imaginative, funny, clever, emotional and satisfying. Another thing I love is that the episode looks lavishly expensive and yet it doesn’t pour its money into soulless set pieces but in where it counts; the glorious junkyard on an asteroid, the extra rooms in the TARDIS, the graveyard of TARDISes. Every line is gorgeous, the ideas are brilliant (that Neil Gaiman is a genius) and the music is suitably moody and emotive. This is the episode where the Doctor manages to build a working TARDIS out of hundreds of different models and he doesn’t care that it is impossible. This is the episode where Amy and Rory are menaced through the ships corridors by a disembodied voice that eats TARDISes. This is the episode where the Doctor gets to talk to his most faithful friend and tell her how much she means to him. It's something to be treasured forever: 10/10


Will Rigby said...

The best episode of this season.
Shame that the next Gaiman episode wasn't as good.

Anonymous said...

The next Gaiman episode is one of the worst New Who episodes. The character of Angie is so insufferable that sucks my will to live, Clara is vacuous and the Cybermen plot doesn't have much sense

Anonymous said...

Perfection. Along with Heaven Sent, Eleventh Hour and World Enough and Time, an exquisite jewel of an episode - writing, acting and direction in all of these place them as not just the best new Who gets, but among the greatest single episodes of British television in the last 10 years.

Guy Grist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guy Grist said...

I really like it and considering this a Moffat era episode that really is saying a lot, it bets the rest of that series my country mile. Actually it's probably one of Neil's best works im my opinion. I do have a slightly strange relationship with Gaiman's writing sometimes I absolutely love it e.g. Neverwhere and Good Omens but sometimes he writes a story full a good ideas that somehow never comes together e.g. American Gods, Babylon 5: Day of the Dead and Nightmare in silver. Anyway great review as usual.