Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS Review

What are you? A trick? A trap?

Since the end of 2005 we have been wishing, willing the production team to show us the inside of the new style TARDIS. There’s been glimpses like in The Christmas Invasion, there’s been attempts like in 2011’s The Doctor’s Wife, and now this series we finally get a really, fully fleshed out, TARDIS run-around. But it’s not just a fan-boy romp around the interior of the Doctor’s ship, there’s peril and danger and perhaps even death. Stephen Thompson has really impressed with this story, but there’s just a few niggles…

7.11 JttCotT

The episode starts out really well with a wonderful CGI shot of a spaceship floating through space. The episode really continues the line of great, cinematic, movie-worthy direction and production standards (more on that later). The main plot concerns the TARDIS being captured and injured (is that the right word?) by a salvage team in space who then proceed to help the Doctor find Clara who is lost in the depths of the machine. There’s some interesting, and in some respects dark ideas, that come up through these three incidental characters, the salvage brothers. It’s alluded that one of them is a cyborg yet it turns out that if fact he’s human, with cyborg parts and in fact is the other two’s brother. It’s a dark idea that another human could do that to someone, dupe them and tease them in such an indescribable way. It’s also very violent to show this through the Cybord being skewered to the wall by a metal rod. Is t really appropriate for a 6.30 airtime? Apart from that, the three brother’s work well, very quickly understandable and characterised with the younger assertive one, older more combative and the outsider in the Cybord. Although these characters really spend little time on-screen and are not the focus of the story, they play their part in the plot well.

Time War Book 1

This episode we got a huge amount of in referencing and call-backs. Let’s start with those which influence the Clara/Doctor story first – for a while, Clara knows the Doctor’s name. It’s incredible to think for this short period she knows his secret. But I find it interesting the way in which she find it. She reads it from the book pictured above, “The History of the Time War”, where she reads something then says “So that’s who…” before being interrupted. It seems strange that she should, we presume, read the Doctor’s name and say ‘that’s who his name is‘ or ‘that’s who he is, more so you would expect someone to say ‘so that’s his name‘. It makes me wonder if this is her reaction to something else she had read, like the fact that the Doctor killed the Daleks and Timelords, ‘so that’s who killed them all‘. Many people in fandom have questioned how she could even read the book, assuming it was in Gallifreyan, but I am of the view the book would be written in anything but Gallifreyan as there are no Timelords (but the Doctor) left to write in such a language (and given that his name, and his greatest secret is in the book, it’s unlikely the Doctor would have written it).

We also see the reappearance of the Doctor’s cot, last seen in A Good Man Goes to War – the appearance of which makes me think, is there something more to tell about the cot, I seem to remember Alex Kingston saying in 2011 at some point the cot was key to something Moffat was building up to.

We also got some other really nice references in this story, like the voices of past Doctors and companions in the TARDIS console room, Ian’s “It’s a police box which can move anywhere in time and space” and excitingly Eccleston’s “the assembled hoards of Genghis Khan couldn’t have broken down those doors, and believe me they’ve tried”. It’s really nice in the show’s fiftieth year to be getting so many well crafted and integrated references.

Doc&Salvagers 3

Don’t touch anything, otherwise the TARDIS will get huffy.

The interior of the new TARDIS was again, a wonder to behold, on the most part – here my niggles begin. Whilst the Eye of Harmon ‘room’, Engine Room and Library were all brilliant, the rest of the TARDIS, whilst vast and alien was a little too bland. The corridors did not feel welcoming like the TARDIS’ should, they were lit scarily, which was in-key with what the episode was trying to do, but still – the TARDIS should, majorly, not be a scary place. Even so, these scene LOOKED amazing, even if off-key. There’s a real sense of alien, a creature lurking in the shadows, out of focus and hard to see, a mystery to the person viewing it.

Really disappointing was the Swimming Pool and the Telescope rooms which were simply blue-screened into open doorways without any further thought – a bit of a let down.

The real highlight for me was the exploding engine room, the space was wonderfully realised and a really clever way of showing the explosion being frozen, stark against the white background.

Doctor 5

Another really great thing was the direction. The camera was constantly moving, following, prowling with a real presence in the scene. The thematic implications of the camera tilting and leaning at times was really poignant, with countless shows being filmed with the camera jarringly sliding to a 40 degree angle as it glided through the landscape. It brought a sense of unease, a sense that this ship doesn’t really exist in the world we know, it floats through or outside reality. It also worked well with the menacing lava-people – who are best left undiscussed, but I’m going to anyway.

The lava-people felt like a monster-of-the-week type creature, and the revelation that they were the character’s future, dead selves was not throughout through and didn’t bear the appropriate punch which it maybe deserved. But also, Clara died, again, in an alternate timeline seeping through the rifts, but in essence, she died again.

And that shall be my closing point. Clara.

She knew the Doctor’s name…

She had Gallifeyan Encyclopaedia liquid spilt on her in the TARDIS library…

And most importantly, even when faced with death, she remains unchanged, she is adamant. “I’m just a normal girl”…

Bring on the final episodes of the series as this plot-arch really beings to come to a climax!


Next Week: The Crimson Horror


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