Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 11
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
"The Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" had maybe the most difficult task of any episode in this "half-season" to date - it had to live up to its title. It's not the first episode of Who to have to do this, but this one had the distinct mystery of the TARDIS surrounding it. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" had to deliver just that, the center of the TARDIS means much more to us than any silly triceratops. I'd say, for the most part, Steve Thompson's script delivered.

Invoking "Journey to the Center of the Earth" the story was much more adventure genre than sci-fi fantasy, though the very nature of the TARDIS lends itself well to covering something for everyone. Neil Gaiman's entry into TARDIS lore (in "The Doctor's Wife") gave us a pretty great love story with the box for Christ's sake.

This week we meet crewmembers on a scrap ship, who rightfully decide there may be some value to this blue box. When they suck the ship in, the Doctor finds a way out, but Clara is trapped inside the labyrinthine belly of the beast. The Doctor tricks them into thinking the ship will self destruct unless they find Clara in roughly the amount of time it takes to finish the episode.

The strength of the episode lied with Clara (this seems to be a pattern) exploring the inside of the TARDIS. It's amazing to see things like the grand library and storied swimming pool (which Clara seems to dip into at the end of the episode). Here we get the fun and the mystery of the TARDIS. The adventure kicks in with strange molten lava creatures trying to toast everyone. The twist that the creatures are actually everyone (except the Doctor) was a good one and also enlisted the timey-wimey nature of the ship to great affect.

The repetitiveness of the running through corridors into different console rooms somehow made things fresh and exciting, much like the last time outsiders tried to navigate the TARDIS (Amy and Rory's much scarier adventure inside). Here's hoping director Mat King comes back to Who, after he showed he can navigate the complicated structure without making anything seem too confusing or redundant. The way the monsters were filmed, distorted through either the perception of our heroes or the nature of their existence, was a brilliant stroke. They were not CGI, at least not completely, making them feel cemented in reality without being too rubber-suit-y like classic Who monsters.

The three brothers (or two brothers and one "android" who was being treated like shit for no particular reason) seemed like a huge miss. It's understandable there would be one brother obsessed with gutting the TARDIS for her delicious parts, but it would end at a certain point. That the show would delve into the trope of the greedy bad guy endangering the crew seemed a bit lazy. Also the cruelness behind the "joke" that they told one brother he was an android for years seems out-of-this-world implausibly evil.

The resolution to the crisis inside the TARDIS seemed a bit neat in that it was overly convenient. Throwing a magnetic bomb/button thingy through a slight tear in the fabric of time will make everything go back to normal, basically ret-conning the events of the episode, some of which seemed incredibly significant (don't worry I'll get to it) at the time. I half expected the Doctor to say again, "OK, just THIS once everybody lives. OK? Good, let's get our swim trunks on and fly the ever-loving fuck out of here."

Maybe the single most enjoyable moment was when the Doctor continued to peel away the goofy layers to show Clara the type of person, or alien, he really is. He confesses the underlying nature of their relationship - how does she exist? It's a bit saddening to see the Doctor confess to his fascination only because it makes Clara seem more like a RUBIKS cube he can't solve than a living, breathing person. That he admits to keeping secrets to keep her safe, or so he thinks, was a bit heartbreaking and a nice insight into the character.

Thanks to the "Big Friendly Button" whose message was branded on Clara, time was reset making everything seem good as new, also making Clara forget that nasty business about the whole dying a bunch of times. After the big redo, the Doctor asks if she feels safe, something he rightfully obsesses about (only occasionally) with his companions. She's says "of course" which may reinforce the idea that secrets might be the best way to go for the Doctor. The most significant Doctor Who development in the episode is the allusion to his name, which is an exciting and maybe terrifying prospect for fans of the show. Here's hoping they handle it as well or better than the fine job they did with the TARDIS.

Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

-Doctor Who line of the week: "Good guys do not have zombie creatures. Rule 1 - basic storytelling" - Clara on the TARDIS spitting out Zombies.

-I also enjoyed the line about secrets protecting and keeping Clara and the Doctor safe. Sure, that sounds like a foolproof plan.

-I've enjoyed the TARDIS becoming a bit of a catty bitch with Clara. They seem to be anthropomorphizing the TARDIS more since the new design.

-I'm sure bigger Who fans can correct me but - Why didn't random brother number three not just burst into flames/go full Jean Gray becoming Phoenix when he looked at the heart of the TARDIS? Shouldn't that be a thing?

-Not sure how Clara couldn't read the backwards writing on her burned hand. Either that or she read it and just didn't really care.

-Nice nod to past episodes with the inclusion of the pool and more significantly the cradle that belonged to the young Doctor (complete with name)

-Seriously, how stupid was the guy trying to steal one of those egg things from that TARDIS Tree? Really, warning of imminent death wasn't enough?

-Next week we get Diana Rigg, Madame Vastra & Jenny and Strax in another entry from Mark Gatiss, "The Crimson Horror."
Tags: Doctor Who
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