Saturday 27 April 2013

Doctor Who - Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS

Fiddling While TARDIS Vernes

Doctor Who - Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS
Airdate: 27th April 2013. UK. BBC1

Warning: New spoilers waiting to be discovered as you journey to the centre of this article.

For a long time now, Doctor Who fans around the world have been given occasional little audio and visual glimpses of other parts of The Doctor’s famous time and space travelling machine, TARDIS, besides the main console room which features in a lot, although not nearly all, of the stories. But rarely are we given a real chance to see what the rest of the TARDIS is properly like and even just the sound of the cloister bell, a famous chime in the Doctor Who universe, is enough to light up fans' eyes en masse (first used in Tom Baker’s last story Logopolis and still used in the Matt Smith series more than it ever was in the past, strangely enough).

So it was with much trepidation that I embarked on this episode with the Jules Verne inspired title of Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS... after 50 years of not having enough budget to show us much else of The Doctor’s good vessel (in spite of at least one Hartnell story taking place in its entirety on board this ship). I was really not wanting to see much else of it in all honesty.

Moffat does like to change things and tinker with the established myth of Doctor Who more than The Meddling Monk and sometimes that can get quite interesting (when confined to certain acceptable parameters) and other times that can just seem quite arrogant, unnecessary and, frankly, leaving a downright tragic aftertaste in the mouth. I’m dreading what is going to be revealed in four weeks time at the end of the current series, for example... he’s already made some horrible references to The Doctor’s name in some scenes that really didn’t work in the last series and onward and... well... let’s all wait and see.

So, did the episode which was advertised to be an exploration of some of the parts of the TARDIS we’ve never seen before prove to be an interesting and respectful look at the space/time vehicle of this beloved show’s history or... did it fall flat? My expectations were not really going too much in either direction, well... with the exception of aforementioned trepidation, that is... and I can say now that this episode proved to be...


There was, as I’m sure a lot of us were all expecting, a lot of running down corridors and some of the rooms (and you really didn’t get to see much more than the corridors for most of the running time) looked like cheap CGI backgrounds as opposed to actual sets... but the episode certainly wasn’t anywhere disrespectful to the shows of the past and, considering it was presumably the “bottle neck”* episode of the current series, it was mostly quite entertaining too (Bottle neck episode is a term for an episode of a TV show which is deliberately “written cheap” to allow money allocated to be used for other episodes when unexpected costs happen. These episodes frequently feature few sets and often a lot of flashbacks to previous episodes, to the extent that many people also refer to them as “flashback episodes”. Many shows have them and they’re often not very hard to spot.).

This episode offered a few tantalising glimpses of things every fan would want to explore further, such as a Gallifreyan library with a certain book charting The History Of The Time War which gave Clara a mini moment of epiphany in regards to The Doctor’s name and his place in the universe, so to speak. Unfortunately, the episode also managed to cop out on all these little things because the way our heroes got out of this week's story was, frankly, a big time and space reset button which erased the versions of our characters out of history after they’d saved themselves from earlier folly, thus rendering the majority of the characters (at least the important ones) without a memory of the episode. So that was a bit pointless.

And, yes... we got to hear the cloister bell again. Briefly.

Nevertheless, although there was some hellish imagery used in the story, there were also some wonderful, visual delights, with a very diverse set of colour palettes used from scene to scene... especially the moment when The Doctor and Clara went from running through orange and green lit corridors to the side of a “snarling” plateau which used colouring more reminiscent of the Pertwee era. Pertwee, in fact, was also heard in this episode... as were a few Doctors and companions, since the removal of a panel on the TARDIS console triggered a series of sound bytes from the shows past, starting with a sample of The Doctor’s grandchild Susan Foreman (as played by Carole Ann Ford) explaining the TARDIS acronym from the very first episode of the very first story, An Unearthly Child. 

And talking of children, and possible grandchildren, it was also nice to have a glimpse, once again, of Melody Pond’s (aka River Song’s) cot from the A Good Man Goes To War episode too. Nice touch and one is still wondering, or at least I am, if Clara will eventually be revealed as the daughter of River and The Doctor at some point... or is she a future incarnation of The Doctor’s Daughter perhaps, ripped from David Tennant’s DNA in his third series as The Doctor. That’s another of my many theories this week... I’m hoping Moffat’s got something a little more clever planned for his big reveal though.

It wasn’t a fantastic story, it has to be said, but it certainly wasn’t a big letdown like the five episodes which comprised the first part of “Series Seven” were either, so that’s okay. It kept me interested and it really feels like the producers of the show are working up to something big. Now I’ve been twice bitten by that already with this series over the last couple of years so I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet... especially with Moffat now threatening that this year will somehow change the show.

What I will do, though, is look forward to next weeks Victorian London shenanigans with the return of my favourite lesbian Silurian, my favourite Sontaran and Bond/Avengers gal Diana Rigg in it. Wish I could leap seven days into the future and check it out now.

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