Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS

Originally Broadcast 27th April 2013

Written by: Steve Thompson

In a nutshell: The Doctor sets the TARDIS self destruct in order to get the help of three scrap merchant sellers after Clara disappears in the heart of the TARDIS.

Review: I was never expecting much from this serial and it’s probably lucky I wasn’t. I’ve never been a big fan of Thompson’s work up until I was blown away by his final episode in the second run of Sherlock. The three brothers we’re introduced to here already seem quite bland and boring and the Doctor gets a sexist line! It’s a funny sexist line though, so I suppose that’s ok?

The three brothers trying to break into the TARDIS feels a bit slapstick and out of place to me. Suddenly the Doctor pops up and tries to make it better though, with some half decent dialogue and a good performance from Matt. But I’m worrying because I’ve reached the ten minute mark and the Van Baalen brothers with the Doctor are just getting into the TARDIS let alone journeying to the titular centre of it. Nothing here is really selling the adventure for me. Thompson seems to try and give us some cool lines that rip off what other writers have given us in the past. I get tired of a writer throwing in a line for Matt’s Doctor about “I could show you something if I had some crayons and a chart”. It feels lazy. Yes, it’s right for this Doctor but not when everybody does it.

The Doctor setting the self destruct doesn’t really feel right either. Yes the Doctor would go to drastic action to find and save Clara but it doesn’t sit right with me. It has cool music but even Matt Smith doesn’t feel right with the lines, trying to force them out against the Doctor’s will. Lines such as not getting to a spaceship with a madman are just painful to listen to and don’t roll out the Doctor’s mouth easily.

I suppose there is something clever about the only people being able to help the Doctor in his search are evil scrap merchants but it isn’t clever enough to set an episode around in my opinion. Matt does a good job at pretending the ship is alive though. With little touches here and there that other actors wouldn’t even think about come into Smith’s performance to create the impression the TARDIS is alive.

Even the CGI library in the TARDIS looks rubbish. Does that mean this is the ‘cheap’ episode in comparison to the others because it looks rubbish? And I don’t understand why there’s a massive book on a stand called ‘The History Of The Time War’. Who wrote it? And out of over a thousand pages, how can Clara suddenly flick to the page containing the Doctor’s real name? Turning to the right page of a book is one of my TV pet peeves and I’m afraid Clara just broke it.

Does everyone remember what I said earlier about people giving the same lines to Matt’s Doctor and thinking it OK? Well, it’s just happened again, in a big way. The Doctor suddenly announcing the countdown was a fake only to realise a couple seconds later the engine is actually damaged is one of those moments. I know the eleventh Doctor plays the fool but instants like this are easy to get wrong and make him look stupid rather than a bit foolish.

I don’t understand why the Doctor holds onto the answers in this episode. He knows what these strange zombie-like creatures are, he even refers to one of them as ‘she’. I can’t help but feel he doesn’t tell Clara just to keep the audience guessing a shit mystery for a bit longer. There’s no other excuse for it that I can see.

The reveal of Tricky not being an android is, I think, one of the worst plot reveals in the history of Doctor Who. I really don’t understand why Thompson thought anyone would care about this ‘massive plot twist’ that harms a character we don’t really care about to begin with. I can’t help but think if you’ve got a cast of just five people you have to make them stand out and be different and exciting. Here we have the Doctor and Clara, who could be anyone in this adventure to be honest, teamed with three indistinguishable brothers who pretend ones an android. All three brothers feel the same to me, I only know one of their names and that’s because I looked it up. In the last episode, Hide, we had a cast of four with an added member to the cast near the end and it was so beautiful yet here it’s a total mess.

Once we reach the ‘outside’ bit of the TARDIS it’s such a welcome relief to see something not studio based. It must say something about the state of the episode, how it’s so good to see white location based work. But then the Doctor has to get all brooding and question Clara about who she really is. Yes there was a throwaway line to her past lives a few minutes previous but otherwise this scene feels shoehorned into the story to keep viewers into the ongoing plot. Like everything else here it feels forced and unnatural. 

I can’t help but admit there’s something cool about the stillness of the engine room, although I don’t really get what it is but then we get Murray Gold’s big bold Doctor Who theme and it’s impossible to smile when that’s playing in the background. I hate to admit it but I don’t get what happens at the end of this episode. The Doctor waves his sonic screwdriver, finds a rift and throws a big friendly button into it to reset time. But how? It’s all confusing and painful and it makes everyone forget the headway we made in this episode. Clara finally found out she’s met the Doctor before and now she’s forgotten it until, probably, the series finale. This has to have been the worst Doctor Who episode since…A Town Called Mercy or, possibly, Steve Thompson’s last episode of the show. I wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone, not even a fan of Jules Verne’s work.

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