OK, at least I now get the title – “The Doctor’s Wife” is the TARDIS. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense.
Of course this was an episode I was really looking forward to, being as how it’s penned by a legend, Neil Gaiman. And I can safely say, quality shines through. Gaiman has a distinctive voice that seems to shine through everything he does, no matter what the format – and boy, does he move between a lot of formats and styles. That voice is hard to quantify, but there’s a definite quality of whimsy to it. Paired with a sadness that always seems to be underlying, and – depending on the stage – varying amounts of disquiet and terror.
They’re all present here. And I love the fact that Gaiman chose to do something no one has ever done – personify the relationship between the Doctor and the one companion who never leaves. Soranne Jones does a wonderful job bring the TARDIS to life. She’s a Gaiman character through and through, make no mistake – she speaks with that sweeping theatricality he specializes in – something like a cross between Blackadder’s Queen Elizabeth I and the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland”. But she also speaks as a long-time Who fan (this one, anyway) might thing the TARDIS would.
In terms of plot construction, it’s a pretty solid effort – a distress call from another Time Lord called The Corsair lures the Doctor to a strange bubble of space and time outside the universe itself. Turns out it’s a kind of Gallifrey graveyard – loads of TARDIS destroyed, their owners dead, lured there by a strange entity called “The House”. He eats TARDIS apparently – and he uses animated human bodies as storehouses for their consciousness and as slaves.
But really, though, this is an elaborate setup for the scene I imagine Gaiman had in mind when he conceived the story – The Doctor chatting up the TARDIS. And it’s well worth the entire episode just for that scene. My favorite line was when the Doctor asked her name, and she replied “700 years – and you finally ask!” – but the dialogue throughout the whole episode is absolutely stellar.
My one disappointment, I suppose, is that the “old control room” the TARDIS sends Amy & Rory too wasn’t one of the really cool and really old ones – like maybe Tom Baker’s. But that’s a small quibble – on balance, it was every bit the episode I hoped it would be. Can we get Neil to write every episode? No? Oh, well – at least next week we get more actual Sci-Fi – the start of a two-parter from Matthew Graham (“Life on Mars”).