Doctor Who Season 34 – 05

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“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”

“Journey” is a pretty solid episode on the whole, with its share of intriguing moments, but I’m afraid Neil Gaiman has ruined for me TARDIS-centric episodes.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend this season, or at least this second half of one – Doctor Who seems to be almost universally going to single set-piece episodes, with one location, generally isolated, and virtually in real-time.  I don’t know if this is an intentional move by Steven Moffat to give the show a tighter focus, but it’s significant for the dramatic impact it’s had either way.  We may see a little shift in that with the next two episodes featuring the Sontarans (always my personal favorites) and the Cybermen, but “Journey” very much keeps the trend alive.

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This time the castaways are on-board a salvage vessel manned by two brothers and an android named Tricky.  Eldest Bram (Mark Oliver) is the muscles of the group but clearly resents being ordered around by imperious younger brother Gregor (Ashley Walters).  As for Tricky (Jahvel Hall) there are things about him that can’t be explained away by the “flesh coat” he’s supposedly wearing.  The three of them reel in the TARDIS using a sort of magnetic tractor beam – one which plays havoc with the TARDIS’ innards after The Doctor has set it in Easy Mode so that Clara can pretend to drive – part of his continued effort to get the two of them on better terms.

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None of this is especially memorable in itself, really, including the family drama among the Van Baalen brothers.  But every episode that goes deep into the TARDIS is basically a love letter to the geeks in the audience, and this one is true to its title in where it goes.  We see some familiar sites – the swimming pool, for example – and Clara gets a look at a truly magnificent library, and the book that she was never supposed to see (which makes you wonder why The Doctor would have it as prominently displayed as it was).

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I despise the device writer Steven Thompson used to resolve the episode – quite literally, a reset button – though at least the way he went about delivering it to The Doctor had a touch of wit.  If there was a theme to the ep besides the geek pandering, it was probably that life isn’t necessarily better if there are no secrets.  But The Doctor, despite his words, yearns to learn the secret of Clara, who remains as inexplicable to him as ever.  I find myself growing a bit tired of their banter, actually – their relationship hasn’t deepened and grown on me like I hoped it might – but I certainly hope there’s something interesting behind all this mystery at the heart of her character.  But now that she knows The Doctor’s true name – reset button or not – it’s pretty clear her true identity is going to have a major role in the season finale which refers to that very piece of information.

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  1. C

    Don't that conflict the inability to cross time-streams???

  2. Honestly, I think that ship has sailed for DW at this point – but what specifically has you especially concerned from this episode? It's not as if we haven't seen The Doctor cross time streams and influence his own behavior before.

  3. G

    Saw this elsewhere:

    Steven Moffat is making some extremely bold claims about the Series 7 finale, promising that The Name of the Doctor will change the show forever.

    In a BBC press interview Moffat first spoke about the new monsters appearing, the Whispermen: “We wanted a brand new monster to create chills in the finale. And the thought of stylish whispering almost faceless creatures was an idea that firstly scared me and that I thought would work well in an episode that looks forward and back.”

    Hyping up the final story of the run he said: “It’s full of surprises and questions that have never been answered in the history of Who, including the Doctors greatest secret. We’re not pretending, we’re not kidding, it’s actually going to happen. The episode is called The Name of the Doctor and involves our hero in a conflict that is very, very personal to him. Usually he’s saving other people, but this time he might be the one who needs to be saved.

    “We’ll also find out what makes his new companion so impossible and there’s a surprise that no one has got right so far, and one that will change the course of Who forever!”

    While Matt Smith adds: “With the 50th, this is going to be by far the biggest year in the history of the show. And the finale is just the start. It focuses on a pivotal moment in the Doctor’s life and the life of his companion. It’s a complete game changer and it all starts now.”

    And Jenna-Louise Coleman had this to say:

    Jenna-Louise Coleman has dropped a few tantalising hints on the Clara mystery and the Series 7 finale.

    Speaking in a BBC press interview about The Name of the Doctor she said: “The finale story is such a fantastic idea; it’s epic and huge and filled with drama.”

    “It was really exciting to sit down and read the script,” she continues. “There are little bits and pieces, which Steven planted a couple of years ago. It’s just really clever and a crucial moment in the Doctor’s life that you get to explore with the best baddies! I really think they are going to become another Moffat classic.”

    And her biggest hint: “All I can say is that Clara hasn’t just met the Doctor three times before…”

  4. Yeah, she's Romana or K-9 or something, I get it.

    Personally, I'd rather know know The Doctor's name. I think he's write – a few secrets are a good thing.

  5. K

    I enjoyed this episode a lot. Thought it was the best of the season in terms of Sci-fi.

    But I agree with you Clara and the Doctor's relationship has not done anything for me yet. I just feel they have no chemistry.

  6. K

    I miss the Ponds. There were lots of issues there too, but Amy grew on me quicker than Clara has.

    I agree, the reset button was a pretty cheap way to solve everything. But I guess we don't really watch DW expecting it to make sense or for the sake of subtlety.

  7. I miss the Williamses too. There was a depth to their relationship with TD and each other that a lot of the companion arcs just didn't have.

  8. G

    Some are guessing she might be the Rani.

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