Saturday, 27 April 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.10: Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS

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Dans le centre de la Tardis!
"Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS" (or JTTCOTT as it's being affectionately known) is an interesting title. The second longest title in the series' history by syllable, and the first one to mention the Tardis by name. It's also a title that's as likely to bait fans as those classic "Doctor" titles where we were promised some insight into the show's rich backstory, insight that never usually comes, with a single exception. Steve Thompson, a writer who wrote both the forgettable "Curse of the Black Spot" and Sherlock's rather more brilliant "The Blind Banker" and "The Reichenbach Fall", attempts to pull a Doctor's Wife on our asses and hits his target a little far from expectations.
     While attempting to show Clara how to fly the TARDIS, the ship is attacked by a salvage vessel run by three brothers. The Doctor is chucked out, along with a load of engine parts, and when he notices that Clara is lost in the TARDIS he blackmails the brothers into helping him go through and find her. Being a sentient ship (and an angry one), the TARDIS rearranges rooms around for people she annoys. Clara finds a library where there is a history of the Time War, containing the Doctor's name. The corridors of the TARDIS is also being stalked by burnt zombies who kill anyone they touch, and The Doctor only just saves her. They end up in the Eye of Harmony room, where The Doctor reveals that the Zombies are Future Echoes of them, destined to burn up in that room. They manage to get out of the room by various means, but the TARDIS engine is beyond repair. Handy reset button in hand, The Doctor pops through a crack in time and changes the timeline.
     I suppose we were all expecting some massive plot revelations or something. The TARDIS is considered sacred ground, it's fanwank material and thus you really expect something that explores the ship to have a load of other goodies in there as well. Not to say that there weren't a few fun references - opening the new TARDIS console saw voices from the past spilling forth, as well as having Time Lord memories stored in the Library. There were a few moments that threatened to actually progress the series' mysteries - all wiped out now, of course, due to the surprising and rather disappointing reset button ending.
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The Doctor and Clara have some heart-to-hearts, but they're
erased from history.
     What probably saved the episode was its tone, which balances the curiosity and wonder of the brand new Tardis environments (although unfortunately mostly confined to corridors without any roundels) with the dread of both the TARDIS' immient destruction and, if The Doctor was to be believed, Clara's third death. I initially had the crazy theory that the burnt people were what remained of the Time Lords, forever wandering the Doctor's TARDIS as his penance for their destruction. The actual resolution felt a bit more sinister than it ended up being... I just kept waiting for that twist, something to make it truly revelatory.
     I'm not as desperately disappointed as I could be - it is after all about the experiences along the journey rather than the final destination. I really enjoyed the character development that occured during the episode, and I also enjoyed seeing this production team's interpretation of the depths of the TARDIS interior. I just wish that they'd found a way to end it in a way which didn't involve pretty much eradicating everything that happened from the stream with the push of one button. Despite that shoddy ending though, I enjoyed the rest of the script and found it to be imaginative, intelligent and worthy of a lot of praise.

Thanks.

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