The Advantage of my Antiquated TARDIS (Journey to the Center of the TARDIS)

(63 comments)

I'll be honest, I don't have anything funny to say about this image.
I was just scrolling through the Google Image Search for this episode
and thought "you know, that is pretty..."
If you missed it, we had a post on The Game yesterday.

It’s April 27th, 2013. Rudimental is at number one with “Waiting All Night,” with will.i.am, Daft Punk, Nelly, Pink, and Psy also charting, the latter not with “Gangnam Style.” In news, the US stock market loses 1% of its value momentarily due to the AP Twitter feed getting hacked and releasing false news of a terrorist attack injuring President Obama, and, erm, that’s about it. 

On television, it’s Journey to the Center of the TARDIS. As with much of Season Seven, it’s strange how a year has changed this. At the time, it seemed an oddly disjointed story that was in need of another draft. Now… well, it still seems like that, admittedly. The “they convinced their brother he was a robot” twist is infamously absurd, although I admit, I’ve always felt like it’s a marvelous return to the completely bonkers legacy of a program that was unafraid to be ridiculous. I admit that I’ve never quite gotten over the moment, about half an hour in, when I was completely convinced the time zombies were going to turn out to be an origin story of the Silence (of course they’re forged in an exploding TARDIS!), only to have a wildly less interesting reveal. And the fact that the story can be summarized as “the TARDIS is hijacked by a bunch of black men because the Doctor let a woman drive” is, to say the least, unfortunate. 

And, of course, it is the story in which the complaint that Moffat is fond of reset buttons really does acquire legs. This is one of those cases where the one time something really doesn’t work ends up making all the times it did weirdly conspicuous and slightly suspect. It is true that there are a solid few times that Moffat does the “and at the end of the story we undo everything that happened” trick, but generally he avoids the extent to which this is a frustrating twist that’s too similar to “it was all a dream” by making it so that our main characters remember it both ways, allowing the significant consequences of the adventure to still count. Yes, The Big Bang and The Wedding of River Song both get undone at the end, but notably, they don’t get undone for any of the major characters within them. 

That’s not, unfortunately, how this one works. Journey to the Center of the TARDIS completely undoes the adventure for Clara. Which is immensely frustrating, because it actually has some very good character development for her. On one level, this is just a crass delaying tactic. It’s a way for the season to have its cake and eat it too, paying lip service to developing the Impossible Girl arc further and, in effect, spending a whole episode rehearsing the finale. But it’s also notable that the story brings Clara as close to her post-Name of the Doctor characterization as she gets in Season 7B, only to then drag her back.

As with much of Season 7B, this last point is important. More than any story this season save perhaps The Rings of Akhaten, however, this is improved once the Impossible Girl arc is resolved. Clara’s stinging condemnations of the Doctor and her declaration that he’s the scariest thing on the TARDIS resonate. Many of the oddities, most particularly the way in which the story holds the Doctor at a slight remove, jump out impressively when you realize that this is the point of the exercise. 

There is also, fittingly for the 50th Anniversary, a measure of historical repair work done here. It’s notable that it took until The Doctor’s Wife for the new series to really hint at the idea that the TARDIS contained considerable depth beyond the console room, a point that, while not exactly a mainstay of the classic series, is nevertheless a classic part of Doctor Who lore. And while The Doctor’s Wife added immeasurably to the weight of TARDIS lore and, in many ways, did more for the sense of the TARDIS’s scale than this or any other story, it still mostly just added corridors to run through. Journey to the Center of the TARDIS, being a Doctor Who story, does indeed have loads of corridors, but also finally makes the TARDIS feel like the infinitely large maze of possibility that it’s always been suggested as. 

So while it is, admittedly, a bit weird to try to correct the faults of The Invasion of Time in 2013, it’s worth acknowledging that this story does, in fact, do a lot. Indeed, it manages to consolidate and make explicit large swaths of TARDIS lore in a way that satisfyingly acknowledges the past. Sure, it’s only a couple of die-hard anoraks who actually care that we’ve now finally sorted out the whole “wait is the Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey or on TARDISes” thing, but equally, the idea that every single TARDIS is individually built out of an exploding star on the brink of collapsing into a black hole really does give them a sense of majesty that they deserve. Similarly, the explicit acknowledgment of the “conceptual geometry circuits” is not necessary in any meaningful sense, but it’s also nice to finally have that as an explicit statement, as it’s always been one of the more enticing things hinted at by the existing lore.

But in hindsight, where this really distinguishes itself is in terms of Clara. The Impossible Girl arc, as has been noted many a time, does not actually do Clara any favors this season. This is no fault of Jenna Coleman, who spends 2013 laying foundation for a performance she’d expand on dramatically the next season. But this, it turns out, is a keystone performance. The idea of Clara as a companion who actively interrogates the Doctor is ultimately going to become essential to who she is. The idea of the companion as a humanizing force for the Doctor has always been there, and has been a huge focus of the new series ever since Davies’s “Lonely God” approach, but Clara takes a different approach.

Specifically, Clara is very much defined by a genre awareness that means that she doesn’t just critique the Doctor, she critiques the story. This is, in fact, explicit in this episode, where her reaction to the time zombies is framed in terms of “basic storytelling.” Given Moffat’s inclination towards building the suspense of a story around the question of what sort of story it is, this is a hugely useful type of character for him. Indeed, it’s essential to the Impossible Girl arc that Clara be a character who can offer a moral critique of the story she’s in. 

Except it’s not even quite that. There clearly is a moral dimension to the Impossible Girl arc - it’s a direct rejoinder to the critique that all of Moffat’s female characters are puzzles to be solved. But this isn’t the critique Clara actually offers of it. Amy was the character who offered straightforward moral critiques of the Doctor - something that was a part of her character from her second story on. But Clara’s critiques of the Doctor are critiques of genre and storytelling. Or, put another way, they’re aesthetic critiques. 

One consequence is that they’re much more personal, which is fitting for the Impossible Girl arc. The problem becomes the Doctor’s erasure of Clara - his refusal to see her for who she is. It’s not about the mystery, but rather about the way in which the mystery is a flawed lens through which to view her. But this is fundamentally a selfish desire - a point that, of course, eventually gets reaffirmed with Clara’s self-identification as a “bossy control freak.” Nevertheless, it’s a significant shift. Amy, ultimately, wanted her story to be the “right” story. Clara, on the other hand, wants ownership of her story. Goodness has nothing to do with it, as it were.

And this, crucially, is reinforced by Coleman’s performance. One of the unheralded aspects of this story is the skill with which Coleman handles lengthy solo scenes in the TARDIS. She gets a fair amount of talking to herself to make it easier, but so much of that section of the story is really anchored by the physicality of Coleman’s performance. It’s worth rewatching to see the way she uses the frame - her working out of the claw marks on the TARDIS wall is particularly elegant. She’s lithe and precise, but she’s also always making quite large movements that take up quite a bit of space. It’s something that never really gets a chance to be thoroughly developed, but there’s a beautiful contrast between Coleman and Smith in the fact that both give immensely physical performances, and more to the point, both give physically big performances, in the sense of taking up a lot of space with their performance. And yet nevertheless, their performances are fundamental opposites. Smith is full of broad, self-consciously awkward movements. He flails, famously. Coleman, on the other hand, is precise and mannered. The amount of characterization implicit in that is immense. 

It is perhaps notable that we’ve made it this far without saying much of anything about the supporting cast in this story, save for a wry joke about the “they tricked him into thinking he was a robot” revelation. Part of this is simply that they are rather a weak link in the story. Part of this is simply the writing. With Bram dying before he has much characterization, Tricky being ludicrous, and Gregor being both one-note and deliberately unlikeable, there’s not a heck of a lot to do with them. It’s hard not to wish that the all non-white supporting cast hadn’t been saved for almost any other episode of the season so that we didn’t get the uncomfortable moment of the all-black cast being a bunch of looters. 

But there’s still a point worth picking at a bit, which is Tricky. As I noted, the ludicrousness of his plot doesn’t actually stand out particularly when compared to large swaths of the classic series, and a fair bit of the new one. All the same, much as I’m charmed by its sheer pluck, I can’t really argue with a straight face that it works particularly well. It’s tempting to say that this is because that sort of ludicrousness doesn’t actually work anymore, but equally, it’s not like most of the obvious examples from the classic series really spark as high points in the sense of “things you can show other people without embarrassment.” This sort of completely bonkers plot twist has always been something to love as an idiosyncrasy of Doctor Who, as opposed to as a sensible thing to do.


No, the real problem is that this is just a kind of poor choice of stories to put the twist in. As flawed as its engagement with the arc may be, this is the one story other than Name of the Doctor that actually engages substantively with the Impossible Girl arc. An arc, you’ll recall, that is about subverting the idea of treating characters as mysteries to be solved. It is, in other words, a storyline with which a bunch of mysteries that are solved by surprise reveals like “he’s not actually a robot” and “the Time Zombie is Clara” actively clashes. The structure of Journey to the Center of the TARDIS is at war with its message. That’s on one level the entire point of the Impossible Girl arc, but there’s not actually any engagement with the conflict. It’s not a source of tension, it’s just a tonal mismatch. As with Thompson’s other scripts, there’s not so much a sense of what the story wants to be as there is a sense of the job the story wants to do. The job gets done, but at the end of it, we come back to the one question that can’t really be answered about this story: why on Earth did anyone think addressing just one of the many flaws of The Invasion of Time was worth doing thirty-five years after the fact?

Comments

Blueshift 2 years, 6 months ago

I was very disappointed by this episode. What sounded like the highlight of the season (finally we get a proper look inside the TARDIS!) turned into... well...

I mean for a start, the guest cast were some of the worst actors Who has ever had. And this is coming from someone who had no problem with Cotton from The Mutants. Is stiltingly mumbling out your dialogue as if reading cue-cards offscreen a valid technique? Do people actually sound like that? It genuinely made me question what on earth was going on behind the scenes to allow performances that bad to be aired on prime time BBC 1.

Having the adventure 'not happen' due to a literal reset switch is cute but in no way excuses hat it is still lane. Just because you lampshade a trope doesn't magically make it any less bad.

I think an episode set inside the TARDIS is worthwhile, but with the provision that it needs to be the most imaginative story of the season as the TARDIS is by necessity, a magical fantasy vehicle. The library set was good, but apart from that I felt there was a complete dearth of imagination, until characters are crawling through a passage that has steel rods shooting through the walls. You know, the old cliche that Galaxy Quest sent up. It should have been amazing, ridiculous and completely over the top. I assume a lot of it is budgetery, but then if you don't have the budget to do something like this properly, don't do it (or you just get The Invasion of Time II).

I disliked the time zombies. I thought it was a bit too grisly to have the horrible burning corpses of the Doctor and Clara wandering about. What about something fun, like, say, a Sontaran, cyberman and uh, zarbi who have been holed up in the TARDIS for years after subsequent failed invasions and have teamed up to lead a frontier-like existance deep in the TARDIS corridors. That would have been hilarious. Fans would have hated it!

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Carey 2 years, 6 months ago

Journey to the Centre of the Tardis is the first story in series 7 that gets it tonally wrong on a directorial level (a problem that reaches its peak with Nightmare in Silver). There are obvious directorial mistakes such as the electrocution of Bram, blocked out badly visually and underplayed by the actor; but also in the casting. In short, the problem of the casting of the three brothers isn't one of race, but of acting style: they have cast three very naturalistic actors to perform in something where that simply doesn't work.

The brothers are sit com characters. If this were the sixties, Wilfrid Bramble, Harry H Corbett and Bernard Breslau would have been cast, with Corbett being the arty youngster with ideas above his station brought down to earth by a malicious practical joke. If this were the 80's, David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Buster Merrifield would have been cast with again Lyndhurst being the brother the others are jealous of. And the brothers relationship is a very British, class conscious thing: that of escaping the environment that produced you, and the jealousy that follows from those who are left behind and know they are doomed to stay there forever.

There is a redemptive reading of the casting of Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver and Jahvel Hall in that it reflects the class issues inherent within the characterisation, with the acknowledgement that race is now a factor within that sphere.

But as I said, the production team fumble the ball by not realising that the threesome are archetypal sitcom characters who intrude upon a Doctor Who story and are deformed because of it.

I personally love the Tricky plot: it's very Phillip K Dick and I'd disagree that it's at odds with the Impossible Girl arc: it's a mirror, and says the same thing. The brother's identity is simple, and everything else built around it is a disservice to him: he is the kindest and most human of all the brothers. Shouldn't that enough?

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macrogers 2 years, 6 months ago

The one unifying statement you can make about Clara - one that even extends to her pre-Claraissance, all-over-the-place 7B characterization - is that she's the first Doctor Who companion who seems to have watched Doctor Who. She resonates interestingly with Aaron Sorkin's recent disgraces: where Sorkin seems threatened and angered by youthful savvy and shortcut thinking, Moffat is respectful of it and even invigorated by it. Clara has grown up in a world where people have already finished the struggle to identify the tropes, and now comfortably *think* in tropes, so of course when she's thrown into a sci-fi-fantasy adventure, she has those tropes in her toolbox to draw upon. This is crudely sketched in 7B but then beautifully deployed throughout 8 to increasingly fascinating and devastating effect. (Which brings up another thing about Moffat, a thing I *adore* but I understand why others don't: he seems to do his rough drafts and then later his more evolved final drafts right out in public where everyone can see them happening. )

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mengu 2 years, 6 months ago

*What* all-over-the-place characterisation? It just isn't true.

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Blueshift 2 years, 6 months ago

I didn't mind the idea of the "guy thinks he is a robot but isn't", but it doesn't work at all as portrayed in the episode. Does he not wonder why he needs to eat or go to the loo? People had issue with the "it was just a joke" line, but I didn't, as clearly that was just a pathetic rationalisation on their part, as the real reason was "to steal his inheritance and debase him". People rationalise awful things with "but it was just a joke!" all the time, doesn't mean that's the actual motivation.

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Carey 2 years, 6 months ago

To take your points separately

1: The problem in regards to the "guy thinks he is a robot but isn't" harkens back to the Phillip K Dick source material: in Blade Runner this is gotten around by renaming them Replicants, but as the title suggests, in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" they are androids, even though the whole story is about what is actually an Android and what is Human, and the character of Rachel is not human in both novel and adaptation. How does she not realise she isn't human when she must eat, sleep and defecate? As with many things in literature and Doctor Who, the answer is needs to be provided by the viewer/reader: despite being artificial they have organic components and that explains the discrepancy. Is it really necessary to have it explained on screen/in the book?

2: The answer to this is simple: people are cruel. Laddish culture is especially cruel. Take away the class distinction and look instead at Frat Houses, and the treatment of Tricky is simply that taken to an extreme. Again, the problem here goes back to tone, and not motivation, and the brothers need to be regarded (and needed to be acted/presented) as sitcom archetypes, and not naturalistic performances, which totally undermines the characters.

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ferret 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't hate on this episode much, but it's pretty unfortunate when the "movie poster" for it is better than the episode itself: I mean, it sold us escher-like internal geometry, a fantastic TARDIS interior the like of which we'd only seen in the comic strips of Doctor Who Magazine before. Instead we got dull, lifeless battleship corridors. Even Castrovalva did better. The exploding engine room was lovely though, and some time I should investigate to see how much of that was very clever use of practical effects.

That aside, I enjoyed the Doctor's faux countdown and the reveal that, in fact, the TARDIS was about to explode. The same-space duplicate control rooms was a nice touch too - just the sort of strangeness I'd hoped for.

One last thing, horribly fan-obsessive stuff I'm afraid, but I don't believe all TARDIS's have an exploding star within them - in the new series up until at least "The Doctor's Wife" the TARDIS is being fueled by rift energy at Cardiff and the like. I get the impression the Doctor only recently installed his own personal "Eye of Harmony" - not the same actual star, but a different one - to overcome the sort of power outages he faced in House's mini-universe, on Pete's World etc.

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ferret 2 years, 6 months ago

forgot the link: this poster

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curlyjimsam750 2 years, 6 months ago

"Journey to the Center of the TARDIS, being a Doctor Who story, does indeed have loads of corridors, but also finally makes the TARDIS feel like the infinitely large maze of possibility that it’s always been suggested as."

I'm a bit ambivalent about this. I like the idea of the TARDIS as a bit more than just corridors, but equally you run the risk of making it seem like such an exciting place on the inside that it's not entirely clear why anyone ever goes out: if there's as much going on inside the TARDIS as some people seem to like to think (not with a great deal of supporting evidence, before this episode at any rate), why don't we have loads of episodes set inside it? I think this story probably got a fairly good balance though.

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Carey 2 years, 6 months ago

To further understand the mindset behind the Van Baalen Brothers, the pilot episode of Steptoe and Son should be watched. Devised and transmitted on the 4th January 1962, it shared some of the iconography of Doctor Who (it's junkyard) and if An Unearthly Child is potentially the best tv science fiction pilot ever made, then The Offer is probably the best sit com pilot ever made. It can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdMeSu0eTzc

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frank fair 2 years, 6 months ago

But Tricky in Journey isn't really a Dickian idea at all, except in the broadest sense.

In comparing the you've reversed several crucial points. Rachel in "Do Androids Dream" is not real, but she thinks she is. And that's a powerful idea (if a cliche now) the reader questions their own reality, and what makes us human, and also thinks about what kind of company would create androids that think they're human

Tricky is the reverse, which may seem like a clever subversion but is so lamely done, that it doesn't work. He thinks he's an android but he's not, which doesn't carry the same power.
If you made it the focus of the episode, it could but instead it's because of a....prank. A gag. Again maybe if you played it (as you suggest) like a sitcom it could work, but it's played as a SNAP revelation with swelling music. That's not Dickian, and calling it such cheapens Dick's ideas. Instead it's what Dick would call "crap"

Of course in "Do Androids" there is a great scene where the androids convince the human Deckard that he is a robot with implanted memories. And it's a powerful scene, because it makes the reader question what they've read. And crucially we're shown the androids go to a lot of trouble, and aren't just doing it because they're synthetic frat boys

I'm just grateful they didn't film the scripted ending, with the Doctor holding up a vial of liquid marked "Pinocchio", saying he had to visit someone called Tricky and tell him he was a real boy...

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

I was completely convinced the time zombies were going to turn out to be an origin story of the Silence (of course they’re forged in an exploding TARDIS!), only to have a wildly less interesting reveal.

Two wildly less interesting reveals, surely.

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

it took until The Doctor’s Wife for the new series to really hint at the idea that the TARDIS contained considerable depth beyond the console room

Surely for River's escape trick to work the swimming pool must have been quite deep.

Sorry.

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

The idea of the companion as a humanizing force for the Doctor

"I find that remark...insulting."

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

Regarding sitcom influences, it seems pretty clear that Thompson had Red Dwarf in mind here, given how that was famously pitched as "Steptoe and Son in space", and given that there was an occasion when Lister was wrongly believed to be an android and was consequently dumped to the bottom of the pecking-order, skivvying for the others and being bullied by Kryten.

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

Anorak observation: this episode represents the pinnacle of my vague irritation at the way the post-revival series has turned the near-inviolability of the Tardis from being something inherent in its multi-dimensional, inside-not-in-the-same-place-as-the-outside, can't-fire-missiles-at-right-angles-to-reality nature into being because it has "shields", like the Starship Enterprise. Not as aggravating as the Moving Angels, but a bit disappointing.

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

@macrogers: It's not the most positive portrayal of that trend, though, is it? I mean, Season 8 Clara's genre-savviness does draw her into lofty self-regard, cynicism, and a rather shallow, mechanistic idea of how the Doctor/Doctor Who works that loses sight of the heart, and she gets called out on that. In as much as Clara represents "how young people watch television", she tends towards the "thinking TV Tropes is the entirety of criticism" approach that Phil has mentioned in the past.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 6 months ago

Tricky isn't a character from Philip K. Dick, he's a character from Terry Nation. Specifically, the astronaut in "The Android Invasion" who never thinks to look underneath his eyepatch!

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Seeing_I 2 years, 6 months ago

The poster really did promise a more surreal experience than we got, more's the pity.

Though there's a certain logic to finding out that the TARDIS interior consists mostly of corridors, monsters, continuity references, and dei ex machina!

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John 2 years, 6 months ago

Castrovalva really did not do better. All we got there was some corridors and the Zero Room, which was a bright, empty room. Logopolis gave us the Cloister, which I suppose you could argue makes its depiction of the TARDIS interior superior to Journey, but I think that even that is a reach. Invasion of Time, of course, has a swimming pool, but is also mostly silly.

So, maybe disappointing compared to what might have been, but I think still more interesting than anything we've gotten in the past.

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David Anderson 2 years, 6 months ago

When it comes down to it, the TARDIS interior cannot be too interesting.
Phil's ur-example of his term 'narrative collapse' comes in the Chase when it appears that the TARDIS crew finds spending time in the TARDIS more interesting than having adventures outside the TARDIS. In order for Doctor Who to function as a series, wherever the TARDIS is visiting this week must mostly be more interesting that the inside of the TARDIS itself.

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David Anderson 2 years, 6 months ago

I liked it. Certainly, not as much as I would have liked it had it been written by Moffat. Or for that matter, Bidmead or Gallagher - I said at the time that it reminded a lot of what I liked about Warriors' Gate. But it's doing things that they do, and if it doesn't do everything as well as they did, at least it leaves the gap open rather than try to fill the gaps with banalities. (It does rather little with the idea of being hunted by your future pain-maddened zombie self, but it does little with it in such a way as to leave it open to the imagination rather than close it off. Ditto the Van Baalen brothers' economic situation.)
The imagery was striking but not too striking - there's a danger of doing things that are just weird with no sense of this being a place that the Doctor lives in and uses to get around in.
Some of the plotting and directorial decisions were dull and some were rather good, and enough were of the latter to keep my attention throughout, which is more than I can say for some more consistent episodes.

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Alan 2 years, 6 months ago

why on Earth did anyone think addressing just one of the many flaws of The Invasion of Time was worth doing thirty-five years after the fact?

Because Moffat, like most anoraks, is in love with the TARDIS both as a concept and as a physical entity. Hence, The Doctor's Wife. Hence, three series of stories that all depend on interwoven ontological paradoxes that are only possible with a wonky time machine. It is completely in keeping with Moffat's overarching view of the series and what aspects of it are most important that he would eventually get around to devoting an entire episode to exploring the TARDIS's interior to show off the wonders he imagined could be found inside.

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Alan 2 years, 6 months ago

What about something fun, like, say, a Sontaran, cyberman and uh, zarbi who have been holed up in the TARDIS for years after subsequent failed invasions and have teamed up to lead a frontier-like existance deep in the TARDIS corridors. That would have been hilarious.

One of my favorite non-arc episodes of Babylon 5 was "Grey 17 Is Missing," in which Garibaldi discovers that there was an entire deck of the space station that had been blocked off from everything else due to a screw-up in the blueprints and that a group of homeless people had found it years earlier, set up shop, and established a weird and insular culture of their own that was oblivious to everything else that was happening on the show.

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Alan 2 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps the reason the TARDIS was so much better in Castrovalva than in Invasion of Time and much better still today is that the Doctor took Borusa's advice and finally "stabilized his pedestrian infrastructure."

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

"And the fact that the story can be summarized as “the TARDIS is hijacked by a bunch of black men because the Doctor let a woman drive” is, to say the least, unfortunate."

Combine the above with the fact that it is as you say Phil, attempting to right past wrongs, and has a reset button, it's amazing I liked it at all. I do in a 'kind-of' way, and that's mostly about Jenna's performance and getting a bit of extra Tardis oggling (which I could not resist). I was really hoping for a weird cause of the crack or something more. Not great at all that it was three black guys who jacked the Tardis.

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah Blueshift, would have been fun just to see them totally go gonzo on this one!

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 6 months ago

Tricky not being a robot doesn't make sense in Moffat's Who anyway - try telling Bracewell and Auton!Rory, or the Gangers, that they can't feel. It's tonally inconsistent and an entirely stupid rationale.

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Aylwin 2 years, 6 months ago

stabilized his pedestrian infrastructure.

Isn't that what they did to the Millennium Footbridge?

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Oh thanks ferret for linking to that poster! It shows the episode that I wish we had gotten but never did - that one full of images of a fractal TARDIS, with multiple versions of splintered characters!

If I get what you meant about Castrovalva doing it better, did you mean in the final images of Castrovalva itself? If so then I agree.

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macrogers 2 years, 6 months ago

What I would argue is that it's not so much depicted as positive as it is depicted as interesting and nuanced and worthy of protagonist-level examination. Where Sorkin would make Clara an annoying one-off who gets lectured by Jeff Daniels or Matthew Perry, Moffat makes her a co-lead with a fascinating bundle of virtues and flaws the equal of those of the Doctor.

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djselby 2 years, 6 months ago

(Hello. New commenter. Do I have to write anything? I've never commented here before, but when I started writing my own Doctor Who blog I decided to look up a few others and a friend recommended this one. It seems great anyway.)

I can see what you mean, Phil, about Jenna's performance and her elegant kind of body language and physical delivery, but I dislike those scenes with Clara wandering the TARDIS on her own. Something that irks me is that she essentially just seems really at ease with the fact that she's being chased by a zombie. They're clearly making a point that Clara hasn't got to explore this ship yet (because an adventure story needs a level of unfamiliarity), but you end up in this bizarre situation where she runs from the zombies, admires a room, takes a peak inside, starts running again...

What you end up with then is a bog-standard 'monster runaround' episode, where it's treated like a man in a suit; a distraction from the 'tour of the TARDIS', and an obligatory part of the characteristic Doctor Who story. But at no point does it feel particularly threatening, simply because Clara herself doesn't appear threatened by it.

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Owlie 2 years, 6 months ago

''it is the story in which the complaint that Moffat is fond of reset buttons really does acquire legs.''

... Am I the only one getting that the literal reset button was a joke? As much as the Doctor in the Teselecta was a prod at fans who throw out ''deus ex machina'' all the time?

I really thought that was obvious.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 6 months ago

I would argue that this episode isn't a pointless exercise by the time you get to the finale. Not only are Clara's memories triggered, but it's the memories from what transpires in this episode that inform her in the finale. Unless I'm remembering wrong, I don't think the Doctor ever tells her in "Name of the Doctor" about his encounters with her in the past. He doesn't have to do it again, which would seem tiring to the audience, so instead she remembers and can say things like, "Wait, did you say the Dalek Asylum?"

That's actually pretty clever, in principle. It's almost non-linear storytelling.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 6 months ago

I think it's definitely tongue-in-cheek, but I can understand why some people may find that attitude insulting.

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Owlie 2 years, 6 months ago

I think I remember Moffat explaining, also, that the memories are still there, they're just sort of beyond her reach in a dream-like way.

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Robot Devil 2 years, 6 months ago

"Haunted by your future, pain-maddened, burning self" comes from The Stars My Destination

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Jarl 2 years, 6 months ago

Well, he had it in the TARDIS back in the TV movie, and its presence in the TARDIS would explain why blowing it up could destroy all of time and space... As for the "rift energy = fuel" thing, I always took that to be more of a strained metaphor. To me, it seems that rift energy helps keep the Eye of Harmony stabilized at the moment of singularity, thus keeping the TARDIS going.

Speaking of the TV Movie, I did like its take on the Cloister Room and the Eye better, and was hugely tickled to see it put to the same use there as here: Someone bugging you? Throw 'em in the Eye of Harmony!

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Jarl 2 years, 6 months ago

By far, I think that tongue in cheek invocations of Deus Ex Machina in Doctor Who can perhaps never top the Bad Wolf. The fact that people get mad about that leaves me puzzled, when there's so much worse Dei Ex Machina used without irony or self awareness through the series...

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UrsulaL 2 years, 6 months ago

This episode felt oddly unaware of "The Doctor's Wife" when it should have felt as if it grew from that story. In TDW, we met the TARDIS's soul, now we should be exploring its body, but it still should feel like the same being, somehow show the same personality.

And it doesn't.

We don't see the mad love for the Doctor, or guiding him where he needs to go. The TARDIS protects itself, as the Doctor points out, like a wounded animal. We don't see the resourcefulness that was exhibited in TDW.

Perhaps it would have been better to ask Gaimen to write the TARDIS episode, continuing from his previous work, rather than the Cybermen. Have a consistent voice for developing who and what the TARDIS is.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 6 months ago

I had similar reservations about the holodeck stories on Star Trek: TNG.

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Robot Devil 2 years, 6 months ago

House of Leaves could be a model for the inside of the TARDIS as a space of terror. I had the edition where 'house' was written in blue...

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Tileman 2 years, 6 months ago

The eye of harmony is non local in space/time so can be on gallifry as well as the heat of every tardis at the same time

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David Anderson 2 years, 6 months ago

I can see why Moffat wanted to put the best writer available on making the cybermen scary again; although, with hindsight, he should have seen that the cybermen don't play to Gaiman's strengths.

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Despite sounding like I didn't like it above, I do actually really *love* the Big Friendly Button. I love it when the show trolls the fans too.

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah good point, very long term non-linear storytelling. I do think that makes it work in the series overall.

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Alex 2 years, 6 months ago

Otherwise known as "Tiger, Tiger!"

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ferret 2 years, 6 months ago

My Castrovalva point got a bit lost in the edit - I only meant to refer to the "lifeless battleship corridors" being bested by Castrovalva's, especially as so much time was spent in them. The rooms themselves were rather nice: lovely library, stellar laboratory - but crazy geometry ala the poster would have been great.

The one time they got close - when the TARDIS has the Doctor and two of the brothers endlessly going down the same corridor - they missed a trick in having one of them stay put while the others walked off only to re-appear behind him. Wouldn't even have been too hard to shoot.

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elvwood 2 years, 6 months ago

Welcome, new commenter! Good observation, too.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 6 months ago

So Clara's basically Kirsty from the Johnny Maxwell trilogy? ("Just the sort of adventure I didn't want; me and four token boys. It's only a mercy there isn't a dog.")

Works for me.

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encyclops 2 years, 6 months ago

That joke isn't funny anymore. It's too close to home and too near the bone.

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encyclops 2 years, 6 months ago

Who wrote the history of the Time War? If the Doctor's name is such a big secret, why does he leave a book that contains it sitting on a plinth where anyone can come along and flip through it?

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Blueshift 2 years, 6 months ago

It is clearly a self-referential joke, but just because something is a joke doesn't make it a satisfying resolution. It's cute, but still a reset button that renders the events of the episode meaningless.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 6 months ago

Right. If anything, Gatiss should've been assigned the Cybermen episode, and Thompson... well, maybe let him do his own thing again, and call it an "episode" you can slot in as filler.

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Alan 2 years, 6 months ago

The problem was that Neil Gaiman didn't make the Cybermen scary. He made them more efficient killing machines, but that's not the same thing as being scary because we knew they weren't going to kill Clara and the Doctor, we were reasonably sure they wouldn't kill the kids, and none of the other bit characters were interesting enough for us to care about them dying. Also, Gaiman brought us back to the Earthshock era of Cybermen who literally gloat about the fact that they don't have emotions. Thank god, Eleven didn't start babbling about the pleasures of a well-prepared meal.

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Welcome also djselby!

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

It's too close to home
And it's too near the bone

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Daru 2 years, 6 months ago

Fan-fic?

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Whittso 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't think that's just new who. I seem to remember it from other stories, e.g. The five doctors.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 6 months ago

"Amy, ultimately, wanted her story to be the “right” story. Clara, on the other hand, wants ownership of her story. Goodness has nothing to do with it, as it were."

I see what you did, there.

Totally with you on the tonal dissonance of the time zombies and the brothers. This would be completely insane, but if there was any episode of the show that I wish could be redone to include no real monsters or plot-twists, it's this one. That's not to say it couldn't have jeopardy, but the malfunctioning interior spaces of the TARDIS would do just fine for that. If there's one episode that could just be about exploring a location, surely it's the journey to the center of the TARDIS?

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TommyR01D 10 months, 3 weeks ago

"it seemed an oddly disjointed story that was in need of another draft"

I got that impression from most of the 2013 episodes.

This one in particular felt like the reheated leftovers of The Doctor's Wife, with far less interesting characters.

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