If Neil Gaiman’s place in the history of fiction writing wasn’t already assured, it will be after tonight’s episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor’s Wife was a bit of a tricksy title to begin with – the mysterious character of Idris (played by Suranne Jones) was neither a Time Lord, nor the Doctor’s actual wife.
But we’ll get to that bit in a minute, won’t we?
In the interests of getting straight to opinions and the deep discussion we all favour here, I’ll cut out the detailed recap (we’ve all seen it already, haven’t we?) and go straight for the jugular. With my teeth. People who break out in a cold sweat at the sight of story details being discussed on the Internet should look away now. This means you too, Steven Moffat.
If geeksplosion was a word, I think it would safely apply to this episode. If this was an episode of Friends, it would be “The One Where The TARDIS Takes Human Form And Talks To The Doctor”.
The very idea of the living embodiment of the TARDIS is so rich with possibility, and Neil Gaiman mines the wonderful mythology surrounding The Doctor and his time machine. From the fact that the doors are supposed to be opened outwards (read the label, Doctor) to the notion that the TARDIS stole him, I don’t know of another episode which has so beautifully laid bare the relationship The Doctor has with the machine he’s been joyriding for 700 years.
And that’s before we even get to the wonderfully satisfying trickery with the infinite corridor, the first time in decades anyone’s ever mentioned jettisoning rooms from the TARDIS (twice) and that fascinating graveyard of TARDISes. Imagine The Doctor building and flying a TARDIS from scrap?
Oh, did I mention that they even brought back the Tennant/Ecclestone TARDIS console room for one last ride?
And how wonderful was it that this adventure took place in a scrapyard at the end of the universe when Doctor Who started out in a scrapyard all those years ago? A nice little detail that I hope other Whovians will have picked up on.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a long-standing piece of Time Lord history teased – can Time Lords change gender during a regeneration? Yes they can – The Corsair changed into a woman a couple of times according to The Doctor. Squee! You know what this means for the little girl who regenerated two episodes back? Could be a guy. Could be a much older guy. This throws the possibilities wide open. Especially when they eventually have to recast The Doctor. I wonder if they have someone in mind?
For the first time in ages, it felt like the dynamic between The Doctor, Amy and Rory was natural again. Jovial in the TARDIS at the start, then he sends Rory and Amy on a false errand and locks them inside to protect them.
In terms of filming this was a very old-school episode – cheap sets, clearly cobbled together from scruffy teatowels. Even that rather clunky infinite corridor felt like it had been poached from the 80s. But how can we complain when the payoff from this episode was so good? I’m not even annoyed about the teaser that there were other Time Lords left in the universe – compared to the clunkiness of Day Of The Moon, this is misdirection done right.
The Doctor’s Wife has turned out to be an extra rare treat. I think in six years of (new) Doctor Who, there hasn’t been an episode that has so deeply explored the mythos of the TARDIS and The Doctor and the Time Lords. It’s always been hinted at in various episodes, but nothing as far reaching as this.
Really folks, there isn’t a single negative thing I can say about this episode. It was Doctor Who perfection – all the right ingredients were here. The main cast were on top form, and Suranne Jones brought a scatty manic energy to a time machine that suddenly found itself in a human body.
More like this please. More Time Lord lore, more depth for The Doctor and his companions and less silliness. Let’s hope Moffat remembers Neil Gaiman’s phone number for series 7. Maybe make it a two-parter next time…