Doctor Who 710 “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” – Review & Quotes

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Image courtesy BBC America

The TARDIS hasn’t exactly been very accepting of Clara’s presence, with last week’s exception to help save the Doctor.  In an effort to help Clara and the TARDIS to get along, the Doctor shuts down a number of systems to make the blue box easier to fly so that Clara might try her hand at it.  Wouldn’t you know the moment he shuts down those systems, including the shields, a salvage ship spots them and catches the TARDIS in a magnetic tractor beam which, with the shields down wreaks all sorts of havoc inside.  Clara pleads with the Doctor to tell her he can fix it and he makes a joke about the “big, friendly button” (Think of it as a TARDIS version of the “Easy” button I suppose) to try and calm her, but it doesn’t really work.  The salvage guys somehow manage to toss in a grenade-looking device which Clara picks up and it burns her hand.

Image courtesy BBC AmericaThe salvage ship is owned by the van Baalen brothers, Gregor and Bram.  They’re alone on the ship save for a flesh-covered android they call Tricky who looks completely human.  The TARDIS is lying mostly on its side in their hold.  Somehow the Doctor is outside of the box holding the grenade-like object which is a magno-grab remote device used to disable ships.  Even though we saw it roll across the floor, he says he found it in one of the salvage guys’ pockets.  When he realizes Clara is still in the dying TARDIS, he convinces the 3 salvage hunters to help him find Clara.

When the salvage guys refuse to help the Doctor find Clara, he sets the TARDIS to self-destruct in 30 minutes then locks everyone inside.  They split up and Gregor tells brother Bram to strip apart the console.  As Bram is stripping apart the console he begins hearing whispers of voices from underneath the console level.  They’re recognizable as voices from the past; things that have happened and been said in the TARDIS in times prior to the present.

Image courtesy BBC AmericaClara’s alone inside an obviously damaged TARDIS, her hand burned by the magno-grab remote.  She wanders through the corridors of the ship, coming across a room that has River’s crib and young Amelia Pond’s homemade toy TARDIS inside, but she hears something following her.  It’s a humanoid creature that looks burned, almost as if it’s made of cooling lava.  As she runs to get away, Clara passes several interesting rooms, including the infamous pool.  Unfortunately, this quick view is all we get of the pool.

When Clara stops to hide behind some shelves and sooth her burned hand, which now looks like it has letters burnt into it, she realizes she’s in the library.  It’s a massive multi-story area with an open atrium in the middle.  Looks like about 5 levels high and Clara says, “Now that’s just showing off.”

Image courtesy BBC AmericaGregor is wandering the halls with his talking sensor when it says, “Everything,” as he approaches a door.  Inside is a strange array of tubes with illuminated globes hanging from them.  The Doctor shows up and tells him it’s the Architectural Reconfiguration System; basically, it’s a wish machine.  It can create anything you ask it to.  Suck on that, Star Trek replicators!  Against the Doctor’s warning that the TARDIS won’t let him keep it, Gregor takes one of the globes for himself.

Still in the library, Clara comes upon a very interesting book; one we’d all like to read or have made into a grand movie or miniseries.  It’s title: “The History of the Time War.”  She opens the book, and like in any television show or movie, she ends up on a page containing pertinent information.  In this case the book has the Doctor’s real name and she mutters, “So that’s who.”

Image courtesy BBC AmericaIt took me a minute to think about this, but if the Doctor is the only one besides the Master to survive the Great Time War then who the heck wrote the book?  Did he, and if so, why?  If someone else wrote it, then they’d have had to write it during the war and how would the Doctor have gotten a finished, leather and brass(?) bound copy before time-locking the whole fracas away?  If the Master wrote it, I still doubt he and the Doctor were ever in a book club together so the origin of the book is a mystery I’d like to know more about.

It’s interesting to note that while the book on the Time War was a standard paper-and-ink tome, the “Encyclopedia Gallifreya” consisted of bottles of liquid.  When one’s tipped over and spills a bit, you can hear voices and see images in the air.  While an interesting way to store information, it seems very impractical.

The TARDIS is reconfiguring itself to keep Gregor, Tricky and the Doctor moving in circles so Gregor can’t get out with the sphere.  They radio Bram to tell him to get out of the console room, but he’s climbing down underneath and ends up getting attacked by one of the lava monsters.  About that time, the trio are attacked by a pair of the monsters that appear to be conjoined.  As the salvage guys run off, the Doctor turns to the monsters and says, “I’m sorry,” before running off himself.

Clara finds the console room and is relieved.  For some reason she walks out, but finds herself also trapped in a loop unable to leave the room.  The Doctor, Gregor and Tricky also make it to the console room, but Clara’s not there.  The Doctor says it’s an echo of the console room because that’s the safest place on the TARDIS and the machine is trying to protect them since Tricky tried to give back the circuit Gregor took.

The trio are seeing echoes of Clara’s presence like sounds and shadows, and Clara’s experiencing the same because they’re both in basically the same place, but rapidly altering existences like quickly flicking a switch back and forth.  Clara inadvertently lets in the single lava monster which begins chasing her around the console.  The Doctor “nudges” the alternations, uses Gregor’s talking sensor to locate Clara’s position, then pulls her into their echo room just before the lava monster can get her.

Image courtesy BBC AmericaOnce they have Clara, Gregor tells him their deal is complete and to stop the self-destruct.  Turns out the self-destruct was a ruse, but when he goes to turn off the false timer he sees a warning that the TARDIS’ engines are damaged and will explode anyway.  In order to try and stop this they have to make their way to the very center of the TARDIS, all the while avoiding the mysterious lava monsters.

Clara wants to know what the monsters are, but the Doctor tells her she doesn’t want to know.  She sees and hears echoes of the past and the Doctor tells her it’s happening because there’s a small rupture in the fabric of spacetime causing the past to bleed in.

As if things weren’t bad enough, rods from the fuel cells begin to slam through the corridors.  Tricky gets impaled in the shoulder, but despite his pleas Bram won’t remove his arm.  It turns out Tricky is actually human with artificial eyes and a synthetic voice box.  Tricky is one of the van Baalen brothers, but he was in an accident that left him without eyes, a voice, or memory.  His older brothers thought it would be funny to convince him he was an android after they restored his voice and sight.  Bram cuts the rod and frees Tricky instead of removing his arm because, as the Doctor said to Tricky, “He has just one tiny scrap of decency left in him and you helped him find that.”

Image courtesy BBC AmericaThe bunch come to the TARDIS’ power source, which is the infamous Eye of Harmony briefly referred to in “Hide” and mentioned a number of times in the classic episodes.  The Eye is an exploding star in the state of becoming a black hole and suspended in a permanent state of decay as a source of immense power.  The bunch have to quickly run through the room to a door on the other side before the energy causes their cells to liquefy, but when they get there they’re met by a lava monster.  Turning around, there’s the twin lava monsters at the other door, trapping the group inside.

Clara demands to know what the monsters are, but he still won’t say.  Gregor uses his talking sensor on the single lava monster which it identifies as Clara.  That’s when the Doctor admits that not only is the past leaking through the time rift, but the future.  The “monsters” are disfigured versions of Clara, Gregor, and Tricky who burn in the power room.

In frustration, the Doctor blurts out that Clara dies “again.”  Clara wants to know what he means by that, but before she can pursue the question further the Doctor realizes if they disrupt the timeline then their situation can’t happen and everyone should be safe.  After knocking the burned versions of themselves over the railing, Tricky nearly falls off the walkway.  The Doctor warns Gregor not to touch him otherwise the timeline will reassert itself.  Gregor helps his brother and they morph back into the conjoined burned versions of their future selves.

Image courtesy BBC AmericaClara and the Doctor escape, locking the door behind them and head for the engine room; the very heart of the TARDIS.  They stop after going through a door because they appear to be outside at the edge of a cliff.  Seemingly stuck, the Doctor point-blank asks Clara what she is and she’s genuinely confused by the question.  He tells her about her future self and her Victorian self, but that just causes her to become even more confused and scared.  Clara really, truly does not know what he’s talking about.

The Doctor tells Clara it’s not really a cliff, but a defense illusion set up by the TARDIS to keep intruders out.  They jump together and end up at the heart of the blue box where pieces of equipment are frozen in a mid-air explosion.  The TARDIS has momentarily stopped time at the moment of the explosion to protect the inhabitants, but it’s only temporary.

Image courtesy BBC AmericaClara holds the Doctor’s hand and he notices the burn.  The burn is a mirror image of the words, “Big Friendly Button.”  The Doctor has a plan! (of course)  He says he has to find the moment in time just before they crashed.  They find the rift in time, which looks just like the rift in little Amelia Pond’s bedroom.  On the floor is the magno-grab remote and the Doctor inscribes the words on it using his sonic screwdriver, saying he threw it through the rift before.

He reaches through the rift with the remote, but this time instead of just tossing it (yes, it was the Doctor, not the salvage guys, who tossed it the “first” time) he speaks to his past self, telling him the remote will reset time.  Clara picks it up again, but when she drops it the Doctor catches it, reads the inscription, “Big Friendly Button” and pushes it.  This disengages the magno-grab tractor beam’s hold on the TARDIS and averts the collision that damaged it in the first place.

With time reset, the salvage guys see the TARDIS only as a temporary blip on their sensors and ignore it.  We see Gregor treating Tricky with some respect and back in the box Clara says she feels tired.  The Doctor says they’ve had two days crammed into one, but Clara doesn’t get it because she, and the salvage crew, have no memory of the alternate version of events.

Everybody’s happy…for now!


Random and Feeble Thoughts:

This episode was fun just for the glimpses of the inside of the TARDIS fans have long been waiting for, but overall it really was just a fairly standard time-loop episode where everything ended up not happening in the end.  Just the same, it was fascinating to see the Eye of Harmony inside the TARDIS and to discover the inside of the blue box is actually infinite.  The Architectural Reconfiguration System has almost too much potential, but I suppose it explains where the Doctor gets miscellaneous objects like the motorbike from “The Bells of Saint John.”  And while the library was truly beautiful it was a little disappointing that we only saw a quick peek of the pool.

Several times during the episode I felt as if the romantic aspects of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship were being hinted at.  Like, for example, when Clara says the Doctor is, “…like one of those guys who can’t go out with a girl unless his mother approves,” and near the end of the episode when she says the hugging is really nice.  The Doctor even says Clara is beautiful, and though he was referring to the burned words on her hand I felt like there was more to it.

I’ve read a lot of grumbling where people aren’t happy with the Doctor becoming romantically involved with his companions, but I don’t see the problem, really.  In approximately one thousand years of traveling with others he’s bound to get romantic with one or two companions.  To be honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t had more romantic relationships over the course of a millennia.  The guy’s practically a monk!

If you’ve got problems with the Doctor getting all lovey-dovey with a companion because it’s not what you’ve come to expect from Doctor Who, then you don’t really know the show.  Change is the very heart of the series and if you can’t handle a little kissing in the TARDIS, you’re going to explode if the Doctor ever regenerates into someone other than a Caucasian, English male.  I say take the changes in stride and be happy Doctor Who is on the air.  Trust me, I lived through the “Time War,” which is what I refer to as the period between classic and modern Who when there were no new episodes produced.

That’s far, far worse than canoodling in the console room.

Tune in next week for “The Crimson Horror” which marks the return of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax in another Victorian-era adventure.  When are these three just going to get their own show?


Quotes and Conversations:

Clara:  Ew, you’re like one of those guys who can’t go out with a girl unless his mother approves.
Bram:  How big is this baby?
Doctor:  Picture the biggest ship you’ve ever seen.  Are you picturing it?
Bram:  Yeah.
Doctor:  Good.  Now forget it because this ship is infinite.
Doctor:  Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman, didn’t anyone ever teach you that?
Doctor:  The salvage of a lifetime.  You meant the ship,  I meant Clara.
Gregor:  Report.  What’s on board this thing?
Sensor:  Dynamorphic generators.  Conceptual geometer.  Beam synthesizer.  Orthagonal engine filters.
Sensor:  Everything.
Gregor:  What?  Report.
Sensor:   Everything.  Behind that door.
Gregor:  Everything?
Sensor:  Sensor detects everything you could possibly want.  Everything.
Gregor:  I don’t understand.  Give me a price tag.
Sensor:  Incalculable.
Gregor:  What?
Sensor:  More valuable than the total sum of any currency.  Living metal.  Bespoke engineering.  Whatever machine you require, this system will build it.
Doctor:  Smart bunch, the Time Lords.  No dress sense, dreadful hats, but smart.
Clara:  What do you keep in here?  Why have you got zombie creatures?  Good guys do not have zombie creatures.  Rule one, basic storytelling!
Tricky:  So you’re telling us we’re safe?
Doctor:  “ish.”  Apart from the monsters and the TARDIS reinventing the architecture every five minutes.
Gregor:  Where are we?
Doctor:  Power source.  Right, you lot wait here, I’ll check it’s safe.  We can only survive for a minute or two in there.
Clara:  Um, what happens if we stay longer?
Doctor:  Our cells will liquefy and our skin will start to burn.
Clara:  I always feel so good after we’ve spoken.
Doctor:  Marvelous.  Keep this door shut.
Clara:  That will not be a problem.
Clara:  I think I’m more scared of you right now than anything else on that TARDIS.
Clara:  Okay, I don’t know what the hell this is about, but the hugging is really nice.
Doctor:  Hey now, Clara, I have piloted this ship for over 900 years.  Trust me this one time, please.  Okay, okay.  As well as all the other times.
Doctor:  Oh, Clara.  Oh, you are beautiful.  Beautiful, fragile human skin.  Like parchment.  Thank you.
Doctor:  Do you feel safe?
Clara:  Of course.
Doctor:  Give me a number out of ten.  Ten being, “Woohoo!”  One being, “Ahh!”
Clara:  You’re being weird.
Doctor:  I need to know if you feel safe.  I need to know….you’re not afraid.
Clara:  Of?
Doctor:  The future.  Running away with a spaceman in a box.  Anything could happen to you.
Clara:  That’s what I’m counting on.  Push the button.


Doctor Who airs on BBC America Saturday nights at 8/7c, immediately followed by Orphan Black and The Nerdist.

Remember to make time for the TARDIS!


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Tom Gardiner