Since the Doctor is a hero who doesn’t use violence (usually), he presents, I guess, a reasonable challenge to the unimaginative writer. If you’re not capable of imagining clever ways around problems, then you might end up writing twenty minutes of the Doctor running around after tough guys whining at them to do the right thing.
That’s my biggest problem with ‘Journey to the Center of the TARDIS’. We’ve got ineffectual whiny pissy Doctor, who I was happy to leave back in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’. He pulls off a bluff early on, and is so pleased with himself that he doesn’t manage to do anything else of consequence for almost the whole episode. “Give that back.” “Don’t touch each other.” “Don’t have a plan.” Bloody useless. Until the end: he does manage to do something at the end, but it’s perhaps the worst single thing in the story.
It’s not a spoiler to say that the whole story finishes with a reset switch, because in fact, I can only assume that knowing this going in might make it slightly less disappointing when what little joy you’ve gotten from the quite-interesting character development between the Doctor and Clara suddenly NEVER HAPPENED. It would have been cool if the Doctor had told Clara the truth thinking they were going to die… and then had to live with it. But boringly, no, no he doesn’t.
But if you can ignore that the Doctor’s fucking useless and that none of it ever happened, then there are some nice things about this story, like OH WAIT I forgot the idea that you could trick an amnesiac into thinking they were an android by basically just telling them they’re an android.
“You’re an android.”
“Oh. But I’m covered in flesh.”
“You’re a flesh covered android.”
“You’re a flesh-and-blood covered android.”
“I’m eating the same food as you.”
“You’ve got a redundant food-enjoying mechanism. It does nothing for you.”
“What powers me?”
“Oh wait, actually, you are powered by food. Yeah. But you also enjoy it. Because.”
“I’m excited by the thoughts of ladies.”
“That’s a coincience. You keep on thinking about ladies at the same time your emergency fluid release valve expulses.”
“That’s cyber-poop. It smells like ours but it’s totally different.”
So, if you can ignore Doctor Dumb, the reset, and the most moronic plot point in the history of Doctor Who since that time the Daleks wanted to hollow out the Earth and drive it around space, then there are some good bits.
The monsters are very nice. Creepy, with a decent twist to them and brilliantly directed. Jenna Louise Coleman is as adorable as ever, perhaps more so, even managing to sell an awkward scene that involves being terrified of someone and then promptly giving him a hug. The TARDIS interior is generally really well-realised and awe-inspiring, and it has liquid books, too, which were cute if probably impractical. There’s some cute ‘history-leaking’ ideas too, and the Doctor’s pro-secrets agenda is actually a potentially interesting take on the character. And it was nice to see the Doctor with a crack in time again: made me nostalgic for season five.
But flipping through the story again just annoys me. How can a story set in the TARDIS do nothing at all with the TARDIS/Clara relationship? If the Doctor just leaves a book with his name in it lying around the Ship, why is he so surprised when people know his name? Did we really need more unconvincingly explained paradox logic?
At least-though I don’t really get why, which is kind of irritating in itself-the Doctor seems like he might remember the story. But not much. ‘Journey to the Center of the TARDIS’. Watch it, and then never ever think about it. Because it doesn’t bear thinking about. And when you get eight episodes a year, that doesn’t really fly with me.
Alright, so that kind of turned into a criticism. I seriously didn’t even notice how weird and slightly creepy that scene was until someone else pointed it out. It’s amazing what you’ll let a generally trustworthy character get away with. ↩︎