Office Whovian Darren Sykes runs the rule over the latest offering from the television Time Lord
Doctor Who continued last Saturday with the episode Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
With the TARDIS badly damaged, after being picked up as salvage by a passing spaceship, Clara becomes trapped inside. Meanwhile the Doctor faces a deadly mission to rescue her and repair the damage to his space/time ship.
With promises of seeing more of the TARDIS than ever before, including the often mentioned swimming pool and library, you would image the episode would be a sure fire winner.
However, the story’s initial promise was soon eroded after 30 minutes of wandering around rather drab grey corridors and no sense of any progress really being made.
The director, Mat King, certainly did his best; shooting the corridors he had from different angles to suggest they weren’t all part of the same set. But the rather grey utilitarian look of them, offered more of the blandness you would associate with a spaceship on Star Trek, than a rickety Gallifreyan Type-40 disguised as a police box.
All Doctor Who fans know the TARDIS walls have roundels, yet for much of the time you could have been on any stock sci-fi spaceship.
I confess, the room containing the architectural reconfiguration circuit was impressively achieved, as was the library. But these just seemed to pop up every now and then purely to justify using the TARDIS as the basis of the story.
Thrown in to the mix were the van Baalen brothers. I don’t want to be too critical of the actors, as unfortunately they had very little material to work with. Writer Steve Thompson, who penned last year’s equally disappointing The Curse of the Black Spot, unfortunately failed to add any depth to these characters.
The sub-plot of one of the brothers being convinced he was an android by his other siblings seemed simply tagged on, as opposed to being intrinsic to the plot.
Meanwhile the monsters, or time zombies as we later learnt they were called, were effectively realised. For the majority of the story, your reviewer was intrigued as to what they could be. What were these creatures doing hidden away in the bowels of the TARDIS and what was the Doctor’s connection to them? However, the revelation they were a crippled and scared version of the TARDIS incumbents brought back in time by the damaged space/time ship, seemed a little bit of a cop-out.
This was nothing, however, compared to the ending of the episode. After reading a ‘handy’ hint scorched in to Clara’s skin and with a quick flick of the sonic screwdriver (again), the Doctor suddenly deduces there’s a crack in space-time somewhere on the ship.
After rattling off an explanation to his concerned companion, the Doctor realises he has to enter this crack and go back in time. There he’ll send a message to his previous self to press a ‘red friendly button’, which will reset everything before the damage to the TARDIS occurred. And thus, the whole episode we’ve been watching will never have happened.
These sorts of endings really annoy me. Admittedly, there was a suggestion that time hadn’t completely re-set itself, since at the beginning of the episode there was a photo depicting two of the van Baalan brothers with their father, and at the end of the episode there were three brothers with their dad.
Maybe, the payback from this will come later in the series. But, to expect viewers to sit through a story, build up the tension, and then turn round and say it didn’t happen is disappointing in the extreme.
Other than that, we learned within the TARDIS library there’s a book on the history of the Time War, in which the Doctor’s name is mentioned. Clara subsequently learned this name, but then apparently forgot it after the episode’s re-boot.
Also, the rift in the TARDIS wall. Is this connected to the cracks, which appeared through out Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor? At the time these were explained by The Silence causing the TARDIS to explode – but how?
Where these plot points leave the series’ overall story arc, the mystery of Clara; the seemingly inevitable revealing of the Doctor’s real nomenclature - it’s a job to say. What hints there were, didn’t seem to lead anywhere. However, it’s not long now to the series finale where finally we are promised some answers.
Next week: The Crimson Horror