Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deep Inside of You: An Overanalysis of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"


Did you know that this episode aired on my birthday, April 27th!?  Did you know that I apparently share a birthday with Jenna-Louise Coleman?  Did you know that she's exactly 2 years younger than me? (I thought she was a lot younger than me.  I know that her character is.)  Did you know that only two episodes of Doctor Who before this one had ever aired on April 27th (one in 1968 and one in 1974).  Did you know that April 27th is an awesome day invariably?  Because it was the day I was born, it was the day that Jenna was born, and it's the day we got this really fun episode.

Also, did you know that Clara looks hot in red?

The TARDIS itself has been a ripe source of story since the first season back in 1963 with the episode “The Edge of Destruction,” which might be the worst episode of the entire franchise.  We scathingly reviewed it over at The 900 Year Diary (you didn’t think I forgot about T9YD, do you) where it became the first episode we all hated.  Seriously, the episode makes less than no sense.

You can't really see it here, but they're actually screaming at a clock
that has just magically appeared in the TARDIS.  Not kidding.
The TARDIS has been a coveted object by millions of races who wanted to steal it and use it as a weapon.  As we learned this week, even if any of them had managed to steal the TARDIS and its key and got the Time Lord DNA needed to pilot it (long story), the TARDIS is pretty good at defending herself.  It makes the plots of a lot of past episodes look damn silly.

The inside of the TARDIS has been seen only briefly in glimpses over the years.  "The Edge of Destruction" brought us briefly into the companions' bedrooms.  The Fourth Doctor episode "The Invasion of Time" showed us the much fabled swimming pool for the first time.

Glad to see it's been remodeled since the 70's

In "Castrovalva" (that episode title just sounds dirty) we saw inside the TARDIS as the Doctor searched for the "Zero Room" (again, long story).  In the 1996 movie, we saw the room that housed the Eye of Harmony (we'll get to that later).  And, in "The Doctor's Wife," we saw a few corridors.  This isn't a complete list, but it's most of the times we've seen beyond the control room.  And in each and every one of these instances, it was a brief, fleeting glimpse.  Any random 5 minute segment from this episode contains more shots of the deep TARDIS interior than any previous episode in the series.  And, while this has probably been avoided in the series most likely because it has been assumed that showing too much would take away from the TARDIS's mystery, Steve Thompson showed us that, no matter how much of the TARDIS you show the audience, there's still a ton of mystery there to explore.

Steve Thompson is a big hit-or-miss writer.  He wrote my least favorite episode of Season 6 ("Curse of the Black Spot"), my least favorite episode of Sherlock Season 1 ("The Blind Banker"), but, by far, my favorite episode of Sherlock Season 2 ("The Reichenbach Fall").  That's right:  someone other than Steven Moffat wrote my favorite Season 2 episode of Sherlock.  It takes a lot for me to pick him over Moffat.

Thompson was a stage writer originally and then began writing for Sherlock before he wrote for Doctor Who.  Each of Sherlock's 2 seasons have only 3 episodes, which are 90 minutes a piece.  Each season has one episode written by Moffat, one written by Mark Gatiss (ugh!), and one written by Thompson.  Since the other two writers were Doctor Who writers, it was obvious that Thompson was going to be invited to write a Doctor Who at some point.  But I was never sure if he was really into Doctor Who, or just along for the ride with Gatiss and Moffat.  Now I think I can be pretty sure in saying that Thompson is a big Doctor Who fan, because only a truly obsessive fan could have written this episode.

As the TARDIS's console begins to come apart, we hear voices come out of it.  The great thing about living in the age of Wiki's is that I don't have to go back to the episode and carefully listen to the scene to figure out what episodes all of the clips were from (because I would have done it).  Instead, I can just check the Doctor Who wiki.  Call it cheating, but I'm just lazy.  This is the list of where those clips come from, with credit given to The TARDIS Data Core:

The voice of Susan Foreman says, "I made up the name 'TARDIS' from the initials: Time and Relative Dimension In Space." (TV: An Unearthly Child)
The Third Doctor saying, "The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental" and his companion, Jo, asking "What does that mean?"
The Eleventh Doctor saying, "You sexy thing!" then Idris (the TARDIS in human form) replying, "See, you do call me that! Is it my name?" followed by the Doctor's exclamation of "You bet it's your name!" (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
The Fourth Doctor saying, "That's trans-dimensional engineering. A key Time Lord discovery." (TV: The Robots of Death)
The Ninth Doctor saying, "The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn't get through that door, and believe me they've tried." (TV: Rose)
Martha Jones saying, "It's just a box with that room crammed in!". (TV:Smith and Jones)
Amy Pond saying, "We're in space!". (TV: The Beast Below)
Ian Chesterton asking, "A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?" (TV: An Unearthly Child)
The Fifth Doctor asking, "You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?" (TV: Time Crash)

The Eye of Harmony, as I stated last week, is from the classic series and, while first brought up in a Fourth Doctor story, wasn't really featured heavily until the awful 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie.  Like I said last week, it was said in that movie that, for no apparent reason, a human eye was needed to open the Eye.  (Maybe I spoke too soon when I called "The Edge of Destruction" the worst episode of the franchise.)  Last week, a link to it was used to power the Metebelis III crystal to enhance Emma's psychic abilities.  But, as the crystal was seen in "Planet of the Spiders" to enhance psychic abilities without a power source, it seems to me that hooking it up to the Eye is a big of an overkill.  It seems more like they're working on setting up the Eye to play a role in a major plot point soon.

Now, there are a lot of questions to be raised about this episode, but here's the number 1 question:

Why the fuck did the TARDIS let Clara see the Doctor's name?

Seriously?  Like I've said, there was literally an entire religion created to make sure the Doctor's name isn't spoken out loud.  It's a secret that, the Doctor himself admits, must never be known.  So why is it sitting in a book that's open and on display in the library?  And why did the TARDIS bring Clara into the library where she could read it.  This is going to be very important going forward, I'm sure of it.

Now, more on the "Who is Clara?" front.  The TARDIS doesn't like Clara, we've seen that, and it was sort of the spark that ignited this entire episode.  I still think it's because she's a temporal anomaly.  But, it doesn't seem like she's an anomaly yet.  What do I mean by that?  Emma thought that Clara was a normal girl.  The Doctor realized this week that Clara clearly didn't know what he was talking about with the other Claras.  Clara is clearly just a girl right now.  Whatever is going to split her across time hasn't taken place yet in her timeline.

As we move towards the season finale, which will feature River Song, I realized something that I had never thought of before:

River probably knows exactly who Clara is.  But that's a spoiler for another time.

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