TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It is perhaps the most iconic thing about Doctor Who, moreso than the Daleks, the Cybermen, Tom Baker’s scarf, the sonic screwdriver, or any of the Doctors themselves. For me the TARDIS has always been the most captivating part of the show. Over the last fifty years we’ve gotten to know the old girl fairly well; her secrets, her surprises, her peculiarities, even what she would be like if she was a real person. But we really haven’t seen all that much of her. There isn’t a true Whovian who hasn’t imagined what the library looks like, or the swimming pool, or the Doctor’s room. Well we got a glimpse of some of the wonders in this episode!
Doctor Who: Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS Reviewed
The episode begins with a salvage crew detecting something in deep space which of course turns out to be the TARDIS. Meanwhile, aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Clara are discussing the issue of the TARDIS appearing not to like Clara. The TARDIS suddenly starts going haywire and after some console explosions the opening credits roll. Already the episode portrays a great sense of science fiction. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten hard sci-fi from Doctor Who, and it’s a welcome treat.
So the TARDIS is brought on board the salvage vessel and the crew tries their best to get in with a hammer and a laser buzz saw, but of course that won’t work. As the crew gives up the Doctor pops up right behind them and begins interrogating them. It’s here the Doctor realizes that Clara was left on board. In trying to recruit the crew to help him delve into the TARDIS to find Clara the Doctor promises them they can have the TARDIS as salvage. For some reason I don’t believe him…
Meanwhile, Clara wakes on the TARDIS and begins wandering the corridors as the cloister bell sounds in the background. As she begins exploring she comes across strange scratch marks on one of the walls and even hears ominous growling in the distance. This is interesting as we’re usually under the assumption that there isn’t anyone else on the TARDIS at any given time besides the Doctor and his companions. We know that at moment Clara should be the only one on board, so who or what could be in the TARDIS? It’s an interesting question to bring up because we are again reminded that as little as we know about the TARDIS we know even less about the Doctor. Could he have other “guests” on board that nobody knows about?
When the Doctor brings the salvage crew on board it actually feels strange to see non-companions on board the TARDIS, and it serves to point out how desperate the Doctor is to find Clara. To emphasize how desperate he is to find Clara the Doctor sets the TARDIS auto-destruct for one hour and locks everyone inside, forcing the salvage crew to help him rescue Clara or die.
It doesn’t take long for Clara to stumble upon places we’ve never before seen in the TARDIS. One of the first places appears to be some sort of storage area. Here she finds the paper TARDIS young Amy Pond made. It’s quite a nice little bit of heart-tugging nostalgia. But soon Clara notices something lurking in the shadows and off she runs. I would love to know what else the Doctor has in what I’m going to name the “memento room”. As Clara continues running from whatever it is that is chasing her we get glimpses of an observatory, as well as the swimming pool! Unfortunately Clara never steps foot in the pool room to give us a better view. Next she finds herself in the library, one of the most anticipated place to see on the TARDIS. Even though it was only a brief stay it was great to finally see the expansive multi-tiered library we always knew must be there.
In a scene oozing with gravitas Clara stumbles upon an ancient book entitled The History of the Time War. She flips a few pages and cryptically says “So that’s who”. What the heck does that mean? I actually felt pain in not getting more juicy gossip! But before Clara can read more the thing following her arrives and chases her away. The creature is actually quite unnerving, especially getting only shadowy glimpses as it snarls and skitters about.
One of the salvage crew comes across one of the strangest places we’ve ever seen on the TARDIS; a sort of droopy weeping willow sort of technological object with glowing globes hanging at the end of each conduit-like tendril. The Doctor rushes in and explains that it is the Architectural Reconfiguration System; a machine that uses living metal to make any machine you want, but is also used by the TARDIS to reshape itself. It’s a cool new Timelordy thing to introduce. Anyway, the Doctor says they can’t take anything from this place but one of the salvage crew snatches one of the glowing orbs. Suddenly the door disappears and the TARDIS gets grumpy. In defense of itself, the TARDIS begins reshaping its corridors into a labyrinth.
After they get out one of the salvage crew is viciously attacked by one of the creatures. I’m glad we get an actual moment of violence on the show. Not in a sadistic sense of course, but recently Doctor Who has at times become a bit too “kidsy”. So it is nice to see actual danger and consequence, just like in The Cold War.
Clara finds her way to the console room, as does the Doctor, but they’re not together. The Doctor explains that the TARDIS has created “echoes” of the console room since it is the safest place in the TARDIS. The TARDIS, says the Doctor, is keeping Clara safe, as well he and the salvage crew. But not for long as one of the creatures quickly finds Clara. Using some techno-wizardry the Doctor rips Clara from the echo console room, bringing her safely to him. Instantly she starts yelling at him to explain why he has these creatures aboard. Changing the subject, the Doctor lets the salvage crew know there was no self-destruct program after all. Unfortunately they are in very real danger as the Doctor discovers that the engine is damaged. In another nod to Doctor Who’s past we see that the Engine room is right next to the Eye of Harmony, an important piece of the TARDIS not seen since the 1996 8thDoctor TV movie.
The gang now sets off for the center of the TARDIS, but Clara gets separated from the others. Here is one of the most interesting parts of the episode; Clara begins to see “echoes” of herself and the Doctor. They appear to be out of phase with time. Suddenly the real Doctor shows up and explains that there is a small tear in the fabric of time somewhere in the TARDIS. His sense of urgency escalates, especially when one of the creatures finds them. As they’re running away the Doctor lets slip a reference to the creature as “she”. Clara asks what he means and the Doctor tells her not to ask any more about it…
They all find their way to the Eye of Harmony, which we learn is a captured collapsing star. Pretty cool actually, and better handled than in the TV movie. Anyway, Clara demands to know who the creatures are and it is here we find out that the creatures at least one is Clara! The Doctor tells her that future time is also leaking from the time rift. The Doctor says that he tried to keep Clara safe but it didn’t work, that she died again. He actually tells her a huge piece of the mystery surrounding her. But before she can question him further the Doctor realizes he can prevent her from dying again, although things get crazy as they’re being surrounded by the creatures. They get away, but both remaining salvage crewmen die during the escape.
The Doctor and Clara find themselves in a strange outdoorsy sort of place up on a cliff. Here the Doctor lays out Clara’s entire mystery to her, telling her about all the previous times he encountered her. The Doctor gets frustrated and angry, even lashing out at Clara. She expresses how afraid of him she is at this moment but she gets over it and their relationship appears intact. Asking her to trust him, the Doctor says they must jump off the cliff as it isn’t even real, just some defense mechanism of the TARDIS. They jump and end up in the heart of the TARDIS, which appears to have exploded but is frozen in time. He eventually realizes how to fix everything by going into the time rift. Before he does, Clara asks him why he calls himself The Doctor since he has a name. She says she’s seen it, presumably in the book in the library. It’s a very interesting development in their relationship and it serves to make us assume we’re eventually going to find out The Doctor’s name. I highly doubt that, but it’s a clever bit of leading us on to think so.
So the Doctor saves the day by diving into the time rift which resets the whole day to a point just before the TARDIS was taken aboard the salvage vessel. It’s a quick fix that seems easy but somehow it works pretty well. The salvage crew is alive again, the TARDIS is fine, and the Doctor and Clara ride off as if nothing ever happened. As a side effect though it seems as if Clara doesn’t remember what she saw. No secret rooms, no secret names. I can’t tell for sure if this is the case, but it appears that way.
I really enjoyed this episode quite a bit. It has a frantic pace stemming from fear and imminent danger, and yet it never felt rushed. Even the ending worked, which has been something of a problem in recent episodes. It also managed to use time as a plot device but not make it feel as contrived as has recently been the case. It all seemed to fit together nicely. I didn’t expect so much plot development as far as Clara is concerned, and while we still didn’t learn anything to further our understanding of her mystery, her finally being made privy to the whole scope of it feels like we got something at least. Although, if she remembers everything or not remains to be seen.
This episode was full of treats for the Whovian, giving us glimpses of the TARDIS we’ve never seen before, teasing the Doctor’s secrets, and just being set on the TARDIS made it a treat. I think it worked well as a standalone episode while inserting plot development in a way that didn’t seem intrusive. It shed light on some mysteries while providing just enough of a glimpse of others that the aura of mystery still surrounds the TARDIS, the Doctor, and Clara.
image source: [doctorwhotv]