Doctor Who Recap -
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
By Edwin Davies
April 29, 2013
The key thing that needs to be said about "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" is that it is an episode in which very important things happen, all of which are completely inconsequential. Clara winds up in the TARDIS' library and reads a book on the Time War, in the process discovering The Doctor's real name; The Doctor reveals to Clara that they have met before and that she had died on both previous occasions, realising in that moment that she knows nothing of her strange existence; the salvage men reveal that one of them is not, as he had previously thought, an android, but their very human brother.
There are a lot of secrets milling around, all of which are revealed by the end of the episode, and all of which are rendered moot when The Doctor travels back in time to before the crash, throws Past Doctor and Clara the Big Red Button, thereby allowing them to alter the timeline just enough to prevent their meeting with the salvage ship. The characters who died get to live, the secrets that were told are secret once more, and I wonder if I could have just skipped the episode entirely considering it didn't actually happen.
It feels like a terrible cheat to have some pretty big developments happen, seemingly advance the greater plot of the series, then basically say that none of them matter because the timeline was erased. There is a hint at the end that some of the events have echoed into the new timeline, something signaled by a moment in which Walter's character is nice to his faux-artificial brother, an action which would be inexplicable if it wasn't the reflection of some ripple in the fabric of space and time. Even if that is the case and the knowledge that Clara and The Doctor have both attained does come back to them, it doesn't stop the episode from being filler in terms of the broader story, even if it is pretty fun in and of itself.
It's important to say that this is by no means a bad episode of Doctor Who, even if does resolve itself in a pretty terrible way; there are plenty of individually strong elements. The creatures that chase Clara through the corridors of the TARDIS are creepy looking and have a suitably nasty explanation for them: they are the charred and scarred future versions of the characters after being exposed to the power of the TARDIS for too long. The scene in which The Doctor and Clara walk through the exploded heart of the TARDIS, whilst a little overly reminiscent of The Matrix, was visually impressive yet subtle, which is not an easy trick to pull off. The episode also has a nice sense of perspective to it, being largely about the fate of the five characters as they struggle through the crisis, and the three supporting players had a nice rapport that made up for how much their storyline felt crow-barred in. These were all positives in its favour.
Unfortunately, the entire enterprise is marred by the Big Red Button, which renders all of the other aspects completely pointless. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the things that happened in the story were unimportant, and I am willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume that they may prove important later on. But because the script by Steve Thompson - who also wrote the little-loved (by everyone except me) "Curse of the Black Spot" - had things occur which seemed to move the characters along by getting things out in the open, then erased them from history, it felt as if the show was trying to have its cake and eat it, offering us something we might actually want, then giving it the chance to completely ignore it and start again next week. It's tough not to feel a little cheated by such a lazy trick.
- I always enjoy episodes which revolve around characters going inside The TARDIS, even if the interiors do look a little bit like they are used to stage LazerQuest games between shoots.
- The deterioration of The TARDIS was noted by seeing and hearing echoes of previous episodes, which was a nice little touch. It also seemed to fit in with the idea of this year being something of a celebration of the legacy of the show, though it was a lot more elegantly handled in that regard than, say, the nods and winks to James Bond's past in Skyfall.
- I haven't seen Ashley Walters on television for quite a few years, so I didn't realise it was him until the credits rolled. This is probably for the better, because I otherwise would have spent most of the episode trying to remember his verse on "21 Seconds" by So Solid Crew. To save you the time, here it is:
Asher D's never fading
Second in stay song till I'm bathin'
B - A to the D's never phasing
I wanna tell my enemies if we're racing
So Solid they're amazing
In few g's we're bound to be laced in
Addicted to this life that we're tasting
You blame me for the life you been wasting?
You hating, girl there's money to be making
Act a MC a never brakin'
Smoking mac g's like a Jamaican
So when you lookin' at me you start takin'
Truly, rap's loss is acting's modest gain.
- I'm always a bit wary about ogling the Companions on Doctor Who, but Jenna-Louise Coleman did look especially beautiful in this episode. Pre-disfiguring burns, obviously.
- Next week brings another Mark Gatiss-written episode, which means it will either be a lot of fun or a little drab. Considering that it looks like it is about people being turned into candy, I'm hoping for the former, if only because it seems to recall his very funny Lucifer Box novels.