2nd Opinion: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
John Hussey and Adam James Cuthbert each give their own verdict on Steve Thompson’s latest episode.
Steve Thompson was back with another cracking adventure for the Doctor and he certainly excelled himself with a grand-daddy extravaganza of a journey through Britain’s most iconic police box.
Clara was certainly faced with some dark challenges this week. What was meant to be a simple little session of how to fly the TARDIS in an attempt to make friends with the old time-capsule, turned into a deadly game of hide and seek inside the mazed corridors of the inner workings of the TARDIS. It’s fair to say Clara hasn’t had the easiest passage with the Doctor, with each of her adventures being extremely dark and full of life-threatening dangers that constantly try closing in on her. I knew this episode would be a challenge for her on the account of the TARDIS’ bitterness to her in ‘Hide’. So seeing her trapped within the depths of the ship left little confidence that she would be given an easy ride. As with the past few weeks, this episode was there to bring the Doctor and Clara’s friendship closer and give them a better understanding of the other. This was established through the Doctor’s curiosity over Clara’s mystery intensifying to the limit, to the point even he confronted her about it. Clearly Clara had no idea what the Time Lord was talking, ultimately scarring her as she claimed that the Doctor was more scary at this point than all the other things she had encountered onboard his mad ship. This was an interesting moment really. It was all about trust and whether or not she could really believe in the man before her. It really demonstrated that companions don’t know what their getting themselves into and they themselves don’t fully understand who the Doctor is. It was certainly a brilliant piece in the development of not only their characters, but also the role of the companion and their relationship with the Time Lord.
The Doctor was given some more interesting material this week, especially showcasing his manipulative and dark nature. In order to grab the Van Baalen Brothers’ attention, he told them they could claim the greatest salvage, but what he meant and what they thought he meant were two different things entirely. They thought he meant the TARDIS whilst the Doctor really meant Clara. To further persuade their attentions, he convinced them that he had activated the TARDIS’ self-destruct device and kept lowering the time limit of the explosion until they were willing to obey his orders and aid him in saving Clara from the depths of his ship. What also captured his dark manipulative powers was his words, “My ship, my rules! Never get into a ship with a mad man. Didn’t anyone ever teach you that?” As it turns out, it was just a massive bluff.
We get another dip into the mysterious meaning behind the oldest question within the show; Doctor who? This has been the big question for nearly 50 years now and at the end of Series 6, this became an important part of the Doctor’s future. After Clara found a book entitled ‘The History of the Time War’, she began asking into the mystery behind why he doesn’t use his real name. Why indeed? All is meant to be revealed in ‘The Name of the Doctor’, but until then, this was a nice teaser towards those events and what consequences they might bring.
Like with all the episodes this series, ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ was filled with many pieces of nostalgia. The main piece was clearly the fact the story was based inside the TARDIS and we got to see the different rooms it possessed. We got glimpses of the Swimming Pool, we see the Library, we see an Observatory resembling the one seen in ‘Tooth and Claw’ and finally we saw the return of the Eye of Harmony first seen in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and last seen inside the TARDIS in ‘Doctor Who’. Another nice treat was the Store Room which contained different possessions from the Doctor’s long history like the Doctor’s baby cot, last seen in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, the TARDIS model young Amelia Pond made and of course the Seventh Doctor’s umbrella seen in ‘Paradise Towers’. One of the interesting pieces of nostalgia was the appearance of the book ‘The History of the Time War’. Last but not least was the scene where Bram started breaking apart the Console, ultimately releasing echoes of the past. This scene contained voices from Susan Foreman, the Third Doctor, Jo Grant, the Eleventh Doctor, Idris, the Fourth Doctor, the Ninth Doctor, Martha Jones, Amy Pond, Ian Chesterton and the Fifth Doctor.
‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ had a very unique plot by having the majority of the story set onboard the TARDIS and its interior. It opened the door to not only a lot of nostalgia but also a lot of potential. Within this story I felt the TARDIS was a real danger when provoked, even to the point the Doctor being scared of his old friend as they deepened into her heart. It helped remind the fans that she is in fact a living person and not just a time/space machine. The tone of the story was very dark, a pattern that has developed within this new era of Moffat’s reign – which I like very much so – and also gave a real depth of action and suspense, by far the biggest and boldest adventure out of the whole blockbuster-of-the-week format. It captured my attention from the word go and really delivered on its promises. The darkened feel of it really made the Doctor and his ship feel totally alien and totally hostile, bringing back the idea that they are not from this world and are from another time and another planet.
The Van Baalen Brothers, Gregor, Bram and Tricky, were very intriguing characters who aided in the mix of the mad adventure. Intriguing in the sense because they are the opposite characters to the universal science-fiction world we see in the show; a team of scavengers who salvage scrap for money which leads them to trying to claim the TARDIS as their ultimate prize. We have never seen any characters try and turn the TARDIS into scrap, which is interesting to see after nearly 50 years; the TARDIS was finally towed. Then again it isn’t the first time the Doctor has left the shields off and bad things have happened: one prime example being in ‘Time Crash’ when not only did the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS crash into the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS, it also led to the Titanic crashing into its side as well. Their characters were very dark and manipulative, playing off the Doctor’s own dark nature. Greed was certainly shown through them, especially with Gregor who was determined to keep the TARDIS’s repairing capabilities. Then the most interesting revelation fell on Tricky who turned out to be one of the brothers and not an android. It struck me as odd when he showed humanity and human traits throughout the story and Gregor’s bad joke made me realise why he was so human. It was a cruel prank to play on ones brother, especially just to get access to his destiny, i.e. becoming captain like their dad wanted. Their story just added to the dark and dangerous atmosphere which was played out throughout the plot.
Steve Thompson certainly delivered the goods with ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ and gave us a great insight to the Doctor’s great time/space machine and really gave her more depth just in time for the 50th celebrations. It was intriguing, engaging and certainly a roller- coaster ride which I will happily watch over and over again.
Journey is a resounding treat for the fans. I was especially impressed and fascinated in the library: a tantalising wealth of unknown knowledge. The imagination lingers: which scribe wrote The History of the Time War? Why is the Doctor’s real name mentioned? Was it a chapter detailing the exploits the Doctor himself was involved in?
Some of the imagery within the story is eye-catchingly spectacular: the Heart of the TARDIS, and the fragments of the engine suspended in the white void; the Architectural Configuration System, and its tree-like formation symbolically conveying the TARDIS’ biotechnological nature.
Journey manages to be good fun. It’s an undemanding affair that proves to be a skilful world-building exercise, with intriguing contributions to the mythos about the world within the TARDIS.