Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS Spoiler-Free Review
For the second week in a row we have an episode penned by a writer whose previous episode on the show wasn’t the best received. The writer in question this time being Steve Thompson and the episode, The Curse of the Black Spot. There’s a lot of expectation riding on his latest episode with its tantalising premise and title. Doctor Who TV is happy to report that it delivers, and Thompson will be redeemed in the eyes of his doubters.
When the TARDIS is “acquired” by the space-salvaging Van Baalens (Gregor, Bram and Tricky), Clara becomes trapped on board. The Doctor, who has been separated from her, mounts a rescue mission with the help of the aforementioned brothers after some “gentle” persuasion (he’s trapped them on-board and rigged the ship to blow!) Their search leads them into the depths of the TARDIS where they encounter some nasty creatures.
This is an episode with a simple premise, but things get far more complex once the episode really gets going. Thompson plays with the geometry of the TARDIS in an interesting way and uses time travel tricks in a very clever way. It’s the type of episode you need to watch a few times to really appreciate what is really going on. For a change, the story is decently paced and doesn’t feel rushed.
We’ve been promised that we’ll see more rooms of the TARDIS than ever before. Technically it’s true, although ignoring all corridors (The Doctor’s Wife was guilty of this) a fair amount of the rooms are only given fleeting glimpses. One of the most exciting though is a peek into the library where Clara discovers a book fans would love to get their hands on. There’s a large amount of fan pleasing nods to the past throughout though, ones that will have you rewinding scenes as you try to spot everything.
As for the monsters, they are very effective and there are some nice and creepy moments as they stalk our heroes. Director Mat King employs some visual trickery to keep the monsters out of focus and it adds to their scare factor and mystery. Why are there monsters on board the TARDIS? There’s a lot of speculation and all we’ll say is the answer is hidden in plain sight. Their final reveal is a good one and a twist that will make more sense once you watch it back again.
The relationship between the Doctor and Clara is particularly strong in this one, with the Doctor seemingly going to extreme lengths to rescue his companion. Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman’s chemistry is evident in the scenes they share together. However, things take a slightly different turn when he confronts the Clara mystery head on. Clara also learns a powerful secret about the Doctor.
If there’s a weak point to the episode it’s the guest stars, the Van Baalens. They are an unlikeable bunch and you’ll hate them for their selfish, greedy nature and the fact they are smashing up the beloved TARDIS. But that’s kind of the point. The problem is, they have a slight habit of taking us away from the more interesting story. It also doesn’t help that they are thinly sketched characters, with only Tricky offering a little depth thanks to his backstory. Ashley Walters, being the more accomplished actor, gives a reliable if unremarkable performance, the two other brothers are a little wooden at times.
Overall though this is a wonderfully clever episode that demands repeat viewings and is sure to be a fan favourite. It will be a hard one to top! Then again Neil Gaiman is waiting around the corner…