Doctor Who 7.10 “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS” REVIEW
Episode 7.10 Writer: Stephen Thompson Director: Mat King
THE ONE WHERE The Doctor, Clara and three salvagers are chased through the corridors of just-about-to-explode TARDIS by time zombie thingies.
VERDICT So, where were the roundels? There was a distinct lack of roundels. You’d have thought that after the Great Missing Roundels Controversy of 1978 (aka “The Invasion Of Time”) this new, more fan-savvy production team would make sure that any story that featured a trip through the TARDIS would be jam-packed with the things.
But no. Outside of the console room(s) roundels appear to be an endangered species.
Okay, okay, it’s a flippant point. You can’t mark an episode down for lack of roundels. But the roundel deficiency is indicative of larger problems that beset “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS”. After all, an enticing episode title like that promises something mythical, something awesome, something different from the norm. You don’t have to be an überfan to understand the resonance of an episode title like that. Even a casual viewer understands the iconic place of the TARDIS within the show’s lore and history. So “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS”…? That’s going to be special, right? Full of moments of awe and wonder.
Sadly no. It’s disappointingly average. A reasonable, bog-standard, sci-fi corridor run-around complete with handy-dandy reset button ending. There are a few attempts to make you go wow (with varying results), but mostly this journey through the TARDIS could be a journey through any number of TV spaceships. In fact, this TARDIS interior looks like it has been cobbled together from any number of TV spaceships. Even when we do escape the corridors of gloom, the rooms just feel like a bunch of random rooms. There’s nothing particularly TARDISy about them. So an episode that should have celebrated the TARDIS somehow makes her feel smaller. On the inside.
Sure there are a couple of intriguing moments – Clara discovering the history of the Time War, the impressive visuals of the frozen explosion at the heart of the TARDIS, the explanation about the message on Clara’s hand – but they struggle to make an impression in a humdrum plot that feels like the bare minimum required to have an excuse to plod through the TARDIS. And unlike in “The Doctor’s Wife” we don’t really learn anything new about the old girl. And if Clara’s discovery of the Doctor’s name is supposed to be the episode’s main spine-tingling tease, it’s pretty much rendered pointless by the “it never happened” ending. (We’re sure there will be ramifications down the line, but as regards this episode in and of itself, the impact is a bit “meh”.)
The monsters are creepy, well-realised and brilliantly shot but the explanation of what they actually are is rather trite and underwhelming (they were more interesting when it seemed they were actually something that lived on the TARDIS permanently, which would have been an interesting thing for the Doctor to have to explain). The timey-wimey stuff isn’t anywhere near as clever as other timey-wimey stuff we’ve seen on the show (it’s pretty much entry level timey-wimey stuff, to be honest) and the Escher-esque landscape we were promised by the episode’s poster was little more than people walking out of shot one side and walking back in from the other. It’s all so low rent!
The three guest stars are all bland and forgettable. They’re thinly written anyway, and the blank faced performances from Jahvel Hall and Mark Oliver (a man who can’t even act falling off a ladder with conviction) don’t help you warm to any of them, and the attempt to introduce a human story (Tricky is the bionic man, not an android! Gasp!) is grafted on like one of Dr Frankenstein’s failed experiments.
If this all seems a little harsh, when “Journey” is, in effect, a decent enough, small-screen, sci-fi romp with some effective action scenes (the bit with the metal bars smashing through the walls is great) then it’s a reflection on the fact that the episode doesn’t deliver on the promise of its title. You’re expecting something magical – especially given Moffat’s love of a fairytale approach – and instead you get Danny Boyle’s Sunshine on a budget.
File under: missed opportunities.
Clara does give us a great, trad-Who companion scream at one point, though.
STOP! HEY? WHAT’S THAT SOUND? When Bram is alone in the console room, you can hear various snatches of dialogue from the series, including Ian Chesterton in “An Unearthly Child” (the very first episode of Doctor Who) saying, “A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?”, and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor in “Rose” saying, “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried.” There’s also Tom Baker’s Doctor saying, “That’s transdimensional engineering, a key Time Lord discovery,” from “The Robots Of Death”. Can you help us work out any of the others?
DEGREES OF SEPARATION How did the Doctor end up outside the TARDIS while Clara was thrown into the depths of the ship? In fact why did either of them end up where they did? Why weren’t they just flung around the console room? Admittedly, a valid answer is, “Because they did…” and the story wouldn’t have gained anything from (another) technobabble explanation. But surely there was a more elegant way to separate them and introduce the necessary element of tension?
MEMORIES In the depths of the TARDIS Clara discovers the Doctor’s cot from “A Good Man Goes To War” and a model TARDIS (that Amy and Mel were playing with) from “Let’s Kill Hitler”. We’re not sure if the telescope is supposed to be the one from “Tooth And Claw”, because although there’s a passing resemblance… why would it be in the TARDIS?
WHISPERING GALLERY Anybody else think the bottles of “Encyclopaedia Gallifrey” – filled with whispering knowledge – felt a little Harry Potter? And could anybody actually hear what spilled out of the one that Clara knocked over? We’ve listened a number of times, but can’t make it out…
WHY COULDN’T THE INTERIOR OF THE TARDIS HAVE LOOKED MORE LIKE THIS? There was only one brief glimpse of any other room than the console room during the Tennant era (the cupboard), but it looked like we wanted the interior of the TARDIS to look. Awesome. And roundels! Lots of ’em.
LIGHT FITTINGS The TARDIS architectural reconfiguration system (which was used in the classic Who stories “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva” and last season in “The Doctor’s Wife”) looked suspiciously like Blue Peter’s attempt to recreate the Tree of Souls from Avatar using Hoover attachments and balloons.
INSENSITIVE We really can’t tell if this was supposed to be a gag or not, but was the Doctor poking fun at the inflicted when he shouted “We have to stay together!” right in front of the conjoined future salvager zombies?
CRACK OR RIFT? If it looks like a crack (it does), swims like a crack (it seems to have similar properties), and quacks like a crack (the Doctor enters it in an almost identical manner to how he entered the crack in “Cold Blood”), then it probably is a crack. But apparently this isn’t Amy’s crack, but a “time rift” according to the Doctor. Coincidence? Or some build up to an explanation of all those hanging plot threads from season five? Certainly it’d make the oh-so-convenient reset switch ending of this episode feel less convenient if it’s part of a bigger plan.
BEST LINE The Doctor: “Smart bunch, Time Lords, no dress sense, dreadful hats, but smart.” *
(*Not exactly a zinger, we know, but there were really slim pickings this week… Stephen Thompson’s dialogue rarely strayed beyond utilitarian and expository. We can’t believe Gregor’s response to the TARDIS being infinite was, “It could take you hours to find the girl,” when it quite clearly should have been, “It could take you hours to find the loo.”)