Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
How can I describe “Journey to the Center of The TARDIS”? Nostalgia wrapped in the heart of an exploding star trapped inside a spaceship full of monsters, a fun ride with an extra heaping serving of deus ex machina.
Let’s be completely honest. We know this show is the epitome of the god out of the machine. Nevertheless, when an exploding star locked in the process of collapsing into a black-hole powers the machine, you get a pass. For lovers of The TARDIS this would be a phenomenal episode, for lovers of intricate story, plot and chatterer depths, not so much. Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith delivered solid performances. I couldn’t find a single complaint in how they have or are delivering these characters. Most of the shortcomings come from the supporting cast this time around. I actually do feel bad saying for all the wonderful elements, and performances, this episode had the wind taken from its sails every time Ashley Walters was on screen. The character he played was transparent and unsympathetic. Worse than unlikable he was barely discernible from the set dressing around him. His physical presence simply didn’t seem to matter; everyone else just acted around him, for that, everyone else deserves extra credit. I do feel bad saying that, I hope his music is better than his acting here. Other than that, I thought it was a fine episode.
Our episode begins with Clara and TARDIS not getting along. The Doctor, trying to make them get along, puts TARDIS into basic mode so Clara can fly her. A salvage crew picks them up when shields are down. A grenade looking thing flies into the control room and Clara picks it up and it hurts her hand, then the TARDIS crashes and the exploding bits explode.
The salvage crew, attempting to open the TARDIS hit it with a big hammer. Do not hit the TARDIS with a hammer, ever. It is a profoundly bad idea that can land one in a very large pot of trouble.
One of the salvage crew is an android, and he detects a crew, and a fuel leak. Thinking it’s not much more than a fancy looking escape pod with a fuel leak, they decide to throw it back. However, The Doctor is pops out, identifies the grenade looking thing as a remote control for the magnetic grappler, and blames them for causing the TARDIS to crash, which is mostly true, and then tells them they are going to help retrieve Clara from the TARDIS, because she is trapped inside.
Clara, trapped inside the TARDIS, which has become full of rubble and flashing red lights, wakes up to find herself alone, with an injured hand. Being trapped, she immediately starts to explore, remember, this is why we like Clara. In her exploring, she sees a door, with a big flashing red light above it, she realizes flashing red lights means something bad, so she opens the door. Well that door apparently concealed the fire room. Ah TARDIS corridors, long, winding corridors, I think we shall see quite a lot of you this episode. In one corridors Clara finds huge monster scratch marks on one of the walls. No immediate explanation and it looks to be made by something dangerous, let’s go find out what it is.
Meanwhile the salvage crew and The Doctor inside the TARDIS. The Doctor, to persuade the salvage crew to help find Clara, activates the self-destruct. He gives them 1 hour to find Clara, and as added motivation locks everyone inside.
Clara exploring the TARDIS is apparently not alone. Something is chasing her down the labyrinth of corridors. Yet she still takes time to look around, and she finds the library. I’m pretty sure a few bibliophiles got a small pants fire over this.
The captain of the salvage crew, Gregor Van Baalen, has a hand held scanner that can apparently identify anything. It identifies the various valuable parts of the TARDIS. He orders one of his crew, Bram Van Baalen, to head back to the control room, and start stripping it down. During the stripping Bram hears echoes from the TARDIS’ past. The rest look for Clara. Behind one door, Gregor’s sensor detects “everything you could possibly want.” Inside is the architectural reconfiguration system.
In the Library Clara finds THE book. History of the Time War and starts reading, and apparently quickly finds an answer to a very vexing question. Just before it can sink in it’s time to run from the monsters again.
Gregor steals a piece of the reconfiguration system, and the TARDIS goes into fits. She starts rewriting the architecture every few minutes. The Doctor reminds Gregor that the TARDIS is a living thing, and is now defending herself. Back in the control room, Bram, chasing the echoes, falls off ladder, and gets attacked by something.
The Doctor, and salvage crew run from monsters, to the control room, where Clara is, but in a different echo of the control room. The Doctor manages to pull her out before monsters attack her. He tells Gregor and Tricky the self-destruct was a ruse, there is no self-destruct, and the engines are not overloading, he just made it look that way to get them to help. Never trust a madman with a box. They are safe, except the monsters and the TARDIS reconstructing the architecture every few minutes. However, the engines are actually overloading now, and actually leaking time. To fix the engines they must journey to the center of the TARDIS (cue dramatic danger music). Clara asks about the monsters, good men don’t have monsters on their space ships, The Doctor says they don’t want to know what the monsters are, somehow I believe him.
While running away from monsters The Doctor calls one of them “she”, when Clara asks about this she is met only with the response, “Clara, don’t ask me anymore.” They all make it to The Eye of Harmony; an exploding star in the act of becoming a black hole ripped from its orbit, and locked in a permanent state of decay. Adequate credit is often not given to the effects team for this show. The effects have traditionally been on the cheesy side, but when they aren’t they are simply beautiful. This is one of those effects, I had to pause the show to appreciate; I absolutely love how they did this. Now trapped passing through the eye of harmony, monsters either side, Clara demands answers. [Excellent time to demand answers really, thank you] The Doctor refuses to provide answers, so Gregor uses his scanner; the scanner identifies the creatures as Clara before The Doctor can stop them.
There are moments where absolute confusion melts away into perfect understanding. This is one of those moments. Those creatures are not monsters; they are Clara, The Doctor, Gregor and Tricky leaking into the past after they burned in the eye of harmony. Now that we know that we shouldn’t be afraid, they fight past their crispy selves and The Doctor and Clara make it to the heart of the TARDIS. The TARDIS engine has already exploded. The TARDIS trapped the explosion in time, saving them, for now. The Doctor believes, for a moment, that he can’t save her. It’s really quite heartbreaking for a moment, but he is The Doctor. He sees writing on Clara’s hand, a burn that says “big friendly button”, and he finds a way to save everyone. He really wouldn’t be The Doctor if he couldn’t find a way to save everyone.
Using his screwdriver he finds the moment in time when they crashed, there in the control room is a crack in the wall. He finds the remote control the salvage crew used and using his screwdriver writes a message on it “big friendly button”, and throws it through the rift to his past self, before they crashed. It’s a big friendly button that shuts off the magnetic grappler from the salvage ship. It’s as if nothing happened at all.
I absolutely adore the pieces of this episode; however, I can’t really love the whole. It’s like a fantastic apple with a great rotting bruise. If you cut out that part, it’s fine. That seems to be what this episode was, fantastic pieces with some great rotting bruises that should have been cut out. I will gladly watch this episode again, as I do with most, but I will constantly be annoyed by the presence of Ashley Walters. Nothing personal, but I don’t think he belongs on screen in anything I love.