Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor Episode. Today is the Eleventh Doctor adventure Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS...
Journey to The Centre of the TARDIS (hereafter JCT for the benefit of my fingers) is an odd little story. It's not particularly a story with much of a story. Indeed, it almost feels like a story that has only two objectives: firstly, to show off the inside of the TARDIS properly and secondly as a shaggy dog story leading up to a joke about Big Friendly Buttons (BFB). Oh, and sorry to come over all Monty Python Spanish Inquisition it has a couple of little 'Clara-Doctor Arc' bits to get across.
There's a lot of whinging by Doctor Who fans - myself included - about 'cheating' endings in New Who (as if Classic Who didn't have its fair share of deus ex cop outs). The main complaint of course is the constant re-booting of the Universe to save everyone, which sometimes feels like cheating and sometimes seems like an unwillingness to confront the full horror of what has been created. The desire to make sure that everybody lives. JCT has the mother of all these kind of 'cheats', except it isn't cheating. The Big Friendly Cop Out is sign-posted right from the start and additional sign posts pop up throughout the story: The Doctor stealing the 'BFB', Clara's burnt hand etc. So yes, it might be a bit of a sneaky, but it isn't an unfair re-set. We've been told it is coming. So, when it arrives we shouldn't really complain. And I suspect the production team will have loved it knowing how much fan rage it would generate, although I could be wrong.*
Anyway, mainly though it is a lovely opportunity to banish memories of The Invasion of Time and explore the inside of the TARDIS. Now, of course, budgets and technology allow us a proper taste of the infinite size of the TARDIS with its swimming pools, observatory and immense library filled with books from all over the Universe, including a rather interesting liquid talking Encyclopaedia Gallifrey and a big chunky impressive History of the Time War. Not sure who the author of that book would be. Perhaps the Doctor himself. It certainly contains the Doctor's real name because Clara - for a while - knows what it is. Anyway, I digress. I love all that stuff, even if I miss the roundels. The corridors look a little dull without them I feel. It just reminds you how far Doctor Who has come in terms of technology and budget. Now the producers of Doctor Who can do all those things that in the past either couldn't be done or were done badly.
After Hide this is another small cast. There's the Doctor and Clara plus Gregor Van Baalen (Ashley Walters), his brother Bram (Mark Oliver) and Tricky (Jahvel Hall). These are the crew of the salvage ship whose attempts to nick the TARDIS kick-starts the whole mess. Gregor and Bram are human, Tricky is an android. A very human looking android. Unusually for Doctor Who Gregor, Bram and Tricky are black, which must make the only Doctor Who story where white actors are in a minority. All three put in solid performances but I think Jahvel Hall gets much more to do with his character and therefore is much more interesting. They have a story of their own, but I won't reveal too much of it here to avoid spoilers. However, the story's ending has a nice moment in it, which echoes a scene that happened earlier.
There's also some rather unpleasant creatures lurking aboard the TARDIS, which seem intent on killing everyone aboard. Clara wants to know what they are, but the Doctor is unwilling to tell her. The Doctor knows what they are but, as he tells Clara, sometimes there are things you don't need to know. What they are is rather horrible. However, they're just there to push people in the direction that the story wants them to go in. They look rather good, especially in the longer shots, in the dark or through the heat haze. Again, like Hide, there's a couple of shots that are too close and the costumes look a little costumey but I'm being harsh indeed. Mat King, the director, mainly does a fine job with this whole episode. Lots of interesting shots and cuts to make being trapped inside a box, even if it is an impressive and infinite box, rather interesting.
There's not much else I can say about this story. Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are brilliant as usual. There's a couple of good scenes between them. Where we see how much the mystery of Clara has got under the Doctor's skin and how scary the Doctor can be. Clara's line about the Doctor being the thing in the TARDIS she is most scared of reminded me of Rose's line in Dalek about the Doctor pointing a gun. It is nice to be reminded that there is something dangerous about the Doctor, especially to a new companion. The sliver of ice in his heart, as Emma Grayling says in Hide. But in general Matt Smith & Jenna Coleman make a rather brilliant team. There's a good solid chemistry between them. Their timing and delivery is a finely tuned as a couple dancing together.
So to cut a long article mercifully short this ain't bad this. But not special.
*And if I am right this shouldn't be the reason for the production team to do stuff in the future because that way lies the Whizzkid.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.