“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” review

This was an episode I was expecting would disappoint. An episode entirely set inside the TARDIS? Either it would be monotonous corridor wandering, as in Logopolis, or it would be ludicrous chase-nonsense, as in The Invasion of Time. In the event it struck a balance, but a mix of tediousness and excess does not guarantee a winning formula. It started badly; the small supporting cast of salvage crew were humourless and underdeveloped; the lumbering zombie monsters were somewhat generic (and initially seemed both unnecessary and inexplicable); and the plot seemed confused and incoherent.

A TARDIS bound story in the run up to the 50th anniversary was also inevitably going to be laden with continuity references, and indeed it was – with voice clips, a book of the History of the Time War, and The Eye of Harmony.

After a run of episodes where each managed to better the last, I knew some clunker would have to come along and lower the bar again. So I was watching, resigned to this fact, with a hint of satisfaction at being proved right and it wasn’t until about 35 minutes in that I found I was enjoying myself. Apart from the Doctor being half human, there is nothing as trivial which enrages fans more than the broken continuity of The Eye of Harmony, so I was amused by the audaciousness of contradicting both irreconcilable strands of continuity here. But it was the precipice scene (the TARDIS’s snarl) that really won me over – especially the line “I think I’m more scared of you than anything else on that Tardis right now.” Smith and Coleman are better than ever in this story – and the dynamic between them is extraordinary in this. The Doctor obviously sees Clara as more of a puzzle than a person (“the salvage of a lifetime”) while Clara’s fear and suspicion comes to the fore (“good guys don’t keep zombies”).

Some things to look out for:

  • As in last week’s episode, we are told Clara is ‘just Clara’. This is being hammered in, so it’s bound to be the case that she’s something more.
  • Clara recognises the Doctor’s name (“so that’s who…”). So, unless she has a really well-kept secret, the Doctor’s name means something to humans. We already know it. Hmmm…
  • The Doctor’s cot reappears in this one. Will we get a resolution to the question of why he has it in his TARDIS?

Other good points: the lighting, while it wasn’t exactly subtle, was very effective; love the TARDIS library; also the Doctor’s waistcoat.

I had to re-watch this one because I didn’t get what was going on first time round. A second viewing not only resolved my queries, it was even more enjoyable to watch. It’s true that no “reset button” plot-line is ever really forgivable, and the salvage crew were just as one-dimensional second time round (the gag about pretending Tricky was an android would have been funny if any of them had any personality), but if you aren’t over sensitive to continuity niggles, from the moment Clara and the Doctor are reunited and begin their journey to the centre of the TARDIS, there’s one great scene after another.

And from the trailer, next weeks Cadbury’s episode looks good too!

You can hear me put forward these points that contradict Ben & Eugene’s view that this episode is no good, in Fusion Patrol, at 50’35”:

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About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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