Posts Tagged ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’

If history has proven anything to us, it is not that passive resistance will, ultimately, defeat any army, not that the history books themselves are written by the winners, nor that marching into Russia during a cold snap is probably inadvisable. If history has taught us one thing, it is that doing a story mostly set, and certainly climaxing, inside the TARDIS requires the services of one of Doctor Who’s premier league writers, if it isn’t going to be a waste of everyone’s time.

Get it right and you get The Doctor’s Wife or Amy’s Choice (hey, I like it). Get it wrong and you end up with The Invasion of Time or the McGann telemovie. (You know, I’m really not sure about The Edge of Destruction, given it’s so much the product of another era and sensibility… I’ll be nice, especially as it’s a David Whitaker script, and stick it in the former category.) So the question is, when a flight from Air Who takes off, will Steve Thompson be receiving waitress service up in First alongside Whitaker and Neil Gaiman, or lumped into Cattle Class eating plastic food with Matthew Jacobs?

Well, my own feeling is that Thompson shouldn’t worry unduly about where to put his complimentary gifts, nor expect too much in the way of leg room on this trip. Which is not to say that Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is challenging Rings of Akhaten for the title of dog of the year, just that it’s a story I found it very hard to actually get excited about.

'Bugger, I wanted the cuddly toy.'

‘Bugger, I wanted the cuddly toy.’

For a while it looked all set to be a complete clunker, with what appeared to be some frankly dodgy plot developments and contrivances: particularly the remote control suddenly appearing out of nowhere, and the Doctor’s uncharacteristic threat to blow himself up. I must confess to underestimating Thompson’s ability as a writer and the revelations that one of these was a bluff and the other an element of a more complex plot came as a total and rather welcome surprise.

On the other hand, the subplot about the van Balen brothers throttled credulity beyond any hope of survival: here we are not just in the realms of Crayford’s Eyeball, but surely far beyond it. Someone who thinks he’s an android but is actually human? Does he not shave? Does he not have to sleep? Does he, and I know this is Doctor Who but even so, never feel the urge to visit the gentlemen’s facilities?

Speaking of which, still no sign of the TARDIS loo. I must confess to being rather disappointed that even the depths of the TARDIS appear to have lost their roundels. Maybe I’m a tough audience, but I was hoping for a few more kisses to the past in the nether regions of the Ship. I suppose the appearance of the Eye of Harmony (in yet another new version) qualifies, and there was plenty of new material for people who are interested in the conceptual basis of TARDIS construction and engineering (I myself would never attempt such a thing. Not again, anyway).

And – fairness demands – this story did actually manage to engage my emotions, which is a fairly rare occurrence as you may be able to tell. The prospect of something like the TARDIS being ripped apart in the name of the bottom line struck a chord with me and made me quite angry; perhaps there were too many resonances with what generally happens to wonderful things in the real world nowadays.

However, any assessment of this story has to take into account the resolution of the plot, which is surely one of the most dubious in the series’ history, ranking right up there with – quelle surprise, I don’t think – the telemovie. Using time travel to press a button so the whole thing never happened in the first place? This is a story which never actually happened? There are an infinite number of those, why bother with this particular one?

Possibly I’m being too hard on this aspect of the story, as many other reviewers are actually complimenting the story on the impudence of this element of it. But I don’t think so. The moment Doctor Who starts using time travel as a quick and painless method of short-circuiting crises like this, the whole basis of the series, both dramatically and logically, starts to erode. And despite everything I’ve written here recently, I still don’t want that to happen. In an ideal world I would prescribe a nice long holiday from writing Doctor Who for Steve Thompson: and I suggest he goes there by boat, just to be on the safe side.

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