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Doctor Who XXXIII(7)B.5: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

April 27th, 2013 (07:17 pm)

From a Pertwee-esque fourth episode we move on to a fifth episode which takes some cues from the fourth Doctor's era. "All these corridors look the same," said Tegan in Logopolis, as if objecting to a fannish crowd-pleasing idea which reacted against the use of a disused hospital for the TARDIS interior in The Invasion of Time. Yet it's there that ideas such as the TARDIS swimming pool have their birth - and I did wonder whether one of the potion-filled shelves against which Clara hid from her own time-degraded future self was the successor to the medicine cabinet which I think Chris Parsons was sent to find in Shada.

From the point where Clara chided the Doctor for breaking the first rule of basic storytelling, I wondered whether the episode might have one eye on the readers of TV Tropes. It was Steven Moffat who imported the concept of "Spoilers!" (at least as said in a flirtatious tone by River Song) and now his acolyte Steve Thompson brings us the Big Friendly Button, as hot and red as Clara's dress is probably meant to be, and allowing us to have things both ways. One wonders whether the return of the crack in time from series 5 is meant to have significance; the Doctor recalls going through it once before, but this time he doesn't seem to do so completely presumably avoiding a greater paradox than already exists.

Having been a madwoman in eighteenth-century dress in The Doctor's Wife, the TARDIS is now more ambivalent: deathtrap, protective friend, self-preserving entity and imaginary landscape in one. I did wonder how the apparently easily-dismantled console of this episode can be reconciled with that of the 2005 series, which takes a chain and a breakdown truck to open it. Time here isn't light, but remembered sound, specifically past conversations about the TARDIS. Memory is restated as a theme of the season, and while the Doctor accepts that Clara has no idea about the Claras/Oswins he has already met, the TARDIS remembers the future as well as the past.

Oddly for an episode which emphasises Clara's normality and humanity, her dress and demeanour here are at their most doll-like, leading one to ponder the Barbie in the Doctor's pocket in Cold War. The non-naturalism of costume and characterisation in Doctor Who has yet to reach the levels of the 1980s, but I find that while the early Russell T Davies period offered a heightened, stylised version of aspirational domestic drama, Moffat's period feeds off a Doctor Who that is sui generis, and I wonder how long this can last.

I was strangely unmoved by the visit to the Eye of Harmony and really miss the absence of roundels on the walls, but that probably just shows my age...

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/596848.html.

Comments

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 28th, 2013 01:27 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

One thing that occurred to me in the post-viewing dicussion last night is that the TARDIS here is shown in a way opposite form the Doctor's Wife - there, pretty much everything but her soul was stripped away, while here, we get to see as much of the ship as we ever have, I think since Castrovalva, but her essence is kept hidden behind heavy defences.

As for the console, maybe she let it beopened to allow the voices to "attack" the intruder?

Big Friendly Button: even the word "reset" was mentioned in or around that scene... Oh meta! :-)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 28th, 2013 01:47 pm (UTC)

No disagreements here with the above!

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 28th, 2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

I really liked it, but I have no idea what was going on in the last five minutes. I missed the roundels too. Otherwise, the last couple of episodes has seen the season finally start to get better after a slow start.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 28th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)

I wondered whether there had been some edits for time which made the resolution difficult to follow; there was a step missing in the arguments about time which I couldn't find, which is unusual. Generally, I've liked this season, but thought the aspirations of the script came closest to overwhelming the production in this episode than any other this year.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 12:11 am (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

I didn't notice the edit, but I found a lot of the dialogue in this episode inaudible, even after I wound the DVD back, including what sounded like important exposition; on a couple of occasions I just gave up eventually, for example I have no idea what Clara was described as after 'Lancashire'.

I've found this season (starting from Asylum of the Daleks) odd inasmuch as on paper many of the ideas have been good and the realization has also generally been of a high standard - and yet somehow only rarely has it gelled and really gripped me and I don't quite know why. I think I've admired episodes like The Angels Take Manhattan and The Bells of Saint John rather than being gripped emotionally. It's not 'the memory cheats' as the previous two Moffat seasons seemed much more emotionally involving to me, especially the 2011 season, which I seemed to enjoy more than anyone I knew.

It reminds me of season twelve, which is popular with fans, yet somehow even The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks don't really do much for me, even though I can see they should be good (the Ark novelization was much-loved as a child - I think Ian Marter added a lot of atmosphere). One could probably pick other examples e.g. Logopolis, although that has major structural problems that it's position in the canon helps to obscure. There is potentially a blog post here, but I plan on waiting to see the season to its end before writing it.

Edited at 2013-04-29 12:14 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)

Apparently, the iPlayer subtitles tell me, the word after Lancashire is "sass".

I've not been gripped by this series as much as I expected either - I've decided that I must be too close to it.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

How on Earth can the computer work that out?

I don't think I'm too close to it. I thought I might have been unconsciously put off by the Moffat-hatred on the web, but I think if anything that would incline me to like it more! It's very odd.

Posted by: Matthew (emperor)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 10:09 pm (UTC)
Phoenix

I didn't like this. The creatures and their aggression were too unexplained, and the ontological-paradox-resolution a bit too easy.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)

For me, the lack of explanation is part of the success of the creatures; we are meant to draw upon what we know of zombies and the crisis affecting the TARDIS to supply their motivation. This was a story hoping to draw on the viewer's familiarity with television storytelling conventions, especially genre ones, but familiarity itself isn't necessarily enough.