1. Mediaite
  2. Gossip Cop
  3. Geekosystem
  4. Styleite
  5. SportsGrid
  6. The Mary Sue
  7. The Maude
  8. The Braiser

What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.


Doctor Who Recap: “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”

Oh, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” you are a solid episode of Who, with everything that I’d want in a story about the mysterious and oft-hinted at infinite bowels of everybody’s favorite blue box. You even resolved an issue that I’ve been begging the show to resolve all season… but then you retconned it. We could have had it all, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.” We could have had it all.

We begin with the Van Baalen brothers (a big one, a medium-sized one, and a small passes-for-human-but-actually-android helper), space scrap hunters extraordinaire, who don’t really know what the TARDIS is but are hauling it in on principle. They are able to do this because the Doctor, in an effort to heal the gap between Clara and the TARDIS has just shut down her controls* to “basic” in order to let Clara take the wheel for a bit, so her shields are down. As things go haywire on the TARDIS due to the Van Baalen’s Magno-grab, an odd sort of technological egg rolls to Clara’s feet. She picks it up, but it’s hot to the touch and she drops it. And since I’m mentioning it in this recap, you should know that it’s important.

When we come back from the credits, the Van Baalen brothers try to break into the TARDIS with sledgehammers and laser saws before noticing that the Doctor has somehow gotten out of it in the crash, and is buried in a pile of miscellaneous cables. He promises them all the scrap they can salvage out of the TARDIS, and the machine itself, if they come in with him to help find Clara, because the TARDIS is leaking fuel and she’s still somewhere inside. The brothers and the Doctor suit up with gas masks to get the job done, and one of them equips himself with something that looks just like that techy egg that Clara snatched up. It’s the remote to the Magno-grab. As soon as they all enter the console the Brothers disregard the deal they made and start planning for salvage, but the Doctor is prepared for this. He locks the doors and starts the TARDIS’ self destruct. They now have a half-hour to search for Clara or they’ll all die. The salvage of a lifetime he promised them is literally that, and this concept sounds a lot like a Doctor Who episode with the roles reversed, which I found myself intrigued by.

Meanwhile Clara has woken up somewhere under a pile of rubble in the bowels of the TARDIS and has been wandering around the ship, blowing gently on her singed hand and discovering its many wonders**. A stone room full of stuff from previous episodes, like the Doctor’s cradle, Amy’s model TARDIS, etc.; the pool; the library. Something is chasing her, something roughly humanoid and shambling, with red eyes and crisply burned skin. Space zombie!

Back at the search party, the younger brother, who acts like he’s in charge, much to the chagrin of the oldest, suggests that they split up. Functionally all that this appears to mean is that the largest brother, unbeknownst to the Doctor, is ordered to make his way back to the console and start stripping it for scrap. The rest of the search party finds a room with a technological tree in it (not what you think, StarCraft players) heavy with glowing fruit. The Doctor explains that it’s living metal, that each fruitlight can grow any machine that you want (now we know where the motorbike came from), and that the TARDIS will be very unhappy if somebody takes her “basic genetic material” from her. So these are… TARDIS eggs? Adorable. Naturally, younger brother snatches one right away, and that’s when the search party’s troubles really begin. It’s also the point at which I wonder why the Doctor thought the search process would be made more efficient by inviting some hardened criminals along. But I digress: non-euclidean geometry for everybody!

And I do mean everybody. After Clara wanders/is chased through the library (where she finds a copy of The History of the Time War, opens a page, skims and says “So that’s Who,” raising the eyebrows and dropping the jaws of thousands of jealous Who fans) in one of the cooler scenes in the episode (liquid encyclopedias!), she wanders non-euclidean-ly back to the console several times. Also in the console room, the TARDIS dumps the scrap-wrangling oldest brother into a hallway with a space zombie and he is devoured. Cold, TARDIS. Cold. The search party of the Doctor, younger brother, and the android also make it back to the console, but they’re not in the real console.

It’s an echo console, created by the TARDIS, who’s trying to keep everyone in the safest room she’s got. Their interactions with the room can be seen by Clara and vice versa, but they can’t actually see each other. Fortunately, just before she is devoured by a zombie that has suspiciously familiar proportions, the Doctor manages to sonic her into their version of the console. “Okay, turn off the self-destruct” is the consensus from the remaining brother and his android. “Haha, I was only fooling with the self-destruct,” answers the Doctor, “but seriously, now that I look at it, the engine is actually exploding.” Also there are ravenous space zombies and the Doctor refuses to elaborate on why he’s been keeping them on his ship.

Now the name of the game is to get to the center centre of the TARDIS, to save her engine. Everybody troops off again but somehow Clara gets separated and she begins to see doubles of herself and the Doctor from previously in the episode. The Doctor finds her explains that with the TARDIS’ engine gone haywire, time is going a little wonky. Somewhere there is a crack that is leaking the past. (What about the future? I wondered, and mention now only so I can say I KNEW IT a few paragraphs from now). Then some rods start shooting through the walls and trying to kill people for… plot reasons. Because what the plot needed to do next was impale the andriod.

The andriod, whose name, I suppose I should say, is Tricky, tells younger brother to just cut his arm off. He’s an android, he can have it replaced. Younger brother is unwilling to do this, and the Doctor presses him into admitting that Tricky is not, in fact, an andriod. He’s actually the youngest Van Baalen brother with bionic eyes and a synthetic voicebox. They un-impale him by cutting the metal beam (by the way, he seems to be capable of a surprising range of movement and endurance after this injury), and the guy who I shall now refer to as the middle brother explains that he and the older started the “android” story as a joke after their younger, smarter brother was in an accident and lost his memory. They continued to tell him he was an android so that they could take over the family business that was left to him as the brightest of their father’s sons.

The Doctor’s way of resolving this is to tell Tricky that he should be glad that he revealed that his brother has one scrap of decency left in him (i.e., he was unwilling to kill him when asked, which seems a pretty small scrap considering what else he’d done), and to tell the middle brother that he should remember how terrible it was for Tricky to realize the truth of how he’d been betrayed by his own kin and be nicer to him. Which seems, well, kind of poor support for Tricky and far too little admonishment to his brother. He allowed his own brother to believe that he wasn’t human for a petty power play. That’s some heavy duty stuff right there. Even if this was an attempt by writing to show the urgency of their journey to the Centre by having the Doctor give a terse resolution to the revelation… well, I would have preferred a “there’s no time to get into this right now, you’ll just have to work together” or something similar rather than a “just be glad, for his sake, that your betrayer/abuser still can’t bring himself to outright kill you.”

After scouting out the room that contains the TARDIS’ power source (which, of course, is a perpetually decaying star caught in time by TARDIS powers, and in that “of course” genuinely lies all of my love for science fiction), the Doctor starts to lead everyone through it. If they don’t get through fast enough, their cells will liquify and their skin burn. Really, Doctor, on Star Trek we’d just call it a radiation leak. I digress: naturally, everybody is waylaid by zombies. This time, Clara won’t take no for an answer: she wants to know what these zombies are and why they’re on the TARDIS. Admitting what they are appears to be the Doctor’s worst fear. He replies “Secrets protect us. Secrets make us safe,” which very nicely describes my most frequently thought of problems so far this season in his interactions with Clara. The episode finally reveals that the monsters everyone has been running from all episode are their future selves, burnt by the energies of the TARDIS’ power source.

So the power source liquifies cells, burns skin, and inspires a hunger for living flesh. That’s good to know. Also: I KNEW IT.

The Doctor tells Clara “I brought you here,” meaning to the TARDIS to adventure with him, “to keep you safe.” Oh Doctor. Are you remembering any of your other companions? Perhaps you’re just remembering Martha, who walked away from you and your TARDIS and wound up having a very successful career and marriage, and literally no one else in New Who? He becomes fixated on the idea that if they interrupt the timeline, they won’t become zombies, but things proceed as you would expect. The remaining Van Baalen brothers get zombified and the Doctor and Clara dash to the next room.

Which is a dead drop cliff, erected by the TARDIS to keep anyone from reaching her heart. Despairing, the Doctor begins to interrogate Clara about stuff she doesn’t understand because he has never explained it to her, about who she is, about who the other Claras were, “What are you, eh? A trick? A trap?” he snaps, just after she says “You’re scaring me.” The Doctor finally accepts that she does not, actually, know anything about the secret he’s been hiding from her, she tells him that he is more frightening than everything else inside his TARDIS. And rightfully so. But I can’t even feel angry for how poorly the Doctor is behaving because I’m so elated that the show has finally allowed him to tell Clara why he’s decided to travel with her.

The Doctor decides that the cliff in front of them is merely an illusion and if they leap off of it, they will be in the engine room, and delivers my favorite line of the episode: “Trust me this one time,” he says, and then after a Look from Clara, continues, “Okay, okay. As well as all the other times.” Now that’s the Doctor acknowledging his own behavior. In the engine room, the engine has already exploded. They didn’t know because it’s been caught in time by the TARDIS herself, frozen, for as long as she can freeze it. There’s nothing the Doctor can do for her now… until Clara takes his hand… and he notices the writing now lightly scarred into it.

They dash back to the console where the Doctor retrieves the egg-shaped Magno-grab remote and uses the sonic screwdriver to etch a message onto it. He’s going to throw it through the crack in time opened by the TARDIS’ explosion as a message to his past self. If he can do it right, the TARDIS will be freed before she was injured, and the entire day will not have happened. Everything will go back to normal and no one will remember anything about what happened to them between the explosion and now. Yes. The retcon is happening. Clara asks him about all the things she’s seen today, and his answer is “Don’t worry. You’ll forget,” painting the loss of a vital revelation about her identity as a benefit. She responds with “I don’t want to forget,” which raises my spirits: perhaps she’ll convince the Doctor to tell his past self to tell her the truth or something? But no, she wants to remember the library, and his name, which she almost says out loud until he shushes her. She wants to remember one single secret, significant detail about a man she just found out has known her through three lifetimes. The Doctor says if he rewrites today, she won’t remember. “You’ll still have secrets,” she says. “Better that way,” he answers, and she smiles and I ugh. Keep your secrets about yourself, Doctor. But keeping secrets from Clara about herself still earns you my best side-eye.

Present Doctor sticks himself through the time crack and yells at the past Doctor to use the remote to reset time, then chucks it up to the console. Clara grabs it, burns her hand, and the the Doctor snatches it up, and hammers the button labeled “Big Friendly Button.” Time is reset. The Van Baalen brothers sail off without a quarry, with middle brother being slightly nice to little brother, who still believes he is an android. The TARDIS spins off on its own, and in a newly tidied up console room, the Doctor asks Clara if she feels safe with him. She assents, “of course,” perhaps in part because she doesn’t know that the Doctor has encountered two other women just like her and they’ve both died very soon after. The Doctor is reassured by this, Clara walks off, and the status quo is crowned king in a lavish, week-long ceremony.

Look, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” I really want to 100% like you. You’ve got a lot of what I love about Who: some quirky space characters, cute references, lots of wibbly wobbly TARDIS stuff. And if, on top of that, you’d actually gotten the Doctor to tell Clara about the other Claras, I’d be talking best episode of the season here, even given the weird resolution of the Van Baalen brothers plot line. But instead, you just retcon all of the character progress you made.

Amidst a lot of admittedly very enjoyable flash and bang and references to Who past, this was an episode where the happy ending involves having basic facts about your identity withheld from you by people you trust, because this makes you “safer.” In practice what withholding that knowledge actually did was make a young man think he could maim himself without consequence, and deny Clara the ability to properly judge both the motivations of the Doctor and whether she should be traveling with him.

I would respect “Journey” more if it were brave enough to end on a down note: Tricky and his brothers sailing off with him still laboring under a completely false notion of his identity; and Clara willfully and unnecessarily deceived by the Doctor. I know a lot of people will respond to this with some variation of “but it’s so boring when Doctor Who gets dark,” but there have been many times when Doctor Who was not afraid to present the Doctor as flawed, and by this I don’t mean “flawed in a way we should forgive him for” or “flawed in a way that makes him tragically heroic,” just flawed. Just somebody who made poor decisions because he was getting a little to high on his own power and his own secrets, poor decisions that he should have known not to make and that he should be shown to be retrospectively regretful for before he’s painted as infallibly heroic by the show again. Those were the times that I genuinely found the show to be most interesting, when it actually seemed that the Doctor was learning lessons from interacting with mortal human beings, and they weren’t just tagging along so that he could satisfy his curiosity, they actually fulfilled a vital function in his journey through time and space.

It seemed pretty clear in the Davies era that the reason the Doctor needs a companion is that without them he tends to go a bit bad, a bit dark and vengeful and frightening and suicidal, the Doctor that we can believe destroyed two races, including his own, by throwing them out of time. Two companions into the Moffat era, I’m not sure whether the same thing holds true, and I’m not entirely certain whether we’ve been given an alternate explanation. And, needless to say, I’m uneasy with this framing of the Doctor keeping information about her identity from Clara as something he’s doing to “keep her safe.”

Obligatory Clara info update: not much, really. It turns out she doesn’t have any idea that she may have time lost doubles. I don’t think anybody was suspecting this, so it’s not much of a revelation. Also, she didn’t implode upon being told about the Doctor’s experiences with her doubles. So that’s good? Maybe we’ll know more next week, but I’m not holding my breath.

*That is, the TARDIS’ controls, not Clara’s.

**That is, the TARDIS’ wonders, not her hand’s.


  • Gina R Sigal

    When they showed the family photo of the Van Baalen’s (the name still cracks me up) The dad looked a lot like Lister (Craig Charles) from Red Dwarf! But I can’t find anything that confirms it.

  • Fortyseven

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard the term ‘retcon’ used in conjunction with a reset button scenario, but hey. :) Shame that the ending completely robbed the episode of everything great inside it. Disturbed by the Doctor’s dickery, too. Bleh…

  • Tabitha Davis

    as to the Doc keeping information from Clara, I dont know why anyone would be surprised. Rule #1 The Doctor Lies. Its what he does and, though he may be over a thousand years old, he is still fallible. I’m sure we will get a hint of who or what Clara really is before seasons end. But then, do you really want to know? Wont knowing just mean you have to wait for yet another heart pounding mystery to try to figure out?

  • Travis Fischer

    This episode just had too much going on at once. Too much time spent on things that didn’t matter, not enough on the things that do.

  • Nicoclaws

    That episode was one of the worst episodes I’ve seen. Plotholes, bad direction, the final retcon, the Van Baalens emotionless and pointless angst. Clara continues to be non-defined. She’s scared, but amused, but scared ? Amy-light ?
    Some nice moments, but overshadowed by the badness of it all.

  • mattdic

    Solid write up. I thought it was a rollicking episode and wasn’t quite as unhappy with the retcon (which is the sort of thing that generally comes out sooner than not) as I was the Bill and Ted’s level time travel cheat (which opens up the box of : why can’t they always do that?) and more importantly, with Clara’s reaction to what the Doctor was telling her. Just an episode or two ago, she was vehement about the fact that it better be due to her own merits that the Doctor wanted to travel with her, not because she reminded him of anyone else and her reaction to him saying the exact opposite was that she was quite pleased for a nice hug, thank you? Granted, she’d been through a very personal and traumatic experience, but it still seemed to clash to me.

    I do disagree somewhat about why the Doctor is withholding the information. My read of the Doctor not telling Clara what he knows of her identity is that it’s entirely about him avoiding confrontation. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to have his companion and enjoy his adventures and delve into his mystery that he gets to solve, but he also wants to be able to keep it light and pleasant. He wants to avoid the obvious confrontation that would (or at least should) come from telling Clara what he knows. I feel so often the Doctor lies because of an inherit immaturity, in that he feels that he can’t really get what he wants out of life if he is fully open and honest.

    That he hides that weakness behind a wall of “protecting people” from the truth is just another aspect of his character and the show is often times most mature and interesting when the companion is able to call him on it.

    I suppose in a way, what the producers did with this episode and with the retcon was something similar. They want to throw out a few more “fun” episodes before actually dealing with the situation, emotional or otherwise, at hand. Thus the retcon. As for the why of this we can only really suspect (Network/audience demands, the fact that this is ultimately a broad reaching children’s show, lazy creative decisions, etc.).

  • Erin Macdonald

    I agree with your assessment and the Doctor/Clara relationship is starting to make me… uncomfortable and I don’t know why, although your articulation about him keeping secrets from her to ‘keep her safe’ is probably why.

    Davies Who was very much lonely and wanted a fun adventure with a good friend. Moffat Who is leaning towards the possessive (seriously too much stalking going on). This is all a shame, because Jenna Louise-Colman and Matt Smith are both likeable and capable actors who have a real chance at great chemistry; the writing is putting a divide there.

  • GeekWithATude

    It was a very ‘weak sauce’ episode that fits right in with Moffat’s continually declining tenure on Who. Once again the writing falls back on an exploding Tardis. We get cheap emotive manipultion with the brother and the Doctor’s ‘honest yet not’ interactions with Clara towards the end. Even the ending is such weak deus ex machina that it’s a turn-off. Yes – it’s been established that the Doctor doesn’t suffer paradoxes the way everyone else supposedly would, but it’s a lame cop out to have had him be the one who originally toss the inscripted magno-grab since he wasn’t inspired to do so until he saw it.

    The ‘monsters’ being time reflections of them wasn’t actually that big of a surprise, but again the writing throws the horror at us of them killing one of the brothers without any supporting reason for why they would do so. It’s ‘horror’ for the sake of horror and unsubstantive.

    And of course at the end, despite everything supposedly being fixed through the deus ex machina, it’s really not, as evidenced by the brothers. A subtle hint for Moffat to later fall back on when he uses Clara’s having seen the History of the Time War (and why would that book just be sitting out like that anyway?) and Clara’s knowledge to feed into the big ‘Who changing’ finale.

    I think there’s far too much willingness on the part of fans to give credit to Moffat and the writing for things that the fans are filling in in their own minds to continue a suspension of disbelief when it’s really just weak writing. Of course, there are moment of solid writing, but ever since RTD’s ‘resurrected messiah analogy’ for the Doctor in ‘Last of the Time Lords’, I think it’s been established that solid writing and substance are no longer a priority for the Executive Producers. :P

  • Robin S

    This episode can be summed up in two words: TARDIS porn.

    With the retconning of the whole damned thing and the backpedalling on plot points, that’s all we’re really left with – a really safe exploration of the rest of the TARDIS with no lasting implications. I’m sorry guys, that’s not enough for me.

    Does anyone else feel like, with the exception of a few lines, all of Clara’s episodes have been written for a generic companion rather than for her, specifically? If those episodes were already commissioned and approved before Jenna was cast, that would explain (but not excuse) her lack of character development and the fact that she’s only there just to be there, to run, and to be rescued.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes, the old “Donnie Darko” dilemma. The problem with erasing the events of the whole episode/movie/series is that if you, y’know, accomplish something useful during that time, it gets erased as well. And the audience wonders why you (and they) bothered.

    Also, the Doctor’s face when he saw Future Doctor pop through the time crack. Because naturally one would be shocked by time travel, if one were a TIME LORD.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Eh….I think its being far to generous to say that if everyone but the doctor and his companion died off by the end of the episode. ^^;

    I mean, it happens so often that its really expected at this point XD from space titanic to the mars episode, he will be a bit sad and mourn what happend in the last few minutes of the episode and it will then be forgotten about by the following episode ^^;

    unlike ROSE going to an alternate dimension and him spending a whole season mourning the ‘loss’

    So even if it had the brothers die off it wouldnt change that the entire episode had a big ol reset button that made it so everything didnt actually happen ^^;

  • Anonymous

    I know I probably shouldn’t have expected more–but I wanted more interior TARDIS, less hallway. We see the pool as she walks by, we see one grand shot of the library and some close up shelves, a few shelves in a kind of work/junk room, and that tree thing.

    My biggest problem with that episode was actually the space zombies. Why were they on a killing rampage? That was totally unexplained. Were they vastly stronger/burn-y? Cause I feel like that older brother could have taken on Doctor-Zombie.

    I would have traded out the zombies for more TARDIS stuff.

  • Abel Undercity

    The retcon was a little too close to “and then she woke up, and it had all been a dream” for me.

    That said, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the library. Forever.

  • Anonymous

    There was that one scene where the zombie lunges at Clara as the Doctor pulls her into the other dimension, so I figured that the zombies were how people in one dimension perceived people in the other. Nope, ended up making less sense than that. :/

  • Indigo

    It had the potential to be an interesting episode, but the fact that the Van Baalens were stereotypical black thug/criminals took that away from me. Representation for diverse ethnic groups is important, but having them represented in the same old way of “we will only show them if they’re criminals/thugs and support current racist paradigms” is an old idea that needs to be scrapped.

    It was nice to see the inside of the TARDIS but it seemed way contrived to get us a look at it. And the minute you saw Clara find out the Doctor’s name, it was an obvious tell that Clara would not get to remember that information.

    In short, it could’ve been a lot better. A whole lot better.

  • ShifterCat

    Yes, I too would have loved to see more of the TARDIS rooms, less of the twisty hallways.

    And is it just me, or do a lot of this season’s episodes feel disjointed?

  • Anonymous

    He also touches her way too much. It bugged me a bit before, but this episode really intensified it. He’s just constantly touching her for no reason, and it’s not cute, it’s weird.
    I was hoping we’d find out why the Tardis doesn’t like her. I’m really hoping there’s a good reason, and the Tardis knows what’s up, and not that they’ll never give us a reason and we’ll just have to assume it was some kind of jealous female bitchiness.

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering that, too. Why the zombie-crew would attack them. What’s their motivation? Zombie-ness? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Plus, the past acts itself out over and over again in the way that it happened. So wouldn’t the charred remains of the crew just show up around as charred remains, dead? Idk.
    The Doctor was way over-reacting to things, too. I suppose it was for the sake of time, but he instantly jumps to “You can ransack my ship” even though no one had threatened him or had a chance to argue much. Then he starts the self-destruct before any real argument happens, as well. I suppose he (and the show itself) was rushed for time, but it felt like he was just instantly jumping to the worst conclusions and then acting on them.

  • Anonymous

    I was thinking about that a lot after this episode. The Doctor (even RTD’s – I’ll never forgive him for Donna) is a terribly selfish person. I know the Doctor always lies, and I know he’s dangerous and frightening, but his Messiah-complex is starting to get disturbing. I can see that he’s had to destroy his whole race, PTSD, all alone, etc. But he’s not dealing with that at all, and it’s making hi make some bad decisions. How long has it been, for him, since the Time War? I think longer than it has been for us. I wonder if they’ll ever have him deal with it and heal more, or if they’ll let some companion tell him off for his dickery and maybe see himself in a new light. Or if the writers themselves don’t even realize how selfish he is.

  • Katie Miller

    Yeeeesssssss. I was just saying the same thing elsewhere. Apart from the standard issue sassy/brave/youthful/vulnerable elements, Clara has been given no personality.

    This episode could have been a great chance to finally get to know her if it had been a Doctor/Clara two-hander, but the inclusion of the salvage brothers storyline took up all the time and was itself a completely pointless and unsatisfying storyline. Its could have been expanded into its own episode, but I have no idea what it was doing in this episode.

    Clara’s lack of distinctive character is for me summed up by the fact that in her debut episode, when asked where/when she’d like to go in all time and space, she could only suggest somewhere ‘awesome’ of the Doctor’s choosing. Hey writers, this is a girl whose mother recently died, don’t you think she might have some specific ideas of what time travlin’ she might want to do? But I guess her backstory exists more to make her a. mysterious and b. footloose and fancy free, and thereby a perfect responsibility-free companion, than to actually give Clara her own motivations and attitudes. I thought Amy’s writing was undercooked, but poor Clara is Miss Generic.

  • Anonymous

    He is So Selfish! All the time. He only rescues people, now, because of how guilty he feels. It lets him feel like the good guy without ever having to self-examine.

  • Katie Miller

    But he doesn’t lie for no reason, surely? Why can’t he be upfront with Clara? I’m sick of mystery-girs in DW generally, but at least the writers could include Clara in the mystery.

    It’d kill two birds: stop this boring Doctor-as-wise-god bull, and also give Clara an actual motivation and storyline to figure out.

    I’d be far more interested in watching Clara and the Doctor trying to figure this one out together, than the Doctor prancing around doing his what-could-you-possinly-be routine yet again.

  • Anonymous

    The “women can’t drive” joke at the beginning really bothered me, where Clara asks if the Doctor doesn’t think she can drive because she’s a girl and he answers no but then smirks as if to say yes out of her field of sight. It seems really unworthy of someone who is supposed to be so much wiser and unconstrained by Earth societal stupidities. And I hadn’t quite put a finger on why the Doctor’s relationship with Clara bugged me, but I think you hit the mark when you pointed out that he’s hiding things from her. A time ago I would have said that I can’t wait for Smith to regenerate so we can get some new blood on the show, but I think that statement is being unfair to Smith now. Give us a season of Smith where Moffat isn’t the head writer. PLEASE.

  • Joshua Paul Hawkins

    I am starting to think that this is going to be a giant exercise in humbling the “Doctor” IMO.

  • Selina R. Gonzalez

    I agree. I keep getting the feeling that Moffat went: “I HAVE HAD AN EPIPHANY. Everyone who watches the show wants to travel with the Doctor. So, the next companion will be generic–scared, like a normal person, but still adventurous, interacts with the Doctor but encompasses as many ‘normal’ traits as possible so that the viewer can put themselves in her place!” And everybody went…yeah, not working. Oswin was fun, Clara’s boring. She gets this bursts of energy for…nothing. There’s been some great moments, but overall, I’m thoroughly unimpressed.

  • Robin S

    I keep wanting to reach through the TV, shake Clara and go, “BE A WHOLE PERSON, DAMN YOU!”

    As much as Matt Smith has his moments and his Doctor has grown on me, he can’t carry the show by himself. His companion has to be interesting, too.

  • Sophie

    I’m glad someone else thought this, because it was really really bothering me that whole episode and I was starting to think maybe I’d over-reacted.

  • Gadgets and Geekery

    I had this thought too early on in the episode. I think that might have been more interesting.

  • Vera

    Up until this episode, I would have agreed with you about the Doctor’s keeping secrets. I didn’t like it, I thought it was unfair to Clara. And I really hated that retconning the episode meant that she would forget about her history, and she was all right with that.
    But I think that this episode actually gave us a really good peek at what secrets mean to the Doctor, and to Who in general. Keeping secrets in this episode was framed as an act of love. Not romantic love–just love. The TARDIS kept her engine’s explosion secret and tried to divert the Doctor and Clara into the console room because she cared about them. The Doctor avoided telling Clara the truth about the zombies because he didn’t want to burden her with foreknowledge–at least not until he’d found a way out of it.
    Also, the Doctor seems to have concluded that Clara is keeping secrets from him too. Remember, in the cliff scene he assumed she knew and just hadn’t told him. But he still isn’t asking her, because he thinks she’s keeping that secret too.
    It’s a complicated relationship, but I think in the end the real reason the Doctor hasn’t told Clara isn’t because he’s just annoying like that–it’s because he’s afraid that she might be something bad. If she’s a trick or a trap, that would shatter what he and Clara are developing. Clara–the woman, not the mystery–has given him a reason to care again, and he’s afraid of what the revelation of secrets will bring.

  • Vera

    Also, I’d like to argue with everyone saying the Clara has no personality. Clara is:
    very clever
    often frightened
    manic: she talks as fast as he does, which is a feat.
    What the hell else are you looking for?
    I admit that, on paper, these traits don’t become a personality. But that’s what the actor is for! Jenna Coleman is bringing Clara admirably to life.
    And the Doctor doesn’t have Clara along just because she’s a mystery he wants to solve: don’t forget, he invited her before he knew she was a mystery at all, when he thought she was just an ordinary girl.

  • Liam Warner

    I should have been in bed an hour ago to get a decent nights sleep but just wanted to through my thoughts into this.

    1) Tricky might not think he’s an android at the end of the episode sure the older brother tells him to “fetch me my dinner” (I think had a lot of trouble hearing lines in this episode) however he was in the picture with the other 2 whereas he was cut out of it at the begining. So he might just be operating on a memory loss/their the captains rather than a I am a robot basis.

    2) I hate to say this but remember the loveable, goofy, laughing doctor is his personality but this is still a guy who played games with all creation during his 7th incarnation with plots spanning galaxies, was a major general in the time war, consigned his own race to oblivion twice AND became the Valyard who was prepared to kill his past incarnation to get the regenerations. The doctor when you get right down to it is incredibly ruthless and dangerous its just that usually those traits are used to protect humanity so its rather glossed over. This time he’s dealing with something he doesn’t understand and that makes that side of him more obvious.

    3) I would have liked to see more of the TARDIS myself.

    4) There’s a difference between time travel and seeing things have gottten so bad your killing yourself to deliver a warning.

    5) I admit my initial response to the doctor/clara driving bit was a “Are you doing that because I’m a woman?” “No I’m doing it because your human, silly human thinking your gender matters.”

    6) The doctor’s companions did tend to die or leave him badly scarred but there were some who had good endings Rose, Sarah Jane, Ace (I think even if she does’nt like him), Polly.

  • Nicole Loi

    I totally agree. As soon as I realised who they were my opinion of the episode took a short walk off a cliff. Moffat’s way of handling relationships and characters in Doctor Who is really ruining my enjoyment of the show.

  • Hollyanna

    Agreed about the brothers. Also, beyond the criminal aspect, I sadly noticed that they were all black. Why? Because TV doesn’t do that. I thought, wow, three black characters! Where is this going to get fucked up?

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree re: Bill and Ted cheat. I think that part of Bill and Ted was sort of a way to be poking fun at itself, like : see how this doesn’t make any sense? And in Doctor Who I want to at least PRETEND it makes sense in a wibbly wobbly sci-fi way.

  • Anonymous

    I think you meant to put that forever in all caps.


  • Veronica Viscardi

    Anybody tought of the unfornate implications of having three black guys trying to steal the Tardis?

  • James Bow

    I’m with you on this one. I wanted to like this episode a lot, but I was confused by a lot of it, and when I thought things through, I think the problem is that writer Stephen Thompson didn’t really think things through. Although the salvage crew were well played, they were superfluous to the plot, and as a result, the whole episode was something of a wasted opportunity. But it looked darn good, at least.

    I wrote up a review of this episode over on my website here, in case you’re interested:

  • Katie Miller

    I disagree – I mean, I agree JLC brings an awful lot to the role. One thing Who ALWAYS does well is casting.

    But I disagree that it’s the actor’s job to create character. JLC is acting her little socks off in this role, it doesn’t change the fact the writing just isn’t there.

    She is all of the things you mention – brave, kind etc – because those are standard-issue companion attributes. Name a companion who ISN’T those things.

    But she’s nothing outside of these things. Those things add up to a manic pixie dream girl or something, not a character.

    With Rose and Donna and Martha we knew what their hangups were, what their particular motivations for travelling with a Doctor were. Clara is simply the perfect companion. She doesn’t seem to have any life beyond that.

    I don’t get your last comment there: the Doctor recognises Clara as soon as he meets her as an incarnation of the mysterious keeps-dying girl, surely? He is well aware of that mystery when he invites her along? And regardless, the storyline is consistently playing Clara as a mystery to solve rather than a character with her own shit to do.

  • Katie Miller

    Yes! It;s bad enough that under Moffat’s direction the show has had all sorts of problems with misogynistic storytelling, but what’s worse is that the Doctor has kind of turned into a sexist douche! Don’t unload you own shit on the Doctor, please, Moff.

    Other instances that spring to mind are when in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ the Doctor handwaves River’s irrational behaviour with, ‘plus, she’s a woman’ (when of course the line should have been, ‘plus, poor scriptwriting’).

    In ‘The Bells of St. Johns’, a monk reacts with more terror at the idea of a woman with more terror than the idea of an evil spirit. Pretty funny – or it would have been if the Doctor hadn’t grimaced in agreement.

    Moffat is free to write DW according to whatever sexist views he can;t be bothered to challenge in himself. It’s his damn show now. But making the Doctor a sexist asshat is simply getting the character wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t actually see this as the Doctor keeping secrets from Clara to keep her safe, as much as to keep him safe. I don’t know if that’s better or worse for some people. I don’t really mind. But what really got to me was the bit where he realizes she really is just a normal person, and relaxes. Sure, he wants to keep her safe, he likes her, but he’s also terrified that she’s part of some trap.

    While the RTD era Doctors were lonely, Eleven seems to be getting more suspicious and withdrawn. In a way, it makes sense. River Song was originally sent to kill him, Amy was replaced by a Flesh avatar, even the woman who calls on him for help at the start of Asylum of the Daleks was a Dalek trap. When people, especially the people he cares about, keep getting used against him, you can see where he’d start to get a little paranoid. While he likes Clara, he’s also deeply afraid of her.

    Again, I’m not sure if this is better or worse for those of you who don’t like the Doctor/Clara interactions, but I think it’s a more interesting way of looking at it.

  • Vera

    All right, I surrender on the topic of the writing. Clara doesn’t really have any sort of life outside the Doctor. Honestly, I’ve just been so relieved not to have Amy Pond and her man-based motivations I haven’t really had time to care too much…but I definitely see your point. Her only real motivation to go with the Doctor is her desire to travel, and the fact that he really, really wanted her to come along.

    I actually meant the Victorian Clara. All the Claras have been essentially the same character, being altered by three different worlds. He invited Clara the Governess along when he thought she was just a girl, and when he realized she was still out there somewhere his reaction wasn’t to try to solve a mystery–it was joy that she was alive.

    I do disagree with you on one point: I don’t think the storyline is consistently playing Clara as a mystery to solve. I think the conflict in the story is between Clara the person and Clara the mystery. Clara the person may not have strong motivations, but she clearly enjoys the hell out of being with the Doctor, and he loves hanging out with her. The relationship that the Doctor and Clara are slowly building up on the show is in conflict with the “Clara as mystery plot,” as we could see in this episode when the Doctor freaked out.
    Basically, I think that the writing is trying to show that Clara the person is more important than Clara the mystery. For instance: in the cliff scene, if Clara hadn’t known what he was talking about and he only cared about Clara the mystery, he wouldn’t have been delighted that she was in the dark–he would have been disappointed that he would have to solve the mystery another time.

  • Anonymous

    I’m starting to be dissapointed by this season. I was mostly enjoying it at first but it’s definitely going downhill now. To go this long without giving Clara more of a personality is pretty irritating. The Retconning was really unnecessary and poor treatment of Clara as a character. :/

  • Guest

    You guys, these are jokes. They’re not jokes in very good taste, but there jokes. You’re not meant to take them as serious re

  • Vera

    Sorry, that one Guest one was mine–my computer is freaking out with the log ons!

    Anyway, these are jokes. They’re not in good taste, but they’re jokes. They’re not meant to be taken as serious representations of what the Doctor–or Stephen Moffat–thinks. The Doctor’s been all over the galaxy, met men and women and third and fourth genders, and liked practically everyone. There is no conceivable way he harbors sexism.

    The jokes are being dropped partially, I think, because the writers find it funny to poke sensitive fans–note that after the Doctor says “Plus, she’s a woman” he says to no one “shut up I’m dying!”

    I don’t think the jokes are being made out of sexist beliefs, undertone or overtone. I think the jokes are being made because of their inherent ridiculousness. Their existence at all is funny because they aren’t actually expressions of sexist notions by the Doctor–they’re expressions of general irritation with humanity.

    They’re conceived as funny because they satirize through exaggeration an opinion of women that men sometimes have. The monk terrified of the woman was exactly that–oh God, women=scary! It’s ridiculous, which is why it’s a joke.

    Like I said, that doesn’t mean they’re in good taste. But that also doesn’t mean they can be taken as serious opinions. The smirk the Doctor makes after the “girls can’t drive” joke isn’t about him really thinking that–it’s because the real reason the TARDIS is in basic mode is because Clara’s human. The patronizing tone the Doctor sometimes adopts with women isn’t about his opinion of women–it’s about his opinion of humans in general.

  • Vera

    Yeah, the zombie stuff bothered me too. On rewatch I think the idea is that the “animal overlay” the scanner picked up made them monsters. But it doesn’t actually make sense–it’s just an exciting twist.

  • Vera

    God I hope Clara remembers–retcons suck!

  • Vera

    Thank you with number 5!

  • Mark Boyes

    I guess the alternative was an all-white cast, and they didn’t want to be mistaken for an episode of Primeval.

  • Hannele Kormano

    The issue isn’t so much that they somewhat tasteless jokes, it’s that they always seem to be at a woman’s expense – River, Amy, Clara. They’re to be protected, because they’re unbalanced and emotional.

    Point out the instances of joking at the expense of stereotypically male behaviour, and I’ll withdraw the point.

  • Vera

    I think they’re to be protected “from” as much as to be protected–and people go to great lengths to protect the Doctor too–but I take your point. Based on the Doctor Who Magazine I think they’re going to compare men thinking to “watching a whale knit”.
    More to the point, I think Clara pokes fun at him for male things sometimes–like teasing him about the snog box being a bit keen. And back in the RTD era they’d poke fun at Jack’s crazy sexiness…That’s all I got :(

  • Katie Miller

    I know what you mean about Amy – I loved her so much at the beginning, and was so consistently disappointed by her stories. Perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to invest too much emotion in Clara :)

    Ah! I see (re. Victorian Clara). Yes, you’re right.

    It’s also true that the show has made a point of having dialogue about the Doctor/Clara relationship not JUST being about her mysteriousness. I don’t think these have been particularly convincing, since they haven’t given Clara a chance to demonstrate any character that might back them up – but you’re right that the writing does at least acknowledge the problems in that mysterious-Clara thing.

    I hope your right, and that the show continues to develop the conflict between Clara’s object-of-mystery status, and her own attitudes and personality!

  • Elwyne

    I enjoyed the heck out of this episode, it spite of it making little sense and being frequently annoying. I loved the glimpses of the inside of the TARDIS, bits of the past and maybe the future scattered about. I was left at the end with the thoughts that a) the brothers’ lies are beginning to unravel and b) the Doctor’s retcon is going to bite him in the rear very soon. Maybe that’s just because I’m an optimist.

  • Katie Cunningham

    The Doctor is not a real person. He is, however, written by one, and by someone who’s had documented issues with women before, both in his attitudes towards them and his ability to portray them.

    Jokes are not harmless things. They’re actually quite powerful, more powerful than just being outright sexist is. A guy who says “Women shouldn’t be allowed to drive” is easy to call out. A guy who makes a joke about women being bad drivers is harder to correct. There’s social pressure behind laughing at the joke, and people who call out jokes as ‘not cool’ are often the ones that end up getting yelled at.

    There is no satire here. There is no inversion later that shows that the author doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

  • Hannele Kormano

    I did like that the lava zombies were a genuine mystery that you could figure before the Doctor spells it out.

  • Vera

    1)Speaking as a writer, it’s unfair to see every character as a mouthpiece for the writer. Thank you for not pinning it on Moffat–who didn’t even write this particular episode.
    2)We live in a world where just a generation ago, it wasn’t easy to call out outright sexism, and sexist views were culturally acceptable. We’ve gone from that to arguing about whether a joke is offensively stereotyping–that’s great!
    The fact that the joke is a play on a stereotype is why it’s in what I called “bad taste.” The fact that it’s a joke, and therefore by definition NOT SERIOUS is why I (maybe with the wrong definition) called it a satire.
    Finally, the reason people get upset when feminists like you or me call out a joke is because we’re acting like we don’t understand that the speaker was not serious. It’s why people don’t like feminists, whey there are men who make entire careers out of mocking us–because all too often we just can’t take mockery.
    This is a roundabout way of saying that jokes that poke fun at women as a gender (like the women are demons joke) are in bad taste, bad taste that doesn’t strike many people as funny. And that’s okay–I completely understand why so many people are offended about these things. We’re allowed–at this point in history–to agree to disagree. I think that’s cooler than your average bowtie

  • James Alexander

    I miss Christmas special Clara. In fact, I miss Bell of St. John Clara. I thought she was going to be really cool. But she’s just there now.

  • James Alexander

    Hasn’t it been established that River is a much better Tardis pilot. Clara can’t drive it because she’s a nanny.

  • James Alexander

    Why on Earth would he be upfront with Clara about seeing her die twice in other time-lines? More importantly, why would he tell her she the lava zombie thing when not telling people about their own future is basically the number one rule of time travel? I understand keeping that information to youself until you were sure you could avert to future.

  • James Alexander

    Having an excuse to explore the Tardis was really fun. You can nitpick the episode to death after that. But fun is fun.

  • Katie Cunningham

    If you’re a writer, maybe you should read a few papers on what satire is. Because joke != satire.

  • Mandy

    Ditto. Present day Clara does nothing for me at all. Oswin with the Daleks was spunky and charming in turn and seem to have a big personality just with one episode. Victorian Clara even was fun and smart and curious. But present day Clara just seems sooo generic and one dimensional. I don’t care about her at all. I want to care when we (hopefully) find out her secrets. But I don’t. Which is a shame because the actress seems charming & Matt Smith is still holding his end up, even with the weaker scripts, but the acting can only compensate for weak writing so much.

  • Hannele Kormano

    You’ve got a point about Strax, but he’s an ancillary character at best.

    I love so many of the Moffat episodes, but I do feel that he doesn’t put the Doctor in his place as well as the RTD era did. There, you do get a few instances like Rose and Sara Jane having a gab session, and like Martha saying ‘trust me, just nod when he stops to breathe’. The Moffat era tries sometimes, I think, but it’s all kinds of awkward sexual advances on the ascetic Doctor.

    That said, neither has the Moffat era deemed it necessary to have a floating glowing Doctor powered by power of feelings.