Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: Doctor Who 6.04: "The Doctor's Wife"

“Look at you pair. It’s always you and her, isn’t it, long after the rest of us are gone? A boy and his box off to see the universe.”

We’re continuing our Summer DVR Dump of “Doctor Who” with what I think was my favorite episode of the first half of series 6, “The Doctor’s Wife.” This episode was written by genre legend Neil Gaiman, who showed a real command of the characters and especially the universe. He not only got the minutiae of the mythology, but he got the tone as well. As you know if you read the checking in with series 6 post Sarah and I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m not familiar with much of Gaiman’s other work. I’ve read the book and watched the movie of “Stardust,” but that’s it. So I didn’t have great expectations of this episode going into it based on the Gaiman name alone. I mean, much of the fandom was freaking out with joy, but I didn’t have much personal experience upon which to base any expectations. Whatever expectations I had were most certainly exceeded. I found “The Doctor’s Wife” to be a beautiful, thoughtful, well-structured episode. I also liked that it was a meditation on the relationship between the Doctor and his TARDIS. I learned a lot of backstory that, not being familiar with Classic “Who,” I never would have known otherwise, and my modern “Who” viewing is the richer for it.

The episode opens on a small, desolate, backwoods planet of some sort. We see a disheveled woman named Idris led into a scary looking machine. She’s going to have her soul drained, but her captors tell her not to worry, because soon she’ll be getting a new one. Meanwhile, in a more familiar corner of the universe, the Doctor opens up the doors to the TARDIS and plucks a blinking box out of deep space. The Doctor is excited because it’s a message from another Time Lord, a friendly one named the Corsair, to be precise. It’s an emergency transmission, but the Doctor is so excited at the prospect of other friendly Time Lords still being alive that it doesn’t faze him. The transmission originated from a “bubble universe” (or the stopper in the drain of the universe, as the Doctor puts it), and as the TARDIS approaches, her soul is transferred into Idris.

As the Doctor, Rory, and Amy leave the confines of the TARDIS, we see that the place where they have landed looks like a big scrap heap. They’re met by a very rough looking couple and Idris, who is not speaking very coherently. She also tries to kiss, then bite, the Doctor. There’s also an Ood called Nephew who plays a whole bunch of Time Lord distress calls using his communication device. At this point, the Doctor starts to realize that something isn’t quite right. The planet’s inhabitants inform the Doctor that their world is called “the House,” and it is a living creature. It also talks, which is really freaking creepy. The House is voiced by British actor Michael Sheen (no relation to Charlie, thank goodness), who does excellent work here.

The Doctor wants to find the Time Lords who belong to all those distress signals. There’s a really nice conversation between the Doctor and Amy where Amy suspects the Doctor wants to find them because he wants to be forgiven, and the Doctor doesn’t see anything wrong with wanting that. Amy and Rory go back to the TARDIS because the Doctor says he needs Amy to get his sonic screwdriver, but that goes downhill quick. As soon as they enter the phone box, green smoke starts to swirl around it. It turns out that the errand was just to get Amy and Rory out of the way so the Doctor could investigate, but the green smoke definitely wasn’t part of the plan. Amy and Rory become locked inside the TARDIS, and things get so bad that the Cloister Bell, which signals a very serious emergency, starts to go off. The House, who I guess is responsible for the green smoke, starts to talk to Rory and Amy. He asks why he shouldn’t kill them right away. Rory comes up with a good reason- that it wouldn’t be any fun. House responds that Rory is right, and they should start running.

Oblivious to what’s going on with Rory and Amy, the Doctor continues his investigation. He finds a cabinet full of distress signals just like the one he received from the Corsair, only these are from many other Time Lords. Then the Doctor realizes that the House has put other people’s body parts into Auntie and Uncle, including Time Lord/Lady body parts. He describes them as “patchwork people,” which is a very apt description. Although it’s a whole lot more gross than it sounds. Auntie and Uncle don’t seem upset by the knowledge that many of their body parts came from other people who were unfortunate enough to be lured to close to the House.

Earlier in the episode, Idris had told the Doctor that “the boxes would make [him] angry,” so the Doctor pays her a visit to get some clarification. Idris reveals that she is the TARDIS, and she and the Doctor have a beautiful conversation about their history. The Doctor reminisces about how he stole the TARDIS, which was a Type 40 TARDIS and already a museum piece. The TARDIS/Idris disagrees. She says she stole the Doctor. The Doctor lets the TARDIS/Idris out of her prison cell. She explains that the House feeds on the rift energy of TARDISes. That’s why he’s been luring Time Lords into the bubble universe. The Doctor and Idris then talk to Auntie and Uncle They think it’s time to die because there will be no TARDISes to provide them with new body parts. The House has apparently gone to the main universe to look for more- I guess he didn’t believe when the Doctor said he was the last of the Time Lords. Idris is in pain while this conversation is happening. Human bodies weren’t meant to hold the TARDIS, and she is dying.

The Doctor gets the idea to use the TARDIS parts that are strewn around to build a makeshift TARDIS and go after the House. The Doctor and Idris work on building their TARDIS, and they bicker quite a bit while they do. I thought that was pretty amusing and adorable. The Doctor complains that the TARDIS never takes him where he says he wants to go, and Idris explains that she takes him where he needs to go. She also makes a comment about how he’s always “picking up strays,” which I thought was cute. The makeshift TARDIS doesn’t work at first, but Idris puts a little of her energy into it, and they’re off.

Meanwhile, Amy and Rory get separated in different corridors while running from the House. It’s quite the horror sequence. Amy sees a really old version of Rory who is ranting about how he had to wait for her yet again. The next time she sees him, he appears to be dead, and he has scrawled on the wall in blood how much he hates Amy. Thankfully, the “real” Rory soon shows up, and he hasn’t been waiting at all. I’m getting kind of frustrated with the fact that the show’s creative team seems to be faux-killing Rory in every episode now. It stopped being a joke a long time ago.

The shield for the real TARDIS phone box needs to be taken down so the Doctor and Idris can get on board, and Idris sends Rory a telepathic message saying that he has to go to a copy of an old control room to do so. We learn that the TARDIS considers Rory to be “the pretty one” of the Doctor’s companions, which I thought was adorable (seems to be a theme with this episode). There’s a little bit of a hiccup when Rory and Amy get separated (again), and Amy follows what she thinks is Rory’s voice only to find out that she was following the Ood called “Nephew.” Rory finds her and rescues her just in time yet again. When they arrive at the door to the old control room, Idris sends Rory the passcode. Amy figures out that you can’t just say the passcode, you have to think it. One of the words is “delight,” and I loved that Amy thought of her wedding to illustrate that word. The door opens, and lo and behold, they’re in the Russel T. Davies-era control room! I recognized the glowing, green central column, and I most certainly got a little teary and nostalgic. I wished there was a bit more light in that scene so we could see it properly, although I understand that the creepy green light is meant to signify the House’s possession of the TARDIS. Once Rory and Amy enter the control room, the House instructs Nephew to kill them.

Just in time to save Rory and Amy, the Doctor and Idris arrive in the old control room. The Doctor has to explain to Rory and Amy who Idris is, and I love Amy’s reaction. She asks the Doctor if he “wished really hard.” The Doctor’s affection or the TARDIS has been a long-standing joke on the show, so I definitely appreciated that bit. And it certainly doesn’t help the Doctor’s case when Idris reveals that the Doctor calls the TARDIS “Sexy.” The House starts playing with everyone on board the TARDIS, first getting rid of gravity, then air, and so on. The Doctor tries bargaining, because that’s what he does, but obviously it doesn’t go well. Finally the House says he’s going to delete the old control room. My reaction is pretty much summed up as “Nooooooooo!” I wanted to get a good look at my beloved old coral-themed control room, and we never really did. Luckily, deleting the room didn’t kill the Doctor and crew. They just rematerialized in the current day control room. Idris is pissed at the House, and she throws all her TARDIS energy back into the actual TARDIS, complete with dramatic threats to the House by the Doctor.

Idris is really not doing well by this point, so she and the Doctor have to say goodbye. It’s really incredibly sad. Idris says that all the TARDIS really wanted to say when she first got the chance to speak to the Doctor was “hello.” After Idris’ death, we see the Doctor busily making repairs to his TARDIS. He’s in his element, which I guess is how he’s coping with not actually being able to speak to the TARDIS anymore. Rory mentions that before she died, Idris kept saying “the only water in the forest is the river,” which has big implications in the mid-season finale, “A Good Man Goes to War.” The Doctor announces that he has created a new bedroom for Rory and Amy (Amy is hoping this one doesn’t have bunkbeds), so Rory and Amy wander off to check it out. After they’ve gone, the Doctor tries talking to the TARDIS. She responds by making one of the levers on the control unit move, and the Doctor is jubilant, realizing she’s not really gone at all.

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