10 and 1 Things About The Doctor's Wife

(Spoilers... as another "Doctor's wife" would say!)So wow, that was gorgeous. Not gonna be easy sticking to eleven items, but let's give it a try...

Neil Gaiman's patchwork world. In the mundane world, Neil Gaiman's name may or may not have registered. To geeks like us, his coming to Who (I didn't know he cared!) is momentous. We might have set ourselves up for disappointment, but instead, Gaiman is being heralded as Moffat's Moffat (if Moffat is RTD's Moffat). And I agree. This episode has its own unique vibe, strong thematic underpinnings and an epic yet intimate scope. Fans of Gaiman will recognize the goth trappings, concepts/objects personified, and the heady mix of urban fantasy and horror found in (among other things) his Sandman. Gaiman has created a patchwork world, a planet that is a junkyard of rift flotsam, people who are pieced together from Time Lord body parts, a woman is has the TARDIS' soul (or vice-versa) and who sees past, present and future simultaneously, TARDIS corridors that loop around piecemeal, a jury-rigged console made of various others, and a script that includes comedy, tragedy and horror. It's a comment on Doctor Who as a series and as a character. What is this strange thing on television if not an odd quilt of disparate elements that somehow WORKS?

They flipped everything around. Gaiman is a first-time guest writer, so I was amazed they let him fiddle around with the series' tool box so much. We get new information on Time Lords (see below) and TARDISes, and the Doctor's TARDIS in particular. It's now (canonically) revealed that the TARDIS chose him rather than the other way around. An amazing idea that creates an epic romance well beyond what RTD achieved with Rose, or Moffat with River. Gaiman has retroactively transformed the relationship between the Doctor and his ship. Not a game changer, you understand, and something many of us probably understood without verbalizing, but it's there nonetheless. Gaiman has reached back into Who history and added to its MYTH. Which is really his kind of thing, when you think about it.
Time Lord email. Speaking of reaching back into time. I was tickled to see the Time Lord message boxes again for the first time since The War Games, way back in the 2nd Doctor's last story. And used in a twist that's sure to make your heart quicken then sink.

The Doctor's other wife, or What's in a title? "The Doctor's Wife" was an intriguing title to see on the calendar, what with River being heavily in the mix this season. On the surface, it refers to the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS, baldly saying that whatever the Doctor's actual marital status (with River), we all know the score. But without it being "plugged" in the episode itself, it still seems a strange, unanswered question. Consider, for example, that Gaiman's original title was "The House of Nothing". So... Moffat changed the title just to screw with would-be spoilerers and predictors? Now consider that there is an actual reference to River in the story. Before Idris dies and returns the TARDIS to matrix, she says "The only water in the forest is the river." What does THIS mean? It recalls River's fate in "The Forest of Trees", or maybe even the forest in "Flesh and Stone", but why would the TARDIS make that reference now? No, it has to refer to events that have yet to unfold to be dramatically significant. Does the TARDIS simply see ahead, or does she have a more involved relationship with River Song? My initial theory that she was an incarnation of the TARDIS seems disproved by the use of Idris in exactly that way (for a moment, I thought she would regenerate INTO River at the end). So the connection, and the depth of it, remains to be revealed.

Rory dies again. And again, he gets better. Don't call this a running gag, especially since it's never played for laughs. I rather continue to think it is portentous in the extreme. Rory was erased from existence, then brought back through Amy's will and the universal reboot. And now? Now fate seems intent on eliminating this aberration, this erased character. Or does it have something to do with the overlapping timeline in which Amy is pregnant? If the Eyepatch Lady and the baby can bleed through, is it possible Rory's death is bleeding in from the same place?

Amy's guilt. We've seen some timey-wimey shenanigans in the TARDIS (such as in "Space" and "Time"), so it seemed possible that House twisting the TARDIS in on itself could create temporal incongruities between Amy and Rory, isolating him for years before his younger self came across Amy and erased that timeline. However, when you look at the details, there is more truth to the idea of House playing with their heads. Rory's death in this episode is very much a manifestation of her guilt. The hallucination was about her abandoning Rory (on her wedding day, then at the mouth of the crack, during the Pandorica millenia) for 2000 years. From her point of view, he should hate her, not love her. I know other strong, independent women who "wear the pants" in their couple, and who have this exact fear - that their partners will eventually grow tired of this. Fact is, ladies, the Rories of this world love their Amies because of their strength and independence, even if it does fuel their insecurities.

The road to Gallifrey. So if you're among those looking for clues to Gallifrey's return, there's plenty to look at here. The message boxes might contain more than messages, even parts of the Time Lords' psyches, their regeneration energy, etc. They had a telepathic quality, after all. If you're going for cloning (Time Lord cells being as valuable as they apparently are), then there's a load of Time Lord body parts on the junkyard planet, and TARDIS parts to boot. Did those Time Lords get sucked in by House before or during the Time War? Or were they trying to escape Gallifrey's destruction by exiting the universe? If so, did any of them make it? "The Doctor's Wife" opened a lot of doors for Gallifrey's return, so we might meet the Corsair one day (is the Ouroboros a clue to Gallifrey's cyclical nature, death and rebirth?).

Time Lord to Lady in one easy regeneration. If it makes you crazy, consider it a strange joke. But the Doctor finally opens the door to one day regenerating into a woman. I've been open to this since I say Joanna Lumley as the Doctor in Moffat's own Doctor Who spoof, Curse of the Fatal Death. It's coming, kids. Embrace it. (Or just some weird joke.)
Consoles. The TARDIS reveals that she keeps a backup copy of every console room design past (and future), though of course there wasn't the money to show anything but the RTD era "coral" console room. However, the console the Doctor and Idris build out of scraps recalls another, namely the 4th Doctor's "secondary control room". It's just as small and has a shaving mirror on it. The wall with the roundels is nice too. Though I thought it was a little hard to tell, this makeshift console was the Blue Peter contest winner. I saw the wire hanger in there, so that's a confirmation. It finally made it in!

TARDIS corridors. FINALLY, we see a little bit more of the TARDIS interior, though really not enough. Gaiman wanted to include the swimming pool. Money concerns prevented it. But corridors are a major staple of Doctor Who, so their sole use here is entirely appropriate. Hopefully they've now got the sets and can connect them to something in the future. We live in hope.

The Doctor's room. When Rory asks if the Doctor has a room, I immediately discounted the one from the classic series - with the four-poster bed and the 5th Doctor in his jammies - and thought: "Yes, he does. And he's puttering away in it RIGHT NOW." A beautiful final moment.

Next up is The Rebel Flesh, a two-parter penned by Matthew Graham (who, yes, is guilty of Fear Her, but I prefer to think of him as the main writer of Life on Mars). I'll probably be talking Who after both parts air. See ya... IN THE FUTURE!!!!


Anonymous said...

I wonder how many "new" viewers (i.e., unfamiliar with the original series) really understood until now how big the TARDIS is on the inside. Matt Smith had previously made reference to a swimming pool one time, but other than that, nothing.

Speaking of which, the TARDIS is surprised at how big we are on the inside ... that line would have been just too precious if it didn't make perfect sense.

There is a LOT in this episode that felt like fan fiction to me, in that it introduced a change of tone and pet concepts out of the blue; but since it was done so well I am happy to add it to the lore, rather than bury it and forget it ever happened like the Abzorbaloff.

snell said...

Question: Where is the matrix energy from "hundreds" of TARDISes? If House had to rip out the Matrix energy from each one & stuff it in a "living receptacle" in order to devour the TARDISes, sure the human bodies burned out...but what happened to the Matrix energy (which "can't be deleted"? Is it all out there, floating around the Rift...waiting?

Question: Speaking of living receptacles, where did Auntie and Uncle and Nephew and Idris come from? Just sucked in via a Torchwoodian rift? Did the other Time Lords killed have companions as well? The first question above implies that there must have been hundreds of "living receptacles" over the years...

Critique: I would have appreciated some level of explanation/characterization for House besides "big scary evil voice." I know he wasn't the point of the episode, but he came across as a generic Lost In Space omnipotent-yet-not villain, and I expected better from Gaiman.

Siskoid said...

Question 1: Presumably, it dissipated when its host died. Possibly, it's stored somewhere to help with the return of Gallifrey.

Question 2: It is a safe bet that people came here through the rift, yes, TW-like. That's at least the case for the Ood. Uncle and Auntie are specifically said to be Frankenstein monsters built from Time Lord (and possibly other) parts. Auntie really wanted Amy's face there. So these might never have been their own person.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Siskoid - Great coverage. Like you, I loved many aspects of this episode. The idea of the TARDIS stealing the Doctor was brilliant to bring out. While the Doctor has directly communicated with the TARDIS in other non-canonical material (such as books), this still felt original and fresh!

Just a thought... what if the little girl from the opening two-parter that showed signs of regenerating is actually a TARDIS? Makes you think!

The Irredeemable Shag

snell said...

By the way, given that the TARDIS had a voice this episode, it's too bad that nobody thought to spare 2 seconds to ask, "Hey, Old Girl, remember where you exploded and destroyed the universe last year? What was up with that?" I'm just sayin.'


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