Director: Richard Clark
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Principal cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Suranne Jones
Broadcast date: 14th May 2011.
Answering a Time Lord distress signal the Doctor (Smith) directs his Tardis (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) to a living asteroid situated outside of the known universe where he finds a junk yard inhabited by the servants of the rock.
The essence of the rock steals the soul of the Tardis and implants it into the body of a young woman named Idris (Jones) and proceeds to escape from the isolated asteroid by placing its own spirit inside the machinery of the Doctor’s time machine.
Stranded, the Doctor and his now human bound Tardis must find a way to rescue their companions Rory (Darvill) and Amy (Gillan), who remain trapped aboard the ship and at the mercy of the being known as House (Sheen).
If the excellent opening two part adventure “The Impossible Astronaut” provided enough twists, turns and cryptic clues for an entire decade worth of adventures, then the subsequent “Curse of the Black Spot” saw the current series coming up for air with a pirate romp that, although enjoyable, seemed unchallenging and linear compared with it’s predecessor.
The season returns to the high standard set by the opener with a stand alone adventure penned by fantasy writer and cult favourite Neil Gaiman (best known for his graphic novels Sandman and Stardust).
Gaiman’s inclusion in the current season is a major coup for the BBC and, as a lifelong fan of show, he has provided a script that is quite simply a beautiful homage to the franchise that should appeal to both geek and casual viewer alike.
The episode should have been entitled “An Ode to the Tardis” as the theft of the Doctor’s ship merely provides a foil to the quirky, funny and touching character study displayed between the time lord and his beloved blue box.
Jones is quite simply stunning as the human embodiment of the Tardis, given the gift of speech the time machine is brought to life with a character that is sexy, quirky, emotive and also protective of her Doctor.
The banter with the ever excellent Smith is pitch perfect ranging from screwball comedy to sadness with enough cryptic references to the characters past to have the fan boys jumping off the sofa in delight.
The script also allows for the development of Rory with Davill’s character increasingly becoming more than just a foil for Gillan’s Amy (although the closing revelation of sleeping arrangements aboard the Tardis may induce some nudge-nudge jokes).
Michael Sheen is left with the almost simplistic task of providing the camp and menacing vocals for an unseen but always heard villain and its full marks for a combination of set design and animation which bring the whole thing to life.
As is now customary there is the teaser and the Tardis’ reference to “the only water in the forest is the river” will no doubt cause many a debate over the coming weeks.
Is it a possible reference to the Doctor’s emerging romance with Professor River Song?
Who knows, but this episode surely belongs to Jones and Gaiman.
Gaiman’s examination of the relationship between the Doctor and his time machine is a gem of an episode which is underpinned by a great double act of Smith and Jones.