HomeTelevisionDoctor Who Series 6, Episode 4

Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 4

jason stives’ weekly Who review returns with a Neil Gaiman-penned Doctor episode …

So maybe my comments in last week’s column, claiming stand-alone episodes don’t have any clout was wrong. In fact, over the previous five seasons of Doctor Who, single episodes have proven to have many high stakes, it’s just the ones that don’t necessarily have much to offer to the whole season that fall short. That being said, “The Doctor’s Wife” offers much while having no place in the overall arc of Matt Smith’s second season. In fact, it’s probably one of the most touching, strange, and most memorable episodes in recent memory, and it all came from the bright noodle of acclaimed writer of the Sandman comic series, Neil Gaiman.


When the Doctor receives a hypercube with a distress call from a Timelord, the TARDIS is transported across and outside the universe to a junkyard sitting like a bubble on the edge of oblivion. It is there that the Doctor’s hopes and dreams of forgiveness from his own people are destroyed by patchwork people and a mysterious being known as “House,” but not before encountering a mysterious woman by the name of Idris, who knows the Doctor far better than anyone could imagine.

A vague synopsis no doubt, and the plot points matter but only for the personal journey that we experience through the eyes of the Doctor. For the first time ever, Matt Smith is really able to focus his efforts into exploring the Doctor’s psyche and rewrite a bit of the show’s mythology in doing so. The revelation that Idris is in fact the human embodiment of the TARDIS may be perplexing to some but makes all the most sense in understanding the Doctor’s relationship to his ship.

For years, the Doctor has playfully referred to the TARDIS as “she” or “girl,” and many have joked at the intimate nature he shares with the time machine, but very few have dared to understand his connection to it. The TARDIS has always been no doubt the only thing in his life that he has truly loved, and to see this iconic machine brought to life for us to understand a personal humanoid connection is both wonderful and sad. For some, the idea probably seems like a special on BBC America about how a man who falls in love with an inanimate object but realistically, who to know the Doctor better than his most constant companion and the only thing to keep him company for so many years. The idea that the TARDIS actually chose him instead of him choosing it is such a witty element of science-fiction creativity, both believable and greatly personal all at once. A lot of the emotion really comes from watching Matt Smith show great affection and comradely to Idris in the flesh, with many amusing arguments and banter surrounding things like why the Doctor always pushes the TARDIS doors open when it clearly says “pull.” As a fan, watching the Doctor in the final moments of the episode practically in tears when he has his only real conversation with his oldest friend is completely touching and hauntingly beautiful.

In completing the connection between machine (well, human form machine) and owner, we get British soap star Suranne Jones’ wonderful performance as Idris. A lot had to be put into this very difficult part as we are dealing with an inanimate character with almost five decades worth of history. Jones is able to encompass the essence of a creation that knows someone too well and has never been able to show the gratitude. When Idris delivers the line that she has taken the Doctor not where he wants to go but where he needed to go, is both enlightening and shows the personal connection that both of them have to one another.

Elsewhere, though, there is excitement as Amy and Rory are trapped inside the in-flight TARDIS, manipulated and played with by the mysterious House (voiced ominously by Michael Sheen (the Underworld series, Frost/Nixon) Again, like previous weeks many questions are left unanswered, mainly revolving around the mysterious House and his true identity, but it’s in these moments that Amy and Rory are once again put to the test and are shown as a strong couple who can withstand having the ends of the earth hurled at them.

The story itself is chock full of fandom goodies, ranging from the already mentioned hypercube (a device used back in 1969 in the second Doctor story “The War Games”)as well as the idea that the TARDIS console rooms are archived which leads to us seeing a reappearance from The Eccleston/Tennant console room at the episode’s climax.

While all these things are good, the most important thing here is the Doctor’s love story for the TARDIS. For lon time fans of the show dating back to its original format, “The Doctor’s Wife” is without a doubt, a monumental moment and something greatly shared by fans who have always known the importance of the Doctor’s ship to the lonely Timelord. For new fans, it could be greatly frustrating and confusing if not dissected properly but at the end of the day it’s the greatest love letter to the show and to the character of the Doctor. As Neil Gaiman put it in an interview about writing the Doctor, he is not human, so what he connects to greatly is much different from what we see as normal. Given the chance, the Doctor would take watching a sunset over a million dollars and to watch him bear witness to his one true love in the flesh is completely moving and so much the essence of watching this sci fi juggernaut evolve over the past 50 years.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10


All Photos Credit: BBC America


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