Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Doctor's Wife - Neil Gaiman does Doctor Who

I just finished watching the latest episode of Doctor Who 'The Doctor's Wife' which was written by that magnificent man Mr Neil Gaiman. I am a massive Doctor Who fan and have been for quite some time now, but I've never posted an actual written piece about it before because I didn't really have a literary reason to do so, but thanks to Mr Gaiman's guest-writer role that is no longer the case!

So in this episode the Doctor, Rory and Amy head outside of the universe (like a small soap bubble stuck on the side of the large soap bubble that is the universe) after the Doctor receives a distress call from a timelord friend he thought long dead. The trio land on what looks like a rubbish tip (and smells like an armpit) and the TARDIS loses power, it's soul appears to disappear. Assuming they merely need to wait for it to power back up they decide to explore and come across the biting madwoman Idris, Aunt, Uncle and Nephew (an Ood). Nephew drags the ranting, biting Idris away and Aunt and Uncle introduce the Doctor to House, the asteroid they call home which is also a sentient being.  When trying to patch up Nephew's broken voice orb thingo the Doctor picks up the distress calls of dozens, if not hundreds of other timelords. Recognising that all is not as it seems the Doctor sets off to find the missing timelords, but this is one 'adventure' the Doctor must do by himself, but by locking Rory and Amy away in the TARDIS for safety could he perhaps be putting them in harm's way?

OK that was as vague as I could make the synopsis without giving it all away, but what comes next will give away much of the episode, so if you haven't seen the episode yet and plan to then PLEASE TURN AWAY NOW!


For the past two seasons Doctor Who has been getting darker, gradually losing the single self contained episode system and instead employing a system of small tangled story webs that link up to a greater story which is usually concluded in the final episode of the season. Some people have complained about this, suggesting that Steven Moffat (now head writer) is trying too hard to be complicated and the show is losing what we all love. Nonsense. The show is as interesting, as captivating and as hilarious as ever but now with a deliciously dark and complex undertone. Because of this darker transformation it makes complete sense to get Mr Gaiman involved, because who writes dark and twisty with a touch of humour and eccentricity better than he?

The Doctor's Wife is as action packed and as shocking as we'd expect from a Doctor Who episode but Gaiman does what he does so well, bringing the internal external. In this case we have the personification of the TARDIS. The distress call the Doctor received turned out to simply be a trick to lure a timelord to land on House so that he/it could ingest the TARDIS. However in order to consume all the tasty energy and spacey-wacey stuff in the TARDIS House had to eliminate the 'soul' (it'd kill a person to imbibe that kind of power) which was placed into Idris. What we get for the rest of the episode is this wonderful relationship between the Doctor and Idris/TARDIS that is so organic and natural because it's been going on for 700 years, only now the TARDIS can talk back...and you know, isn't a great big blue box.

In so many ways the Doctor is such a sad character, the last of his people and burdened with so much (self-imposed) responsibility. We glimpse this loneliness every one and awhile but this episode really exemplified how alone he is. His assistants come and go and while their presence physically denies his loneliness they are completely unable to relate to all his timelord and alien business. The one thing he can rely on is his TARDIS, and we often see his tender caresses and conversations with her/it. But now the TARDIS is a woman, a woman who is able to connect with him about the 700 years they've been together (quite the milestone) and who has the capacity to understand exactly what he's been through and what you witness in this episode is perhaps some of the most pure joy the Doctor has ever shown.

But if a sentient asteroid couldn't absorb the TARDIS's soul how could a human woman possibly last long? When the female incarnation of the TARDIS returns to her blue boxed self... well that is one of the most upsetting moments I've ever witnessed on this show. It was so tender and real and full of hurt. All that joy the Doctor had found knowing that he could talk freely about his past and the pain and hurt that accompanies it, about where he'd been and all the 'spacey-wacy' stuff that goes over his human assistant's heads was taken away, and he barely had the chance to revel in the possibilities that had suddenly opened up to him.

Like I said before there was the usual amount of shocks and action and whizzes and bangs that you'd expect from an episode of Doctor Who, most of which surrounds the plot involving Amy and Rory (which deserves a post of it's own), but what Gaiman really brought to the show was a new level of emotion and heart. This episode was the most revealing episode of Doctor Who I've ever seen and is likely to become my favourite episode of all time. To all the Stephen Moffat critics out there, all I can say is that if he can arrange for more guest-writers like Neil Gaiman then he is worth his weight in gold. I can't wait to see where this series heads!


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