Review: Doctor Who – 7×10 – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Running up and down corridors – with a twist

In the UK: Saturday, 6.15pm, 27th April 2013, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer

In the US: Saturday, 8pm/7c, 27th April 2013, BBC America

Ever since the TARDIS showed up and proved itself to be bigger on the inside than on the outside, there have been several burning questions in the minds of viewers: how much bigger? What’s in there? And will the BBC budget ever stretch to allowing us to find out?

Over the years, we’ve had references to the many rooms within the TARDIS, as well as stories that have given us brief glimpses of the infinite interior, including Edge of Destruction

Castrovalva

…the TV movie…

The Doctor’s Wife and, of course, The Invasion of Time:

But these glimpses have been very few and far between, usually quite brief, and either subordinate to the rest of the plot or mind-numbingly dull (Castrovalva). What we’ve been waiting for is a proper adventure set in the TARDIS that combines everything we’ve learnt about it but goes on to show off as much as possible of the interior, while giving us new and exciting additions, all while avoiding the Castrovalva “Maths is Fun!” syndrome.

Did Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS give us that? Well, let’s discuss it all after this lovely trailer and the jump.

Plot
The TARDIS has crashed, Clara is lost inside, and the Doctor has 30 minutes before his ship explodes!

Was it any good?
While it was flawed, it was certainly far more intriguing than we might have hoped.

Writer Stephen Thompson is best known for having written by far the worst, most racist episode of Sherlock, as well as the incredibly tedious Doctor Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot. So expecting anything that was either interesting or clever was to hold out hope against experience.

But as we discovered recently with Chris Chibnall and Broadchurch, bad Doctor Who writers can get better. Here, Thompson gives us a story that while ending with a literal reset button, not having an especially good chain of logic and featuring some of the worst actors ever to clomp along the TV screen, does give us some marvellously entertaining ideas, some creepy moments and timey wimey fun.

So sure, the terrible supporting cast and their silly story could comfortably have been jettisoned like a superfluous Zero Room to give the plot a boost. The lava beasts looked rubbish and the question of why Clara, when being pursued by the hot-blooded but tiny monsters, should decide to spend her time perusing some books in the TARDIS library is best not considered too closely. And yes, yet again, we have a lot of TARDIS corridors to deal with and all those marvellous rooms are CGI-ed tentatively out of reach.

But amongst all that, as well as back references to and even audio clips from a lot of Who stories of days gone by, TARDIS trivia about reconfigurable architecture and a first glimpse of the fabled Eye of Harmony… 

…we got some decidedly imaginative and clever fun involving ever-changing mazes and time fissures, references to the Time War (and perhaps the Doctor’s name, which is going to come up again in a couple of weeks), the lovely visual of the exploding TARDIS engines and references to the ongoing problem of who Clara is.

Incidentally, who Clara is is a valid question, given how little effort is going into giving her a compelling, consistent character – she’s more a puzzle than a person – but Jenna Louise Coleman is doing her best with the little she has.

I wouldn’t say a huge amount of it makes sense, it being more an excuse to have a jolly fun run around the TARDIS, and the literal reset button is pretty much a middle finger to anyone who would even have tried to make sense of it. We could have done with a few more rooms that hadn’t already been imagined in previous stories. 

But for something that stimulated the brain as well as the adrenal and Whovian glands, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was a very decent effort.




  • Brian Clegg

    Some nice ideas but it didn't break for me the feeling that this has been the worst nuWho season yet…

  • Robin Parker

    Agreed that Steve's first two TV outings earned him a black card, but don't forget that he was tasked with the excellent Sherlock s2 finale. That redeemed him in my eyes

  • Mark Carroll

    This second half of the season has been trending fairly steadily downhill for me. Venturing into the TARDIS and including plenty of back references (in general lately, not just this) has been nice but goodness this story made no sense at all, including the lava monsters and the reset button.

    Even if I thought the downloading of people over wifi was silly, I liked the spoonhead episode because it did try to make its own kind of sense and think things through and the resolution worked cleverly within that framework. Similarly, Blink had lots of timey wimey stuff but did make sense. This episode was rather the opposite of that, which was a significant negative for me.

    But, hey, I liked Castrovalva, so what do I know? (-:

  • Good point. I'd forgotten about that, although I think Steven Moffat (and possibly Mark Gatiss) might have had a bit of a hand in it

  • The whole season or just this half season?

  • Robin Parker

    yes though surprised Steven didn't want this one for himself, so again I expect him to have guided the story somewhat.

    Only total dud so far this back-half of the season was the silly singing one.

  • Yes. Rings was rubbish, the rest fine to good or better

  • Rullsenberg

    I like Castrovalva too —- hope ya weren't being ironic there! I liked the nerdy stuff in this TARDIS episode. I'll be interested to know what Rob thought of the latest ep (Victorian horror) as bloke on the sofa with me thought that was the best of the season so far….

  • I like Castrovalva, too, but of all the possible ways to explore the inside of the TARDIS, “Let's examine force symmetries and their contribution to meditative and healing states” is probably the most boring option imaginable.

    I've seen about seven minutes of Saturday's episode so far. Review will come when I'm done!

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