Ok, so I didn't blog last week's Doctor Who, because it was frankly, a bit crap and a terrible waste of Lily Cole I thought. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.
However, as a long time fan of Neil Gaiman (a friend who used to run a comic shop introduced me to The Sandman series years ago & I was totally blown away by his imagination & storytelling abilities. If there was ever a writer I would love to be like, it would definitely be Neil Gaiman. And yes, I know I don't write fantasy - yet...) I was beyond excited when I discovered he was going to be writing for Dr Who. My favourite fantasy writer and my favourite TV programme? How good could that be???
Of course there's always the worry that it couldn't be good at all ... but thankfully that didn't happen.
So here, with all the Spoilers in the world is my take on one of the most gloriously batty, weird, and wonderful Dr Who episodes of recent times.
It was a great tease to give the title of this episode the Doctor's Wife, but even better when we realised why. The story begins with four strange, typically Neil Gaiman characters: a rather mad looking woman called Idris, a spooky couple called Uncle and Auntie, who appeared to be sewn together with bits of other people and a rather scary looking Ood with green eyes, known as nephew. We're in a junkyard at the end of the Universe and Idris is about to be sacrificed by an unknown entity called House.
Meanwhile on the Tardis, the Doctor hears a knocking at the door - in the deepest of deep space he's got mail (Oh lordy lord, how I just loved Neil Gaiman's script, it was witty and elegant & goddamned beautiful). And it seems to be from a Time Lord. There's a possibility that they're not all dead, so how can the Doc resist. Even when Amy says, You just want their forgiveness - Doesn't everyone says the Doc. How much pathos can you get into that line, Matt, hmm, hmm? The episode was full of such moments. Matt Smith really excelled himself, but Suranne Jones as Idris was complete revelation. As it turns out, of course there aren't any Time Lords in the junkyard at the end of the universe, the malevolent House has been tricking them all AND stealing the soul of their Tardises into the bargain. So Idris has taken on the persona of the Tardis and the first time in their joint history the Doctor and the Tardis can actually speak to one another. What do you call me? You sexy thing. / Are humans bigger on the inside? And a whole brilliant riff on who stole whom... Seeing the Doctor and Tardis interact in this way was one of the most joyous Doctor Who moments I think I've ever seen. It was brilliant, and Suranne Jones was mad and wonderful and sad (her body was dying the minute the Tardis went into her - we KNOW how the story will end right from the get go) & also wonderfully funny and the dynamic between her and the Doctor was fabulous.
Not only that, Gaiman piled in a whole lot of scary stuff - Uncle and Auntie are stitched together from bits of Time Lord bodies, eurgh, and once House realises this is the last Tardis, he no longer needs them and they drop down dead in front of the Doctor and Idris. In the meantime House has taken over the Tardis with Rory and Amy trapped inside, and then starts playing some very very messy mind games (My ONLY gripe would be, why the fuck did Amy and Rory keep letting go hands, when every time they did they got separated), which ended with Rory apparently dying thinking Amy had left him and the words, HATE AMY scrawled everywhere. Taking aside the fact that Rory apparently died AGAIN (maybe there's a point to that people?) it was a chilling moment. Rory, lovely amiable Rory (whom my children now love more then they loved Mickey, which is saying something) being so full of vitriolic hate for Amy - ouch. I thought the thing about him keeping the memories of waiting 2000 years for her locked up was important, I'm guessing it really really is now....
And I also loved the bit when the Doctor watches the Tardis disappear and says I really don't know what to do, that's new (not quite he had a moment of that with Donna when he got trapped in the Medusa wotsit didn't he?) - but still that's scary. The Doctor ALWAYS knows what to do...
The solution to escaping was of course cobbling together all the bits of the old Tardises (again the pathos of Idris, they are all my sisters and brothers - The Doc is not the only last of his kind), and another witty exchange - You never read the manual/I know what I'm doing - the argument about Ikea flatpacks beloved by couples everywhere, genius. The dialogue was so sparkling and swift, I didn't catch it all, but as well as all the weirdness, Neil Gaiman has delivered a rom com in the tradition of Cary Grant movies. OH I SO WANT TO BE ABLE TO WRITE LIKE THAT!!!
Even to the moment when the Doctor is scratching his head unable to work out why he can't get it moving and Idris tells him how dumb he is - he needs her and he can't work it out.
Then it was so much fun, watching them escape, with Idris doing a telepathic link to Rory - the pretty one - The pretty one? queries the Doc - showing him how to find his way into the archived Tardis console (hurray, a lovely shout back to DT days) - which cleverly allowed them (sorry can't quite remember how need to watch it again) get back control of the console proper to allow Idris and the Doctor back into the Tardis, where it was a matter of moments to despatch House before the episode wrapped up the only way it could with Idris dying and releasing the Tardis back into the bluebox again. You knew it was coming all the way through, but oh god, didn't Matt Smith play it well - the joy of having finally spoken to his lifelong companion - the one who's always there when everyone else has gone and then losing her again was just terrible. Of all the losses he's faced, I'm not sure if this one is the worst, even perhaps worse then losing River (though of course there was a neat nod to her in the last words Idris spoke to Rory, which I'm sure will be terribly significant). And the ending with the Doctor talking to the Tardis and stroking the console, You sexy thing, was very very sweet.
Fabulous, fabulous episode. I do hope Gaiman gets to write for Doctor Who again. Even better, can he take over as show runner when Steven Moffat gives up. Please, pretty please....