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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS": Latest DOCTOR WHO felt like a trip wasted

Doctor Who, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, BBC, television, science fictionIn the past few days since watching it I've tried hard to make myself enjoy "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" and I simply can't.

The title of the latest episode of Doctor Who promised an awful lot.  I mean, how many times over the years have we gotten to see anything substantial of the TARDIS past the Console Room?  The only thing that comes to mind is "The Invasion of Time" from the Tom Baker era (how many times could a single episode use the same descending stairs in one scene?).  The Cloister Room has been shown a number of times, notably in the 1996 television movie.  And there was a fleeting look at the wardrobe in "The Christmas Invasion".  But that's shockingly little to be seen for a time/space ship that's at least as spacious as a skyscraper packed within an old-school police box can be...

So in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" we got corridors on top of corridors of the TARDIS' interior.  Clara comes upon the Library (and that tantalizing tome titled The History of the Time War).  We see the swimming pool (now much bigger than that little kiddie pool in "The Invasion of Time").  I noticed that the TARDIS also has an observatory (how it's supposed to work, I can't figure out).  And at long last we got to see the Eye of Harmony itself.  Which if you can ignore that whole "soul-sucking" business from the TV movie, was actually pretty cool.  There were a LOT of sounds and bits of dialogue from the entire span of Doctor Who (including at least one from "An Unearthly Child", the very first story from November 1963).

Speaking of which: books in the form of vials containing liquid.  Is this Doctor Who or Harry Potter?

Yes yes yes, all well and good.  But I still thought that "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" was too flat of an episode than it should have been.

Maybe it was the heightened expectations about seeing the TARDIS finally revealing its full glory to us.  With more and more time since it was first broadcast/transmitted, I think the biggest problem with the episode was its execution.  Having the TARDIS picked up by salvagers and The Doctor conning them into helping him rescue Clara from the bowels of his own ship wasn't the best of plot devices.  Incidentally, I didn't feel much empathy for the Van Baalen Brothers, except for the very end of the episode.

Maybe the purpose of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" was to tempt us with more of what I'm calling "mythos porn" in the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary special.  But there could have been better ways of pulling it off.  I remember one of the Doctor Who novels from the Nineties that had the TARDIS "exploding" into a vast city-scape that The Doctor had to navigate through in order to repair it.  This could have been an epic adventure filled with wonder and mystery, and instead it felt as thrilling as going down into the basement to fix the plumbing...

I'm going to give "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" Two and one-half Sonic Screwdrivers out of five possible, and that might be too generous.  There are only three episodes left in this season, including Neil Gaiman's next entry and then the eagerly-awaited finale "The Name of the Doctor".  Let's hope that Steven Moffat and crew can knock the next few out of the ballpark.