The Doctor: Don’t worship me. I’d make a very bad god.
Production Code: 1.11.
Doctor Who Season: S27 (Ep11).
Story Number: 165.
The return to the Rift…
So, the TARDIS now has a crew of three – and with Rose asking Mickey to meet them at Cardiff bay, there’s four regular characters in this story. Why Cardiff? The Rift (from an earlier story this season) is what supplies the TARDIS now with fuel. (It makes a kind of sense, as with Gallifrey being gone, the Eye of Harmony which is supposed to power TARDISes is gone too – except at the time of the TV Movie in ’96, the Eye of Harmony was in the TARDIS. Or was it some sort of link? Anyway, the wooliness of what actually powers the TARDIS and other ideas from the TV Movie make a surprising return by the story’s end.)
The Rift, Captain Jack, Cardiff bay – it’s amusing to watch all these elements together from a story broadcast before Torchwood was even mentioned (that would be the next season in Doctor Who). Unbeknownst to the TARDIS foursome as they relax in Cardiff, there’s another recurring character from earlier in the season this time a villain. Jon Pertwee was apparently very keen to illustrate the joy of Doctor Who, the fantastical and the mundane together, with the example of a Yeti on a loo in Tooting Bec. That’s not quite what this story shows, but it does have a Slitheen on a loo in Cardiff. Well, in a loo – pondering her villainous ways. That she spares the journalist outside the loo is something she discusses with the Doctor, later – after she’s been quickly captured by the TARDIS foursome. In other stories, this would be “the end”, then the next adventure, but with this curio of a tale it’s an opportunity for the story to really start.
The TARDIS is still hanging around the Rift refuelling, so, this pause in the story allows a couple of couples to discuss the consequences of the TARDIS traveling around, righting wrongs.
One couple – Rose and Mickey and the gulf between them now that’s Rose has been to the stars and back.
The other couple – it’s Magaret Slitheen last request for a tête-à-tête with the Doctor over dinner. This idea of a villain questioning the Doctor’s methods, his moving on constantly from adventure to adventure, is an intriguing one, and it’s one that actually returned to by RTD near the end of his era as showrunner. The repartee – sometimes comic, sometimes contemplative – between Eccleston’s Doctor and Annete Badland’s Margaret is superb. The idea of the Doctor moving on after the villains fall and not clearing up any mess or thinking of consequences is one that will have a significant relevance for the next story.
The “Heart of the TARDIS” is the echo from the TV Movie mentioned earlier. Of the two couples of the story, one couple’s problems are solved in a flash of light. The way TARDIS saves its crew from the villain also mean Doctor’s dilemma is resolved without him having to deliver Margaret to her doom – he can now help her start again, with a second chance. There’s no fantastical solution to Rose’s heartache though – “That’d be nice” she says when told of Margaret’s second chance. So the fantastical and mundane are combined right up to the story’s end.