Doctor Who 2.4: The Doctor’s Wife review

Review

The Doctor’s WifeThe Doctor's Wife review

The Doctor: Sayonara Squash Court Seven.

Production Code: 2.3. (Footnote [1]).
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep4).
Story Number: 216.

I would really emphasise that you watch this curiously-titled Doctor Who story before reading any reviews including this one…

The actual reveal of “who” is The Doctor’s Wife actually arrives in the pre-credits.

LITTLE BOXES

The Doctor's Wife review

Before the actual broadcast, with its trailer mentioning “There’s a living Time Lord still out there!”, it was fun to speculate which Time Lord from the Doctor’s past this to would refer to: Susan’s Grandmother (The Doctor Dances had confirmed Susan was likely his actual Granddaughter); the Rani, pretending to be his wife; Romana back from E-Space? This last option would make a kind of sense (even though she was more of a partner than wife as such) considering last week and this week – stranded ships in another universe feature once more and were the idea for all three stories of the Doctor Who E-Space Trilogy in which Romana made her exit.

The actual message from the “little box” in the pre-credits is from a male (well, sometimes) Time Lord: the Corsair (another Pirate). (Also in the pre-credits there’s a brief discussion between Rory and Amy of the Doctor’s future – and the season’s past – and there’s an intriguing phrase which points to future adventures by the story’s end. There’s no Eye Patch Lady nor Schroedinger’s pregnancy-scan this week as far as the Story Arcs go.)

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

The Doctor's Wife review

All this speculation about “which Time Lord” wouldn’t mean much to “new viewers” (those who’ve only seen the RTD era onwards, or only Doctor number 11) though I’m guessing it was still a hugely entrancing drama for them. For this viewer though, thinking back after the emotional rollercoaster, the emotive whammy of much of the lines comes from how they layer onto what we (long-time fans) know of the Doctor and the TARDIS. Gaiman when providing the script has (as he explains in the rather good Doctor Who Confidential that followed), has taken joy in unobscuring but not completely revealing the unseen origin-story of how the Doctor left Gallifrey. (There was an equally great Doctor Who Confidential for Blink, another one where the “celebrity scriptwriter” got a tour of the studios of Doctor Who. That scriptwriter went on to become showrunner.)

Gaiman really shows a love of words in this story (unsurprisingly, from the author of The Sandman[2]) though perhaps more surprisingly he really shows a love of Doctor Who continuity too.

Just as a TARDIS console in this story is constructed from odds and ends of previous ones, so in many ways is this Doctor Who story. The Time Lord distress-signal box is from The War Games. The Doctor “burning up”/”deleting” the Swimming Pool, Scullery and Squash Court Seven for extra “welly” to get through the rift to the mini bubble universe – this notion comes from Castrovalva. There’s “rift energy” (from Nu-Who’s Boom Town) and Artron energy (from Classic Who’s The Deadly Assassin and Four to Doomsday) both energy for and from TARDISes.

All these nods to the past are fun. There’s a real emotional resonance though from certain lines though, which have this resonance because of their continuity:

“You stole me. I stole you”.

“What made you think I would ever give you back?”

The idea of the Doctor “borrowing” the TARDIS and going on the run has been the “origin story” for Doctor Who for a long time – new viewers though would at least have an idea of this from the “something borrowed” of The Big Bang.

IT ALL STARTED OUT AS A MILD CURIOSITY IN A JUNKYARD

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“Come on then, Sexy”.

The junkyard of TARDISes is a stunning idea and wonderfully realised by the production design (and of course an oblique reference to the junkyard of 100,000 BC) the whole story has an epic look about it.

The Doctor doesn’t really know what to do yet but he knows he must save Amy and Rory. There’s more great lines that get to the heart of the Doctor-and-TARDIS relationship as they argue how best to construct a new Console:

“You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.”

“No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”

What this story does is put a fresh gloss on every Doctor Who story before it – it means every time we re-watch anything we’ll be wondering about the TARDIS’s motivation. (Especially the story Inside the Spaceship.)

Michael Sheen is excellent in the role of House, he sound so villainous. It’s “very Doctor Who” that he makes Amy and Rory run down corridors, though the interior of the TARDIS being the peril in an inversion and new – and chilling. If Mary Whitehouse was around to view these scenes with Amy finding the (fake) Rorys she’d want the show cancelled all over again. I think they hover at the edge of what’s acceptable for “tea-time horror” without actually crossing the line. (This has to be some sort of theme – Rory dying but not really – that’s featured in the past two stories and will be repeated in future ones.)

I DON’T WANT TO GO

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Gaiman really shows a love of words with the sequence where Amy and Rory enter the Ninth-and-Tenth Doctors’ Control Room – “Crimson. Eleven. Delight. Petrichor” – to shut down the shields to allow one of THREE Consoles of this story to materialise in.

The Doctor’s flippant quip after the Console materialises into the same space as Nephew “That’s another Ood I’ve failed to save” is a mordant continuity-joke from Gaiman.

The idea of there being more than one Control Room, some kept in reserve, is another piece of Classic Doctor Who continuity used by Gaiman as a plot point – the idea of a “Secondary Control Room” is introduced in The Masque of Mandragora.

Suranne Jones is so great in this role, a superb foil for the amazing Matt Smith.

“I just wanted to say… Hello”.

(Maybe it’s my imagination but she also whispers “I love you” just before she disappears.)

I’m glad I took the time to re-watch and review the 2005 season earlier this year. It meant I wrote this in the review of The Parting of the Ways

Imbued with the power of the god-stuff that flowed from the TARDIS, Rose is more than a match for the god of Daleks. (I like to think it’s half Rose and half the TARDIS saying “I want you safe, my Doctor.”)

“My TARDIS”. “My Doctor”. The genius of this story that whether Gaiman was consciously quoting that earlier story doesn’t really matter – that this story fits so well into the continuum of Doctor Who stories means that the TARDIS has always really been the “Doctor’s Wife” anyway, this story just expresses that more clearly. Amazing.

There’s something undefinably poignant about Rory asking “Doctor, do you have a room?” after the bunk beds joke. We feel the Doctor’s sadness at no longer being able to talk in quite the same way, but also his joy as the TARDIS moves the lever and decides where they “need” to go for the next adventure…

Rating: 5/5
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(The Doctor’s Wife iPlayer)

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Footnotes (and links)

1. ^

The review is titled “Doctor Who 2.4…” as it’s Ep4 of the second season of the narrative of the Doctor and Amy – however, the Production Code is actually 2.3, as the previous story was inserted into the running order late in production.

2. ^

The Sandman, as a huge epic story, is often concerned with words and stories themselves. It spanned seventy-five monthly issues as a comicbook and is collected in ten volumes. (Link for Sandman, Volume 1.)

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