Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS April 27, 2013

The episode “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” has a lot of contrived dangers and resolutions. But in the process, it gives us a nice tour of the longest running character on the show (we saw the TARDIS slightly earlier than we first encountered the Doctor), and also carries us closer to the end of the season and the possible revelation of the Doctor's name. Spoilers ahead.

So when the breaking rods started coming through the walls, I couldn't help but think of Galaxy Quest, with its humorous commentary on the ship's design being in places simply a means to danger and thus a plot device. Was I the only one?

But there were a lot of nice little details. Did anyone else notice the name SMITHS on the key in the TARDIS console?

There was a nice contrast between the callousness of some of the salvage crew, and the Doctor's concern to save Clara: “Salvage of a lifetime – you meant the ship, I meant Clara.” The Doctor's use of the self-destruct bluff was brilliant!

Getting to tour the ship was very cool, letting us see things like the swimming pool and the library.

And it is in the library that Clara finds The History of the Time War. Clara says “So that's who” as she is reading it, and later mentions that she read the Doctor's name in it.

That is an important detail. It isn't that his name is magical, as though it being written and read itself makes something happen. It is his identity, and the significance of that identity, that is where this is headed.

I loved the Encyclopedia Gallifrey in liquid form.

Having the Eye of Harmony be seen as itself a star about to become a black hole was pretty cool.

The Doctor's line, “Secrets protect us, secrets make us safe” ties in with this major theme. So too perhaps did the fact that the Doctor, when he reaches through the rift in time to tell himself to do a reset, using the “Big Friendly Button,” he calls himself “Doctor.”

With respect to religion, there is quite literally a “leap of faith” required towards the end. But there is also the notion of secrets and revelations, the importance of names, and the idea of a vast cosmic battle between good and evil and the role of a particular savior figure in it – all recorded in a very special book. There is lots one could talk about, and speculate about.

So the plot devices of danger and time reset were fairly common Doctor Who fare, but I felt that the details thrown in still managed to make up for the tediousness of certain plot device elements. What did you think of “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”?



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  • I loved the episode. My love for the episodes these days has mostly to do with the human aspect than plot. I understand the impracticality of revealling the Doctor’s name (for the show/fans etc), but I do miss seeing some personal development and history for the character of the Doctor, so I’m always pretty happy when these big revelations come about.

    I also understand the companions are surrogates for the audience, but at times this bothered me a bit, like the need for the ocmpanions (recently) to always be humans, from our time, etc. It was exciting to think Clara might be from the Victorian age, or that a future companion might not be human. Like it or not they are characters. So I’m happy with Clara having a mystery of her own. I just hope it has a nice resolution to it.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    Squee! I liked this one.

    Plot wise it didn’t really grab me. The salvage crew weren’t all that likeable, although the interactions between episode characters in Doctor Who generally do leave me cold. The fast pace of this show means it’s just too hard to develop characters in a single episode. And you’re quite right about some elements of the TARDIS existing purely for the plot device—I was reminded of the trip through Central Bureaucracy in the Futurama episode Hermes gets his Groove Back.

    That said, the secondary characters and the sillier aspects of the journey through the TARDIS managed to support a few memorable things. Obviously, there are all those geek friendly details about the TARDIS. (One of my earliest Dr Who memories involves Tom Baker hunting one of the more esoteric rooms in the TARDIS, unravelling his scarf as he went so he could find his way back. This memory may very well be corrupt!)

    Everything so far seems to point to a different sort of an end to the season. The Doctor doesn’t really exist anymore (outside of the TARDIS library!), thanks to Dalek Clara. Instead of another the Doctor saving us all from yet another alien threat, the danger is that some secrets might become known. That thought worried the Silence no end! Perhaps the Great Intelligence wants to know too much?

    Of course, the allure of the show is the mystery surrounding the Doctor. Whilst revelations about his past make for great episodes, I don’t want too many spoilers!

    • Cloister Bell

      Your memory is from “Castrovalva”, where a newly regenerated FIFTH doctor unraveled the scarf from his fourth incarnation to find his way around. They destroyed the real scarf in the process, a decision they later regretted.

      Loved the episode, but the zombie-claras was a little forced. They should have been dangerous but not malicious; burning hot and screaming but not violent or directly hostile. In other words, you should have been scared of them like a drowning, panicked swimmer grabbing you and likely to get you both killed, not like someone who’s trying to drown you.

      I get that this is about secrets and secret identities. In retrospect, it’s foreshadowing what we’ll learn in the season finale. Evil monsters that turn out to be Clara’s future. An android that turns out to be their brother. The TARDIS: friendly machine turned hostile by pain and hostility. The Doctor revealing to Clara that there’s more to her than she realizes, and the book revealing to Clara that there’s more to the Doctor than he is willing to admit.

      One other minor point: the cloister bell rang too fast, and for only a brief time at the beginning. Instead, it would have been better to have had it going for the whole episode, slowly and softly in the background, perhaps woven in with the music.