By Heather S. Vina
[spoilers through 6.07]
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Recap: The episode opens with Uncle (Adrian Schiller), Auntie (Elizabeth Berrington), and an Ood called “Nephew” (Paul Kasey), escorting Idris (Suranne Jones) to a grate in the ground, where she’s told that her memories and soul are going to be sucked out of her by Nephew and replaced, and that it will be really painful. Um, yay? A Time Lord is coming.
On the TARDIS, Rory is rolling his eyes at one of the Doctor’s fantastical stories, but is a little put out to discover from Amy that it was true, because she was there. Rory takes Amy aside and comments that he knows she’s still thinking about the Doctor’s death that they saw (6.01, “The Impossible Astronaut”), but that they can’t tell him. They’re interrupted by a knock on the door. Considering they’re in space, that throws the duo a bit, but the Doctor is giddy with excitement. What’s at the door? A glowing box.
The Doctor explains to them that it’s a “Time Lord Emergency Message System”. In an emergency, Time Lords wrap up their thoughts, put them in a box and send it out to space. He’s excited because this means that there is a living Time Lord out there, and it’s a good one, because stamped on the box is an Ouroboros, which is the mark of the Corsair, a Time Lord who had that tattooed on himself in every regeneration. But to find the Corsair, they have to leave the universe, which is a rocky and dangerous trip, much to the Doctor’s excitement and Rory’s consternation.
They manage to land, but as soon as they do, the TARDIS is drained of her energy. “It’s as if the soul of the TARDIS has vanished,” says the Doctor, and he has no idea where it went.
But someone else might, as the TARDIS sounds start coming out of Idris and her hands start glowing with Time Energy. It appears that the TARDIS has been transplanted.
On the planet, the Doctor explains to them that the place they’re in is full of rift energy, so it should refuel the TARDIS. The place is full of junk and debris. As the Doctor is explaining all of this to Rory and Amy, Idris comes running from the shadows, shouting, “Thief! Thief! Where’s my thief?” She runs up to the Doctor and tells him, “Goodbye,” then says that’s not right and kisses him. Auntie and Uncle come up behind her and pull her away, trying to explain away her actions. The Doctor asks Idris why he’s a thief. She tries to explain that he has stolen her, or will steal her, but she keeps getting the tenses wrong.
Auntie and Uncle explain that she’s mad. When Uncle warns that she bites, Idris bites the Doctor. She tries to kiss him again, but the Doctor hides behind Rory and Amy. She tells him that he will be “angry. The little boxes will make you angry.” She then turns to Rory and tells him that ‘Petrocoal’ means “the smell of dust after rain.” When Rory tells her that he hadn’t asked, she tells him that “he will.” Auntie tells Idris that she needs a rest and Idris collapses. When Nephew comes out of the shadows to carry Idris away, the Doctor notices that his voice box isn’t working and fixes it. As soon as he does, a bunch of Time Lord voices come out of the voice box.
While Nephew carries Idris away, Auntie and Uncle explain to the Doctor, Rory and Amy that the “House fixes them.” They’re standing on the House. It’s a sentient asteroid.
Nephew locks Idris up, where she’s puzzling over a word that she doesn’t quite know yet. A big word, that will be sad.
Auntie and Uncle take the gang to “see” House, which is a grate in the floor where a green light shines up. The same grate that Idris stood over before she was mindwiped and then replaced. Auntie and Uncle explain to them that they live on House. It feeds them and keeps them alive. As they are explaining this, they are taken over by House’s voice (Michael Sheen), which tells the gang that the people on this planet “do my will.” House’s voice explains to the Doctor that Time Lords have visited him before, but there are no more on him. He tells them that they are welcome, and that they are safe here.
Suspicious, the Doctor thanks him, but takes Rory and Amy off to go exploring.
Idris is having issues figuring out what is going on with her and calls for her thief again.
The Doctor admits to Rory and Amy that he wants to find some of his people and maybe receive some forgiveness from them for having destroyed the Time Lords in the Time War. Amy offers her help. He asks her to return to the TARDIS to get the Sonic Screwdriver. She agrees, but asks him to not get emotional, because that’s when he makes mistakes. She gives the Doctor her phone and tells Rory to look after him, but the Doctor sends Rory after Amy, to look after her, instead.
Amy and Rory make it inside the TARDIS and start looking for the Sonic Screwdriver. While they are inside, a green light starts to surround the TARDIS. Amy calls the Doctor, and as she’s asking about the Screwdriver, he pulls it out of his pocket and flips a switch, locking the two inside the TARDIS.
The Doctor goes exploring by himself and finds a cupboard full of distress boxes. The Doctor realizes that he was lured there. Uncle and Auntie come up to him. The Doctor reveals that he knows that they are made up of patchwork pieces taken from the beings that have crashed on the asteroid. Nothing of them is original anymore. They tell him that “House repairs us.” The Doctor pulls up Auntie’s arm. On it, there’s a tattoo of an Ouroboros: It’s the Corsair’s arm. The Doctor is furious. He tells them that they gave him hope and then took it away. It’s enough to make anyone dangerous, but “God knows what it will do to me.” He tells them to run, but Uncle tells him it’s too late. House is too clever.
Amy calls the Doctor and asks why they are locked in. The Doctor is more distracted by the fact that Idris knew that the boxes were going to make him angry. He tells Amy to “stay put” before he hangs up and runs off.
The Doctor confronts Idris and asks her how she knew the boxes would make him angry. Once again, she calls him her thief. He asks her who she is and she counters with asking him if he really doesn’t know her. She tells him that they put her in “here”. When he says, “The cage,” she says, “In here,” and gestures to her body. She tries to use words to explain who she is, but she can’t find them, so she uses sound, instead. The sound is what the TARDIS makes when it dematerializes.
The Doctor is shocked at Idris’ claims that she’s the TARDIS, but eventually realizes it’s true when she tells him the story of how they first met, when he stole her and she stole him. He sets her free. Between them, they realize that House eats TARDISes by deleting the TARDIS’ matrix and putting it in a human form, then feeding off the energy left behind.
The Doctor realizes that he sent Rory and Amy back to the TARDIS, where they will be eaten, and frantically calls to them. Amy and Rory have already realized that they’re in danger, but can’t get out of the TARDIS. The warning bell tolls and the Doctor makes it to the TARDIS in time to watch it dematerialize.
Rory tries to comfort Amy that they’re safe, because they’re in the TARDIS, but House’s voice informs them that they’re wrong. They’re not safe at all.
The Doctor finds Idris, Auntie and Uncle. He tells them that House has taken off with the TARDIS. Auntie explains that House went off to find more TARDISes, since the Doctor told him that there were no more coming. This is right before she and Uncle drop dead. The Doctor scans Idris and realizes that she’s dying, too. Idris tells him not to get emotional, repeating, “Amy.” The Doctor goes off on a rant before he stops and realizes that he’s in a junkyard of old TARDISes. He can just make a new one! He starts to run off, before stopping and asking if Idris has a name. She tells him that he calls her “Sexy”. He tells her with some embarrassment that he only calls her that “when we’re alone!” She says that they are alone. He smiles at her, calls her “Sexy” and grabs her hand to run off.
House asks Rory and Amy why he shouldn’t just kill them. Rory desperately points out that killing them quickly wouldn’t be fun. House needs entertainment. House agrees then tells them to run.
The Doctor and Idris start their rebuilding, but get in an argument midway through about the Doctor following instructions. Or rather, not following instructions. The Doctor rants to Idris that she’s not always been very reliable. She hasn’t always taken him where he wanted to go. She tells him that she might not have, but she always took him where he needed to go. The Doctor agrees and then gleefully admits that he wants to be able to keep talking to her like this, even when she’s back in the TARDIS. She tells him that she isn’t built that way. She gasps in pain and tells him that this universe is collapsing quickly. They only have a few hours left.
House torments Rory and Amy in the corridors, making Amy think that she has left Rory behind several times. Each time gets progressively worse, and each time, Rory seems to get madder at her, until she finds his corpse and his ranted writings on the walls talking about killing her. She starts crying and screaming, until Rory comes up to her and everything sets back to normal. It was all an hallucination.
Idris admits to the Doctor that she stole him because she had always wanted to see the universe, and he was the only one mad enough to take her up on it.
They finally manage to get a TARDIS console going, when Idris jumpstarts it with a kiss and a little bit of time energy. They lock on to their TARDIS, but for them to get onto it, the shields will have to be lowered. The Doctor asks Idris to get a telepathic message to Amy, the “pretty one”, but to Idris, the “pretty one” is Rory and she calls him, instead. She tells him that he needs to get to the old control room to lower the shields. She’ll give him the passkey when they get there. When the Doctor tells Idris that there are no old control rooms, she tells him that she’s archived them all, even the ones that he hasn’t created yet.
Despite some interference from Nephew, Rory and Amy make it to the old control room, where Idris sends Rory the passkey: Crimson, Eleven, Delight, Petrocoal, the latter having been the answer Idris gave Rory for the question that he hadn’t asked yet. It takes a few tries until Amy realizes that the passkey is telepathic. She ‘thinks’ the passkey and unlocks the control room. They get the shields down. Idris and the Doctor manage to make it onto the bridge, just as Nephew is about to kill Rory and Amy. Their materialization manages to get rid of Nephew, but House is still around.
House confronts the Doctor and comes up with different ways to kill them: turning off the gravity field, shutting off the oxygen. The Doctor says that he’s House’s only hope for getting through the rift and into their universe, and he’ll do it, if House promises not to kill them. Idris collapses. Rory cares for her, telling the Doctor that she doesn’t have long. The Doctor tells House that the only way to make it through the rift is to delete some rooms and lower the shields by a percentage. House does this. He decides that the best way to get rid of the “vermin” inside of him is to delete the room the gang are in.
The only problem for House is that, of course, it was all a trick of the Doctor’s. A fail-safe in the TARDIS has it that any living thing in a room that is deleted is automatically transported to the main control room, which is where the Doctor needed to be. House warns him that he’s killed hundreds of Time Lords, so the Doctor should fear him, but the Doctor tells him that he killed them all. House should fear him.
House wonders why he should be worried. The Doctor explains that House ripped the TARDIS from her home, but now she’s back. As soon as Idris dies, she will be set free. The TARDIS takes over her shell and chases House down, destroying the House consciousness once and for all. I love this scene. I got chills and tears, as the TARDIS returned to her rightful place and destroyed the monster!
As soon as she’s done getting rid of House, Idris materializes for one last goodbye with her thief. She tells him that she has finally realized what the “big, complicated word” was that she was looking for, which was also so sad. It’s “alive”. He tells her that alive isn’t a sad word, but she tells him that it is when it’s over. She’ll always be there for him, but “this is when we talked.” She just wanted to tell him, “Hello,” and that it’s so very nice to meet him. Crying, the Doctor whispers that he doesn’t want her to, but she dematerializes to the sound of the engines, leaving the Doctor alone with Rory and Amy.
Later, the Doctor is fixing the TARDIS console. Amy asks if he’s going to make her talk, but he says he can’t. She isn’t built that way. Rory tells them that Idris kept saying something as she was dying, something she said they would need to know someday: “The only water in the forest is the river.” Rory says that it doesn’t make sense, but the Doctor tells him, “Not yet.”
The Doctor sends Rory and Amy off to their new bedroom (House had deleted all of the old ones), after promising them that they can have one without bunkbeds this time. He finishes up fixing the TARDIS and stands at the console, quietly asking her if she’s there. There’s no answer and the Doctor sadly calls himself a silly old… He’s telling her that they’re going to head to “the eye of Orion, or wherever we need to go,” when the TARDIS answers him the only way that she can: by moving the console lever. The Doctor smiles and starts whooping and running around the console as they head off to their next adventure together. “A boy and his box,” as Amy puts it, “off to see the universe.”
Review: This episode is one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who and, in my opinion, Matt Smith does some of his best work in this episode, especially in that final scene where he says hello/goodbye to Idris. His heartbreak is so real, not only in acting, but in the character, as well. For the Doctor, the one constant in his life is the TARDIS. Like Dean Winchester (Supernatural) with the Impala, or James Kirk (Star Trek) with the Enterprise, the TARDIS is the Doctor’s “true” companion. He cares for his traveling companions, but he knows that their companionship is all temporary. Whether through death or through a less permanent departure, they will all eventually leave him. But the TARDIS? Has been with him since the beginning and will be with him until the end. With her last nut and bolt, she will never let him down and she will never leave him, and he will never leave her. They take care of each other and they’d die for each other. And bringing her to life so that she could have that moment, that connection with the Doctor where she was able to tell him how much he meant to her, was brilliant. And beautiful. I’m not embarrassed to say that I cried at the end!
Suranne Jones did a wonderful job as Idris, aka “The TARDIS”. She brought the right kind of frenetic energy and enthusiasm to the role. Making the TARDIS’ personality similar to the Doctor’s in her kind of energetic, enthusiastic, adventurous craziness made perfect sense. It fit that this TARDIS is so much of a similar personality to this Time Lord, thus why they work together and have been together for so long.
I love the idea of making the TARDIS someone who could speak and interact with the Doctor, but I’ve always felt that the TARDIS was “alive” on the show, and the show has done a good job of demonstrating that the Doctor feels this as well. But having her voice that she stole the Doctor, and that she has always taken the Doctor where “he needs to go,” was wonderful. It made complete sense in how the TARDIS has always been erratic in her destinations, and how she has always managed to make her way back to the Doctor, despite odds saying that she shouldn’t. It also tied in well with the TARDIS allowing Rose to take on the power of the time vortex (1.13, “The Parting of the Ways”) so that she could save the Doctor: There’s nothing the TARDIS wouldn’t do for her thief.
I have this visual of this lonely TARDIS, sitting in a museum, waiting to be decommissioned, when all she wants to do is go on some adventures, see the universes, have some fun, but the stuffy Time Lords won’t let her. When along comes this Time Lord, who has this madcap, crazy energy like she does and who doesn’t quite fit in with his people and who wants the same things that she does, and she decides to steal him. She just lets him believe he thinks of it, because she’s generous that way!
Originally, Neil Gaiman wanted to make Uncle and Auntie more grotesque and monster-looking, but because of budget restraints, they weren’t able to. I think that actually ended up serving the story better. When you see these two, you know that there is something wrong and something out of sorts with them, but it’s not quite clear until the Doctor reveals it. And if they had had teeth on their faces and weird things like that, it wouldn’t have been quite as powerful. They were quite sad creatures. Driven insane by this incredibly powerful being that had total control over them and kept bringing them back. Pathetic and sad.
I quite enjoy exploring the TARDIS’ interior, normally, but the corridors after corridors were a little boring. Nowhere near what it was like in Tom Baker’s reign, when they went through the TARDIS and found swimming pools and gardens and workshops (“The Invasion of Time”). That was a lot of fun! But the sparsity of the scenery worked for the plotline, so I won’t quibble too much.
Overall, this was an emotionally moving and satisfying episode. I really think it’s in my top five episodes of the show. It hit me emotionally, and satisfied that previously unknown desire I had to get to see the Doctor and the TARDIS really interact. Neil Gaiman really hit this one out of the park.
Well, that’s it for catching up on this season of Doctor Who! The next episode reviewed will be “Let’s Kill Hitler”, which is due to come back in September of this year.
Uncle: I only wish I could go in your place, Idris. No, I don’t, cause it’s really going to hurt.
Rory: What is happening??
The Doctor: We’re leaving the universe!
Amy: How can you leave the universe?
The Doctor: With enormous difficulty!
Amy: So, what kind of trouble is your friend in?
The Doctor: He was in a bind, a bit of a pickle, sort of distressed.
Amy: Aw, you can just say you don’t know.
Amy: Listen to me. Don’t get emotional, because that’s when you make mistakes.
Idris: It’s me. I’m the TARDIS.
The Doctor: No you’re not! You’re a bitey-mad lady. The TARDIS is up-and-downey stuff in a big blue box.
Idris: Yes, that’s me. A Type-40 TARDIS. I was already a museum piece when you were young. And the first time you touched my console, you said…
The Doctor: …I said you were the most beautiful thing I had ever known.
Idris: Then you stole me. And I stole you.
The Doctor: I borrowed you.
Idris: Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing that was taken! What makes you think I would ever give you back?
The Doctor: You’re the TARDIS?
The Doctor: My TARDIS?!
Idris: My Doctor.
Idris: No, stop it. Don’t get emotional! Hmm, that’s what the orangey girl says.
Idris: You’re like a nine-year-old trying to rebuild a motorbike in his bedroom and you never read the instructions.
The Doctor: I always read the instructions!
Idris: There’s a sign on my front door. You have been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?
The Doctor: That’s not instructions!
Idris: There’s an instruction at the bottom. What does it say?
The Doctor: ‘Pull to open.’
Idris: Yes, and what do you do?
The Doctor: I push!
Idris: Every single time. 700 years. Police box doors open out the way.
The Doctor: You know, you have never been very reliable!
Idris: And you have?
The Doctor: You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go!
Idris: No, but I always took you where you needed to go!
The Doctor: [pause] You did!
Idris: You ever wonder why I chose you all those years ago?
The Doctor: I chose you. You were unlocked!
Idris: Of course I was. I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one mad enough.
House: Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.
The Doctor: Fear me. I’ve killed all of them.
Amy: It’s always you and her, isn’t it? Long after the rest of us have gone. A boy and his box, off to see the universe.
The Doctor: No, bunk beds are cool! A bed, with a ladder! You can’t beat that!
You can watch this episode, and the rest of season six of Doctor Who, on Amazon.com.