The Age of Steel

The Age of Steel - Cybermen

The human race.  For such an intelligent lot you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit.  Sometimes I think you enjoy it.  Easy life.

Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

On the parallel Earth, Lumic is starting to convert unwilling humans into Cybermen and it is a race against time for the Doctor, Rose and Mickey along with Pete Tyler and the Preachers to stop the Cybermen.

Review

I’d love to say that my problems from Rise of the Cybermen are magically fixed by the second part.  There are some nice moments here, however, the Cybermen do still feel quite hampered by the presence of John Lumic, their creator, who feels like a completely unnecessary addition to Doctor Who’s history.  The conclusion to their reintroduction to the revived series, this episode is better than it’s predecessor but could be so much better.

There are moments here that work really nicely and most of these are down to Graeme Harper’s direction.  The scenes with the Doctor and Mrs Moore walking through the Cybermen-filled tunnels leading to Battersea Power Station are beautifully shot and nicely atmospheric.  Harper’s experience of directing the original series definitely stands him in good stead and this definitely shows through here and shooting the Cybermen from low angles certainly makes them feel intimidating.  There are some nice emotional moments here, like the scene with the Cyberman remember who she was prior to conversion, revealing that she was Sally Phelan and converted the night before her marriage.  Call me a sentimental old romantic, but that really gets me every time.  Equally, even though I know that Mrs Moore’s demise is coming every time, it doesn’t lessen its emotional impact.  A scene that did take me by surprise, however, is a very brief one in the episode’s closing moments when Rose returns home to see her mother, and when Jackie asks what’s happened and the Doctor can only answer that they went ‘Far away.’  It’s a lovely moment, where the acting achieves more than pages of dialogue ever would.

Equally, Mickey finally has some development.  Following on from the death of his doppelganger Ricky early on in this concluding episode, Mickey finds a place for him to be happy and not trailing around after the Doctor and Rose, which feels like a lovely moment of seizing control of his future.  I wish I could say that this feels like it has been coming from Rose, however, from my other Tenth Doctor reviews you will see that I am not a fan of how the show has treated Mickey generally.  That being said, the fact that he kisses Rose before running off with Ricky does suggest that he hasn’t entirely moved on from her, despite her ambivalence towards him.  Rose’s reaction to her decision to stay on this parallel Earth feels slightly false considering what we’ve seen before.

The Age of Steel - Cybercontroller

I feel as though the writer, Tom MacRae, and potentially Russell T Davies (depending on how much he rewrote), don’t really know what to do with the Cybermen.  They seem to just be there for large periods of this story, not really doing anything except being pawns in Lumic’s game for World Domination.  The fact that the Doctor is able to save himself, Pete and Rose early on with the sonic screwdriver without really explaining what he did really irritates me.  The story does feel extremely derivative of Genesis of the Daleks, especially when he debates whether causing the destruction of the Cybermen by overwhelming them with emotion is the right course of action.  Equally, Lumic feels utterly superfluous – not every adversary that the Doctor faces needs a Davros style creator, and Lumic feels utterly ridiculous here.  Ultimately, the audience doesn’t really care when John Lumic gets converted into the Cyber Controller by the Cybermen because we haven’t really spent enough time with this character to care about his ultimate fate.

The Age of Steel - Pete Rose Doctor

Verdict: The conclusion of the reintroduction of the Cybermen is enjoyable if slightly underwhelming, with the titular antagonist taking more of a back seat in this concluding part. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Peter Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Helen Griffin (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen).

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • In a scene that was deleted from the final episode, it would have been revealed that Ricky and Jake were lovers.
  • There are references to Tomb of the Cybermen, including the Cybermen being able to kill with electricity from their hands, using mind control and characters being surprised by a decoy Cyberman.

Best Moment

A scene that I had forgotten but one that plays really nicely – the brief scene between Rose, Jackie and the Doctor towards the end of the episode.

Best Quote

I’ve been captured.  But don’t worry, Rose and Pete are out there.  They can rescue me.  Oh well, never mind.

The Tenth Doctor

The Long Game

The Long Game Spike

The thing is, Adam, time travel’s like visiting Paris.  You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in.  Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up snogging complete strangers.  Or is that just me?

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS materialises on board Satellite 5, which broadcasts across the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, however, the Empire’s attitude and technology appear backwards and those promoted to Floor 500 are never seen again.

Review

When I rewatched this episode to write this review, I was quite surprised at how my attitude towards it had changed. Previously I would have considered it one of the stronger episodes of the first series of the revival, however, having thought about it greater depth, I do have some problems with it.

One of the weaknesses of the story is Adam, as played by Bruno Langley.  The story sets out with the ultimate aim of proving that not everyone is a suitable companion to the Doctor, which is achieved by showing Adam’s abuse of the technology onboard Satellite Five to attempt to turn a profit.  Largely I feel that this element of the plot doesn’t work so well because we haven’t really spent enough time with Adam to feel as though his departure from the TARDIS is a great loss and he hasn’t really received any characterisation.  In one draft of the script, Adam’s motivation for sending the future information to the past was in order to develop a cure for his father’s arthritis, an element that would have at least added something to his character, although it would seem incredibly callous of the Doctor to kick him off the TARDIS if this had been his motivation all along.  The truth of the matter is that the Doctor didn’t want Adam along in the first place and it almost feels like he wants an excuse to get rid of him; Rose invited him to join them at the end of Dalek, but neither she nor the Doctor spend very much time with him on Satellite Five.  He rejoins the main narrative late on, but the story at times does feel like separate narratives.  I will admit that I don’t like Adam, but it does feel like he has incredibly raw deal by the end of it, especially considering what happens in the following adventure, Father’s Day.  It certainly does feel as though the Doctor and Rose are all too happy to leave Adam to his own devices during the story, only caring when it could have caused them problems and it is almost as if they have forgotten who he worked for in the previous story.  The scenes with Adam wandering off on his own feel really disjointed, uneven and at times, sadly quite dull.

It certainly does feel as though there is a lot going on in this story, and I’m not convinced that all of it works.  It feels as though Davies has tried to cram his original script premise pitched to Andrew Cartmel in the late Eighties into a 45-minute program, and not all of it entirely works.  We have things like the head chips, which aren’t really dwelt on, and as a huge fan of Black Books, it is a shame not to see more of Tamsin Greig in this story.  This certainly does feel like a Seventh Doctor story, with the Doctor motivating someone to rise up and destroy the current system, with this narrative making it Cathica, angry and resentful at the fact that she has not been promoted before, even though she knows what happens on Floor 500 who saves the Doctor and Rose.  There is certainly an underlying attack on the media here, with the Jagrafess and the Editor controlling the narrative to set the human race back 90 years, which is a thinly veiled attack on media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and the late Robert Maxwell and there is the capitalist nature of the humans on Satellite 5, who want nothing more than to be promoted to Floor 500, where rumours have it, the walls are made of gold.  Ultimately, it feels as though there’s too much going on, and the storylines are not all gold – it feels as though a couple could have been cut to make a better story.

The Editor

The strongest parts of this story is the Editor, played by Simon Pegg.  A middle man involved in the running of Satellite 5 on behalf of the Jagrafess.  Pegg adds quite a lot of menace to the story which is somewhat undermined when we get to see the Jagrafess itself.  However, Pegg almost feels like a dark echo of the Doctor, with the clearest parallel being his enthusiasm at not knowing something when he finds no record of the Doctor and Rose.  The Editor is described as being a human banker, at a time where being human is difficult to make a profit from and his banking background also seems like socialist attack on that profession.  Pegg stalks around his frozen wasteland, perfectly content and channeling a feeling of real menace and evil.  The story never gives us a convincing reason as to why the Jagrafess and the Editor are doing this to the human race (although we do learn why in the finale), however, given the speed at which the Editor is willing to change his plans after learning that the Doctor is a Time Lord and has a time machine, it is a suggestion that he isn’t too wedded to Satellite Five.

Verdict: The Long Game has too much going on in its narrative and feels unnecessary in its treatment of Adam to prove how worthy Rose is.  Simon Pegg does his best but this story is quite forgettable. 5/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse) & Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Brian Grant

Behind the Scenes

  • Adam becomes the first companion to be removed from the TARDIS due to bad behaviour.
  • The story is based on an idea submitted to the Doctor Who production team by Russell T Davies in the 1980s.
  • Simon Pegg previously appeared in Invaders from Mars.
  • This story would demonstrate to the new production team the utility of a process known as ‘double banking’, which would lead to ‘Doctor-lite’ and ‘companion-lite’ episodes.

Best Moment

Possibly the medical scene with Adam and the Nurse, but I’m struggling to think of any better.

Best Quote

Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed.  It’s just a matter of emphasis.  The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilise an economy, create an enemy, change a vote.

So all the people are like, slaves.

Well now. There’s an interesting point.  Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t known he’s enslaved?

Yes.

Oh.  I was hoping for a fun philosphical debate.  Is that all I’m going to get? “Yes”?

Yes.

You’re no fun.

Let me out of these manacles.  You’ll find out how much fun I am.

The Editor, Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

The Long Game TARDIS

 

Rise of the Cybermen

Rise of the Cybermen

What happened?

The Time Vortex, it’s gone!  That’s impossible.  It’s just gone.

Rose and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land on an alternate version of the Earth where Rose’s father is still alive.  However, one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies have been reborn and are waiting to strike.

Review

After the success of Dalek, it is perhaps easy to see why the production team wanted to bring back the Cybermen in a big way.  Normally thought of in the same breath as Skaro’s finest and the Master as one of the Doctor’s Grade A antagonists, the Cybermen had started to become a bit of a joke towards the end of the original run, and so a clean break is a good idea in theory.  Sadly, where Rise of the Cybermen falls down is in this attempt to essentially tell the same story twice.  Lloyd Pack is essentially this iteration of the Cybermen’s Davros, even confined to a wheelchair and the fact that the story feels less than original.  The returning Graeme Harper does sterling work, but he can’t improve on what feels like a lacklustre story.

Lumic

One of the major problems with Rise of the Cybermen is that many of the characters are so damn unlikeable or unbelievable.  Whether this is Roger Lloyd Pack ensuring the scenery remains thoroughly chewed throughout as a pseudo-Davros, the marginally more unpleasant Jackie or the unnecessary Ricky, there’s nothing compelling enough about them to care enough about them or their eventual fate.  Lumic feels as though he has come straight out of a Bond film, a feeling which is not helped by some thoroughly unconvincing dialogue, but it takes a villain who should be relatable as someone who is afraid of death and makes them completely one dimensional.  Ricky seems to be characterised solely by scowling, meanwhile, the parallel Jackie Tyler seems to be pretty similar to the Jackie we’re supposed to like, but with money.  The story attempts to use this as shorthand to make us feel something for these characters, but it ultimately falls down.  There is a potentially much more interesting story to be told here, but it seems to fall into the same old trappings and perhaps the fact that it is set on a parallel world numbs some of the stakes.

The story is a strong one for Mickey but also contains some of the worst characterisation for the Doctor and Rose.  We finally get to delve into Mickey’s backstory, finding out that he was raised by his grandmother after his dad left and his mother “couldn’t cope”, see the basis of his insecurity and the fact that Mickey feels guilty for his grandmother’s death  The story does effectively show how much Mickey has developed since Rose.  However, we also see the Doctor and Rose treat him pretty shabbily throughout – highlighted by the way they leave him holding down a button on the TARDIS console, whilst they reminisce about past adventures.  Additionally, the moment where the Doctor has to choose whether he follows Rose or Mickey, he seems utterly incredulous that there might be something on this alternative Earth that might tempt Mickey, and of course there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he’ll follow Rose.  In many ways, Mickey is the modern series’ Harry Sullivan.  Billie Piper does her best here with Rose, but she feels as though she is ultimately treading water until the ultimate conclusion of her arc at the end of the series.  The jealousy that she shows when the Doctor even mentions talking to another woman is really ugly and is perhaps symptomatic of writers not being sure what to do with her beyond her being the companion to see viewers through the first regeneration of the modern era.  The story does feel like a retread of a lot of the issues that were a central narrative surrounding Father’s Day and the ultimate conclusion seems very predictable.  David Tennant’s performance is largely good, but he is affected with the smugness that seems to be insidious in series 2.

The Cybermen are perhaps the best part of this story.  They are used very sparingly in this first part of a two part story, with the story and direction keeping them out of focus or out of sight.  They are shown to be quite effective and a serious threat, even if I’m not a massive fan of the stomping boots and the Cybersuits.  The shots of the Cyber Conversion are fantastically creepy, even if they do feature some of shaky CGI.  I think that the benefit of having an experienced returning hand like Graeme Harper is that he really knows how to handle enemies like the Cybermen.  However, I am not a fan of how the story deals with the basic concept of the Cybermen.  One of the scariest things about the Cybermen in the classic series is how humanity has been given the agency to make the choice to become more and more synthetic.  In this depiction, the choice is taken away by Lumic exploiting the vulnerable of society to be amongst his first converts.  Even despite the more privileged members of this alternative society have purchased Cybus tech which will ultimately be used to convert them, there is no suggestion that they were aware of this.  Despite the fact that the Cybermen are well used here, this does make their threat seem lessened somewhat.

The Cybermen

Verdict: Rise of the Cybermen, sadly, is somewhat underwhelming.  Mickey gets some nice moments, but the story is largely flawed. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Don Warrington (The President), Mona Hammond (Rita-Anne), Helen Griffiths (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Paul Antony-Barber (Dr Kendrick), Adam Shaw (Morris), Andrew Ufondo (Soldier), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber-Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Cyber-Voice)

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • Russell T Davies wanted to reintroduce the Cybermen but was aware of the complicated backstory they had in the Classic series and decided to set the story on a parallel Earth.
  • The idea of the Cybermen being a response to fears of organ replacement was viewed as being outdated, with Davies wanting the story to focus on the idea of humanity wanting to constantly upgrade instead.
  • The story is loosely based on and inspired by Spare Parts written by Marc Platt.  Platt received a credit and was paid a fee for using the basic concepts.
  • The story aired during the 40th Anniversary of the broadcast of the debut of the Cybermen, The Tenth Planet.
  • Graeme Harper became the first director to work on both the original series and the new series by working on this story.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: Colin Spaull previously played Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks (which was also directed by Graeme Harper), Don Warrington played Rassilon in several Big Finish audios. Helen Griffin later appeared in Cobwebs, while Paul Antony-Barber appeared in The Magic Mousetrap.

Best Moment

The direction when the Cybermen enter Jackie’s birthday party is really nicely done by Graeme Harper.

Best Quote

I just gave away ten years of my life.  Worth every second!

The Tenth Doctor

The Preachers

Dalek

Dalek - Dalek.jpg

The stuff of nightmares, reduced to an exhibit.  I’m getting old.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground bunker in the United States in 2012 in response to a distress signal, where alien collector Henry Van Statten is keeping his latest find – the last Dalek in existence.

Review

The Daleks are almost as essential to Doctor Who as the TARDIS and the titular hero.  Even in the TV Movie, they are heard but not seen, even if the Dalek voice is a bit questionable.  So looking back on Dalek in hindsight, it seems bizarre that there was a possibility that the Daleks would not appear when Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner brought Christopher Eccleston to our screens in 2005.  Even when you think about the Daleks coming back, it would be far too easy to overcomplicate this story by shrouding the return of the Daleks in large swathes of continuity from the previous stories that have gone before.  So it is still refreshing that Dalek is such an effective reintroduction to the evil pepper pots, whether this is your first time viewing, or simply the latest in many revisits.

In a way, this story cements some things that were introduced in the Daleks’ final appearance in the original TV run, Remembrance of the Daleks.  They are again seen to be masterful tacticians, and obviously, there’s the fact that they can get up the stairs, perhaps putting that over-used joke finally to bed.  The Dalek here is also shown to be manipulative as well, manipulating Rose into seeing something completely different to what the Doctor sees when he first sees the captive Dalek – a cruelly treated prisoner.  The director, Joe Ahearne deserves a huge amount of credit for making the Dalek seem as threatening as it does here, as the Dalek feels just as threatening and menacing when it refuses to reply to Van Statten as when it is moving through the bunker exterminating everyone in its path or talking to the Doctor.  One of my favourite scenes is in the weapons development area of the base, where Van Statten has instructed everyone in the base to grab a weapon to try and stop the Dalek.  Instead of simply exterminating everyone by shooting them individually, the Dalek instead elects to elevate itself above the floor, shoots the fire alarm, which in turn activates the sprinklers, and with a simple blast of its weapon, shoots the wet floor, killing the majority of the people standing in its way.  There is a quiet majesty about the way the Dalek surveys the situation from its elevated position which is truly menacing.

Dalek - Dalek sucker.jpg

This story has to contain some of Christopher Eccleston’s best moments as the Doctor as he faces the last surviving Dalek of the Time War.  He is fantastic as the battle-scarred version of the Doctor and his reaction when he realises that he has been locked in a room with a Dalek, to his sudden switch when he realises that the Dalek is completely powerless, then to actually go against that famous maxim that the late great Terrance Dicks once wrote that the Doctor should never be cruel or cowardly by trying to kill the Dalek himself.  Eccleston really does sell this all so well, with this exchange and his discussion with the Dalek about the outcome of the Time War really standing out.  I feel that I also need to praise two other actors as making this such a great story: Nicholas Briggs and Corey Johnson.  Johnson is utterly believable as this all-powerful individual who doesn’t think twice about replacing Presidents and torturing aliens for not speaking to him, and shows this character as utterly contemptible, with the scene where the Doctor shows him the alien instrument telling the audience everything that we need to know.  And Nicholas Briggs gives a fantastic performance as the voice of the Dalek, whether it being simple screaming or talking normally (for a Dalek), with his voice bristling with menace.

Let me tell you something, Van Statten.  Mankind goes into space to explore, to be part of something greater.

Exactly! I wanted to touch the stars.

You just want to drag the stars down, stick them underground, under tons of sand and dirt, and label them.  You’re about as far from the stars as you can get.

The Ninth Doctor and Henry Van Statten

Rob Shearman’s story is, as is well known, a loose adaptation of his Big Finish story for the Sixth Doctor, Jubilee, but the two are largely very different beasts and can stand alone on their own merits.  There are shared elements, such as the lone Dalek being tortured and appealing to the companion, in this case, Rose, resulting in a bond being formed between the Dalek’s greatest enemy and his companion.  Shearman’s greatest achievement here is strongly establishing for a new audience who may not, as strange as this may sound, be aware of the Daleks and their nature.  With this coming in the first series of the revived series, Shearman keeps the continuity light, however, does enough to ensure that the uninitiated are in no doubt that the Doctor and the Daleks have shared history.  There is even a sly aside about the Daleks’ creator, Davros, which is handled superbly, saying more about the character of Van Statten than delving deep into the show’s continuity – there is absolutely no need for the story to name drop Davros and the story wisely doesn’t.

I hope that my love of this story has come through in the preceding paragraphs, as I briefly turn to address an element of this story and the following story that I really dislike – Adam.  Established as a boy genius – parallels, of course, to Adric – Langley never really convinces me of this, and the scenes with him and Rose seem to really dull the pace of an overall frenetic adventure.  Ultimately, the fact that Adam even ends up travelling with the Doctor into the next story just feels so lazy that it does bug me sufficiently to write it up here.  The character feels like a complete non-entity and I don’t see why the Doctor doesn’t put his foot down and say no.  After all, it will only lead to trouble…

Adam was saying that all his life, he’s wanted to see the stars.

Tell him to go and stand outside then.

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Verdict:  Ahearne, Eccleston and Briggs make the return of the Doctor’s oldest enemy rank among the strongest of the revived series, as well as one of the best stories to feature the Daleks.  10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Goddard), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (De Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator) & Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice).

Writer: Robert Shearman

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was adapted from the Big Finish story Jubilee, also written by Robert Shearman.  Whilst the two stories diverge, some plot elements appear in both.  The in-universe pizza company, Jubilee Pizzas, is named as a reference to this story, and pizza boxes from this chain appear in this story and in the background of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures stories.
  • First appearance of the Daleks in the revived series and the only time in the Russell T Davies era that they would appear in a single-part story.
  • Shearman had to write an alternative version of the story in case the estate of Terry Nation would not allow the Daleks to be used.  The alternate story may have featured a robotic creature called “Future Human”, an idea which would become the Toclafane.
  • The first appearance of Bruno Langley as Adam.
  • The first story of the revived series not to feature any TARDIS interior scenes.

Best Moment

You may have been able to guess from the way I described it above, but the scene in the weapons testing zone – I love how in command of that scene the sole Dalek is.

Best Quote

I am a soldier. I was bred to receive orders.

Well you’re never gonna get them.  Not ever.

I demand orders!

They’re never going to come! Your race is dead.  You all burned – all of you.  Ten million ships on fire.  The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second.

You lie!

I watched it happen.  I madeit happen.

You destroyed us?

I had no choice.

And what of the Time Lords?

Dead.  They burned with you.  The end of the last great Time War.  Everyone lost.

And the coward survived.

Dalek and the Ninth Doctor

Henry Van Statten - Dalek

The Girl in the Fireplace

TGIF Doctor and Reinette

What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?

Mickey, what’s pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship?  Get a little perspective.

Mickey Smith and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive onboard a deserted spaceship three thousand years in the future.  What has happened to the crew?  And why has the ship got gateways into the life of Madame de Pompadour, a French lady from the 18th Century?

Review

The Girl in the Fireplace is not only a superb example of what Doctor Who can do but is a fantastic example of television in general.  It is definitely in my top ten episodes of the revival and probably in my top ten episodes of Doctor Who of all time.  I say this as someone who loves Moffat’s work under Russell T Davies and his work whilst showrunner with a very few exceptions, and this has a lot of his tropes perfectly executed – we’ve got a bit of mucking about with time and some sharp, witty, and frankly brilliant dialogue.  I think if I am looking for an episode of Doctor Who to pick me up, this is one of the first I will turn to.

You think I fear you.  But I do not fear you even now.  You are merely the nightmare from my childhood.  And if my childhood nightmare can return to plague me then rest assured, so will yours.

Reinette

One of the strongest parts of this episode is in the casting of Sophia Myles as Reinette, who gives a superb performance as Madame de Pompadour, and she has clear and believable chemistry with David Tennant.  Obviously, I must mention that Tennant and Myles did date for a short time following working together on this episode, breaking up in 2007.  However, when you have a story that hinges on the central premise of two characters falling in love and telling this story in 45 minutes, this chemistry is essential.  On a side note, a large part of my issues with Tennant’s first series as the Doctor and Rose is that Tennant and Billie Piper don’t have that chemistry.  The two obviously get on well as friends, but there’s something lacking that stops me buying into that whole ‘they both love each other romantically’ element of their story.  The chemistry between Reinette and the Doctor also means that you ultimately believe in both the Doctor’s decision to come and save her, knowing that this means being separated from his TARDIS and Rose and Mickey, as well as the final scene, where he comes back for her, only to find that she has passed away.  Sophia Myles’ Reinette also feels like a strong heroine and we fully root for her defeating the Clockwork Droids.  Her speech when she speaks about being resigned to taking the slow path whilst hearing her own future screams is beautifully played, as is the scene when the Doctor manages to fix the link to the ship.

TGIF Doctor and Arthur

Steven Moffat’s writing is also fantastic.  The story itself, despite its obvious links to The Time Traveller’s Wife, is different enough, and the reveal of the twist is really superb.  I love the fact that the Doctor and his companions never solve the mystery of why the Clockwork Droids are stalking Reinette, and the way the episode is directed by Euros Lyn withholds this reveal well.  We see the exterior of S.S. Madame de Pompadour on multiple occasions as a transition shot between scenes, but this never spoils the twist.  Moffat’s script fizzles with what we now see as his trademark wit but packs a lot of emotion into this story.  I love the fact that the Doctor reasoning for wanting to keep Arthur is that he allowed Rose to ‘keep’ Mickey!  The story also has some fantastic pacing and ties up the story beautifully with no loose ends.  One of the most powerful scenes in a story that is full of them is the mind reading scene where the chemistry between the two actors really helps but the writing is fantastic and the twist is very cleverly done.

TGIF Reinette

I feel that this is one of Tennant’s best performances as the Doctor to date, and there are some really great moments here.  Obviously, this story allows Tennant to utilise his Casanova experience, but he has lovely moments like when he sees the clockwork mechanism in the Clockwork Droid’s head which is quintessentially Doctor-y.  Additionally, the scene where the Doctor acts drunk when Rose and Mickey have been captured by the Clockwork Droids is great.  Ultimately, the highlight of this story is how he plays the scene where the King tells him that Reinette has died, he reads the letter and tucks it into his pocket is beautifully played by all involved, and the following scene where he reads the letter in the TARDIS is heartbreaking.

The Clockwork Droids are a really good adversary for the Doctor and his companions, with their intentions no doubt honourable but misguided in their attempt to repair their ship.  Before the story even begins, they have murdered the entirety of the crew of the S.S. Madame de Pompadour and their search then turns to Reinette, believing that the ship can only be fixed with her head once she has reached the correct age. The Droids are very creepy, with their wigs and masks and I really like the idea that they would break any working clocks in the room to disguise themselves.

Verdict: I don’t think I can overstate my fondness for The Girl in the Fireplace.  It is one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who since the revival, if not of all time. 10/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette), Ben Turner (King Louis), Jessica Atkins (Young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Manservant), Paul Kasey (Clockwork Man), Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman), Jonathan Hart & Emily Joyce (Voices)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The story follows School Reunion directly, however, when Steven Moffat wrote the story he had not had the chance to read the end of the story, hence the lack of animosity between Rose and Mickey.  There are also no references to Torchwood, as Russell T Davies did not ask Moffat to put any in.
  • This story was originally second in the series order, however, due to the experimental nature of the story, it was moved to fourth.
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was an inspiration for Moffat whilst writing this story but the finished product is structured differently.
  • Russell T Davies was inspired by the Turk, an 18th Century robot, when devising the Clockwork Droids.
  • The Girl in the Fireplace was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Best Moment

The mind reading scene.

Best Quote

What the hell is going on?

Oh.  This is my lover, the King of France.

Yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of Time.

King Louis, Reinette and the Tenth Doctor

Clockwork Droid