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

Listen

Clara Doctor

Question: why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone? Conjecture: because we know we’re not. Evolution perfects survival skills. There are perfect hunters. There is perfect defense. Question: why is there no such thing as perfect hiding? Answer: how would you know? Logically, if evolution were to perfect a creature whose primary skill were to hide from view, how could you know it existed? It could be with us every second and we would never know. How would you detect it? Even sense it? Except in those moments when for no clear reason, you choose to speak aloud. What would such a creature want? What would it do? {yelling into the empty TARDIS} Well? What would you do!?

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

Are we ever really alone?  The Doctor finds himself delving into questions of the past and future to find the answer to this question.

Review

Listen does something remarkably different with Doctor Who giving us an episode with no real definitive conclusions.  The story instead explores the Doctor’s psychology and background, with us seeing a sequence towards the end of the episode with Clara and the youngest First Doctor appearance we see on screen.  I really love Listen, and what it tells us about the Doctor.

Doctor cubed.jpg

Steven Moffat’s script is really superb, full of humour, scary moments and real character development for this new Doctor.  The premise of the story is another one of Moffat’s terrors that lurk in the banal things, like the statues and the dust in sunbeams, but the difference here is that we don’t get definitive answers about whether the creature even exists.  In fact, the existence of the creature is really irrelevant.  Moffat takes precedent from episodes that have come before, most notably MidnightThe Eleventh HourHide and Utopia but develops them beautifully into something that delves into the Doctor’s backstory, and there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the events that we see.  My particular favourite is the Doctor taking the caretaker’s coffee cup, but I like the uncertainty about whether or not there was actually a creature on Rupert’s bed.  Personally for me, that is an alien under the sheet, but I can see it either way.  We also have a rather bold decision to show a slither of the Doctor’s childhood in the closing sequence, but it actually helps to tie the narrative relating to the Doctor’s lonely childhood together, which had been hinted at through the revived series – mostly, it has to be said, in Moffat’s stories.  I still remember the feeling of shock of being Gallifrey with no pomp or ceremony really, which is something I really like about this story.  Finally, Moffat’s story seems to be fundamentally saying that it is alright to be afraid, as even the Doctor is afraid sometimes.  Later on in Capaldi’s run, he says that he left Gallifrey because he was scared, and this story certainly gives this account credence.  Boredom, the previously accepted reason, also works perfectly with the idea that he was afraid, as the two can sometimes feel similar.

Doctor Clara Orson

Mackinnon’s direction is superb and feels really off-kilter at times, putting the audience on the edge of their seats, despite the fact that there is no monster for the TARDIS team to face.  The scenes in the care home feel really creepy and escalate the rising sense of tension.  In a way, this feels quite similar to Day of the Moon, with the Silence running the care home in America.  His direction of the restaurant scenes is also great, especially when the spacesuited Orson Pink appears in the corner of the restaurant that Danny and Clara are eating in.  The scene in Orson’s spaceship are probably the most visually striking of the entire episode, and really help to keep the tension and belief that there is something outside the capsule trying to get in.  His subtle direction of the scene in Rupert Pink’s direction really helps with the general tone of the story, with the only look we get at whatever is on the bed being obscured, and the shots when it is covered by the blanket seeming really creepy.

Performance-wise, we get a great performance by Capaldi.  That opening monologue in the cold open is beautifully performed and well shot by Douglas Mackinnon.  He handles the humour deftly as well, and he does certainly convey a sense of alienness that makes Matt Smith look normal.  He seems to really get what Moffat wants to do with this incarnation of the Doctor, and although he may seem mean and uncaring, he still retains that Doctor-ish twinkle.  This incarnation of the Doctor seems unwilling to let things lie and is much more inquisitive about the mysteries of the universe.  There is a real feeling in this story that this version of the Doctor wants to know everything, and Capaldi encapsulates this perfectly.The scenes between Danny and Clara in the restaurant are utterly believable and I found them to be quite reminiscent of Coupling, which Steven Moffat also wrote.  The argument scenes are really well played by both Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson, and the fight actually feels believable.  I think we’ve all been in situations where we have put our foot in our moves and as the audience, we cringe as Clara mentions the name of Rupert Pink.  We have a small but perfectly formed cast here, which is quite nice and they all do play their part to bring Moffat’s script to life.

Listen. This is just a dream. But very clever people can hear dreams. So please just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is all right. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster, and cleverer, and stronger. And one day, you’re gonna come back to this barn, and on that day, you’re going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay. Because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind. … It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed, or in the dark, so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this: you’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like… a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay. Because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.

Clara Oswald

Verdict: Listen is a great exploration of a new Doctor’s personality, and of the Doctor in general.  It retains a sense of eeriness and creepiness, despite the lack of a real threat and the small cast are perfect. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink/Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Orson Pink

Behind the Scenes

  • Listen marks the first non-archival appearance of the First Doctor since The Five Doctors, and the first time we see the Doctor as a child.
  • Steven Moffat wrote a short story in 2007 called Corner of the Eye, which featured monsters called Floofs, who had the super-ability to hide.

Best Moment

When the Doctor is revealed to have stolen Reg’s coffee.

Best Quote

Where is he?

Doctor?

I can’t find him.  Can you find him?

Find who?

Wally.

Wally?

He’s nowhere in this book.

It’s not a Where’s Wally one.

Well, how would you know?  Maybe you just haven’t found him yet.

He’s not in every book.

Really?  Well that’s a few years of my life I’ll be needing back.

The Twelfth Doctor, Clara Oswald and Rupert Pink