Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
New Who, Series 7
The Idiot Plot, Triumphant
Journey to the Centre of the Air-Head or,
The Show-Runner ruins the tune
The name on the script is Stephen Thompson's
But the blame must lie with Steven Moffat
|TARDIS Library, Screenshot: the only worthwhile moment in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" Doctor Who copyright © BBC 2013.|
May 3, 2013, OTTAWA — "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" is (perhaps; I'm not going back to check) not quite so idiot in its plotting as the execrable pirate episode of still-stinging memory, but it comes very, very close.
Where to start? There are so many possibilities in Stephen Thompson's lamentably amateurish script it is hard to pick any particular moment, so I guess the beginning is as good a place as any.
The show opens with a trio of salvage operators, operating a scow that looks like something out of the Imperial Navy in a Star Wars movie. Despite being on their own, this small crew "suits up" when retrieving a bit of flotsam or jetsam, though their garb offers no apparent protection from anything and the work is done remotely anyway. But the camera lovingly watches them dress up, giving us the first of many false or irrelevant clues as to what is to come.
Meanwhile, it seems Clara has forgotten all about last week's episode (when she and the venerable blue box had a serious chat), because she now tells the Doctor that his suggestion she talk with the TARDIS is "properly bonkers".
So much for continuity. So much for our suspension of disbelief. So much for fantasies that Steven Moffat might be paying attention to the franchise he is ostensibly running. Whether he is too busy lying back and thinking of Sherlock or staring desperately at his monitor in hopes a last-minute idea will come to rescue the Big Mystery he's set up about the Doctor's name, one can only guess. Regardless, it's clear he didn't read Thompson's script before he gave it the green-light. I digress.
Since she won't talk to the TARDIS, the Doctor proposes Clara drive her instead. But in "basic mode" (which, we soon discover, conveniently leaves the Best Ship in the Universe completely open to
viruses any salvage operator who happens by with a magnetic lasso).
Clara scoffs at this basic mode thing. Is it "because I'm a girl?" she wonders?
Oh no! sayeth the Doctor, even as Matt Smith smirks and mugs as if this were 1953, when men were men and women were too dumb to understand the principle of the manual transmission.
I don't know which was more cringe-inducing. The decaying stench of the joke, or the glib wink-and-nod meant to disguise the rotten misogyny at its core.
Fuck it. Onwards.
The TARDIS gets roped onto the salvage ship. Somehow (never explained) the Doctor is thrown clear but Somehow (never explained) Clara is transported deep inside. Also, there's poison gas or radiation or something, which means Clara has to get out within the hour.
At this point, one might expect the Doctor to ask the TARDIS where Clara has got to, or use ship's sensors to locate her, but he doesn't try. Of course he doesn't try; there would be no story if did.
So what does he do?
Why, he suckers the Salvage Guys — the ones who have wrecked and captured his ship and then threatened to push him out their airlock (while standing right next to him, but nevermind) — aboard the TARDIS, then blackmails them, by way of a bogus self-destruct sequence, into helping him search the "infinite" TARDIS for Clara.
Why he thinks these guys, who know absolutely nothing at all about the TARDIS, will help and not hinder him, is never explained. (Spoiler: they hinder him.)
Clara wakes, trapped under a Clara-sized piece of TARDIS — which she tosses aside like a cheap plastic prop from a second-rate teevee show.
Not sure where she is, she ignores her own sense that a red light is a warning and opens a door, behind which lurks a Really Big Fire. Fortunately it is also a Really Slow Fire, so she can run away. Running away soon leads to running into a monster, a zombie-like biped that roars and chases her for no apparent reason. (Spoiler: the reason, when it inevitably comes, makes no sense.)
The chase leads to the episode's only only decent set-piece, the TARDIS' library.
"Now that's just showing off," says Clara, gazing up at its cathedral-like heights. And she's right. It is showing off, and it is only briefly wonderful.
Yanking us back to mediocrity, Clara spots a massive tome entitled The History of the Time War. She opens it at random and instantly comes upon a passage that includes ...
OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! The Doctor's Name! OMG OMG OMG OMG!
(Which begs the questions, "If the Time Lords are all dead, who wrote the History? And who (ahem) published it? Yes, I digress. But this is all too stupid to take seriously. We've known ever since that fat guy kept asking, "Doctor Who? Doctor Who?" that the revelation is going to have all the dramatic impact of a fire-cracker exploding in the midst of a tank battle at Stalingrad. Onward.)
Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Salvage Guys have 30 minutes to find Clara. Since they believe they have only half an hour to live if they don't find the Doctor's friend, our trio of idiots meander from room to room and corridor to corridor, committing acts of petty vandalism whilst the Doctor makes sad eyes and frowny faces.
Why did the Doctor want them with him again ...?
Never mind. The characters are too stupid to live and two of them don't.
Let's cut to the proverbial chase.
It turns out the TARDIS was so badly damaged it is "leaking time" (I think that was the "explanation"; I'm not going to double-check) from a break that looks an awful lot like the crack between universes in the first Amy series. Make of that what you will. Me, I'm going to crumple it up and toss it in the bin. Past and future are leaking into the present and the monster — or one of them (at least) — turns out to be a burned and dying Clara from a near future in which, apparently, being burned and dying makes her into a psychotic killer.
(Doctor's memo to self: if Clara spills coffee on her lap, keep very far away!)
Also, said crack is going to make the TARDIS explode after all. Any half-way competent screen-writer (or show-runner) would have taken that fact, immediately dropped the ridiculous bit of business with the fake self-destruct and concocted some sensible way to get the Doctor and his three dim guest-stars trapped in the TARDIS. How about this ...?
The Salvage Guys get into the damaged TARDIS and find the Doctor, but they've damaged the door on the way in and now nobody can get out! The Doctor determined they need to reach the engine room inside of 30 minutes or Boom! And also, he realizes that there are mysterious creatures on-board For Some Reason, so let's be careful. There. 30 seconds, and that's a damned sight better a set-up than what shows up on screen. You're welcome. Oh. And if the show-runner insists on the Secret Name sub-plot, Clara can get separated during one of the chases. Okay? Okay.
But that's a story in another dimension. In ours, the two nasty Salvage Guys are dead, the Android is actually their smarter (and nicer) brother and anyway, the Doctor must travel back in time to hand himself a message that will ... re-set Time once again!
Everything we watched? Didn't happen. Clara didn't discover the Doctor's name, the Salvage guys didn't die (or even notice the TARDIS) and all is well with the Whoniverse.
|Douglas Adams rolls over in his Grave:
Is the Doctor slapping Clara's ass with a towel? Why yes. Yes he is. Kudos to BlackDwarv over at LJ's premier Who community for pointing it out.
Screenshot, "Journey to the TARDIS", copyright © BBC 2013.
If only we could travel back in time and not have to experience the watching of this episode! Then we wouldn't have to deal with the false sentimentality behind the Salvage Guys' being "made better" by proximity to the Doctor eventhoughtheyneveractuallymethim!
To hell with it. This entire slap-dash, piece of junk of an episode is one long fuck you to the viewer, one slow-motion flip of the bird, one elaborate demonstration that Steven Moffat doesn't give a damn about this show.
Well, fuck you too, Steven Moffat.
You've been given the keys to a precious antique automobile and, like some drunken teenager reeking of privilege and booze, you've driven it into the side of a house. And what's worse, you think it was a clever move and are posting pictures of the accident to your Facebook account while oil pours from the engine block like blood from a slaughtered sow.
Enough is enough. It's time for the BBC to admit it's mistake and take the keys away from you. From the purely stupid, like this episode, to the morally idiotic, like that girl-in-a-freezer of a Christmas "special", to the simply inanely anti-climactic Wedding of River Song, enough is enough.
If you don't care enough about this program to pay attention, then give it back.
If overseeing 13 episodes every year and a half is too of a burden, give it back.