Doctor Who 7.11 – “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” Review


Finally! After what seemed like a season’s worth of waiting, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” (or “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” for us Americans) was an unabashedly fun episode. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Part of what made “Journey to the Centre” of the TARDIS so entertaining was its delight in how unapologetically bonkers Doctor Who can be. We see more of the TARDIS than ever before: an often alluded to but never before glimpsed indoor pool that looked delicious; a six-story library that could have been imported from Hogwarts, so impressive in scale that Clara grumbles “now, that’s just showing off;” the Avatar-ish Architectural Configuration System (a machine that makes machines); the Eye of Harmony that contains a spectacularly exploding star and a convincing cliff-top hologram that conceals a strangely frozen-in-place exploding engine room in which metal strips dreamily float like giant silver snowflakes. It was insane and beautiful and bursting with imagination.

I approached this episode of Doctor Who with some trepidation. The very name – “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” – promised we’d finally get to see what lies beyond the console room. But TV budgets being what they are, and the realities of a weekly production schedule, had me fearing the BBC would under deliver. And while some of the effects could have been better, and it had the usual endless running-through-corridor sequences that keep costs down, what we did see made us not just believe – buDOCTOR WHO SERIES 7Bt feel – the Doctor’s love of his ship of “infinite possibilities.”

Oh yeah, there was also a plot. I almost can’t be bothered to recap it. It didn’t hold together particularly well; it was the excuse to get us exploring the TARDIS.

In brief, the TARDIS gets stolen by space scavengers who want to strip for it parts. (Instead of using a “tractor beam,” which I suppose Star Trek has trademarked, they use a helpfully labeled “Magna-Grab.”) In one of the many plot contrivances that don’t make sense (although I was having so much fun I didn’t care) The Doctor winds up squashed beneath the TARDIS (his legs sticking out like the witch from Oz) while Clara is stuck inside. As they were both inside the TARDIS when it was Magna-Grabbed, this is inexplicable. Apparently, the screenwriters agreed; they never even attempted to address this discrepancy.

As the TARDIS is leaking fuel and looks – to use the local vernacular – a bit rubbish, the salvage team (The Van Baalen Bros) decides to toss it back into space. The Doctor then awakens, promising them the “salvage of a lifetime” if they help him get back in.

Remember when River Song said “Rule Number One: The Doctor lies?” If so, this episode gave us additional proof. He misleads the Van Baalens (can it be coincidence that this sounds so much like “Van Halen”?) into risking their lives regarding the nature of his promise to them (“Salvage of a lifetime. You meant the ship, I meant Clara.”). He misleads them when implying the salvage would be theirs if they help him. I don’t see him turning over his favorite mistress of mystery to space pirates.


The deception continues as The Doctor locks the Baalens in the TARDIS. He says he’s set the “self-destruct” timer to an hour or until they find Clara, whichever comes first. When a Baalen objects, The Doctor remembers the episode only lasts forty-five minutes anyway, so he cuts the deadline to thirty minutes. “You’ll perform better under pressure,” he explains causally. Despite the size of the The Doctor’s library, he apparently skipped the How-To books on “Good Management – Motivating Your Team.”

As Clara wanders the ship, finding many of the marvelous rooms mentioned above, she encounters scary burnt-out husks of people she calls zombies. Turns out time is leaking in The TARDIS – the “zombies” are future versions of the travelers unless The Doctor can reverse time. Things happen, there are apparent paradoxes which don’t make sense if you’re serious about time travel, but who cares when you’re this giddy? Luckily, when it comes to fun and implausible time travel, The Doctor is your man and all problems are not just solved but never happened in the first place.

It should be pointed out that the Baalens are the most unlikable co-stars in a long time who aren’t traditional “villains.” There are three of them. The two oldest have convinced the third, for years, that he’s an android. (He has some bionic parts.) “It gets boring in space,” they say to justify what seems like the Meanest Practical Joke ever.

Nits now picked, “Journey to the Center (Centre) of the TARDIS was a blast. Several times throughout, my twelve-year-old turned to me and yelled in excitement at what he was seeing on the screen. “Look, it’s the pool! The library! The engine room!” He had a ball.

My inner- twelve-year-old in me was right there with him.

Random thoughts and theories:

  • Clara has a great line when talking about The Doctor’s distress over the TARDIS’s apparent dislike of her. “Oh, you’re like one of those guys who can’t go out with a girl unless his mother approves.
  • In a reality that is erased when The Doctor turns back time, he finally asks Clara directly “what are you? A trick? A track.” He explains he’s seen her die twice already, and are now facing a third. She says she’s just an regular girl. Clara’s ordinariness has now been confirmed by her, by The Doctor’s own observation of her life as seen in “The Rings of Arkhaten,” and by Empathic Emma’s observations in “Hide.” So, who or what is behind her doppelgängers in “Asylum of the Daleks” and the Christmas special? The mystery is getting more interesting
  • This season has been full of fourth-wall breaking. Two previous heavy handed references to “the eleventh,” and, in this episode, Clara’s critique “Good guys do not have zombie creatures. Rule one, basic storytelling.” It’s all a bit precious and self-congratulatory.

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