This entire season of Doctor Who has been fantastic so far, so what could improve upon things? How about an episode written by Neil Gaiman? Yeah, that ought to do the trick. In this episode, titled “The Doctor’s Wife”, Gaiman does things in 45 minutes that have never been done before and taken the Doctor to where he’s never been before, all with the promise that there are still Time Lords out there.
As the episode opens, we see three people and an Ood in what appears to be some sort of cosmic junkyard. There’s a man in what appears to be an old American Civil War uniform, a very sweet woman with an enormous ass and another woman who’s being hooked up to some sort of machine that will allow the Ood to suck out her mind and soul, that will be replaced with a new one. And there’s a Time Lord coming.
Cut to inside the TARDIS, where the Doctor is recounting some story about a robot king when he gets a knock at the door. Yes, a knock at the door in very, very deep space. He carefully opens the door and he’s greeted by a small white glowing box. He’s got mail! Not just any mail, it’s Time Lord mail. The box is a Time Lord distress signal from outside the universe that has come looking for the nearest TARDIS. So with the promise of reconnecting with another Time Lord, the Doctor cranks the power of the TARDIS to 11 (by powering down the swimming pool, the scullery and squash court seven) and jets out of the universe, to land on a tiny asteroid, clinging to our universe inside its own little bubble.
And as he lands, the TARDIS loses all power and appears to be dead… so what happened? After explaining the situation to the best of his ability to Amy and Rory, the Doctor is rushed by a mad woman in a dress, who is having problems with tenses, but doesn’t have a problem giving the Doctor a huge kiss on the lips. Or biting him. (“Oh I do love biting! It’s like kissing except there’s a winner!”) The two other people on this tiny planet, identifying themselves as “Auntie” and “Uncle” explain that this woman is dangerous and the strangers should keep their distance. In any case, this strange lady is running about, speaking nonsense, talking about the future, past and present simultaneously. And then as the Doctor repairs the Ood’s communication device, the Doctor hears the voices of hundreds of Time Lords simultaneously.
Is there a Doctor in the House?
So Auntie explains that the planet that they’re standing on is called “House” and that House is good and provides all. As far as these other Time Lords, the planet House explains that there used to be Time Lords on the planet, but there aren’t anymore. Unconvinced, the Doctor tells Amy and Rory to wait in the TARDIS while he has a look around. Only he doesn’t find any Time Lords, only a collection of Time Lord distress signal boxes. And that mad woman again, locked in a cage. Who is this mysterious woman?
That woman is the TARDIS.
You see, House eats Time Lords and steals their TARDIS energy for nutrition. He sent the distress box to lure the Doctor in, stole the soul of the TARDIS and put it in the body of a human. Right you say, but the TARDIS energy destroys a human body, doesn’t it? Well yeah, it does, but this woman only has about half an hour to live, which is plenty of time for House to get his fill of a Time Lord.
But the details of how this happens aren’t important. What’s important is that in this episode, the Doctor finally gets to speak with his lovely TARDIS face to face for the first and possibly the last time ever. For hundreds of years, he’s been running all around time and space inside his blue box, and he loves his blue box dearly, but he’s never actually been able to talk to it. Of all the people he’s met and all the adventures he’s been on, his one true love that’s always stuck by his side no matter what has been the TARDIS and here it is… living, breathing and speaking to him, and it’s beautiful.
The fact that the TARDIS is more than a machine, but a living, conscious thing with a mind of its own has been hinted at for decades, and it’s been expanded upon in the last few years, finally culminating in this episode in which the Doctor’s wife— the TARDIS— becomes flesh for the first time ever. And that’s what makes this not just a great episode, but an episode that’s going to be an important touchstone in future Doctor Who canon. For the first time ever, we get to hear the story of how the Doctor started traveling around the universe from the TARDIS’s perspective. According to the Doctor, he stole the TARDIS from a museum because he wanted adventure, but according to the TARDIS, she kidnapped him, because she also wanted adventure and she needed a Time Lord to pilot her and he was the only one mad enough to do it.
There’s been episodes of Doctor Who that have had more action or more suspense, but this is one that any self-respecting Who fan absolutely has to watch, even if you’ve been away from the show for a while. You can miss some other ones with random aliens and planets, but between Gaiman’s brilliant, hilarious and quirky dialogue and the self-exploration that comes with the Doctor and the TARDIS in human form working together to solve a puzzle is amazing. The whole thing with Amy and Rory locked in the blue box, running around corridors while the House consciousness plays tricks on their minds was fun and exciting and all, but god I could have watched the adventures of the Doctor and the sexy human TARDIS for hours. And it’s great to see a consciousness like the TARDIS, that normally exists in dozens of dimensions at once trying to come terms with humanity— “Are all humans like this? Bigger on the inside?”
And with this humanity, we get to see a brief glimpse of what the Doctor is like when he’s not completely alone. Sure, there’s been a little of that where River Song is involved, but she knows far more about him that he does her. In this story, he has a true soulmate that he’s traveled with for 700 years. At some point, I would love to see a little less of the lonely Doctor, and I was almost as disappointed as the Doctor to find out that there are truly no more Time Lords (almost), since I think it’s getting about time to move beyond the lonely Doctor thing. Give him some Time Lords for fuck’s sake. Let’s see Gallifrey.
Even with its minor flaws, I feel that this is absolutely a five star episode. I would have loved to have seen more of the human TARDIS and maybe less of Amy and Rory running down corridors. I would have liked it if when near the end, they all end up in an old copy of the TARDIS control room since House has blocked off the main one, that they ended up in an old Doctor Who control room, like say Colin Baker’s or something instead of David Tennant’s— I mean I know they’ve had that set just lying around, but what with all the old school backstory flying around, it would have been perfect. This episode is a really good example of Doctor Who as a fairy tale, and it’s a truly very much Neil Gaiman, with the weird patchwork people and the snappy dialogue and the bizarre and ballsy plot and for all that, I give it a solid five stars. Even though part of me would have liked to have seen maybe a bit more time and space god-like TARDIS action like we saw at the end of season 1 where Rose accidentally the whole heart of the TARDIS, this was a much more personal and quirky story than that and Gaiman pulled that off quite well.
And as much as I would have liked it if the Doctor were to somehow get the TARDIS to speak, in a way, maybe that’s one step too far. A talking TARDIS might start to get annoying after a while. Or maybe not. As it is, there’s probably already half a dozen Doctor/human female TARDIS porno fan fics in progress, so maybe it’s better that we just leave things how they are.