Boob Tube Breakdown – Doctor Who: The thief, the orangey girl and the pretty one

Doctor Who: Series 6

“The Doctor’s Wife”

Aired: May 14, 2011

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Director: Richard Clark

“You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.”

– The Doctor

“No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”

– The TARDIS

Complete with a sentient planet, patchwork people and a bitey mad lady, this week’s episode was delightfully Neil Gaiman-esque. But it also was true to the spirit of Doctor Who – with a possessed Ood, endless running down corridors and a fascinating examination of the madman and his box.

At his core, The Doctor is a lonely creature – a relic from a nearly extinct race. He travels through time and space with various companions, but they are all just passengers who pass in and out of his life for brief periods. Ultimately, he is alone in the universe.

He goes to House following a distress signal, hoping to find another Time Lord still out there somewhere. He’s looking for someone with a shared history, someone who can understand him in a way humans never could. What he ultimately discovers is that he’s had such a kindred soul all along – the TARDIS itself has been his constant companion through these past 700 years. The TARDIS knows The Doctor better than anyone and it needs him just as much as he needs it.

That’s what’s so fantastic about Gaiman’s writing. He took something we’ve all seen countless times before – this magical blue police box that’s bigger on the inside – and twisted it around in his head, looking at it from angles no one ever thought to examine before. We’ve always known that the TARDIS was a sentient craft stretching across all of time and space, but no one ever took it that next step and wondered: “What must the TARDIS think of all of this?” (Similarly – and brilliantly – Gaiman seems to be the first person to notice that the sign on the door says “Pull to open” when The Doctor has been pushing it instead for all these years.)

The combination of Gaiman’s writing and Suranne Jones’ portrayal of the character really personified the TARDIS in a smart and captivating way. There were so many great moments and miscommunications that came from the TARDIS being trapped in a human body. Her observation that biting is “like kissing, but there’s a winner” is really funny. So was the moment where she pulls and stretches her face while examining it in the mirror. Plus, I love that her ability to see into the future and to read people’s thoughts caused her to jumble everything up in her mind. (It reminded me a bit of River Tam from Firefly, but sadly without the unrelenting ass kicking skills. And Jones herself reminded me quite a lot of Helena Bonham Carter – both in appearance and in batshit craziness.)

While I loved everything with The Doctor and Idris, the stuff with Amy and Rory wasn’t quite as compelling to me. Having them run endlessly through corridors seemed like a combination of a meta joke and a cheap way to get them out of the way so that we could focus on The Doctor and his “wife.” Plus, I’m not sure if they were going for creepy or scary with Rory’s age makeup, but it really just looked ridiculous. What was up with that nose?

I did like that the TARDIS thought Rory was “the pretty one.” It’s an easy joke, but still a great one. Also, it’s more fun to give him the knowledge to save the day instead of Amy. I just wish Gaiman had taken it one step further and let Rory be the one to figure out the passcode was a psychic one.

Overall, it was a really fun episode that paid homage to Doctor Who’s history, examined the character in a way no one had before and brought in the trademark whimsy that makes Neil Gaiman’s writing so much fun. I highly approve of this one.

The Freudian Interpretation

Unfortunately, by personifying the TARDIS, Gaiman has opened up quite a can of psychological worms.

After all, this is a box we are talking about. A box The Doctor goes inside. A box he calls “Sexy” and “Old Girl.” I think we all know what that represents, don’t we?

Now, when you add in the fact that he shouts out “You are not my mother,” that’s when things get really interesting (clinically speaking). Freud’s most famous theory, of course, is the Oedipal Complex, a boy’s unconscious desire to have sex with his mother and kill his father. Since The Doctor first entered the TARDIS on the day he deserted the other Time Lords – his elders/parental figures – and left them to die, it seems like there is a strong case to be made for the Oedipal Complex in action here.

You can try to dismiss it all you want, but the look in Matt Smith’s eyes whenever he was around Idris and the embarrassment he had when Amy gave him the fantastic line: “Did you wish really hard?” let me know I’m on to something here.

And another thing …

  • Just think how different (and how much creepier) the episode would have been if House had put the soul of the TARDIS in Uncle instead of Idris.
  • Corsairs were private ships authorized by the French government to conduct raids on rival shipping boats. (Essentially, they were sanctioned by France to be pirates.) The tattoo on The Corsair’s arm is an ouroboros, a symbol representing an endless loop – something a Time Lord with the ability to regenerate would no doubt fancy.

  • Since the Ood was stranded on House and his communicator, when repaired, had a distress call from a Time Lord on it, does that mean he was a companion?
  • Michael Sheen was great as the voice of House. If I ever put on a stage production of Little Shop of Horrors, he’s the first person I’m calling to play Audrey II.
  • The TARDIS control room Amy and Rory end up in is the one used by the ninth and tenth incarnations of The Doctor. The TARDIS The Doctor builds with Idris was actually the winning design from a Blue Peter (a British children’s show) contest. The winning design came from Susannah from Lancashire, who entered in the 11-12 year old group.

  • “The only water in the forest is the river.” We are all just assuming this is a reference to River Song, right?
  • Speaking of Dr. Song, I loved that when The Doctor couldn’t get the TARDIS door opened, he tried snapping his fingers. That was a great callback to the first River Song episode, “Silence in the Library.”

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff

I couldn’t even begin to explain to you how House can exist outside our universe (soap bubble metaphor notwithstanding), so I won’t even try. And since there’s not much else to break down in this episode specifically, let me just suggest that you check out last week’s thoughts on parallel dimensions and week one’s discussion of paradoxes and various temporal theories if you somehow missed them.

Hopefully next week will provide me with more time travel goodness to bite into.

Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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Comments(4)
  1. kristenmchugh22 May 16, 2011
  2. Joelle May 16, 2011
  3. Nicole Wakelin May 18, 2011
  4. Chris Lawson May 25, 2011

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