Doctor Who Series 7 Episode 11 Review: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

journeytothecentreofthetardis

Directed by Mat King

Written by Stephen Thompson

Starring Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman

Time to take a journey to the centre of the TARDIS this week with… Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, the latest episode of Doctor Who!

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) are thrown into peril this episode, and for once they were just minding their own business. While the Doctor tries to help Clara and the TARDIS get acquainted – the TARDIS’ seeming unease of Clara being a running element of this series – the duo finds themselves under the grips of an intergalactic salvage crew that manage to get a hold of the Doctor’s ship.

From there, the Doctor strikes a deal with the crew in order to help him find Clara – for he and her were separated in the crash – and adds the incentive of doing so before the TARDIS’ self-destruct mechanism kicks in.

Of course, that’s not the only problem our heroes face, for the crash and the salvage crew’s meddling has affected the TARDIS. It has done so in such a way that might just prove to be catastrophic.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is written by Stephen Thompson, who has written for Doctor Who before, as well as alongside Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat on Sherlock. It’s an episode that implements the TARDIS – a sometimes unsung main character in a way – rather well. Thompson certainly had fun writing a script that played around with ideas of time and space, taking into account the infinite space the TARDIS has, coupled with how the living, breathing Time Lord transport adapts to survive in clever ways.

What is brilliant about the episode exploring the TARDIS interior is that it helps create an M. C. Escher painting of the TARDIS with many gleeful nods to Doctor Who lore old and new scattered. What isn’t so brilliant is that there is a lack of payoff in some places. For example, the well-documented existence of the TARDIS’ swimming pool is not explored well enough, and a trip to the library offers some interesting insight but it equates to just more teasing of continuity.

What Doctor Who will constantly thrive on are the guest stars and in this episode the salvage crew really stands out. Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver and Jahvel Hall come together to play the trio who want to turn the TARDIS into scrap, with Walters and Oliver playing brothers, while Hall plays their android partner. The episode doesn’t so much latch on a monster of the week as it does latch on each individual and their moral choices. Walther’s character Gregor Van Baalen never seems to stop his greed getting the better of him, which in turn makes the TARDIS fight back in an intelligent way as opposed to allowing Gregor to brute-force his way out.

And the real highlight of the episode is indeed how the TARDIS constantly changes and adapts while also breaking apart from the inside out. Director Mat King helps do a good job bringing to life Thompson’s vision of the TARDIS interior. From the claustrophobic, labyrinthine hallways to the very heart of the TARDIS to illusions to time freezing or unravelling, each scene is wonderfully varied and helps create the idea that the TARDIS really is infinite.

The mystery of Clara continues to be a curious topic, and while she raises a few key questions to the Doctor, there is a pivotal sequence that raises the stakes and shows us that the Doctor is still miles from knowing the answer to the biggest question on his lips. Smith and Coleman continue their wonderful chemistry; perhaps best illustrated here in regards to the topic of hugging.

The pacing and development of their connection is right on track this series, with both sides still holding cards in their hands. Hopefully by series end all cards will be on the table and we can see the entire story between them unfold. It’s a good way to keep things going, but at the same time there is a detail this episode that isn’t so acceptable in the way it’s brought up just to be ignored until probably the last episode of Series 7.

Regardless, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is a strong episode. The king is in the details at times, for there is many an inclusion that flaunts a love for Doctor Who lore that some viewers will find rewarding. It’s brilliant in the way the TARDIS is another character this episode, delivering in regards to the sheer infinity inside the ship, but at points it is a bit disappointing that we don’t get more time with some of the points of interest. 

With such a wonderful, clever and contained high-concept episode of Doctor Who, one might wonder how next week’s could possibly top-… oh, right. Mark Gatiss writing an episode guest starring Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling as well as bringing back fan-favourites Strax, Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint.

The only way is up this series.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS premiered on BBC One on Saturday 27th April 2013. It is available on BBC iPlayer, and Doctor Who will return next Saturday 4th May 2013 with The Crimson Horror.

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