Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS - Doctor Who blog
(SPOILER WARNING: The following is an in-depth critical analysis. If you haven’t seen this episode yet… lower your expectations before watching it)
At the time I knew that Neil Gaiman was going to be writing an episode and I knew there was going to be an episode set inside the TARDIS. Naturally I assumed the two were connected. It turned out I was mistaken. It seemed Neil Gaiman didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the TARDIS guy and decided to write a Cyberman story instead. So who did write Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS?
Yep! The guy who wrote the terrible Curse Of The Black Spot as well as contributed episodes to the god awful Sherlock! Sigh!
Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS is painful to watch for multiple reasons. An episode that explores the very depths of the TARDIS is something Whovians have wanted to see for 50 years now, so to waste such a special episode by handing it over to one of the worst writers in Doctor Who’s history is almost too much to bear. I could cry at the amount of squandered potential here. It’s somehow fitting that the episode starts on a salvage ship because Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS is nothing but a big pile of garbage.
The opening 15 minutes pretty much seals this episode’s doom. We get some trademark Moffat era sexism with the Doctor wanting Clara and the TARDIS to get along (yes we’re still doing that stupid plot point) and decides to put the ship in ‘basic mode’ because Clara is a girl (later on he refers to Clara as ‘the most valuable salvage in the world.’ Oh! Great! Throw in some objectification too! Why not?), and then the TARDIS gets grabbed by a magno-clamp, severely damaging the TARDIS and flinging Clara into the very bowels of the ship. The Doctor then deputises a trio of salvagers (more on them later) to help him rescue her. And this is where things take a turn for the stupid. The Van Baalen brothers are clearly untrustworthy and less than scrupulous, so why does the Doctor ask them for help? Why does the Doctor even need help? It’s his TARDIS. You’d think by now he’d have a good idea of the layout of his own ship. The only reason he’d bring them along is so they can split up and cover more ground, and he’s not even the one who suggests it. The captain does.
The Doctor is uncharacteristically thick in this episode. He knows how untrustworthy the Van Baalen brothers are, even going to the point where he fakes a self destruct sequence in order to get them to cooperate, and yet he acts all surprised when they betray him and start stripping components off the ship. What the fuck did he think was going to happen? At one point I thought (or hoped) that the Doctor had some other agenda inviting the Van Baalens onboard. Perhaps he wanted to trap them inside and teach them a lesson, but oh no. That would be far too morally ambiguous and interesting. Instead we get scenes where Ashley Walter’s character (I can’t be arsed to remember their names) yanks a glowey egg thing off this tree and rather than the Doctor chucking them out of his ship, we’re subjected to watching him pathetically pleading with the guy to be a good boy and give the egg back. It’s so undignified.
Let’s talk about the Van Baalen brothers. I haven’t the faintest idea what Stephen Thompson is trying to convey with these characters. Are we supposed to empathise with them? If we are, maybe Thompson should have given them so redeemable character traits. Their obsession with loot and money is so boringly one note they make Russell T Davies’ numerous capitalist villains look complex by comparison. The captain is the worst of the bunch. The man is so greedy that when one of his brothers dies, he just dismisses him and continues snatching parts. His own brother dies and he doesn’t even so much as bat an eyelid!
Let’s not even mention the stupidity of wasting time salvaging a ship in full view of the guy who both owns the ship and has set it to explode in 30 fucking minutes. And then there’s the whole android bit. Jesus fucking Christ, what was Thompson smoking when he came up with this bollocks? Do they seriously expect us to believe that this guy thought he was an android, purely based on the word of his brothers, and never noticed that he felt pain? Even during the scene where he gets a fuel rod jammed into his shoulder, he says that he’s fine and to just cut his arm off whilst moaning in agony! And why did his brothers lie to him? For a laugh! Also because the android guy was initially supposed to be the captain, so Ashley Walter’s character took advantage of the industrial accident to gain power. What’s even weirder is that it’s treated like an emotional moment. How the fuck does this make me sympathise or care for any of them? Android guy is a gullible fucking moron and the captain is a selfish bastard who cares more about money and power than his own family. Has Stephen Thompson ever actually met a human being before?
While all of this rubbish is going on, Clara is getting on with the bit the audience are actually interested in. Exploring the TARDIS. Now I don’t envy the Herculean task Thompson was assigned here. We all have our own ideas as to what the inside of the TARDIS looks like. What outlandish rooms and strange phenomena you could possibly find in there. And realistically, considering the show’s relatively small budget, there’s no way any vision they had could truly satisfy everyone, but for God’s sake, Thompson could have at least tried. How much of the TARDIS do we get to see? We get a brief glimpse of a swimming pool and a telescope, Clara briefly wanders into a storeroom with a few classic series Easter Eggs here and there, a library that… you know… looks like a library, and then of course we get that random tree thing, the Eye of Harmony, and the heart of the TARDIS, which is just an empty white space with some random debris floating around. Beyond that? Corridors, corridors and more corridors. Is Thompson taking the piss? Disappointing doesn’t even begin to cover it.
And just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, zombies show up. Yes. Fucking zombies. Its like Hide all over again. Why do they keep shoving pointless monsters into these episodes. The Doctor and Clara exploring the TARDIS’ unpredictable insides would be tense and gripping enough. The inclusion of zombies just feels like overkill. It’s as though Thompson isn’t confident with his own premise and so tries to overcompensate with all this other shit, which leaves the whole episode feeling overstuffed, under-developed and just plain stupid. I don’t even understand how the zombies came about anyway. I get they’re the characters in the future, but how did the Eye of Harmony zombify them? Surely a collapsing star would do more than burn you up. Its gravitational pull would deconstruct you into your component atoms and use them as fuel. Even by Doctor Who’s standards, this is bollocks.
But the worst thing of all, the absolute crowning achievement in utter horse shit, is the way this is all resolved at the end. Both RTD and Moffat have been guilty of using reset buttons to reverse their stories at the end, but give credit where it’s due. At least neither of them had the fucking audacity to have a character press a literal reset button at the end. It’s just beyond insulting and one of the worst copouts I think I’ve ever seen. It also doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. If nothing that occurred in this episode ever happened, then the ‘big friendly button’ wouldn’t have existed in the first place, therefore the Doctor wouldn’t have pressed it, so everything would just snap back to the way it was. Plus erasing everything means that android guy still thinks he’s an android and Ashley Walter’s insanely selfish, sociopathic character is still the captain, although they do add in the ‘shred of decency’ line in at the end, which doesn’t make any sense neither because if none of this ever happened, then the captain couldn’t possibly have learnt his moral lesson, could he?
I fucking hate this episode with a passion. It’s stupid, tone deaf and utterly squanders its great potential. This was our chance to finally explore the inside the TARDIS, something I think everybody wanted to see, and Thompson fucking ruined it. Journey to The Centre Of The TARDIS? More like Journey To The Bottom Of The Trash Heap.