Doctor Who Instants: The Doctor's Wife

Ha! We know what this is all about! That fake story title once written on the production office notice board to trick inquisitive visitors turns out to be real in the end. The Doctor’s long lost wife shows up somehow having escaped the Time War and the emotional reunion only comes after bickering and light comedy about “the missus” accompanied by twitchy reactions from Amy and Rory. The fun is soon undercut though by a dark secret from both their pasts.
Thankfully, that is not the plot of this episode.  
"Race you to the kitchen on wheels..."

Neil Gaiman has had mixed fortunes with tv work but this is near perfect Doctor Who, written with the love of someone fully aware of the show’s nuances and capabilities. In that respect it has an old fashioned feel and all the talk of TARDISes and Time Lords means it sounds like it comes from another era of the show altogether yet the central idea is so appealing and so beautifully played.
We don’t get to that many alien planets nowadays, so this feels like a welcome change of pace. Even the patrician dialogue, the reams of pretend science and the fiddling about with wires isn’t as out of place as you’d think. Now everyone is au fait with Doctor Who, it’s easier to occasionally go back there.

The title proves to be something of a cheeky red herring in some senses, though quite accurate in others. Drivers and their vehicles do often seem like a love story of sorts- how many other halves have claimed that “he / she spends more time with the car than with me”! Neil Gaiman has turned this into something that even non drivers can get because we all love the TARDIS and as fans its part of our lives in an odd kind of way.

"...and after the glue accident we had to spend three weeks together..."

Like all the best ideas, the premise is simple to the point where you wonder how come nobody’s done this before. Being a fan, Neil Gaiman has obviously speculated about whether the TARDIS is alive as is occasionally hinted but manages quite an ingenious way of making it happen. Having set it up, he then pens scenes that dazzle. The building of the spare parts TARDIS is wonderful and the taut sequence of Amy and Rory in the ship’s corridors springs some surprises that might not quite resonate as much as we’d like given that Rory’s near death is now a weekly ritual. The latter though do emphasise how in sync the Ponds now are- Gaiman makes Rory more proactive and Amy less snarky both of which are to the advantage of characters and actors.
Ultimately though Matt Smith and Suranne Jones dominate the episode with the Doctor and Idris’ `domestic` arguing. Gaiman’s dialogue is excellent here, especially when the Doctor bemoans the TARDIS’ unreliability in taking him where he wants to go to which she retorts that she always takes him where he needs to go. It’s the most ingenious spin on the show since the invention of the psychic paper. Idris becomes a fascinating character in only a few minutes which means her inevitable demise is affecting. We’ll always view the “old girl” a little differently after this episode as will the Doctor by the look of it.
Visually, the episode is another feast in what’s becoming- whether you like the stories or not- the best looking season ever. Moody shadows are created from the wrecks and the use of strong green light works wonders while the tattered costumes add to the air of mystery early on. Nice to see an Ood back too like it’s the most natural thing in the world. The spaceship graveyard reference the past, whether `Brain of Morbius` or of course the junkyard where the TARDIS was first seen.
`The Doctor’s Wife` is a delightful surprise and an early contender for best of season. More than that, it’s a master class in how old style and new style Doctor Who can be seamlessly melted together and still offers both something new.
words: John Connors

1 comment:

  1. For once we seem to agree violently! A glorious story, well written, well designed and well played. As I have said elsewhere, Gaiman meet Dr Who meets Mother Courage.

    I have heard some carping that 'once again Amy and Rory' are being sidelined - the 'crowded TARDIS' all over again - but I disagree. Amy and Rory's predicament turns a simple chase into a race against time, as well as allowing a bit of character development. And for Rory to continue with his role as the Kenny of Dr Who!

    Perhaps one of the more subtle effects of the story is to flesh-out the 11th Doctor's character. He seems less emotional than the 10th, but in fact the emotions run deeper, only breaking surface from time to time, but with great force. I am tempted to say this makes him more alien, but as with the Classic series, that is really just a cypher for 'old fashioned and British' (without the nasty misogyny, racism and Imperialism one hopes!)

    I am not so sure that this will have nothing to do with the overall story arc (although I know it was supposed to run towards the end of last season), but it has casual elements that will resonate as long as people 'shoot the breeze' about Dr Who.