Neil Gaiman and Doctor Who are two of Britain’s greatest cultural exports. The former is one of the finest sci-fi and fantasy authors alive today and the latter is one of the greatest sci-fi shows in television history. Until tonight’s episode, the two have never crossed paths. Thank God they finally did.
In ‘The Doctor’s Wife,” Gaiman delivers an incredibly satisfying stand alone Doctor Who episode, while also giving fans of the series a new perspective on some of the show’s principal charms, chiefly the sexy, sexy TARDIS.
It goes without saying that this review and discussion will contain spoilers for ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ episode – so read on at your own risk.
First, a quick episode recap. At the beginning of the episode, the Doctor hears an unusual knock on the TARDIS door (unusual because nobody should be able to knock on something that’s floating through time and space.) The interruption comes in the form of a distress call from the Corsair, a fellow Time Lord and an old friend.
The Doctor, seizing the chance to connect with another Time Lord, launches the TARDIS to the outer edge of the universe, or rather a bubble universe sitting just outside of our universe. Once there though, the Doctor doesn’t find the Corsair, or any other Time Lords, just a trap set by a giant sentient asteroid named House.
Upon landing, House disables the Matrix of the TARDIS and transfers its soul into the body of a woman named Idris. With Amy and Rory locked inside of the TARDIS, which is now controlled by House, the Doctor has to figure out how to regain control of his ship and save the day.
The thing that makes Gaiman’s episode work so well is the personification of the TARDIS inside of Idris. For years, we’ve watched the Doctor whip through time and space, battling all kinds of horrible species with the help of his trusty ship. The TARDIS has saved his life countless times, and in ‘The Doctor’s Wife,’ we finally get to see him thank her for it — face to face.
Suranne Jones, who was given the unenviable job of bringing the TARDIS to life in human form, does an excellent job in the episode. She’s brilliant and eccentric and a perfect partner to Matt Smith’s frenetic Doctor.
‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is a great title for the episode, because it perfectly describes the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS. No one — not Rose, not River Song — can give the Doctor what the TARDIS gives him, and that’s adventure. Seeing the Doctor on the verge of tears as the TARDIS is forced back into her box (literally), you get a sneak peek into the Doctor’s soul.
Another thing that sets ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ apart is the fact that we actually get to see the rest of the TARDIS. When the Doctor tells people that it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, he really means it! Amy and Rory spend most of the episode running down endless corridors inside of the ship, eventually finding their way to the control room of the David Tennant era TARDIS. It’s a nice throwback to the former Doctor’s adventures, and a cool way to show the complexity of the TARDIS.
There was nothing in tonight’s episode that contributed to the overall story arc for the season. We didn’t get a flash of the eye-patch lady, like in last week’s episode, and there was little talk of the Doctor’s impending death (which we saw in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’). Still, as much as I want to know just what in the heck is going on with Amy’s pregnancy/non-pregnancy, I think tonight’s episode was one of the best of the Moffett era so far.
I’m a relative newbie to Doctor Who. I first started watching with Matt Smith as the Doctor in Season Five. Over the last couple of months, I’ve watched all of the Russel T. Davies-era episodes, as well as the fourth season TV movies and specials.
If you’re reading this, you are probably a fan of Doctor Who too. If you’re not, I highly encourage you to start watching the show, because it really is something special. How many shows out there can land Neil Gaiman as a guest writer?
Let us know what you thought of ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ in the comments.