07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Calum Corral
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Simon James Fox
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Adam Leslie
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Paul Davies
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Richard Walter
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Michael Bentley
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Geoff Wessel
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Kathryn Blore
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Mark Jensen
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Dean Akrill
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Alan McDonald
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Greg Campbell
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by James Tricker
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Paul Greaves
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Joe Ford
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Paul Hayes
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by James McLean
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Billy Higgins
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Jonathan Crossfield
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Andrew Hawnt
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Jamie McLoughlin
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Steve Manfred
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Paul Berry
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Steve Ferry
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Stephen Lang
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Mark Hain
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Adrian Cox
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Robert F.W. Smith
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Glenn Dawson
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Tavia Chalcraft
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Eddy Wolverson
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by A.D. Morrison
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Frank Collins
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Charles Quinn
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Jennifer Kirkland
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Mike Eveleigh
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Ed Martin
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Alex Gibbs
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Adam Kintopf
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Ken Holtzhouser
07 Jun 2006The Girl in the Fireplace, by Paul Clarke
07 Jun 2007The Girl in the Fireplace, by Shane Anderson

French Kissing in the Tardis? Who would have thought it? Two snogs and it's only the fourth episode!!!

This was an excellent Who episode which had classic ingredients of what makes a great story. French history, clockwork robots, a spaceship, and plenty of heart. This episode really excelled itself in so many spectacular ways. The fantastic entry of the Doctor on horseback when the clockwork robots launch their attack was thrilling and funny at the same time! Loved the horse in the spaceship following the Doctor.

Mickey and Rose may have only had bit parts but both certainly enjoyed some great lines. There were some terrifying bits as well and the androids were particularly gruesome. Sophia Myles was delightful in her role and the love interest with the Doctor certainly gave the whole episode another emotional pull which is something we have rarely seen in Doctor Who but again it was handled very delicately and it was first class. She was pretty eye-catching too. David Tennant certainly knows his ladies!

The sense of loss of the Doctor for Rose at the end as the time lines were closed was another dramatic point. Of course, we knew it couldn't be, but it gave a real shock to the system for this seasoned Who watcher and reminded me to an extent of the end of Father's Day.

The Doctor turning up seemingly drunk and fooling the androids was another very well handled scene and you really did think that he had partied too much!!!

This was an exceptional episode with time changes, the sense of the Doctor being a mysterious person, and some links back to the very last episode of the Doctor being the oncoming storm as Rose desperately hopes for some help as the Androids looked set to attack. The Androids themselves were excellent and it reminded me a wee bit of Black Orchid/Visitation - like a historic combination of two Peter Davison episodes which I remember when I first watched Who when I was a youngster.

David Tennant also deserves praise and I think this episode is where he definitely finds his feet and can be considered established. Top marks for one of the finest episodes yet since Who came back to our screens. Par excellence!

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Ah, young 'uns with yer Daniel Radcliffe as Doctor Who, you don't know you're born, I tell yer. When I was a lad, we had proper under-the-bed-chills like in the one with the Clockwork robots. My God, that got me all jiffultey that did as a nipper. I couldn't sleep for a week, I couldn't, thinking one of them robot things was under me bed, all tick, tock, tick, tock... We 'ad one of them old fireplaces too ( a 1960s one mind) and I was forever looking through it shouting Doctor! Doctor! Are you there? ,expecting some sort of Sapphire and Steel Father Christmas.

Yes my darlings, they were the golden days of Doctor Who alright, with David Tennant bouncing around all grinning and mad starey eyes and Billie whassername going all gooey eyed over him (who'd've thought she'd become an ambassador for the UN?) and Mickey the Tin Dog. My goodness me how David Tennant could act his socks off being drunk (first Doctor to do it, so as I'm told) and falling in love with Madame Da Pompadour and she him. Now, now, I know what you're saying but this was the first proper time he did it, it was - and long before his successor had a romance with the Contessa Di Tempus too (he likes his posh birds, see).

Oh how I thrilled at the sight of the spaceship and the Doctor riding the horse right through the mirror into the ballroom! You'd do worse than watch them Labrynth flicks if you like stuff like that. Pre-CGI mind, but worth a look its out now on DVD. Do you still use DVDs? No? Oh... You see in them days there was sheer imagination and enthusiasm for the programme. By 'eck, I'm lucky to 'ave seen the heydays of Doctor Who when I was a nipper. If only they hadn't cast Ozzy Osbourne as the Master in Series Three...

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Russell Davies continues his quest to make his viewers blub with every episode, and succeeds royally with The Girl In The Fireplace.

School Reunion was an excellent character episode draped over a fairly cursory and not particularly original plot. This episode, by contrast, hit the mark on both counts, and presented an absorbing story as well as great character work. Even the pacing glitches, which have effected all the New Doctor Who stories so far, with the possible exception of Father’s Day, were finally ironed out, with the story fitting comfortably into the 45 minute timeframe.

And we’re also back to vintage Doctor Who in many ways – we’re on board a spaceship (at last! Hurrah!), there’s proper body-horror (the barbecue smell is especially effective, and pretty hardcore for 7pm on a Saturday tea time) and a healthy dollop of unselfconscious surrealism… perhaps the best Who surrealism since Enlightenment, maybe even The Mind Robber. I remember vividly the strange dreams that followed the Enlightenment cliffhanger when it was on originally, and I have no doubt that there will be swathes of youngsters, and adults too, with some heady dreams of their own tonight.

I wouldn’t like to say this was the best ever Doctor Who story – though I was certainly thinking it from about five minutes in – but it has to be up there. The clockwork robots were brilliantly realised, especially in the bedroom scene towards the start, and wonderfully scary. The Narnia-esque time portals worked well too, a rare use of time as a plot point in a programme apparently about time travel (off the top of my head, the last one was Mawdryn Undead).

Mickey worked well, injecting the common touch into proceedings (Rose was oddly subdued today), and David Tennant gave his best performance yet, playing the mania and tragedy with much more subtlety than Chris Eccleston. His portrayal of a devastated and heartbroken Doctor putting on a brave face at the end was spot on.

And Sophie Myles was great too. The pair have a real chemistry – one should hope so – and she really brought this historical character to life. That she was ultimately stood up by the Doctor carried with it real tragedy – didn’t it seem too good to be true that she would get a spin in the TARDIS? – and I like the suggestion that her health declined as a result of that: he saved her life and killed her at the same moment. Though, couldn’t he just fly back in the TARDIS and pick her up himself, being a bona fide time traveler and all? I was hoping for a last minute reprieve in the manner of Captain Jack in The Doctor Dances. And I know who I’d rather have around the TARDIS.

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There have only been a few times when sci-fi series have come close to perfection. The train station story in Sapphire and Steel is one, last seasons “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” was another. Who would have thought that Steven Moffat could strike gold once more?

From the trailer last week, I was not ready for the intelligence and emotion that was contained in this story. What is more, to neatly contain it within the 45 minutes without feeling rushed makes this a classic. While there have been many who have slated RTD’s recent work (and really, “Tooth and Claw” was damn good Saturday evening viewing, what’s wrong with you?) you can still see where he fails and writers like Moffat excel.

For some, having the Doctor in a romantic lead is sacrilegious. The kiss in the TV movie had fans baying for blood. But I hope that in this instance, they can forgive the love story because it is so believable. That may be in some part because the leading lady was none other than the Doctors real life girlfriend, and boy did they have chemistry.

I dare critics to find problem with this story. It may not be for the kids, but hey, they got farting monsters last year, it’s the turn of the adult fans to feel that the Doctor is not only alive, but better than ever! "The Girl in the Fireplace" will stand aside all of the classic Who stories. Welcome to the Hall of Fame! Three cheers to the BBC for making Saturday evenings worth staying in for.

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The excellent School Reunion was going to be a difficult story to follow - especially in the emotional stakes. If anyone could come up with the goods it would be writer Steven Moffat and, in many ways, he almost did it!!! Doctor Who has always worked well when exploring more unusual concepts and ideas - The Mind Robber being a perfect example of the unexpected. So mix the court of Louis XV, robotic clockwork killers and a futuristic spaceship with a living heart and instant time windows into the events surrounding Madame de Pompadour and you have a very non-traditional but enjoyable DW adventure.

Season One gave Christopher Eccleston some very good lines but the Ninth Doctor tended not to be the centre of the plots - Rose almost dominating many of the story lines. This time round David Tennant's tenth Doctor is very much the leading figure with many aspects of his emotions and past being investigated. His attraction to young Reinette as her imaginary friend from behind the fireplace grew to a full blown fascination with the man called the Doctor - as the Doctor met the older versions of Reinette the mutual attraction grew until they touched minds and understood each other's loneliness. OK so many DW fans will not accept that the Doctor should have romantic thoughts but surely this is a Time Lord who has become very vulneranble after the death of his race, has learnt how devastating his involvement can be with his former travelling companions and now desperately needs to belong to a race - even if it is human. Another emotional rollercoaster as the Doctor experiences what could have been a very passionate relationship only to loose his Reinette and become a wanderer in time and space again!

The feel of the story is excellent - BBC Drama always excel at period pieces so the lavish external and internal scenes around Versailles looked great and the clockwork droids were both chilling and powerful - those black eyes and smiles were positively Hammer horror at is best!

A relatively small cast excelled with Sophia Myles' performance being outstanding. Poor Rose and Mickey were very much in the background this time - but as for Arthur the Horse . . . a future rival for K9 perhaps!!!! David Tennant gave many dimensions to his character again - almost Tom Bakerish in parts - but the humour here was far more in keeping with the story (as last week). He is really a tremendous Doctor and is developing into his own special characterisation.

Every episode of this series seems to take the show on further and further - the clips of the Cybermen episodes suggest that the best could be yet to come!

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Tonight’s episode by Steven Moffat was another masterpiece. The opening of Reinette calling out for the Doctor in her time of need through a fire place, opened this piece with intrepidation of how does she know to call the Doctor?

Enter the titles and we are now in 51st century in a space ship, on investigation the new crew wander around while Rose wants to know where when why, Mickey is gob smacked that his first journey is on a space ship. The whole design is great and the CGI of the space craft and outside through windows is fantastic. The crew find a fireplace, eighteenth century at that, and a girl Reinette who says that it is France in 1871. The Doctor finds a way of opening the magic door which is a spin of the fireplace. I loved that especially the way that the Doctor now has some adventure on his own. David is fantastic in this scene making it all very frightening and dark. He finds the clockwork man under the bed, what a creation really spooky and the weapon is very menacing but again using items that children can identify with. Having the young Reinette setting the journey is good for the children too as the fact that Reinette controls the danger is a good plot, the clockwork men need her for something but what. The eerie Tick Tock in the back ground and the music behind is subtle but so important and really adds to the overall tension and the darkness that is being created. The Doctor saves Reinette by taking the clockwork man to the spaceship.

The Doctor attacks the clockwork man and then unmasks. This is a wonderful creation, clockwork mechanics a great design concept that works so well. The Doctor revisits Reinette who is now a woman. Wow did anyone see the kiss coming; I thought this moment was shocking but yet surprisingly likable. This Doctor is so charasmatic and a flirt that it certainly goes with this Doctor that kissing would happen. David’s Doctor is tender, passionate and emotional and I think this makes David’s intepretation fascinating to watch.

In this episode we have another powerful women’s part in Sophia Myles taking on the part of Reinette. This is a great portrayal and Sophia has made good work of all lines emotion and drama that she has been given. You can see why she was cast and it is lovely to see so many women getting decent parts in science fiction. This series has been delivering these strong roles and Reinette is a character that is instantly likeable; wish I could say the same about Mickey.

Back on the spacecraft and Rose is teaching Mickey about time travel and getting on with it. Rose is a strong character but is being limited by Mickey. Fortunately Rose is so well written and acted by Billie that she is able to shine even in limited time. Rose’s emotional journey continues in this adventure, the heart being wired disgusted Rose, the jealousy she shows at why did you pick this woman to the clockwork man shows that she doesn’t want to share the Doctor with a beautiful woman like Reinette, who is clearly gaining the Doctor’s attention. Rose also benefits with a lovely scene with Reinette on her being ready when she is 37 and demonstrating how difficult it is for her to explain the concept of how Reinette’s life is being viewed by portals in Mirrors, Tapestry’s and Fire’s. The scene where Reinette walks through the tapestry onto the spaceship is simple but clever. Reinette after seeing into the Doctor’s mind while the Doctor searches for the answer, she sees and understand the Doctor’s loneliness that comes from his travelling and long life. The line to Rose about we understand that the Doctor is worth the monsters don’t we Rose, again illustrates to Rose there is more than one person who knows why she travels with the Doctor. Mickey sees this to and implies to Rose that the Doctor surrounds himself by women a point Rose chooses to ignore.

The relationship between the Doctor and Reinette is superbly played and this journey is why the adults will stay interested as it is a beautiful and emotional ride. Each time portal window showing another layer of the relationship and even though time is limited between them the time is enough to show a love story.

The story climaxes with the Doctor penetrating the window riding on a horse. Genius where else would you see this moment anywhere else but in Doctor Who. The visual effect was strong and well worth the tremendous efforts of all the production team involved and Steven’s ability to write without budget constraints in mind. This scene is definitely a fantastic achievement. Saying that though all departments are equally as good, the visual effects and set pieces are really strong. The location of Ragley Hall fits beautifully and the costumes are a real highlight of the episode in my eyes. The clockwork men and women look visually fantastic and I love the contrast of the regular cast members against the back drop of the eighteenth century costume. This episode is definitely going to very re watchable as you soak in all the elements that have gone into this episode, there is too much to take in on one showing.

So the Doctor heroically saves Reinette and leaves Rose on the spaceship. With the Doctor trapped Rose cries over the loss which is another Billie beautiful moment and so subtably done. We then move to David whose portrayal over the loss of Reinette at the end of the episode is so compelling. The Doctor showing this emotion is very bold stuff but it all works so well. Words don’t always say it all and it is to David’s credit that he can command the scene even when saying nothing is what makes him in my eyes the best Doctor there has been so far. I know that many people will be saying that we just move on to the new but I believe that it will be difficult to emulate David when he decides to go. I’m hoping that this isn’t for years.

For me the only element not working in this series is Mickey, he didn’t do anything for me last year and I find his character so unmoving, you can see Noel is giving his best but it not holding my attention. I only hope that with continuing episodes this does change as this element may spoil a weaker episode but as we haven’t had one yet I’m not worrying about it.

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Last season, with his Hugo-nominated 2-parter "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances", Coupling creator Steven Moffat thrilled, creeped out, and altogether made me go "Wow." A story that took parts from WWII drama, pulp action SF, and New Wave Japanese Horror, melded together and was essentially the best story of the season. So can Moffat repeat?

Yes. Oh, God, yes.

Following right on from "School Reunion," in which we saw Rose learn of the Doctor's prior, companion, and realize "Hey, I ain't necessarily the only one," we have the Doctor involved in a time-crossed, and star-crossed, romance with Rienette (sp), the Madame du Pomapdour.

Going back and forth between 18th-century Versailles and a 51st-Century deep-space vessel on the blink that happens to be "punching a hole in the universe," Moffat brings us the creepiest (again!) robot monsters seen on the series ever. Faceless, clockwork automatons, repairing their ship with the materials they have on hand -- namely, the crew. Eyes for cameras, hearts for engines. YICK! Their voices are eloquent and soulless, much like the eponymous "Robots of Death" from the Tom Baker years, but at least THAT time you had faces to look at. The repair droids, with their strange desperate logic in seeking out Rienette, must wear masks to accomodate even that. And makes them all the more creepier, and basically, the Cybermen are lucky they have a 2-part to even come close to sort of calculated, yet misguided, menace the clockworks provided.

I liked the time windows, and the way they worked just made the ending all the more heartbreaking. Mere moments pass for the Doctor + company, yet weeks, months, years pass in Versailles. Rienette lives a lifetime of waiting and hoping for the Doctor. A lifetime of being in love with him... it seems kinda strange, but given how long Sarah Jane waited for him...

I LOVED THE HORSE! I WANTED THE HORSE ON THE TARDIS! "I let you keep Mickey!" HAH! Oh, yes, and Mickey. Nice touches. He still processed it as being like a movie, or simulation -- "It's so realistic!" Not much on the Rose/Mickey ship front tho... funny she seemed rather miffed at the end of last week. Come to think of it, Rose didn't seem to catch onto the whole tragic romance thing going on, did she? Mickey did... Hell, he's waited around for Rose long enough.

And what of the Doctor? Well, let's face it, this was an Eccleston episode through and through. "The Lonely Angel" was a tag that certainly applied to him moreso than Tennant's Doctor thus far. "School Reunion" hinted at it, but half the time I saw the crew cut and leather jacket on the Doctor in this one. And once again with the Doctor dancing, and extolling the virtues of bananas. Are these gonna be Moffat signatures or what? But yes, the Doctor dances once more, and in the end, his hearts are broken. Rienette as more of a Cameca than Sarah, I guess. All the same, this was Tennant's best performance so far, and I'm now finally starting to feel him as the Doctor. Now he really wears the part of What The Monsters Are Afraid Of. But DAMN I about got emo on that ending.

Ah... this is definitely the best one of the season so far. Moffat is 2-for-2, and well on his way to becoming the new series' Ben Aaronovitch.

Now let's see the Cybermen top that next week.

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Two things to say at the outset of my review. 1) This is the only episode of this new series that I have seen so I maybe unfair in basing my opinion on this one story. 2) David Tennant is streets ahead of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor - in the right story he could be one of the greats.

First the good things about The Girl in the Fireplace. I greatly enjoyed David Tennant's performance up to a certain moment, which I'll write about later. Gone was the gurning of Christopher Eccleston, here was a Doctor who could save a child from the horrors lurking under her bed without making cheap jokes and grinning like a maniac.

I also found it refreshing that Rose had very little to do in this episode and that it mainly focused on the Doctor. There has been a lot of gushing about Miss Piper's role in the new series on these reviews and I don't think that it's any coincidence that these are entirely written by blokes. I'm not saying that her performance is bad, but her character can be tiresome. The rivalry over her in the last series between the Doctor, Jack and Mickey was pathetic and her possessive attitude to the Doctor is also starting to annoy.

I also loved the costumes and settings for this story.

The moment my disillusionment came was when the Doctor went sneaking around after Madame Pompadour like a lovesick schoolboy seemingly dazzled after just one kiss. I felt as if the Doctor was being transformed into some kind of cosmic Casanova or getting a touch of Captain Kirk Syndrome. The whole thing would have worked better if Madame's passion for the Doctor had been entirely one-sided and he'd had to resist her seductions!

I found the Doctor acting drunk very cringe-worthy as well - it was like seeing my Dad plastered - and where did he get shades from in 18th century France?

Was this episode also a not so subtle attempt to prepare the audience for Rose's departure? It seems that these days the Doctor would rather spend the evening dancing with his latest conquest than save Rose's life. He also didn't seem to show a great deal of concern at being stuck in 18th century France away from her. Had this episode been placed in the previous series the Doctor's whole concern would have been to get back to Rose.

The villains here were not particularly scary either, apart from their very first appearance. They didn't seem to be very robustly designed and it seemed that practically anything could destroy them. This made it all the more surprising that Madame Pompadour seemed to have made no preparations for their arrival in the five years after Rose's warning. All they would have had to do was dump buckets of water over them or something similar. Maybe they should have dumped a cold one over the Doctor and Madame at the same time!

Anyway this is just one story among others - maybe it's the Bad Wolf of this series (not a lot happened in that bar a lot of male posturing over Rose) The bit they showed of next week's episode looked very good. Less mush and more action!

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This was a clever story. The interesting point for me is that I (aged 38) loved it. The kids (9 and 11) got restless, a bit bored. All that love stuff. Yuk! And even the 11 year old asked where the horse came from? Why was it on the spaceship? (I've said we'll have to watch it again and see if we can find out). This demonstrates to me how bloody difficult it is to tow the thin line between writing for adults and children. I feel that Russell T Davies tries to do this and often brings down the kind of criticism we see in these review pages. Sometimes he succeeds, as with Tooth and Claw.

Generally, the same problems dogged this story as the first three in the run. Too ambitious. For all the personnel sitting around the table discussing the script in Confidental, they seem to have forgotten to hire an editor. Others have commented that the length of the show could be upped to an hour, but the flip side to this is decent editing and a quantum of self-discipline. Say what you like about American TV, the editing and tightness of their TV shows beats the majority of Brit TV into the ground, (I'm not American by the way).

Having said this, I'm still fasinated by how the second series is developing. It's got a very different feel from the first. You can really see there's a guiding mind behind it's development. That's where Russel T Davies comes into his own. The guy knows TV. The Doctor has changed. He's no longer the needy Chris Ecclestone model. Rose has been sidelined. It was sort of shocking when he rode through the mirror (so that's what the horse was for! - thrilling denoument - very sloppy) leaving Rose and Micky to die (?) in the spaceship. I enjoy this kind of character development; it's something the classic series just didn't have.

The look was perfect. Sorry guys, the horse through the mirror was okay - but very "effecty". You should have left it out probably. Direction was excellent.

Now, let's upset some people. I don't think David Tennant is quite as good as the Doctor as everybody seems to say he is. I've waited a couple of episodes to let him settle down into the role, but he seems somehow...lightweight to me. He's okay, he just about carries the story and all that, but he just hasn't got the presence and the weight that Christopher Ecclestone had. He isn't a center of gravity. I've a theory about this: Mr Ecclestone pissed a lot of fans off by leaving after the first series, but if you look back at his performance as the Doctor, it was superb in a way that David Tennant doesn't seem able to match. Well, not yet, anyway. Consequently, Chris E isn't given quite as much credit for his portrayal as the Doctor as he should. David Tennant seems, even in this episode - in which he is given an opportunity to shine (series two's version of Dalek I'd say) - to be all over the place. His delivery of some of the lines is so fast that you can hardly make out what he's saying. and that one point, when he first saw the clockwork droid, he really did sound like a slightly butcher version of Kenneth Williams. Perhaps they should have allowed him to speak in his native accent. To my mind, with the scripting in the majority of the episodes since "Rose" being somewhat undisciplined, Chris Ecclestone provided an all-important 'earthing' of the show. From about episode 3 of the first run onwards, he knew exactly what he was doing as an actor. Well, that's what i feel at the moment anyway. I hope that Mr Tennant finds some way of being more solid as the run goes on.

All in all, I'm enjoying this run as much as the first.

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I am trying to enjoy this series, I really am. I'd love to recapture the excitement I felt during the majority of last season's run; the scariness, the pathos, the humour, the sheer imagination rooted in deep soul...

But I'm sorry to say that when the Doctor reincarnated he seemed to lose his soul. Poor soul. To be fair, I don't think that this is Tennant's fault, he is a very good actor, and has the capacity to be a great Doctor, if only the scripts, and the stories allowed.

Okay, this started well. The ship, the fireplace, the girl; all very atmospheric and mysterious, this appeared to have the markings of a classic. And it ran well until we realised that the plot didn't really hang together that well, and because the plot didn't hang together that well, the supposedly "scary" bits failed to either shock or provide the necessary goose bumps. The premise that Madame de Pompadour's life was being observerd until she was "ready" was very scary, and I liked the way time was allowed to progress at a rapid pace from the Doctor's perspective but not from hers, it really gave the piece a sense of the ethereal. It was a fairytale in which a child has to face monsters under the bed , combined with Alice's adventures in wonderland. A truly lovely idea, which could have been truly moving, scary and sureal. However, the Monsters turned out to be pretty typical androids lost in space; only "carrying out orders, sir!" Okay, the clockwork mechanism was a nice touch, but it could have been used far more spookily, if only the writers hadn't gone down the predictable Sci fi path of providing easy answers.More of which later.

Humour! I love humour, I relished the way the last series used humour to great effect, particularly during it's darkest episodes. But for some reason this season appears to have turned into a Blackadder / Hitchhikers hybrid, both of which I love, but I don't think this approach really works for the Doctor, at least not in an episode not written by Douglas Adams (R.I.P, I love ya!)

The ship was apparently called the "SS Madame de Pompadour" Well, it's a bit Douglas Adams, but without the style or the wit. This was an easy answer to a promising question, and a lazy plot.

I really hope the Cybermen deliver.

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Steven Moffat's 'The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances' two-parter is widely regarded by many as the best last season had to offer. For me, 'Dalek' and 'Father's Day' perhaps shaded it a little, but story. High expectations, then, for his season two offering.

The premise of 'Girl' is possibly the most boldly sci-fi the new series of Doctor Who has attempted so far and it's a doozy. Future spaceship inexplicably tied to 18th century France gives us the opportunity to to visit two very different and beautifully-realised locales. It is also an immensely clever way for Moffat to write a piece that seems epic but actually makes use of very few sets, one pretty visit outdoors notwithstanding.

'Girl' has a rather odd tone - the first third or so has a distinctly camp feel to it, peaking in the cringe-worthy moment when the Doctor staggers around the imperilled Mickey and Rose sporting a quite hideous combination of tie-bandana and shades which make him look like he has stepped out of The Young Ones. Unfortunately, the normally-reliable David Tennant plays the scene in exactly this manner. This was the one single moment I have wished Chris Ecclestone was still around to play a scene. It is to a deep sigh of relief, then, that it is revealed the Doctor is merely playing drunk and from hereonin the episode picks up immensely.

Reviews of the previous episodes of season two have often stated that the 45-minute format has constrained the stories too far. Up until now I have not really felt this to be the case, but 'Girl' positively screams for more time to develop. Extra time to witness the the burgeoning relationship between the Doctor and Pompadour would have elicited a much more natural empathy from the audience, where the single-episode format here speeds events along at rather too brisk a pace.

Still, come the end, the Doctor's sense of loss is still very palpable - made all the more important in Rose's growing realisation that she is far from the only girl in the universe for him. Her arc this season is developing in a surprisingly dark manner, adding welcome levels to the Tenth Doctor who would otherwise be a little too jolly all the time.

Enjoyable, clever but lacking the tightness of Moffat's orevious tale (the Doctor's mind-reading is a bit contrived, the fireplace parting at the end feels a little forced and the name of the ship only kind of explains why everything has been happening), 'Girl' is yet another change of pace for a season which is demonstrating remarkable variety thus far.

Cybermen to come, hopefully accompanied by some real scares next week.

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Like many, if not most, of the Doctor Who fans I am livid at this episode. The new series has always hinted at the Doctor having a physical relatinship with various females but has until now left this open to the discretion of the viewer. Sadly the series has decided that this is a part of the Doctor's life whether the fan likes it or not.

In previous episodes, such as the Empty Child, The Doctor Dances and School Reunion the story was written in such a way that there could or could not be a physical relationship between characters, thus appeasing the loyal fan base that believe the Doctor does not engage in sexual activity with those he meets. With such intelligent script writing all quarters were satisfied, fans both old and new had a Doctor they could identify with.

Now that's it. Officially the Doctor is a being that has intimate physical relationships with people that he meets, and let's not forget he never met his French filly for more than a few minutes at a time. All of a sudden the character we have spent so much time with is no different to the average 'Eastender'. Frankly, Mr Moffat and RTD should be ashamed of themselves for bringing our ALIEN hero down to such levels.

The story itself may have been a good one, I do not know, it was so frustrating to watch a character I have grown up with butchered so. Tennant's great performances in the last two episodes gave me great hope for the future, sadly tonight's episode wasn't the Doctor I know. It saddens me that a fan of the series as Tennant is would accept this new trend of the Doctors. Were I the fan playing the part I would not have allowed this.

The only bright spots were with Rose and Mickey who kept us in check with the story line. In all honesty the storyline wasn't terribly good anyway. There was great potential but it was wasted on the Doctor having a 'romance'.

However the most insulting element came in Doctor Who confidential. The writer, RTD, and the various other elements actually took the piss out of the Doctor Who fans that prefer their hero to be non-sexual. Does RTD's arrogance extend so far that he forgets the very people that kept the series alive throughout the 90's?

The alternative universe Cybermen appear next week. I can only hope that Doctor Who gets back on track after tonight's travesty of an episode.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Well now- I know I’ve been saying that we’ve been seeing the restoration of the Doctor as the central figure this season and the consequent downgrading of the significance of the Rose character but the hitherto asexual Doctor becoming so infatuated with an (admittedly attractive) French aristocrat so as to potentially abandon Rose,and Mickey,Sapphire and Steel like,in space forever?Hmm.So there you go,broad-minded and generally supportive as I have tried to be about the new era perhaps I am just an old fart after all and becoming,according to my friend,more like the hardcore every day-I think I know what he means by this.

However,the fact that I struggled with this,and some other aspects,such as the graphic snog,which made the New Earth kiss positively boring by comparison(poor old Rose has even got upstaged on that by Madame Pompadou),and the Doctor’s silly pissed routine(mind you it was for a reason and sometimes Doctors do silly things for a reason,like Pertwee’s disguise in the Green Death,say)cannot detract from some superb elements which comprised what was essentially an adult fairy tale likely to be of limited appeal to younger viewers.Visually the episode was stunning,and some children will be genuinely frightened by the clockwork robots(nods to the Mind Robber there) which were superbly realised,though the voices were rather bland.Clocks ticking,old fireplaces,time portals,horses on spaceships(if we can have sailing ships in space in Enlightenment,there’s no reason why we can’t have horses): all good stuff,and the idea of the Doctor appearing at various stages of Pompadou’s life,not growing old as she does,is a poignant continuation of the Doctor/Sarah discussion in School Reunion.

There’s no doubting Steven Moffat’s brilliance as a writer but boy does he seem preoccupied by sex!References to it permeate the Empty Child/the Doctor Dances where dancing’s just a metaphor for sex and here references and hints are abandoned altogether in favour of full-on lust.Still,this season is proving itself capable of great variety if nothing else.

Despite my struggles with some aspects,this was an intelligent,visually flawless story proving that new Who isn’t some sort of juvenile CBBC pantomime not worthy of comparision to the classic era as some I assume still believe.On the contrary,it seems a little too adult at times.Probably a notch down though from the brilliant Empty Child/Doctor Dances due to time constraints.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Ahh, the Doctor in love. How sweet. Can't complain as its been done before (William Hartnell: The Aztecs). I did think it was a bit rushed though. Was it love or just a sudden infatuation? Who cares?

I really liked this episode when I watched it at 7pm last night. When I watched it again this morning I felt a little... disappointed. For the first time this season, actually. All the other episodes have had their faults but have generally been satisfying slices of New Doctor Who. The Girl in the Fireplace had a lot of great elements but just didn't quite achieve the depth it seemed to be trying to reach. Don't get me wrong, great acting, direction, costumes, effects (apart from the horse/mirror thing), scary robots etc etc. But it all felt a little inconsequential.

The relationship between the Doctor and Madame De Pompadour was a nice idea, him becoming her guardian (at least in her eyes) throughout her life. But the idea that, having not seen him since she was 7 years old, her 23 year old self would snog him seems a little unlikely. An extra fifteen minutes might have allowed us to have seen him reappear more often in her life, which would have made her reaction more plausible.

The robots were excellent. The masks were truly terrifying. The threat was exciting. But they didn't actually do anything. Which made them a rather redundant threat. The whole "we don't have the parts" idea was beautifully gruesome, particularly when connected with Rose and Mickey's earlier comments about someone cooking and Sunday roasts - but it was glossed over too quickly (musn't scare the kiddies too much). The modern Doctor Who feels a little castrated to me. The Doctor Who I watched in the Seventies and Eighties wasn't afraid to get down and dirty every now and then but 30 years on and we can't see blood, we can't see a human kill another human, we can't do black magic, religion or witchcraft either (seriously, they can't - BBC guidelines) which pretty much rules out them ever repeating old Doctor Who doesn't it?

And what happened with Rose and Mickey? Sidelined for the entire episode, Mickey's first trip in the TARDIS was bugger all of an event for him really. Rose seems to have forgotten her grumpy attitude at the end of School Reunion when the Doctor invited him to stay and equally seems quite unconcerned about the Doctor's romantic interest in MDP despite having practically decimated Sarah Jane a week ago for daring to breathe the Doctor's name.

I understand what they were trying to do, and Tennant and Myles worked beautifully together, the scene where he comes back to find her coffin being taken away was particularly touching. But all the "lonely angel" stuff was beginning to grate by the end and I can't believe that the Doctor would unthinkingly leave Rose and Mickey stranded on the spaceship, knowing they can't operate the TARDIS. When he realised he was stuck in France for 3000 years, he didn't mention them once. That was sloppy writing (or editing?).

I have tried very hard not to mention how spectacularly good The Empty Child was last year and how it was my favourite story from Eccleston's run because I wanted to let The Girl in the Fireplace stand on its own merits. Unfortunately this was an episode that truly qualifies as style over substance and although it was an enjoyable 45 minutes and I will definitely watch it again - it just won't be very often. 3/5

Things I Loved: The droid under the bed, "we have no parts", David Tennant (still amazing), Noel Clarke, Sophia Myles, the design, the direction, the dialogue, the revolving fireplace, the central idea, the name of the ship (beautifully done), the Doctor's last scene in the TARDIS...

Things I Didn't Love: the inconsequential nature of it all, being left with a feeling of "so what?"

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

A beautifully packaged episode, you can see the money in every single shot, every department has worked in harmony to produce one of the most lavish and sumptuous pieces of television I have seen this year. Colours bled from my television set, opulence shone, costume glittered, sets sparkled…. my sense went into critical overload…

…and yet I’m not entirely satisfied. I think I’m a bit ungrateful to complain when this is clearly a superior slice of television but something niggled at me during this episode, just like it did during Father’s Day, something that wasn’t quite right.

I think I was expecting a bit more fantasy romance and less science fiction. I wanted to see fabulous balls and emmerse myself in the culture of France in the 1700’s rather than hopping back to that drab old spaceship every five minutes. The glimpses of historical accuracy we saw were fantastic, scenes such as Pompadour and friend taking in the grounds, filmed with a sense of romance that quite took my breath away. Another problem was Mickey and Rose who were entirely superfluous to the episode, especially Mickey whose first trip in the TARDIS is skipped over in favour of the Doctor’s romance. Rose was okay but she is getting a little generic this year, devolving into a standard companion rather than the unique and feisty piece of work she was last year. Lets hope we see her step back into the limelight in the next episode. It seems to me as though the writers got this script and School Reunion the wrong way round, with Rose acting like a jealous girlfriend and getting awfully bitchy towards the fabulous Sarah Jane and yet all she does in this episode when the Doctor has a genuine romance is throw a worried glance his way when he goes scuttling off after Madame Pompadour. Hmm, consistency people, consistency.

Clockwork soldiers, what a fine idea and pulled off with magnificent style, the terrifying ticking and those nasty grinning faces, combining the Soldiers (from the Mind Robber) and the Robots (from Robots of Death) to superb visual effect. Unfortunately looking scary is all they can do because we are pre watershed and thus all we witness is them stalking about brandishing cutting tools. We hear of them to cutting open people and adding them to the processes of the spaceship but that is no where near as scary as seeing it. And for those who moan that we can’t see this sort of thing as it is too scary for the kiddies I say I bet they wont be as squeamish next week with the Cybermen, I expect we’ll see some of or all of a Cyber conversion which is just as frightening. Clockwork killers is not a new idea in Doctor Who, unfortunately we have also had their appearance in this months Big Finish. Alas neither of the audio or the visual attempts hold a candle to the Jonathan Morris’ Anachrophobia, which was brave enough to take the idea to its limit, having a character attempt suicide by slashing open her wrists to find cogs and wheels grinding inside and later having a character have his chest ripped open to discover a pendulum swinging inside a glass case rather than his heart beating. That is scary. What we see here is pretty.

Whilst I’m whinging the idea of the Doctor visiting a person at separate moments in their life has also been done before and (dare I say it) it was even more touching than it was here. Justin Richards’ Glass Princess from the Big Finish Short Trips: The Muses featured a story where the Doctor visited a princess throughout her entire life, a different incarnation for each visit until the eighth Doctor visits and takes her outside her home for the first time and tells her a story of a beautiful Princess and kisses her as she dies in his arms. So originality is not this episodes strong point either.

Oh my word what a total absolute moaning, miserable Tegan-wanabee git I have been! An entire page complaining and griping at a piece of television I really enjoyed! Summing up (and it’s the last negative thing I will say) I will just say that I am disappointed that the series can’t push its horror angle further (never stopped them in the past) and the show isn’t quite as boundary pushing as I had hoped, I guess plunging the audience into a romantic drama without any SF elements would be a little too alienating. But I really miss the pure historical and I thought this might be the first since Black Orchid.

What about the amazing chemistry between David Tennant and Sophia Myles (and I should hope so too considering what they get up to behind the scenes). I for one have absolutely no trouble with the Doctor having a romance and a good snog and however snide it might sound Doctor Who has evolved out of the fans hands these days and the show demands a romance for its loyal female (and soppy male) population. Just because those anal fans of the old series could never get a girl, no reason why the Doctor shouldn’t, especially not somebody as shaggable as David Tennant. Cor, if he materialised in my bedroom like he did Pompadour’s the Doctor wouldn’t have stood a chance! And whilst it was a borrowed idea, the thought of the Doctor progressing through this amazing woman’s life is agonisingly poignant, not ageing a day whilst she grows in leaps and bounds (beautifully capitalising on his tender admission in School Reunion), psychically and emotionally. Her devotion to him through the years, her willingness to take ‘the slow road’ to meeting him again is lovely and it is worth watching just to see her face when he promises to show her the stars. The final ten minutes are a total change of pace for the series, not climaxing with the Doctor saving the ball from the sinister soldiers but concentrating instead on the Doctor’s relationship with this amazing woman and how much he is affected by her beauty and intelligence. The last scene is achingly sad (although I have to say I wept more at the end of the School Reunion…sentimental attachment to Sarah Jane!) where the Doctor stands alone in the console room, again following up his admission that he is always alone (even when his friends are in the next room). Reading a farewell letter from the one woman he let into his head, revealed his secrets too, had my choking back the tears.

Sophia Myles is just the sort of big name star the show needs to keep attracting, not just because she is stunningly beautiful (almost enough to turn a guys head from his chosen lifestyle!) but because she brings so much to the episode she stars in. It is a textured, sensitive portrayal, one which stands out because clearly the writer was as invested in the character as the actress and together they have created a memorable and striking figure to reveal much about the Doctor. It is the side of him that comes out around Pompadour that makes her so special. To Myles’ credit it is not a part I can imagine anybody else playing, so distinctive is she in the part.

It is an amazing showcase for David Tennant’s range too, allowing him to express all manner of emotions throughout. He shifts mood in this episode more times than Eccleston did in an entire season. I wasn’t crazy about the mock drunk scene but that is just because I know far too many people who act like total dickheads when they’ve had one too many but it was certainly a clever ploy to finish off one of those clockwork nasties. His reaction Pompadour reading his mind was priceless, horror, shock and then slow admittance and enjoyment…its all their in Tennant’s face. His performance throughout the episode enhances the climax because after his manic energy earlier on (including that spine tingling moment when he bursts through the mirror on horseback) his eerie quietness in the TARDIS as he pilots the ship and reads her farewell letter is magnificently portrayed. This is an amazing actor we have at the helm of our show, lets never forget that.

I think the biggest credit for this episode however deserves to go to Euros Lyn who, after Tooth and Claw and this has now proven himself as the best director on the show. Frankly it is assembled by genius, the storytelling his sharp and bold but it means nothing if the director doesn’t stamp his mark and this piece was dramatic, funny, romantic, exciting, tear jerking and visually mouth watering. He cuts scenes back and forth brilliantly, never letting the audience get bored, dazzling us with special FX, gorgeous costumes and sets but still remembering it is the actors that we need to connect with and driving some phenomenal performances from them. I wouldn’t say the direction here was better than Tooth and Claw, but it was easily as good and so stylish that it is noticed.

The Girl in the Fireplace is an odd beast, clearly better than anything else that will be aired on TV this week, mixing horror, SF and history with effortless ease (in a way only Doctor Who can) and looking as though it had five times its budget and yet my niggly problems leave it inferior to the last two episodes. Keep up the excellent work but a little advice, don’t worry about scaring the kids (they love it) and remember you are supposed to be the boldest show on television, trust the audience if you want to dive in a dish up a pure historical.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

It’s difficult to sit and write a review of something you adored, because you run the risk of simply gushing out a list of everything you liked about it, which quickly becomes very boring for the reader. If they agree with you then you’re simply telling them things they knew anyway and not giving them any reason to carry on reading the review. If they disagree with you then your constant in-your-face trumpeting of everything they disagree with is also going to turn them off very quickly.

Which is why it is a little hard for me to sit here and type this, because I absolutely loved The Girl in the Fireplace. I suspect most of you will either agree with me and stop right there, or wonder how I can possibly hold such an opinion of such a terrible episode not worthy of the diamond logo, and also stop right there. This episode is going to turn out, in the long-run, to be a bit like the film Moulin Rouge, or Apple Macs – those who love them adore them and can’t shut up about them, those who dislike them think they’re a complete waste of time. It’s divisive, I’ll give it that, but Doctor Who has always been a series that rises to the occasion when it tries something a bit new and a bit different. And this is certainly rather new territory, Doctor Who as a romance.

Let’s get the love story angle out of the way first, then. I say “out of the way” as if it’s something soiled and dirty, which is wrong, not only because it’s the very heart of the episode but also because it’s rather touchingly written, especially as it’s made to seem not all that out of character for the Doctor. I will hold my hand up and admit I am not generally a big fan of love and romance in reality or in fiction, and certainly not in Doctor Who, but with Steven Moffat’s skill as a scriptwriter it just seemed to rise rather beautifully out of the situation and fit very well.

This is mostly to do with the main guest star this week, Sophia Myles as Madame de Pompadour. I’d never seen Myles in anything before watching this episode, but she’s clearly an excellent actress, and she really makes you believe that this woman is something quite special and remarkable – somebody the Doctor would be prepared to trap himself in the eighteenth century for. It’s heartbreaking that she doesn’t get to see the stars with the Doctor, and only reinforces what he was telling Rose in last week’s episode about human lives being so fleeting, how they pass so quickly and yet he lives on alone.

He’s left alone at the end here, reading her letter in the TARDIS, and curiously for such a modern and up-to-date example of the series in terms of style and execution, I was reminded of the end of The Aztecs, which featured one of the Doctor’s previous, somewhat less obvious, romantic attachments, to Cameca. At the end there the Doctor seems about to discard the brooch she gave him, then cannot bring himself to do so and takes it with him into the TARDIS. A subtle and doubtless unintentional thematic link, but the scenes did seem to echo one another to my fanboy eyes at least.

It’s very much, perhaps, the Doctor’s episode, and David Tennant is well up to the task. The only time I wasn’t completely sold on him was the pretending-to-be-drunk sequence, which wasn’t as embarrassing as it could have been but still undermined some of the authority the character usually conveys even in his lighter moments. I’m more than prepared to let that pass, however, for some of the nice character moments we got the Doctor. My particular favourite was Reinette reading his mind. I’ve probably said more than enough times in my reviews of various episodes that I enjoy it when there’s a bit of mystery and enigma about the Doctor, the suggestion that we know very little about him really. I suspect that Moffat enjoys, or is at least intrigued by, the same sort of ideas, as having Reinette comment on his lonely childhood and the enigma of his name nicely dangles some questions hopefully never to be fully answered.

Unlike last week, however, the appearance of a significant woman in the Doctor’s life doesn’t take over the entire episode at the expense of the plot. Whereas School Reunion suffered from being purely a vehicle for some – admittedly excellent – scenes between the Doctor and Sarah and an exploration of the Doctor’s attitudes to love and loss, here similar themes are explored and characterisation created in tandem with the plot, without overloading it or making it suffer. It’s a real step up in quality as a result, and while Reinette’s fate will likely never be as moving for the hardcore fans simply because she lacks the associations of Sarah Jane Smith in our affections, for the general audience I suspect this may well have been even more satisfying.

One of the reasons that Steven Moffat’s scripts are always so enjoyable, aside from their sense of fun and his grasp of characterisation, is the fact that the plots always seem to slide so beautifully together. He is obviously a man who takes a lot of time over his storylines and has a great attention to detail which pays off. Purely in story terms, I would say that this is by far the strongest episode of the second series thus far. It just all seems to work – the reason for the clockwork droids being obsessed with Madame de Pompadeur, the time windows, and organic repairs to the ship. It all comes together and just clicks.

If there is an element of the script that can be criticised, it is probably the sidelining of Rose and Mickey, which does seem a little unfair on poor old Noel Clarke given that this is his first episode as a bona fide companion. Rose gets one great scene with Reinette and Mickey’s initial wonder at arriving on the space ship is well conveyed by Clarke, but apart from that both he and Piper are pretty much on a hiding to nothing as they are overshadowed by the Doctor and Reinette’s love story. Which, I have to say on a personal level I didn’t mind as I found the story far more interesting than Rose and Mickey, but I can see how shoving two series regulars off to one side could be a little off-putting. But as long as you don’t do it every week, I think it can stand to be done, although it is interesting to note that Rose seems far less central to many of the episodes than she did during the course of the first series.

All this appreciation and I’ve not even started on the contributions of those behind the cameras other than Moffat. Euros Lyn proves just what a multi-talented director he is, following his hand-held, visceral style of Tooth and Claw, with lots of lovely, traditional BBC period drama swooping pans here. The design was lovely too, across the board – the space ship in CGI exterior and the construction of the interior sets, the French settings and the exterior they found to represent Versailles looked suitably gorgeous too.

I’d better stop, or else there is a danger I will just carry on gushing about how much I enjoyed this episode for far too many pages. There was just so much to love – the story, the performances, the dialogue, and the knowledge that it’s the type of thing only Doctor Who could have done. Where else do you get a Lord of Time riding to the rescue of his 18th century French girlfriend on the back of a horse, crashing through a mirror on the other side of which is a 51st century spaceship.

Barmy. But brilliant. And beautiful.

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Steven Moffat, writer of the wonderful Series One story “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, returns with a new tale for Series Two. Once again we have a story woven together with the finest elements of history, time and future concepts. This episode however, is quite different from Moffat’s previous tale and in fact, from past Doctor Who altogether.

If “School Reunion” was played out to indulge the fans, “The Girl in the Fireplace” will challenge them. This is a pity really, as it shouldn’t have to. For this is a Doctor focused romance and as some fans will tell you, it was proven by the 1996 Paul McGann movie that you simply don’t attempt such blasphemy.

Well, unless it’s done very well - like “The Girl in the Fireplace”.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” continues Series Two’s central character evolution. This story offers a very different crew dynamic to previous outings in this season. This is not just because we have a new TARDIS crew member, Rose’s beau Mickey Smith, but because we are seeing a radically different relationship between the Doctor and Rose herself. Compared to the earlier episode, “New Earth”, the Doctor and Rose’s relationship is decidedly different. Viewers who were put off by their sachrine sweet friendship in the season premiere will probably be pleased to see such a dynamic shift. Whether those same people will be thrilled by the Doctor falling in love with a famous historical figure.. well, that is another matter.

The story is fairly complex: Upon landing on a spaceship in the far future, the Doctor is caught in a technological intrigue which sends back and forth through 18th Century France. While Rose and Mickey battle to escape the clutches of the spaceship’s robotic occupants, the Doctor must stop the same robots from taking one of France’s greatest women; Madame de Pompadour.

The production values remain consistent with the season so far. A lot of care has gone into contrasting the two centuries in which this story is set. The plot jumps between time zones thick and fast and both zones have their own unique aesthetic.

Fans of Moffat’s Series One contribution will see some similar themes popping up. Beyond the aforementioned plot elements, we have some more Moffatesque references; the Doctor dances once more; we have more references to companions off on a wander and this time; more future technology running amok and most importantly, the flirtatious interplay of Rose and Captain Jack has been replaced by The Doctor’s romantic intrigue with a certain Madame de Pompadour.

As with Queen Victoria in “Tooth And Claw”, I cannot attest to historical accuracy, but the character is certainly well scripted and well acted - she feels real even if she is for the most part, ficticious. She is delivered as a character with integrity, depth and oddles of colour. Such rich interpretations of history can only make the subject more interesting for the kids. I’m sure there are children - who are as I type - are doing some background reading on Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson. Actress Sophia Myles plays her with grace and presence. She’s a perfect bit of casting and her chemistry with Tennant sparkles.

Once again, Tennant takes centre stage in this adventure which is very welcome. Rose is a wonderfully crafted character, but she does lack that ability to regenerate her character. So while Rose remains Rose, the ninth Doctor has become the tenth and I’m sure all the audience - new and old - are still very keen to see some exploration of this new man. As with “School Reunion”, Tennant is flawless. Certainly, Tennant’s Doctor is a little more eccentric than Eccleston's and almost definitely more human, nevertheless, that lonely man is still present.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” takes us through a relationship touched with gentle beauty that resolves a romance before it can even begin. Following the Doctor’s remarks in “School Reunion” about not wanting to watch those he loves wither and die, this seems even more pertinent when put alongside this episode.

While the Doctor engages in his attempts to unravel the mysterious clockwork plot to take Madame de Pompadour, Mickey and Rose work together to find more pieces to the puzzle in the far future. The companion story is fairly muted and for this episode it has good reason to be so as this is very much the Doctor’s story. The companion role is this episode is fairly Old School Doctor Who; they hunt for clues, get captured and ask “what’s happening Doctor?” on more than one occasion. Despite over thirty years of similar Doctor/companion formula, this actually feels rather refreshing. This is probably because the new series has had some very companion intense stories. Mickey Smith makes a solid third companion to the TARDIS crew and helps give Rose’s character some decent interaction while the Doctor plays Romeo. He adds a little comic value to the team without being too contrived. He and the Doctor play off some refreshing and glib dialogue in regards to some of the more technological story plot points.

Something I found particularly interesting in regards to character interaction, was an element the story made no actual narrative reference to: the Doctor’s lack of interest in Rose. It’s curious how quickly the Doctor forgets Rose, being how important she is to him. While this isn’t directly mentioned, there are some nice beats within the tale where it’s evident that Rose is noticing the lack of intensity as well. The Doctor truely is in love with Madame de Pompadour and if the relationship between himself and Rose felt deep before this, it will be interesting to see how his deep affections for Jeanne-Antoinette will challenge the Rose/Doctor interplay in later episodes. As with Series One, there is a clear character arc going on throughout Series Two and it helps keep the show from feeling stale or formulaic.

In regards to the episode construction, we are seeing a different narrative approach to “The Girl in the Fireplace” compared to the past three stories. The teaser is set in the 18th Century, the first act opens in the far future. We leap from time zone to time zone faster than Alice can make it through the looking glass and my crass analogy certainly pertinent; watch out for one of Doctor Who’s most ambitious effect shots later in the story. The scene is very non-Doctor Who and satisfyingly welcome.

With a thirty year old series, boundaries have to be pushed. To stop a show going stale it has to evolve. Not just to fit in with a new generation of viewers, but to give the concept itself momentum. The Doctor/Madame de Pompadour romance will irritate some fans as there is no ambiguity here; Tennant plays a Doctor in love. It took me a second to get into gear for this concept, but it makes sense. The Doctor can love. Time Lords can love. That has been established within the Doctor Who universe - no matter how much it irks some fans. As each regeneration conveys different facets of the Doctor’s character, it seems totally rational that some facets may be more affectionate than others. On top of that, the Doctor is now a great deal older and as the last of his kind, company will be far more attractive. So there you go, I’ve given some reasons as to why enraged fans should simply embrace this move within the show. You can either go with the flow and enjoy the show or fester in a corner. I would hope you’ll all find the former more rewarding.

As a romantic interest, Madame de Pompadour. is certainly more the kind of lady I’d expect the Doctor to fall for. Even at the end, when she knows she could keep the Doctor in her time, she gives him an outlet. Far less self absorbed than Rose. Madame certainly comes across as an enchanting lady that even a Time Lord would be hard pressed not to adore.

Should the Doctor be a romantic character? He already is to some extent. The lonely wanderer. The champion of time. The homeless man with a bucket of mystery. I think as with all shows, romance can be a story danger. If the chemistry, writing and pacing isn’t there, romance can seem forced resulting in disaster. There is no fear in this episode of that happening and of course, as with all the best love stories, “The Girl in the Fireplace“ is tainted with tragedy. The last ten minutes are some of the most touching and evocative moments I’ve seen in Doctor Who. Yes, more than “School Reunion”. Well, maybe.

Any quibbles? Those against the 45 minute format may have a reason to grumble, It does feel uncomfortably mixed on occasions with there being so much to do in so little time. We race from time zone to time zone and sometimes it feels as if those periods want to breathe a little more than they do.

The Clockwork robots were wonderfully designed and their introduction is a wonderful “behind the sofa” moment. However, they do lose their menace fairly quick which is a pity and drift too far into the plot to really stand out.

Perhaps my only other quibble would be the music which was a little thick and intrusive in some of the comedy moments.

Overall a very different type of Doctor Who. You’ll leave it feeling you know the Doctor slightly better than you did when you started. Older fans may need to give it a couple of watches to appreciate the formula and character dynamics. It certainly is a romance, but it is beautifully handled, and if you find THE kiss a little too much at the start, keep watching because I’m sure the end will certainly move you.

I wondered if this episode could top “School Reunion”, and yes, maybe it has. So again I must pose the question for a second week running: Next episode - can you top this?

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Episode 4 of this season, sandwiched as it was between the return of the iconic Sarah Jane Smith and K9 in 3 and the equally-iconic Cybermen in 5 and 6, was clearly going to be a tough gig for any writer. Which is presumably why the boss gave it to his star striker! And did Steven Moffat, the Thierry Henry of the Doctor Who writers’ line-up, deliver for Russell T Davies (and the rest of us)? Never doubted him, never will . . .

Moffat’s critically-acclaimed Doctor Who writing debut with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances last season was always going to be a difficult act to follow but, not only did he reach those high standards again, he cranked the bar up a notch.

And this is why Davies employs writers the quality of Moffat. He wants his show – “our” show – to be the very best it can be, in all aspects, but particularly the writing, because if that’s no good, you’ll be gone before you can say K9 & Company. No need to worry (if you do worry – you don’t give that impression!), Russell. It is the best.

It was a very different episode. Normally, you can say “that was a little bit like . . .” but The Girl In The Fireplace as a whole was like nothing else in Doctor Who history, although there were still plenty of elements within which could only belong in one show.

Another great pre-titles sequence drew us nicely into the story. I know that’s what they’re supposed to do, but a beautiful 18th-century Frenchwoman looking into a fireplace, summoning help from The Doctor? Classic Who in anyone’s language. Even those who don’t seem to like anything about the show must concede that. Or perhaps that’s asking too much?

The link between the spaceship and the 18th century worked superbly well. As did the clockwork droids. They have the kind of “clown” vibe, which a lot of people find scary. And there’s been plenty of (to utilise the oldest Who cliché of them all) “behind the sofa” moments in this series. The werewolf. Children being devoured by bat-like creatures. And now these malevolent droids. The one under the bed of the little girl and then appearing behind her was quite chilling, and really well done. Hopefully, the nightmares will only last a few years, kids!

The great effects highlight, though, was The Doctor on a white horse bursting through a mirror from a spaceship into an 18th-century French court . . . as he does. We’ll no doubt find out in time that this was a logistical nightmare, but it was worth the effort – terrific stuff. However, virtually the only thing which irked me about the whole episode was David Tennant’s wildly-exaggerated wink to Reinette – a knowing smile or a flick of the eyebrows would have sufficed. But that shouldn’t distract from what was a memorable scene.

And then there was Sophia Myles as Reinette. Didn’t think Lis Sladen would have any competition for “guest star of the year”? Think again. Myles was given a generous amount of script time and had a superbly-written character, but she did justice to Moffat’s words with a performance of sumptuous quality.

She’s a beautiful woman in a stunning array of period costumes with the central role in the script, which isn’t a bad starting point, but she really brought character to life. The viewer really cared about her, which is a great achievement in just one episode, and you shared The Doctor’s utter sadness when she had gone.

I liked her, in case that wasn’t clear . . .

. . . although not quite as much as The Doctor did!

He’s doing OK for snogs this season, is Mr Tennant. Some serious mouth-to-mouth action with both Billie Piper and Sophia Myles in the space of just four episodes? And they call this work! Some of his predecessors in the title role must be more than a little peeved – three years and a peck on the cheek was the previous average . . .

Winking aside, Tennant was excellent here – The Doctor was put through the emotional wringer here, but Tennant answered every call. There was strong back-up from Billie Piper and Noel Clarke, but this was Tennant and Myles’ episode. Their “mind-melding” exchange was a great moment. I'd love to think Sophia Myles could come back one day.

Oh, and did The Doctor “dance” with Reinette? Well, seeing as the euphemism was coined by the same writer in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, I don’t think the dots are too difficult to join! Some fans don’t like the idea of The Doctor’s perceived asexuality being compromised and, while this probably wouldn’t have sat too well in the old series, it works beautifully here.

“Perceived asexuality being compromised” – must use that in conversation more often!

The Doctor fell head over heels in love with Reinette (the grown-up version!) the moment he saw her. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent, funny – and you’d think much more his “type” than Rose, who is all those things as well, but the sexual chemistry which existed between the ninth Doctor and Rose no longer exists. And never really has done since the regeneration. Would the previous Doctor have left Rose behind on a spaceship to go to the rescue of another woman?

Having had her confidence shaken by Sarah’s appearance, and now seeing The Doctor obviously fall – and fall quickly and totally - for another woman, Rose must feel her relationship with The Doctor has developed too far to be anything other platonic. Although at times this season, there has been almost a lack of warmth there (principally from The Doctor’s side). It’s a fascinating change in dynamic – but it can change again if Rose and The Doctor find something to bring them together again, and that can’t happen while Mickey is on board the TARDIS, which is why I suspect he won’t be for much longer. Indeed, Mickey may be the element which brings them closer together again. In some way . . .

As long as Doctor Who continues to grace our screens, and that is going to be for many more than the three seasons which have been commissioned thus far, the “Moffat episode”, which will surely become a staple – whether he’s too busy or not! - is going to be a big highlight of the series. Frankly, anyone who writes the line, "I'm The Doctor, and I've just snogged Madame de Pompadour" should be in line for beatification for that alone . . .

Fabulous stuff, and the series just keeps getting better episode by episode. So, what’s in your locker, Mr MacRae? Something with a big, silver helmet, you say . . .

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems to me that each episode this season is better than the last. New Earth was fantastic (flawed, but fantastic). Tooth and Claw just gave me chills that this was the best the series has ever been. Then School Reunion blew me away.

And then came The Girl In The Fireplace.

I have to say, I honestly believe that was the best 45 minutes of Doctor Who I have ever seen. Witty, charming and deeply moving, it was an elegant and beautiful idea executed with such skill and then so fantastically produced that we couldn't help but be completely swept away by it.

Of course, as it lingered in my mind the following day, the little plot holes started to open up, but I am just as sure that Steve Moffat was aware of these holes and knew that the central premise was too good not to bog it down in overcomplicated exposition that could have turned something elegant and simple into something complex and fraught just for the sake of the nitpickers. Yes the throw away line of the TARDIS being out of bounds for saving the day was obviously a plot convenience even greater than usual (I am sure there are plenty of instances in the shows history where the TARDIS has been used in EXACTLY the way the Doctor says it can't here) but it would have severely weakened the premise to allow the Doctor such an obvious and unimaginative way out.

Sophia Myles was a revelation - definitely the first contender for supporting cast member of the season - with a character that, despite her limited screen time, we - as did the Doctor - fell completely in love with her. It's no mean feat to script a relationship from first meeting to final goodbye with a depth and emothion across a timeline that takes less than a day and is fully told in 45 minutes but Stgeven Moffat did it. The Doctor may have only just met Madame De Pompadour, but by the end we feel her death as the departure of a lifelong friend.

The revival of Doctor Who has seen such an emotional awakening int he scripting of The Doctor, in ways that would nnever have been considered in the original run. The idea of The Doctor kissing was the big taboo when it first occurred in the tv moive yet so far he has snogged Rose twice, Captain Jack once and now the Madame, yet we accept it, it sems right and the emotional development of the Doctor has created such a great richness to him that his sense of otherwolrldliness is enhanced even more. Whether he is brooding over the time war or reading a last letter from Madame de Pompadour, these last two portrayals have given us a hero with such depth and range that this series is now capable of exploring all possible dramatic situations.

Of course I have to mention the clockwork robots - such a fantastic idea and so beautifully realised that it is a shame they probably won't return. The set design, the camera work and the costume design is all amongst the best the series has ever produced. The CGI was flawless and all in all I can't think of a single moment that alerted me to a manufactured effect or moment of disbelief.

Finally I have to commend Murray Gold on what is possibly his best score for the series yet. The piano theme he created for fathers Day seemed a little saccharine for me but here he deals with equally emotive scenes with such a melancholic tone that allowed the shots to linger and the audience to hang on the emotion until our hearts broke.

Bravo. I can't say it enough. Bravo.

By the way and as a final aside - did anyone else wonder whether Madame de Pompadour's invitation to the Doctor to dance (considering Moffat's previous useage of dancing as a metaphor for a certain other physical act) could actually have implied the Doctor did more than just get a snog in this episode?

"Doctor. My lonely Doctor. Dance with me."

"I can't"

"Dance with me. There comes a time, my Lord, when every lonely little boy must learn how to dance."

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Dear sweet lord what a mess of an episode.

Last week was great fun, a romp perfectly suited to the 45 minute format. The Girl In The Fireplace suffered massively from it, feeling like a 2 parter butchered into one episode, robbing its most important scenes of any weight whatsoever.

Let me give a little perspective before you start flaming me in the forums. I love Doctor Who. I love what RTD did to bring it back to our screens, and I adore all the hard work that BBC wales put into every episode, which is why it's such a shame that so much is rammed into each episode that all the hard work and detail goes by in too much of a flash. This had the potential to be incredible, just as Moffat's two parter in the previous season was. The Girl in The Fireplace had some beautiful, poignant moments that would have been legendary had they been given more time to play through, but alas 45 minutes was all we got, and back we go into gung-ho territory. A story of filmic proportiions reduced to a jumble of quick cuts and soundbytes. Another snog. Another mention of the phrase 'Doctor Who'. Thankfully no Torchwood pimping this week, but hey, it probably got lost with half the plot during the edit to get it down to 45 minutes.

The tenth Doctor appears to be lacking any noticeable character in the episode, and as the tale went on, he seemed less and less like the Doctor in any way. Some huge moments of stupidity, a stream of romantic goo and at the end of it the Doctor, of all fictional heroes, gives up and seems ready to take the long route through time with madame de Pompadour, which completely contradicts not only last episode's gorgeous speech about leaving people behind, but the character's history since the beginning! He is coming across as incredibly lightweight and silly, and if it hadn't been for School Reunion I wouldn't be tuning in at all any more. This isn't very Doctor Who at all. Yeah, that'll get me some nasty comments, but it's not even along the same lines as the last series! The Doctor has always had a childlike element, but at the moment he's more of a gibbering toddler.

*phew* deep breaths, its only a TV show, its only entertainment. I know this, but it's been a big part of British culture for over 40 years now and its sad to see it eschewing its unique flavour for hackneyed romantic subplots. I sell Doctor Who (and other SF) merchandise for a living and spend all day every day pimping the new series to kids eager for something unique. So far, this series isn't it.

I really hope next week's is better. The Cybermen 2 parter had better be amazing or I for one will lose all interest in how the series turns out, and that'd be a shame as I was really looking forward to it. Of course, this is just my opinion. I watched TGITF with my band mates who loved it, so each to their own. If you enjoyed it, I'm really pleased as it means the series will continue. I just wish it had got the Doctor in it somewhere.

Roll on next week. Keep me watching.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I'VE developed a brand new affliction.

It's not Doctor Who. That's a condition I've had since my mum was painting the living room door (flat on the floor, to avoid any drips) in the spring of '81. Five feet away a four-year old boy was transfixed by the TARDIS shrinking to an nth of its usual size with Tom Baker trapped inside. No, my condition is something I suspect others are experiencing every Saturday night right now. It's called 'Worrying too much about people around me liking Doctor Who to kick back on the sofa and enjoy it for what it is'. I won't bore you with the Latin name.

It's been creeping up on me throughout series two and last night it developed into the full-blown fidgets during 'The Girl in the Fireplace'.

Why I'm worrying, I don't know. I could sit through 'TGI The Fireplace' (Did Billie get that in the divorce?) right now with an inane grin across my face while a certain minister's son from Paisley rightfully took centre stage and his understanding co-star slid into the shadows for the second consecutive episode.

One reason Doctor Who is so successful this time round is that it's only interested in telling stories. That four-year-old boy mentioned earlier was transfixed by a shrinking TARDIS, not block computation thingummies. And this was a beautifully told, beautifully shot fairytale.

The other time the Doc stepped into Once Upon a Time territory was 'The Mind Robber', and there are some similarities between the Clockwork Soldiers who tick-tocked their way through the Land of Fiction and the Harlequin androids which went on a cogtastic rampage through Versailles - and a lot more could have been made of them holding that posh party to siege. They were introduced brilliantly, though. How many youngsters have checked beneath their beds for a Marshman or Melkur in their formative years?

This was the slowest paced episode I have seen for some time, relying on the relationship between Madame De Pompadour and the Doctor to carry the story rather than tense cliffhangers popping up every six minutes or so. This may have been the reason my new affliction hung round my head so easily this time around.

Shame on me. The whole thing was super fun. Even the Doctor getting a bit sloshed wasn't as toe-curling as it could have been, and Mickey is gradually getting more likeable. After Rose's prickliness towards Dame Sladen last week, it's a relief this wasn't cut-and-pasted to her feelings about the other other-half joining her in blue box life.

It's a nice twist that the viewers got to know the significance of Madame De P to the androids' (now we know how Kiss would have looked if a member of the French aristocracy had dreamed them up) plane, but not team TARDIS. I just hope the SS Madame De Pompadour has a twin vessel out there called the Good Ship Parker Bowles. Bet loads of blokes have sailed in that one.

But - where the creme de menthe did that horse come from?

And, I know it wasn't in this episode, but I have to get it off my chest. What's the difference between Torchwood and UNIT? I digress.

At the end of the episode, my fellow viewer turned to me and said: "That was *really* good!" I had to agree, and was thus flummoxed as to why I'd spent the first four-fifths of the episode with a sinking feeling sloshing down my innards.

I've had a lie down. I've taken my pills. By golly, I do believe this new affliction of mine has finally run its course.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I loved this episode right from the first scene, with a teaser that skips ahead in the Doctor's narrative to show us Reinette talking into her fireplace, calling for the Doctor to come help her from the monsters that are attacking. Most importantly, it's beautiful and intriguing at once and serves as a perfect thesis for the whole episode. Secondly, I can't recall the original TV series ever skipping ahead to near the ending like this before, although it has been heard many times in Big Finish audios, and is another example of great ideas from the wilderness years being folded into the new TV series.

The rest of the episode is likewise wonderful to behold and difficult to predict as it goes. This is mainly because, as in "The Empty Child," Steven Moffat has based the whole science fiction problem around a mistake by technology. If there were a logical reason for everything to be the way it is, it would also be predictable and therefore dull and boring. If, however, things are the way they are because of a very false premise on the part of the antagonist, then the root cause of it is both difficult for us to guess and yet entirely logically connected to everything else in the story that follows from that false premise, and so it all does make sense to us in the end. First he did it with nanogenes that didn't know what a human should look like, and this time it's a robot repair system that's had its chips scrambled so that it thinks the woman for whom it is named is therefore its perfect replacement central processor. (The way this was all finally revealed in the very last shots of the episode was brilliant as well.) It then of course naturally follows that it'd send its robots to try and get that spare part, and that the time windows and the fireplace and so on could be the means to that end, and as Reinette tells us, a door once opened can be walked through in both directions, and so it makes sense there'd be a horse on the spaceship and so on. These are all exquisite romantic images as well, and half the reason that they are is the same reason why anything truly beautiful in nature is, because it's all what logically follows from a single flawed premise. It's like the crystals on a snowflake. They're extremely complicated and beautiful at the same time, and they all come from moisture freezing around a single, imperfect piece of dust that was just floating in the air. Unintelligent design is often better than things intelligent designers come up with, and is certainly never predictable. Each snowflake is a masterpiece in itself for although it forms by the same rules and laws of physics as all the other snowflakes, each core piece of dust is itself an unpredictable and unique "flaw" in the air. Can you tell I love this way to build a story yet? Of course, now I'm onto it, I'm afraid it means I might be able to see what's coming in Steven Moffat's next story next year, but perhaps not, if the mistaken dust particle in that one is random enough.

The design and direction crystallized around the script utterly perfectly as well. The art direction, costume design, and cinematography in the France scenes is the equal of any award-winning period piece movie, lending the whole thing an air of class that "Doctor Who" rarely, if ever, has achieved before this. My favorite images though were, in no particular order, anything that Reinette was wearing, the ballroom itself, the nearly seamless CG done on the location shots to make them look like France of the period, the exquisite clockwork inside the robots' transparent heads, the spaceship exterior which didn't look like any other spaceship I've seen, and of course, the shot of the Doctor riding the horse through the mirror, smashing it as he goes. There's so much attention to detail everywhere you look, and I'd like to highlight the "spring/summer/autumn/winter" motif they had going on as the Doctor makes each visit to Reinette at different stages in her life. There was a similar trick used to good effect for Rivendell in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, but I don't care if I've seen that trick once before, for it really fits here just as well, perhaps better. The shot selection by Euros Lyn was just as good as that which he gave us in "Tooth and Claw," and yet of a very different style, and I'd now put him alongside Douglas Camfield or Graeme Harper on the list of the best directors "Doctor Who" has ever had.

There were a few other parts to the story that also looked familiar to this Big Finish listener. The time windows are _very_ like those used in the audio "The Time of the Daleks," and there's even carriage clock clockwork running it as there, only not quite so directly. Here it's running robots that then run the windows. The juggling of time in the narrative as well as in the events in the story is another Big Finish trademark. And the books get a great shout-out as well with the Doctor's saying that he's the thing the monsters have nightmares about, which is directly from Paul Cornell's NA book "Love and War," as admitted to by Grand Moff Steven in the podcast commentary for this episode. (and Paul had reused it himself in his BF audio "The Shadow of the Scourge") I'm all for this kind of picking off the fruits of the trees from the wilderness years, and rumor has it there's more of this to come next week...

The episode is, at its core, about what a romance between the Doctor and a human woman might be like, and at the same time about why that's not possible for him and why he avoids it. Sure, the kissing and the partying and the "dancing" is all well and good, but for the Doctor, it's all too fleeting. As he told Rose last week, humans grow old and wither and die, while he doesn't, and so his relationships with us must always be short, which is why he normally cuts them off. He finally meets a woman who could match him in every respect and could perhaps really be a true equal partner to him, and at the same time he's meeting her in a way which magnifies his central problem of the humans always living too short a time for a Time Lord. When he reads that letter she wrote to him as she lay dying, you can almost see his hearts sinking through the floor as the weariness and loneliness and sadness gets to him in a way that hasn't been seen quite so well before. I almost wonder if perhaps the TARDIS could've shown us some sympathetic reaction where her lights dim at this point or something... nah, I think not. That'd just pull focus off the best scene David Tennant has recorded as the Doctor yet, and the one where at last the Doctor's great age really shines through with what Tennant is doing. That's the one thing that's been missing from the Tenth Doctor up until now, that sense of eternity, and I didn't quite realize we hadn't seen it yet until this scene. It's there now, and it's as if the whole Doctor is back with us again, in a way I don't think I've felt since I don't know when. Well-played, David Tennant, well-played. You're my favorite now.

Another favorite I have is Sophia Myles, who turns in what I think is the best guest star role so far this season. Yes, better than Elisabeth Sladen or John Leeson or even Anthony Head. And I'm not saying this because of how she looks physically, which is tremendous of course, or at least, I'm only saying it about how she looks with her eyes. The eyes are what tell you how intelligent a character (and the actress behind the character) is, and with every look Sophia Myles has something going on behind her eyes that screams "look out, Doctor, I'm just as clever as you are." Roger Delgado used to use that "look" to hypnotize people in an evil way that made you believe he really could do hypnotize people just by looking at them. Sophia has a good and (of course) feminine eye-stare that makes you believe she really can root around inside the Doctor's mind just as he's doing it to her. And what a look she gets too... I _adore_ that line she has that goes "Doctor... Who? It's more than just a secret, isn't it?" And that's something else I hadn't quite realized was missing from the entire new series at this point and is now back as a result... restating the "Who" in "Doctor Who"... re-emphasizing that the Doctor was different from the other Time Lords even before they were all killed and he wasn't. If the series starts to earnestly bring that sort of thing back up again more often, then we'll _really_ be cooking with gas...

If the episode has any drawback at all, it's only that Rose and Mickey were sidelined a bit, and still what little time the story had for them was very good quality time, particularly when we see Rose have these jealous pangs towards Reinette but which then turn to sympathy and sadness for her and her situation, and when Mickey is the one who spots how the Doctor needs time to be alone at the end of the episode after Reinette has died. Oh, and the caption on the scene that establishes the spaceship should've said "3293 ± 50 Years Later" instead of 3000. Or something like that.

And I'll save my last comments for Mr. Murray Gold, who turned in a fantastic score again this week. He implied in DWM that perhaps not all of the music we heard in the 2005 season was what he himself wanted to write but was asked to write. Based on how much he's improved in these last four episodes, it sounds to me like the leash has been let go, because the scores have been so much improved on last season.

Here's hoping that freedom is continued to be encouraged in future.

11 out of 10 for "The Girl in the Fireplace." I did really love it that much. It's an instant "classic." Well done everyone.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Being a Doctor Who fan can be something of a double edged sword, on the one hand one shares a more intimate involvement with the show and its characters than the casual viewer, on the other such an involvement often means that one has greater foreknowledge of each episode than is sometimes healthy. From hearing a story title, to seeing stills from the set, previews and finally the next time trailer, one tends to build up a mental picture of the story, one that will very rarely if ever be much like the transmitted program.

In building up that mental picture one often builds the image of the perfect episode one would like to see, crafted from the information available. Seeing the final transmitted episode nearly always leads to a slight sense of deflation as one realises that it wasn’t that perfect image and in reality could never hope to be. And that is the curse of being a fan, no matter how much we try to leave our hopes, anticipations and fears outside the door, we always carry them through, we will never have that sense of detatchment that the casual viewer has. Being a fan however inevitably leads to the compulsion to rewatch an episode no matter how good or bad it maybe, and it is on that second viewing that I think the Girl in the Fireplace holds much of its appeal. Much like Ghost Light used to be cited as a story which improved on repeated viewing, so I think Girl in the Fireplace will join its ranks.

If I am honest I really didn’t know what to make of this episode on first viewing. It was so different from the last 3 stories and to most tv drama as we know it, that I wasn’t really sure whether it worked or not. On the surface it shares some very close similarities to Steven Moffat’s story from last year which attempted to mesh a more cerebral concept within the Russell T Davies template. For this viewer the Empty Child didn’t quite gell, with the first episode feeling a bit leaden and the story only really coming to life towards the end. With Girl in the Fireplace the new Doctor Who seems to be maturing, realising that it doesn’t have to be thrill or joke a minute, that it can have an intelligent story which keeps the viewer guessing and doesn’t lay all plot developments on with a trowel. The pace at times felt totally at odds with the first 3 episodes and that was a little disconcerting on first viewing, but I think it is good that every once in a while the new series can be comfortable with its success and not be afraid to try a quieter more contemplative episode.

The clockwork droids were probably the best old Doctor Who monster there never was, the idea and execution were so classically Doctor Who, that you cant believe the idea hadn’t been thought of before. Unlike some of the other writers Steven Moffatt seems perfectly in tune with that surreal creepiness which writers like Robert Homes excelled at, if anything I think this new series should be creating a whole new generation of bed wetters. The robots were only let down only by the fact that it was never explained what they really were or who created them.

The episode really though belonged to the Doctor, and perhaps out of all Doctor Who ever, provided the most intimate portrayal of the character. A Doctor Who romance is always going to be a bone of contention for fans, and I must admit a few years ago I would have been aghast at the idea. The Paul McGann movie had a romance angle which was very poorly shoehorned in, and would have made many a producer very wary of attempting the idea again. But rightly or wrongly Russell T Davies has introduced the fact that the Doctor is seemingly not as asexual as we may have thought and indeed does long for phyical intimacy whether that be female, male, alien or whatever. The fact that the Doctor has always been assumed to be asexual could be looked upon as an unwritten assumption which was misinterpreted by various production teams over the years and quickly became fact. In 1963 the stern professor like character portrayed by William Hartnell was not likely to set many pulses racing, so such issues were neatly sidestepped, and when the Doctor regenerated into Patrick Troughton the reality of a Saturday afternoon childrens adventure series meant that there was no pressing need to even address the issue. Lets face it relationships per se were barely touched upon in the original series at all, so the general assumption reached by Joe public was that if the Doctor wasn’t getting his leg over, he couldn’t be too bothered about that sort of thing. So I suppose Russell T Davies had to ask the question: why in the 21st century would it be so unthinkable? and the fact that this has so far been handled in a fairly subtle manner, has not detracted too much from the mystique of the character.

Girl in the Fireplace didn’t really have enough screen time to suggest why the Doctor and Renette formed such a bond, but within those constraints feasibly recreated the Doctor as a romantic hero. The new series has always played slightly on the fact that rather than being an intrepid adventurer, the Doctor’s lifestyle is born partly out of necessity. He is an alien nomad destined to never really belong in a time and place, he must always move on, and this episode much as Father’s Day did, suggests that perhaps deep down he hankers for a mundane normal existence. This is somewhat at odds with previous incarnations, Pertwee would have been off into space in two minutes flat and away from the cosy cofines of Unit given half the chance, but once again distanced from the old series this approach offers a much deeper motivation for the character, even if he does become a little more human in the process.

Rose took a slightly back seat in this episode and following School Reunion, we got the impression that the character is on a gradual journey of realisation that she is not the centre of the Doctor’s universe she had assumed herself to be. Noel Clarke made a worthy addition to the Tardis crew, but wasn’t really given a great deal to do on his first galactic outing.

Despite the plot occasionally seeming to drift off at tangents at some moments, creating a rather uneven pace, the story managed to maintain its momentum and ably enhanced by Murray Golds nearly always superb incidental music and Euros Lyns direction, by the end the story had taken on a lyrical almost fairy tale quality. The ending was both poignant and perhaps the saddest so far in the new series. Fortunately avoiding the gross sentimentality of Cassandra’s death in New Earth, the fact that the Doctor didn’t use the Tardis to go back made the ending all the more stronger. Much as with Sarah Jane in the previous episode, we find that the Doctor has missed the moment and must move on once again, popping in and out of lives but always as Renette put it, unable to take the slow path.

I didn’t see the ending coming and I must admit it was a pleasant surprise, but unfortunately shared the same problem as many new series episodes in that it raised more questions than it answered. Exactly why did these supposedly advanced droids think that the head of Madame de Pompadour would repair the ship just because it had the same name? The plot device is pretty much the same that Mofatt used on his earlier story, the idea that highly advanced technology can make a huge glaring error based on following simple logic, but the revelation was not enough to quell all questions raised, and much like Ghost light, one feels we will probably have to wait for a DVD commentary to gain a full insight into the logic of the plot.

Beautifully shot, a good central performance from Sophia Myles as Madame Pompadour and some rather weird but wonderful ideas made this an episode which will I think always be a neglected gem. Straddled in the middle of werewolves, K9 and Cybermen it was unlikely ever to be a huge crowd pleaser, but will always be an episode for which each new viewing holds something new.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

What an odd episode! Stephen Moffat has obviously been worried about doing something as good as The Empty Child. His solution has been to write a story that breaks all the rules. The doc gets pissed (that's as in drunk for our American readers) and snogs the face off Sophia Myles, he jumps through a mirror riding a white horse to save the day and even finds time to create a cocktail. The new Doctor Who however has all been about breaking the rules. One can only guess at what the episode starring Peter Kay will be like!

This episode also played to the BBC strengths in the costume drama department. Get the big frocks out of the wardrobe! As the doc said himself the clockwork robots were beautiful and the eye on the stalk reminded me of something out of the Fifth Element. The whole thing had the feel of The Mind Robber or The Celstial Toymaker about it in its' use of fantasy. The script was light and witty, "France, it's a different planet," etc. OK Mickey and Rose didn't have a lot to do but the 45 minute format simply doesn't allow you to fit in everything. The writers are all exploring the new Doctor's character and with an actor like David Tennant there's a lot of character to explore.

Rose does seem a lot more superfluous in this series but 'twas ever thus. In the original series Ian and Barbara were the Doctor's equals in the first few series. It was only later on in the show were the companions became mere plot devices. Still I hope that Rose is given more to do when the Cybermen appear.

It's a shame we never saw this Doctor dancing but he certainly looked like he could party. His appearance with a tie round his head was brilliant. His advice about always having a banana with you bears listening to. Personally I always go to parties with a remote control Dalek but that's just me. The clockwork robots are a triumph. Why shouldn't writers and designers just go for it. Take risks and be damned. Meeting the horse in the spaceship, and calling it Albert, must have seemed absurd on paper but it worked gloriously!

I Just got interrupted by a 'phone call from my niece saying how much she enjoyed the latest episode. It's great the way the new series can engage adults and children. Anyway the end of the episode was so sad. The Doctor being told by the King that Reinette had 'left for Paris' and then seeing her hearse and reading out her letter begging the Doctor to appear brought a tear to the eye. The last shot showing why the 'thick' robots were after Madame De Pompadour made me smile. Now roll on the Cybermen!

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The Girl in the Fireplace was given a disappointing preview in The Guardian, billed as 'not one of the better episodes, but pleasingly bonkers all the same'. Bonkers yes, but I'll argue that this was one of the best of the new Doctor Who adventures. Some great performances, another excellent script from Steven Moffat and impressive design and effects throughout.

In my opinion the current series has so far consisted of too much running up and down whilst being chased by monsters of one kind or another. I know that as Reinette in this episode so rightly points out, "where there is the Doctor there will be monsters", but at last David Tennant has been given something to get his teeth into.

This episode sees the flowering of Tennant's Who, with the 'lonely Time Lord' theme being carried on from the Ecclestone season. I was beginning to fear too much gurning, posing with specs and the running around but he's settling in very well. Nice touches, too, such as the lighting of the girl Reinette's candle with the sonic screwdriver.

This episode also sees the addition of Mickey Smith as a regular companion. I'd been worried about this as he's not a favourite of mine, but his inclusion worked very well in this story. Mickey allows Rose to be separated from the Doctor for his (semi) romantic pursuits. As well as giving her someone to talk to, he also continues the "wow!" factor that needs to run through the series. With Rose already seeing it all (last week you may recall she was matching Sarah Jane Smith monster for monster) someone is needed to stay excited by what’s ‘out there’.

As for the clockwork robots, they worked a treat. If Steven Moffat was looking for a new catchphrase to match "are you my mummy?" he may not have found it in "we needed the parts", but the masks hiding the glass heads were as original as the WW2 gasmasks last year, as were the jerky movements and slow, deliberate speech. The episode looked expensively staged throughout, with the period settings as convincing as the future, and the most memorable was the scene shift as Madame de Pompadour stepped between the two. I even found the revolving fireplace convincing.

And what was the deal with the horse? Well, it gave Tennant a chance to do his dashing act, but I also noticed that when the Doctor first meets Reinette as a young girl, a sound of an invisible horse is heard in the distance. As he later watches her coffin being drawn away the same sound repeats to mark her departure. More nice touches.

Well, I sit and wait for the Cybermen next week. Let's just hope they take the baton and run with it.

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This episode was simply a masterpiece. I am trying very hard to think of any other show (besides classic "Who") that can so seamlessly incorporate so many genres in one episode. Horror, Sci-Fi, Romance (and done in a way that even I, as a guy, thought was very touching), and adventure all rolled into one. As for the romance part, there is no reason whatsoever that the Doctor has to be asexual. He is infinately smarter than any human but any time the Doctor has ever run into someone like Rinette, who is above and beyond your standard human, he is fascinated and it definately doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous! Also, it's good to get his and Rose's relationship more plutonic. Though I don't mind the Doctor at all falling for a woman for once, it should not be his companion no matter how great she may be.

This was an episode that I felt really worked in the 45 minute format. Of course, I would love to have seen more background on the clockwork robots, the ship and France in general but it really wasn't necessary. This was a stunning performance by David Tennant who is truly one of the best Doctors ever. He gives a vibrance to the part that hasn't been here since almost as far back as Troughton. Of course Pertwee, both Bakers, Davidson...all of the previous Doctors had things they brought to the character and were all excellent. Tennant really seems to incorporate traits from all of them into a brand new model.

I read the previous reviews before I wrote this so I have a bit of an unfair advantage--HOWEVER--I don't know what people mean when they say this series is not as good as the last and Tennant is not a very good Doctor! Eccelston was awesome no doubt about it. He showed an anger not seen in the Doctor except on occasional episodes. He was hurt by the Time War mentally and physically. The arc with the Daleks was perfect for him because he was able to resolve that part of his existence and show Rose how much he really cared for her. But when the Daleks were wiped out, it was time to throw a little more range into the character of the Doctor. This isn't to say that Eccelston as an actor was incapable of range, but as he played the Doctor it was mostly somberness and anger (as a character who lost his entire civilization required) and the humor seemed a little forced. In this episode in particular thanks to Rinette seeing inside the Doctor's mind we see that he still feels alone but he hides it much better. He's moved on and as he said in The Christmas Invasion he is a new man. The suit with sneakers is such a perfect look that fits in any situation, his great intellect and compassion hidden behind a facade of goofyness, his amazement at the sight of werewolves, clockwork robots and the like. Tennant is an amazing actor and he brings reality to this character. Pop references and goofy scarf and shades wearing is even ok because he is expressing his love of humans and is ready to pounce on the enemy at the drop of a hat.

Poor Eccelston never once saved the day in series one. Sure he took the energy from Rose at the very end but seriously, in almost every case he stood back and let things happen around him and several times people on the side were the real heroes. When I wrote reviews for series one I said that was ok because perhaps it was a "humans need to do things on their own" attitude and I am definately ok with that. However now the Doctor is back to his roots, solving problems and helping people like no one else on planet Earth could do.

The magic of Doctor Who is sort of like the cop show Law and Order in the US. I really can't think of another show that has changed entire casts so many times and yet stays relevant and vibrant. You can have an entirely new main character from costume to attitude to enemies to friends and at its' core it is still Doctor Who. It feels like Doctor Who, and this character (as talked about quite a bit in School Reunion) has lived a long time and has years of experiences to learn from. Is this show perfect? Of course not. 45 minutes has been too short many times. Mickey is finding his way into finally becoming a somewhat likeable character but it's taken a very long time. It would also be nice for the Doctor to use something other than his sonic screwdriver. It scans things, can create fire, can scare of robots of all kinds, open doors, lock doors.... I mean, I understand wanting to keep things simple but one other device would be nice. Still, the pluses outweigh the minuses of this show about a billion times. Besides Battlestar Galactica, no one has reinvented a show so brilliantly and RTD deserves everlasting praise for his job. The Girl in the Fireplace has the future, the past and most importantly the feel of Doctor Who and each episode of Series Two is better than the last. Will the Cybermen beat this one? No matter what I'll be there!

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Well right from the very beginning of the introduction I was drawn in. After Tooth and Claw I couldn’t imagine that you could have a better intro, but this was beautiful - both visually and emotionally. I just loved the way the titles ran straight after this girl was shouting for help from the doctor – this Girl In The Fireplace.

Also in the intro, you get an immediate understanding of what the theme of the story is going to be about – that ‘curiosity factor’ just set in straight away. And what a theme – the intensity of the developing relationship between this girl and her ‘imaginary friend’ was beautiful. I think that the doctor didn’t even notice that it had engulfed her until the moment where he looks into her mind… and she looks back – that moment of pure terror in the Doctor’s eyes when she calls him by his ‘name’ and seems to know ‘his secrets’. I feel from repeated viewings that this is not the sort of romance that other reviewers have seen. The Doctor seems just more interested in her general welfare up until a point, while Reinette has obviously grown up developing an obsessive love for her ‘imaginary friend’ – the Doctor is oblivious at the beginning to her growing love thinking of himself as just a stranger (how in character)… but ‘How can you be a stranger when I’ve known you all my life’.

But by the end, you can see that the Doctor has unwittingly fallen into a romance – he does things without thinking. If he’d sat down and thought about it for a moment, he’d have realised that riding the horse through the mirror could cause massive problems for him – being stuck in one place and time (we all know how much he hated that before) and leaving Rose stranded on a spaceship with a group of cannibalistic robots (this would have meant certain death for her and for Mickey). This is the only part of the story that grates on me and it just seems out of character for the Doctor to do such a rash thing, love or no love. And what about Rose?

The Doctor seems to have moved on here and taken Rose for granted to an extent – a bit like most men do after a few years of marriage. In a manner typical to many women (sorry to all those ladies out there!) Rose doesn’t notice that something has developed between them, reserving jealousy for more obvious things such as ‘the ex’ (SJS). To me this was very believable as she’s not involved at all and the whole thing happens in an hour or so for her - the only clue she gets is quite late in the day – ‘We both know the Doctor’s worth it’.

The ending was perfect and I am so grateful that the fast pacedness was reserved for the beginning of the story and enough time was left for this beautiful ending. When Louis proclaims that ‘You just missed her – she just left for Paris’, I remember speaking aloud ‘Oh my God, it’s a hearse’ just before he proclaimed that she died too young. Very very sad as it just wasn’t expected.

Oh no, I forgot about the plot! In common with The Empty Child, this was very cleverly written. This wasn’t some megalomaniac alien or monster trying to take over the universe for once (those storylines start to grate on me) – it was all just a mistake. One day long before the story began the programmer of these humble and stupid repair druids forgot to tell them that the crew were out of bounds in their eternal quest for more parts. The fact that these robots were so simplistic and stupid was a breath of fresh air in Doctor Who. They were programmed just to salvage parts to keep the ship working and had used all the resources that were available to them – making them very dangerous – even to the extent of crossing 3000 years to fetch the ‘control circuit’. Classic logic – no more parts; therefore salvage parts including from the crew; the crew have proven a very valuable source of parts; control circuit of SS Madame de Pompadour gone; therefore need to find similar replacement; human brain would do but only compatible one – brain of 37 year old Mdme de Pompadour! The revelation at the end was just perfect – I found myself screaming (as did Rose) ‘WHY, WHY, WHY’, only to have it explained perfectly without a word said.

I am just amazed that Stephen Moffat managed to tell such a complex and beautiful story in just 45 minutes. I am finding more and more with this season that the 45 minute limit is a bit of a disappointment as it just goes too quickly and doesn’t given much time for development of the story or characters. Having said this though, the writers have worked amazingly well within this constraint.

One of my first choice episodes to show if I wanted to introduce a friend to DW.

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This was a very strange story – in many ways not like Doctor Who at all. Of course, that has been true of practically every single story since Russell T Davies showed up and the show resurfaced, but here it manifests in a very different way. This, to an extent, is what Doctor Who has always been really – but has never actually been before.

Major reasons for it not feeling like Doctor Who include; no actual plot, just some strange stuff that happened. No obvious reasons for much of the stuff that happened to have happened anyway. The Doctor’s characterisation, including his very own love story; very different from what has gone before. Rose and Mickey practically disappearing from the action. The more obviously magical feel.

To be honest, I liked it a lot. Although it felt so radically different, thematically ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ was a strong and explicit continuation of the ideas explored in previous episodes, specifically ‘School Reunion’ and Moffat’s earlier ‘The Empty Child/Doctor Dances’. We have the return of the same metaphor from TEC/TDD about the Doctor ‘dancing’, the 51st century and implacable, mindless machine enemies wreaking havoc simply because their programming causes them to respond inappropriately to the setting in which they find themselves, and several hoary old chestnuts – “Doctor Who?”, and the Doctor being the entity monsters have nightmares about, most obviously!! We have Russell U Davies’ “lonely God” morphing into Reinette’s “lonely angel”, and an extensive exploration of the loneliness of the Doctor. In a very real sense, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ is nothing more than a speeded-up version of the same agonising process that caused the Doc so much grief last episode.

The problems with the tale – although they needn’t be problems, it depends how you look at it – lie in the lack of explicit explanations. Just what was the horse doing there? Why are 51st century robots clockwork? How come the fireplace works when according to the Doctor, it shouldn’t? Why Madame de Pompadour, exactly? I seem to recall that, just possibly, the Doctor’s scene watching Reinette from hiding (influenced by ‘The Also People’?), took place once he followed the time window the horse might have come from to a place that might have been near a stable – which hints at an explanation. The robots being clockwork is just silly and the fireplace a ‘deus ex machina’, but the ship is called ‘Madame de Pompadour’, which does, admittedly, seem like a half-explanation, although when you look at it more closely you find that it’s actually nothing of the kind. The characters themselves remark several times on how ridiculous it all is! Even that doesn’t excuse it, it just makes it more self-aware.

No matter why the horse is there, we all know he’s really there because Stephen Moffat wants the Doctor to crash through a sheet of glass on a beautiful white charger to rescue his fair damsel at the story’s climax, which is fair enough. It’s a cool thing for the Doctor to do, and it seems to be a feature of Moffat scripts to have the Doctor end the story in self-indulgently heroic ways – the wonderful ending to ‘The Doctor Dances’ was evidence of the same thing. But it has less effect here because TEC/TDD was so intricately and brilliantly plotted – you knew the reason for everything. Here you don’t and the story suffers slightly. Still, the production values – and David Tennant, again (well, mostly) – are great.

Now, on to that dancing. Several people seem to have raised the issue of ‘old school’ fans having embolisms over the Doctor’s romance. Personally, I think that’s mostly all in their minds – it’s quite trendy at the moment for the Doc to be a lovelorn romantic hero, and very easy to score points off people who prefer it how it was, and for the “cool dudes” such as Russell V Davies that seems to aid in the creation of blind spots with respect to what the ‘old guard’ actually do think. Myself, I didn’t mind it; I don’t know anyone who did.

What’s interesting is that everybody seems to relate it, to a greater or lesser extent, to the sexuality of the people watching. Doctor-Rose/Sarah/Reinette shippers point out that many old-style fans don’t to get the girl in their own lives, and they therefore dislike it when that element of the Doctor’s character is showcased; Russell W Davies, by contrast, boasts frequently of his prowess and seems to pour scorn on those who think that the Doctor could be a non-sexual being (despite all the evidence of the actual TV show being on their side).

We’ve seen the same thing in Billie and Chris’ much-vaunted “chemistry” – really a euphemism for the fact that we were constantly expecting him to take her roughly on top of the console; and in Russell X Davies’ celebrated “social realism” – most obviously nymphomaniac Jackie Tyler’s breathless attempt to seduce the Doctor a few minutes into ‘Rose’. Then of course there were the various hints last week that Sarah Jane Smith was left for thirty years “yearning hopelessly for Time Lord cock” (and thank you very much indeed Mr Paul Clarke for that wonderful way of putting it!), which was totally stupid, although mercifully it didn’t affect the quality of the story very much.

I enjoyed the romantic strand to this tragic tale simply because, unlike in Russell Y Davies’ promiscuity-dripping tales, Moffat handled it well – it was, after all, the whole point of the story! And the text wasn’t even explicit on the matter of the Doctor and Reinette’s ‘dancing’; we can imagine their torrid all-night session if we want to, but the issue isn’t forced. There are opportunities in the script; but you can fill in the blanks yourself. We need that leeway.

With regard to the whole dancing issue, I would say just this: the Doctor works better when the sexual element is removed. He really does work better as an asexual alien being rather than a cosmic stud riding around the galaxy bonking furiously. That way the extra element of mystery and ‘other-ness’ which has made him so fascinating since Serial A is preserved. That’s just the way it is. So you can call me a whinging fanboy who can’t get any pussy if you like, Mr Russell Z Davies, but it won’t change the fact that I’ll still be right and you’ll still be wrong.

(Readers who look back over my reviews may notice that my original vehement loathing for Russell’s crass and horny version of Dr Who has turned into a more contemptuously sarcastic mockery – I prefer it this way).

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The Girl in the Fireplace. What can I say? Well having been a keen Who fan since the Pertwee era as a four year old, I have witnessed many episodes which have excelled in excellent writing and direction from all incarnations of the Doctor (or should I call him ‘Lonely Angel’?), and others that have been…well…crap really…..

I’m afraid in my opinion The Girl in the Fireplace falls into the latter – well not total crap but teetering on the edge story-wise. It promises so much but just seems to ambitious for the time it has been allotted to resolve the loose ends it leaves dragging behind it come the end titles.

There’s a few niggling points that even after numerous viewings, still stick in the throat. For instance how can a girl who sees a man in her fireplace at the age of seven then suddenly see him again in her early twenties, just throw him against the wall and snog the face of him? Now I’m not one of those fans that thinks the good Doctor should have the sexuality of a cactus (he’s a grandfather for goodness sake! He’s obviously ‘danced’ on more than one occasion over the centuries!), but this story just doesn’t give the chemistry enough time to develop. If a story ever needed a longer timeslot or a two-parter, it’s this one. If the Doctor had been visiting her throughout her early life until young adulthood continuously, the whole attraction between them would have seemed much more natural and touching come the story’s resolve. In fact such a major development as the Doctor falling in love required this story’s extension being absolutely essential.

They always say love is blind, but another niggler is that the Doc just jumps through the mirror and leaves his two companions stranded without so much as a goodbye. It was obvious in the story that he knew there was no way back! Having his character lacking forethought like this just feels wrong. If I were Rose and Mickey I’d ask him to leave me straight back home to the nearest council estate! Or maybe I just have abandonment issues?

Aside from this, the production of the show was up to the BBC’s usual high standard, the scenery and costumes were stunning, and the music though a little intrusive was beautiful. Another minor quibble being Sophia Myles’ makeup! Gorgeous as she is, she looked way too contemporary for one of those plain, powdered ladies from Pre-Revolutionary France! She would have the makings of a great companion though…

Now I know this has been mentioned before but I have to support this train of thought. I think Tennant is not up to the job as the Doctor….. I know it’s really early days and I hope as time goes on he will develop, but he just lacks that edge and depth that his predecessor had. All the actors who have portrayed Who have had their faults but somehow the darkness and gravitas was always present, earthing his character. Tennant seems to act as if he’s channelling Kenneth Williams half the time, his turns at winks and whines irritate more and delight, and his ‘crazy’ turn at being drunk in this episode was a major feux pas. I really want to like him rather than throttle him though - there are glimmers. Fingers crossed…

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Side-by-side 18th-C Versailles & 50th-C derelict spaceship, slow time & fast time -- 'The Girl in the Fireplace' encapsulated 'Doctor Who'. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this one, despite plot holes one could (cough) ride a horse through. For once, I thought the compression of the 45-minute format worked in the story's favour, imparting a fleeting air to the meetings between Reinette & the Doctor. I wasn't, however, 100% convinced by the romance, not helped by a rather wooden performance by Sophia Myles as Madame de Pompadour (sadly outshone by the unknown kid who played the young Reinette) -- it felt to have more to do with a determination to squash fandom's Rose/Doctor OTPness than any real connection between the characters. (And the mind-reading -- did they make that up, or was I missing something about previous Doctors?) I did enjoy the playing with the audience's expectations when Reinette led him into the bedroom after all those dancing references. Oh, and nice tip to Potter with the fireplace communications!

The monsters were both creepy and beautiful, feeling very much in the Old 'Who' spirit, and the Doctor's wonder was much better written than in 'Tooth and Claw'. The line with monsters having nightmares about the Doctor was very cute, and the monster-under-the-bed moment really made me jump; it was perhaps a shame that the horror had to be sidelined to play up the romance.

This, for me, was the episode where Tennant became Ten. I suspect Steven Moffat just writes the Doctor better than RTD, though Tennant's calmed down a few of his more annoying mannerisms. Neither Rose nor Mickey got a lot to do (though Mickey's developing into a great comic chorus), but I for one was entirely happy with an episode that focused squarely on the Doctor.

Not perfect, but my favourite of this season so far.

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“The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.”

In the build-up to series two, I found myself getting very excited about early episodes like “School Reunion” and “Rise of the Cybermen.” Others, such as “Tooth and Claw” and “The Girl In The Fireplace” I didn’t know all that much about and thus didn’t have great expectations of them. Nevertheless, the superb trailer for “Tooth and Claw” literally had me salivating yet when I came to see “The Girl In The Fireplace”’s rather bland trailer (combined with writer Steven Moffat’s “guarantee” that it would not be as good as “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”) I sat down on Saturday evening expecting little more than a witty little filler episode. How wrong I was…

“The clock on the mantle is broken. It is time. Doctor! Doctor!”

The pre-credit sequence was all that it took to engage my interest. The creepy noise of the clockwork robots; the brilliant period music and costumes; the beautiful cinematography; the mysterious woman that “loves” the Doctor! Who is she? How does she know him? How does she know he’ll come? Moffat had me hooked from the start.

“I’m not the tin dog. I wanna see what’s out there.”

3000 years later, Mickey Smith strolls out of the TARDIS onto a derelict spaceship. “It’s so realistic!” he says, God love him! After “School Reunion” I was really looking forward to seeing Mickey join the TARDIS crew proper, and although he (and Rose) are often neglected in this very Doctor-centric episode he still manages to entertain. His action-man roll had me in hysterics as did the scene with the eye - “Are you lookin’ at me?” – brilliant! He’s still scared of his own shadow, but at least he’s starting to cut the mustard. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he gets up to on the parallel Earth next week; hopefully a two-parter will allocate him a bit more of the action.

Speaking to my sister after watching the episode, she told me that she enjoyed “The Girl In The Fireplace” but found it slow. After the frenetic “School Reunion” I can see where she is coming from, but I found Moffat’s quite complicated, more contemplative story every bit as compelling as any other story this season and I certainly do not think it lacked pace. The science-fiction idea behind the episode is fascinating; a 51st century spaceship contains several “time windows”, each leading directly into various times in one particular 18th century woman’s life. For some unknown reason, clockwork robots are constantly harassing this woman, scanning her to see if she is “complete” so they can nick her brain and use it to run their space ship! And just in case that isn’t enough for you, Moffat chucks in a horse!

“You’re not keeping the horse,” says Rose, scalding the Doctor.
“I let you keep Mickey!”

At heart though, “The Girl In The Fireplace” is a love story that pushes fantasy romance to its limits. A Fireplace…“a magic door”… call it what you will; it brings together a lonely Time Lord and a French aristocrat in the most intense, surreal set of circumstances. The first meeting of the Doctor and Reinette (Sophia Myles… David Tennant’s bird) is lifted straight out of a fairytale and then turned on its head. A little girl sleeps with a monster under her bed, and then the man that the “…monsters have nightmares about” comes to her rescue. The ‘monster’ as it were really is the stuff of nightmares. The clockwork robot under Reinette’s bad combines the creepy, relentless tick / tock of a unstoppable machine with a nightmarish masque that plays on all those terrible fears about what lies beneath - these robots are how “The Robots of Death” should have looked; art-deco monstrosities. I also found its voice extremely unsettling – I can’t be sure (though with hindsight it would make sense) but it sounds like Sophia Myles’ voice put through a modulator. What lies beneath the masque, ironically, is actually a thing of beauty to the Doctor’s eyes – a piece of “…space age clockwork.”

“Reason tells me you cannot be real.”
“You don’t want to listen to reason.”

The Doctor’s third meeting with Reinette is the pivotal one. Now all grown up, the Madame de Pompadour is a ferociously intelligent, sexy and formidable woman. When she leapt upon the man she had dismissed as an “imaginary friend” I was completely taken aback – I really didn’t see it coming. Even more surprisingly, it worked beautifully. The Doctor clearly enjoyed the kiss; afterwards he was running around like a kid on Christmas Day yelling “I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged the Madame de Pompadour!” Moreover, Reinette’s forwardness shocked me. Her regal, almost austere countenance sort of tricked me into thinking that she would be prim and proper – I guess what they say about posh birds is true, even in the 18th century!

“There comes a time, Time Lord, when every little boy must learn how to dance.”

It is quite refreshing to see an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor is genuinely smitten with a woman; he may have had, what, 3 snogs in the millennium before this episode but each and every one of those had some kind of get-out clause. “Oh, she kissed him… Oh, he was only sucking the time vortex out of her… Oh, she kissed him, and she was possessed anyway…” Moving from such puritanical abstinence to having the Doctor hiding behind a wall spying on his fancy piece is an absolute joy to watch; giving the Doctor a heart (no, not a third one, I’m talking figuratively!) opens up so many storytelling possibilities and most interestingly, it really throws open the whole “what actually is going on with the Doctor and Rose?” story. The Doctor’s mind-meld of sorts with Reinette is another terrific scene as she surprises him by being able to look into his memories. Does this mean she knows who the Doctor is? Is this why he develops such feelings for her? “It’s more than just a secret isn’t it.. “

I can see why the Doctor would fall for such a woman; after forty-four minutes I was in love with her! Not only is she brilliant, sexy and quite naughty but also she’s a brave woman with some quite romantic ideals. She barges past Mickey through a time window, stepping straight from a palatial room 1752 Versailles into a 51st century spaceship in one beautiful shot. This other world that she sees frightens her, but that only strengthens her resolve – “The Doctor is worth the monsters.” On top of that, she manages to not only grasp the difficult concept that the days of her life are “pressed together” from the Doctor’s purview, but she accepts it that it is her fate – her duty – to walk the “slower path.” Her speech in the ballroom when she is assailed my clockwork killers really shows her mettle; even when it appears that the Doctor has forsaken her, she shows nothing but strength. Of course, the Doctor hasn’t forsaken her…

In any other TV show would you see ever someone come flying through a mirror on a horse? “WOW” simply doesn’t do it justice. Fair enough, the clockwork men suddenly ceasing to function because they are suddenly cut off from their ship is a bit rushed and a bit rubbish, but quite frankly it doesn’t matter. A horse went through a mirror! The Doctor deliberately marooned himself in 18th century Earth to save Reinette. More to the point, he doesn’t seem to care; nor does he seem to spare a though for Rose and Mickey, stuck on that space ship in their far future. The Doctor even seems quite pleased with his fate, even if he is a tad concerned as to where he’ll get money from. “Here’s to the slow path!” He really is getting old…

I thought that maybe Moffat was going to doing something completely madcap like have the Doctor live out the next 3000 years on Earth, and then suddenly show up on the space ship not looking a day older, but thankfully the Doctor managed to use the one surviving time window to get back to the future. He promised that he would come back for Reinette; he promised her that he would show her the stars… obviously Time Lords have no concept of monogamy! When the Doctor went back for Reinette, six years had passed and she had died. For the second week in a row, we have a tearjerker ending; this one perhaps even more powerful than the last. As fantastic as the endings to “School Reunion” and “The Girl In The Fireplace” are, I’m aching for a good ol’ fashioned cliffhanger!

And so the Doctor has loved and lost. Rose and Mickey can tell he’s upset but they aren’t sure why, and so Mickey prudently makes an excuse to leave the Time Lord alone with his thoughts and the letter that Reinette wrote to him. That look on David Tennant’s face as he extinguishes the time window… Brilliantly written; brilliantly acted; brilliantly shot and produced. The Doctor – the real weary traveller – goes on. As the TARDIS dematerialises it all comes together – the space ship was the SS Madame de Pompadour… that is why the clockwork repair droids thought only her brain would be compatible. Absurd. Fantastic.

One final note - I don’t know whether it was deliberate or not but I think that the placing of this episode in the season is an absolute masterstroke. The clockwork repair droids using the body parts of their crew to repair the ship wonderfully foreshadows “The Rise of the Cybermen” – the amalgamation of flesh and machine.

“We did not have the parts…”

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Firstly this is one of the more imaginative titles to come out of new Who and as such for me promised a much-needed potential slice of more baroque scriptural cake. Unlike the majority of reviewers, I was not a massive fan of Steve Moffatt’s highly rated The Empty Child/Doctor Dance, mainly because for all the intrigue and creepiness of the first episode, the gas-masked child and so on, and the later transformation scenes, twist of the young single mother, and final highly imaginative and satisfying resolution to the story, I felt overall the production was undermined by the Titanic-style cod-romance between Rose and Jack – cue the nauseatingly Hollywood-esque Big Ben champagne scene –, the intrinsically Brit-centric aspects, and the completely irrelevant and inappropriate bisexual subtexts. Not to mention the frankly ludicrous dance scene at the end – Rock around the Console and all that. I did appreciate Moffatt’s genuinely unusual concepts and ideas, but, in anticipating his second stab at the series, was mindful of this writer’s somewhat juvenile preoccupation with sexuality and flirtation (as distilled in his singularly puerile comedy series Coupling). That and the fact that extensive coverage pre-transmission hinted worryingly at the pivotal ‘romance’ aspect to the approaching episode, unforgivably, involving the Doctor himself.

On all surface levels this extremely innovative and very un-Who-like episode was certainly highly impressive and intriguing. The sets and especially costume designs cannot be faulted at all. In particular, the beautifully crafted baroque masks of the robots, replete with creepily ambivalent painted smiles and cascading wigs – a hybrid between the stunning art deco Kaldor Vocs in Robots of Death and the eerie clowns in Greatest Show in the Galaxy – stood out as Who design classics, instantly gratifying to the eye, lusciously painted and tangibly affecting; the design team deserve a huge thumbs up for such brilliantly realized creations, no less disappointing when unmasked to reveal intricate clockwork mechanics within. The robots’ voices too are uncannily similar to those from Robots of Death, metallic yet soft and strangely soothing, beautifully spoken. For these creations alone, this episode brands itself into the retina indelibly. Overall, its production standards could only be described as sumptuous; an immediately timeless addition to the many varied scenarios and historical/futuristic depictions of the series’ long colourful history. Some inevitable comparisons have already been made between these robots and – as previously mentioned – those of Robots of Death (still on a par with these design-wise) and the clockwork soldiers of The Mind Robber. Girl in the Fireplace, being essentially a fantasy piece, also harks back to other classic series’ oddballs such as The Celestial Toymaker, in its sheer eccentricity of realization. But the story for me which it most resembles is the Season 20 classic Enlightenment, both in terms of disorientating and incongruous juxtapositions of baroque historicism and futuristic sci-fi and in the narrative threads of love and romance: in Enlightenment, the Eternal Marriner is infatuated with the Ephemeral Tegan (who, it is hinted, and controversially we thought at the time, to be possibly smitten with the Doctor – ‘The picture of him in your mind is quite intriguing’ (Wrack)), while in the Girl in the Fireplace, the ephemeral Madame de Pompadour is in love with the ‘eternal’ (seeing as the 13th regeneration business seems to be have been forgotten for the time being) Doctor. So the themes of time and love, originally unique to the beautifully written, Romantic story Enlightenment, have now been revisited far less subtly in The Girl in the Fireplace, with the inevitable new-Who progression of involving the central character of the show.

I have to say that despite the – equally ‘inevitable’ – ‘snog’ scene between the two literally star-crossed protagonists, which was executed with all the subtlety of a farting Slitheen, this highly precarious plot thread was not as far-stretched (excuse pun) as I had timorously anticipated it might be. The fact remains, however, that this latest stylistic revelation regarding the emotional nature of the Doctor was rather unnecessary and, though not injurious to the plot itself, potentially injurious to the character of the programme, and largely superfluous. The plot itself could have easily been sustained without this romantic element; or it might have been simply toned down a little, so that the romance aspect was completely one-sided, i.e. Madame de Pompadour’s unrequited infatuation with her ‘angel’. Instead we have it hinted that on some level the Doctor requites this ‘romance’; having said this, I do give Moffatt credit for not over-magnifying this implication and leaving it open to speculation. However, on a second viewing, I found the snog scene even more excruciating than on the first viewing, striking me all the more as irritating and unwelcome due to its completely unnecessary inclusion in what is otherwise a fairly affecting and thought-provoking episode.

But the real bugbear of this story is the shambolic and even more unnecessary scene in which the Doctor stumbles back into the spaceship apparently drunk after having ‘danced’ (the grating return of Moffatt’s less-than-subtle sexual euphemism from The Doctor Dances) with de Pompadour. This scene has to rate alongside such timeless atrocities as Tom Baker’s ‘O my everything!’ cavorting with Mandrels in Nightmare of Eden and Sylvester McCoy’s absurd pratfalls in the early scenes of Time and the Rani, as one of the most mis-directed and pointless moments in the series’ history. Why o why undermine the hitherto affecting atmosphere of this essentially imaginative episode with such a pointlessly camp moment? The Doctor feigning inebriation is one thing, but why over egg the pudding with his tie-bandana and inexplicably donned sunglasses? At best this was a feeble impersonation of Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now, with a bit of plagiarized third-rate Blackadder scripting thrown in: ‘Mr thicky from Thickania’! What on earth did Moffatt think he was playing at? This was diabolical scripting all the more painful for the fact that its vicissitude came in the middle of a reasonably well written episode. Gimmicks like this scene do nothing to enhance the credibility either of the new series or of its central character, so why do it? It simply isn’t amusing. Not to mention the fact that it is woefully derivative of the writings of Messrs Curtis and Elton, and not of their best efforts at that. Cut out the gimmickry and concentrate on the substance of the storyline and the characters (such as they are). And the line ‘I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour’ is unforgivably crass.

If Troughton was the Cosmic Hobo, Pertwee the Dandy, and Tom Baker the bohemian, surely Tennant is the Galactic Peter Pan? His youthfulness and manic naivety (‘I could have danced all night…’) clearly enchants those around him in much the same manner as JM Barrie’s ageless hero, and in the Girl in the Fireplace, he is certainly perceived by the young de Pompadour as some sort of magical sprite who keeps appearing to her throughout her life, never ageing, just like Peter Pan. This conception of the central character is a fairly nice slant and might very well work in the long run. But I am still yet to be convinced by Tennant’s Doctor, whose rasping tones and manic exhibitionism lack the gravitas of previous incarnations.

Onto the characters. In this episode we have a refreshingly muted contribution from the Doctor’s companions, putting Rose thankfully more in the background for a change – bar her oddly placed scene later on explaining the time ramifications to de Pompadour – and pitting her and Mickey in a limited sideline of wandering around very quiet corridors, reminiscent of Tegan and Turlough’s ponderous input in Terminus. This is very much the Doctor’s episode, but his persona comes across as rather impulsive and impressionable throughout, a bit like a cosmic Kenneth Williams in search of his true sexuality. Tennant has some reasonable moments, but overall this came across as a more lightweight and unaffecting treatment of his incarnation than the previous two episodes. He is genuinely very funny in the opening scenes when he chats very casually to the girl in the fireplace, concluding with a light ‘ok, enjoy the rest of the fire…’ The imagery of the little girl talking from the other side of the fireplace is very intriguing, as is the scene in which the Doctor confronts the beautifully creepy masked robot in her bedroom. These scenes provide splatterings of genuine magic.

Less affecting are the romance scenes between the Doctor and the grown up Madame de Pompadour. Though Sophia Myles plays the role perfectly well, her lines are rather limited and pedestrian overall, and the scripting of her character in no way puts across the real historical figure’s hinted-at uniqueness of character. This is rather disappointing. For me her inclusion seems rather superficial and we are not, in my opinion, gifted as interesting an insight into a historical figure here as we are in The Unquiet Dead and Tooth and Claw. This Madame de Pompadour is a comparatively flat creation, used as a feed for lines intended simply to ruffle the feathers of classic Who fans regarding the emotional and sexual makeup of the Doctor. She seems to serve little purpose otherwise, except for injecting a facile ingredient of historical celebrity into the scenario. The days of Who subtlety certainly died out with the likes of Robert Holmes. No more the suggested or alluded-to, now the blatantly stated and clumsily depicted.

While the concept of time windows is quite interesting and imaginative, and the juxtaposition of historical with futuristic settings likewise, the rather pantomime means of flitting between these two time periods is little ludicrous to say the least: the Doctor spends the episode sliding back and forth through a physical double-sided fireplace ‘set’ in a manner reminiscent of Indiana Jones. But in this scenario we are supposed to believe these are time portals. It might have been an easy option for the production team but it simply doesn’t convince as a fantastical means of time-travel. Something akin to the mirrors of Warriors’ Gate would have been more convincing – partially emulated in the Doctor’s rather over-blown grate-crashing of the 18th c. masque via a white stallion through a wall mirror. Presumably the horse had escaped from the 18th c. time zone onto the spaceship… I don’t know…

The plot itself is both bizarre and original, with the robots using the body parts of the ‘crew’ to keep the ship operative. By the end it is hinted that these body parts are in fact those of Madame de Pompadour, but the final shot of the spaceship’s name doesn’t really explain things properly, and one is left at the end thinking ‘nice concept, but what exactly did it all mean?’ The Doctor seems equally clueless at the end of the episode, muttering vaguaries about the robots getting confused and fixated on the correlation between de Pompadour’s age and that of the spaceship’s: 37 years. It did all rather come across as if Moffatt, with the brief from RTD, ‘do this and this, add in Madame de Pompadour for no particular reason, use as an excuse for romantic focus on Doctor to annoy older fans, somehow tie it all together and justify her inclusion by end of episode’, did indeed have to end up blagging it by the end in the script itself in order to come even near to justifying all the oddities of the episode. He didn’t really succeed did he? The scene in which de Pompadour escorts the Doctor into her bedroom and talks of ‘it’ being a perfect replica in every detail while the viewer could see only a bed, was a very clever way of teasing the traditional fan with the ultimate horror: the Doctor having sex! Of course we soon discovered she was referring to the fireplace, and thank God the script was to resort to the essential storyline in an attempt to finally wrap up a fairly beguiling scenario. This was fairly well done, but as I say, with no real explanations for anything that had transpired.

The Girl in the Fireplace is a true Doctor Who fairy story, reminiscent in some ways of the far superior Enlightenment, but still a refreshingly imaginative addition to the Who cannon, and a generally thought-provoking and affecting distraction from the formulaic mediocrity of RTD’s new Who vision. Its visuals cannot be faulted; the robots are beautifully realized and the set pieces are excellent. Some of the shots, especially of a snowy night through de Pompadour’s bedroom window, are breathtaking. The only thing is, none of it really makes that much sense and future re-visiting requires fast forwarding through the ‘snog’ and ‘bandana’ scenes in order for one not to be distracted from the episode’s true merits. More than any other one-episode in new Who so far, The Girl in the Fireplace needed two in order to do it full justice. With two episodes it may very well have been a classic story; but as it stands, it is more of a glimpse than a full exposition of something truly lasting.


Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I thought this was a gorgeous piece of televisual conjuring, some science = magic sleight of hand with a cinematic visual dexterity that has been missing from television, particularly British television, for many years.

Let us draw around the hearth and tell tales of magic, mystery and imagination, for The Girl In The Fireplace is an extraordinary piece of Doctor Who and by association it's an equally extraordinary piece of 21st Century television.

It is perhaps best approached as a symbolic allegory that illustrates one of the major themes of the previous episode, 'School Reunion'. It is a further meditation on that vexed question; can the Doctor be capable of loving a human being despite the fact that he is almost immortal? The Girl In The Fireplace seeks to answer that question, raises many more and emphatically provides the evidence as to why he is the Lonely Angel.

For me, it is a narrative that is focusing deliberately on the two leads, Madame de Pompadour and the Doctor.

Mickey and Rose are peripheral to the central conceit but they do have a function as brief commentators on the events taking place. Rose is again presented with a version of herself in Pompadour and sees how the Doctor can very easily leave one companion and then pick up the next and it's even more complicated for her when it would appear the Lonely Angel wants more than just companionship. He seems prepared to abandon them both to save Pompadour. Mickey is sensitive, perhaps more so than Rose, to the heartbreaking end of the relationship and knows that the Doctor must grieve alone.

The visuals of the episode are steeped, at a symbolic level, with cycles, circular logic, changing of the seasons, mechanisms and keys. The spaceship design is like a key and it's a key into this woman's passing life. The colour palette, as flagged up by Confidential, takes us through Spring, via Summer and Autumn, to Winter. From birth to death on the human scale but presented to us in fragments seen through the time windows and the mirror.

Euros Lyn's direction, which here is very similar to Peter Greenaway in it's composition of pictures and editing structure, is also redolent of this symbolism. The camera circles and dips around the protagonists and the editing cleverly allows this to carry from scene to scene, particularly towards the end as the cycle of the narrative winds down.

Many have felt that the clockwork creatures were a rather weak threat. In essence they are not typical Who adversaries but rather yet another example of Moffat's themes of technology gone wrong. Anyone thinking that they should have gone on an orgy of destruction is, I think, missing the point. The machines, scrambled by the ship's computer, pursue their logic via the head/shoulders portrait on the wall and name of the vessel. To the bitter end.

The references to 'winding up' and keys, clockwork mechanisms are surely symbols representing the winding up/down, the playing out of a life and the end of a particular circle of logical thinking. It is about the counterpointing of a very human life (Pompadour's) with the almost immortal Doctor. And the Doctor lives so long his greatest fear is to see human lives wind down and wither. He obviously takes a chance with Pompadour, faces his fear, believing this is a way to thwart the inevitable, but suffers the consequences of the broken mechanisms of time and is literally, the spanner in the (clock)works. When he is taken away by the fireplace in the final scenes there is an exchange of looks between Pompadour and the Doctor that sums all of this up.

There is certainly much to be read, not only in the visual splendour of Versailles contrasted with the derelict and broken spaceship but also, in the way that these interchange and inform Pompadour of the Doctor's world. The Doctor, from this point of view, exists in a dysfunctional, dark world and as soon as the he enters her world, cycles and mechanisms become disrupted, wind down and ultimately stop. Again, the proverbial spanner.

For me there is also much revealed about the nature of the Doctor. His callous actions that seemingly strand Rose and Mickey 3000 years in the future and his obvious need to try and construct an emotional life with Pompadour despite the inevitability of it's failure. The Doctor putting the fire out at the end is hugely symbolic of an emotional life extinguished and perhaps never to be rekindled? It is perhaps too painful for him to want to try again.

There are lots of iconic images: the conversations via the fireplace, the horse crashing through the mirror which again show the programme wearing its influences on its sleeve. I would particularly recommend Cocteau's 'Beauty And The Beast' to witness similar visual bravura and heartbreaking emotion. Plus a few nods to Russell T. Davies' 'Casanova' too.

Finally, apart from the magical images and the absolutely gorgeous music from Murray Gold, the leads acquit themselves very well. I still think Tennant is finding his feet and there were moments where I felt he needs to calm down a little but this is certainly his best episode to date and with time he will mature further.

A stunning episode, rich in symbolism and revealing much about the Doctor and also providing fresh mystery, that absolutely deserves a place in the continuing story of Doctor Who.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Now, this is the stuff. After the Who-by-numbers of 'New Earth' and the Harry-Potter-meets-Brotherhood-of-the-Wolf mess that was 'Tooth and Claw' I'd resigned myself to a season of mildly diverting disappointments. I'd keep watching, because it's Doctor Who after all, but in hope rather than expectation. Fortunately things picked up with the breezy, touching little confection that was 'School Reunion' (Russell Davies take note: comic doesn't have to mean camp), but I wasn't convinced the upturn was to due to much more than the Sarah Jane/K9 effect.

Steven Moffat's 'The Girl in the Fireplace', however, hit all the right buttons: a bit of historical, a bit of horror, a whole lot of dodgy science and some strong relationship drama. There was some of the best surreal foolery since the Troughton era -- although in fact, with its trans-dimensional incursions, cosmic misunderstandings and creepy masked clock-machines it reminded me most strongly of Grant Morrison's 'Doom Patrol' comics (I wonder if Moffat is a fan?). There was also a strong flavour of Terry Gilliam's 'Time Bandits', which was hardly worlds away from Who-land anyway.

Some reviewers are yearning for a full-blown historical of the sort not seen since the 1960s, but I think this is as close as we're going to get, especially in the single-episode format. What we did see were two worlds beautifully realized -- one sumptuously, the other with just the right degree of suggestion -- with the clockwork robots a clever link between the two visual styles. While 'School Reunion' coped with the running-time restriction by beginning slickly in media res, 'The Girl in the Fireplace' seemed designed for the format as no other episode yet has, the brief duration pointing up the contrast between the Doctor's time-flitting and the 'slower path' Madame de Pompadour is forced to take. And where last week Toby Whithouse had the Doctor tell Rose, "You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of mine with you", Moffat shows us the same thing, which is always dramatically more satisfying. This seems to be becoming a theme of Season 2, which makes one wonder even more about Rose's eventual fate. Another advantage of the 45-minute running time here was that the groan-making punchline of the tale was still entertaining -- imagine how annoyed you'd have been if it had come at the end of a six-episode shaggy dog story!

The only serious running-time issue was the reveal of the crew members' fates, which ought to have been a slow leak rather than a splurge. I'm sure many other viewers would have liked this side of the story developed further, but maybe it would have been too reminiscent of the nanobot scenario from 'The Doctor Dances' (brilliant yet dumb -- or should that be 'thick'?! --technology gets hold of the wrong end of the stick, with disastrous consequences).

Not everything was perfect. The 'magic door' line was good, but there was some decidedly iffy explanation. I'm fairly sure the fireplace shouldn't have worked after the other time windows were destroyed, and I've no idea why the repair droids were clockwork, other than that it looked nifty. I have a feeling that would have been explained in a longer story (perhaps they had to be made of categorically different technology so they wouldn't dismantle each other or themselves for repairs -- but then they used the humans, so maybe that doesn't make sense either).

Otherwise, the story was fairly satisfying and different enough from the usual 'meet monster -- talk hind leg off monster -- defeat monster' set-up, although I don't want to see another girly chat between Rose and Potential Rival Female for a while. The chemistry between Tennant and Miles was unsurprisingly good, and the contrast between their tender scenes alone and the rest of the story was a nice parallel with the alternating locations. This Doctor's personality and M de P's 'lonely little boy' insights seem to be leading towards a diagnosis of classic only child syndrome -- brilliant, sociable, self-motivated, yet simultaneously flighty, introspective, struggling with close relationships. I wonder how many Who fans are only children too?!

I watched 'The Girl in the Fireplace' with pleasure and relief. It was good to look at, funny, moving and above all, bonkers without being silly. Now I can relax a little, knowing that the series isn't doomed, and look forward to the return of my favourite monsters. I just hope this isn't simply 'Genesis of the Cyberman', as the trailer strongly suggested…

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Not you’re every day girl in the fireplace but for what I thought would be a minor episode the latter half was a time bomb of an epic with some great twists and a heartbreaking end….

The Doctor really did come into his own and for a romance (thank goodness BBC one advertised that bit in advance) for its not usually Doctor Who territory and something that season one could not even in a million light years have thought of doing.

However the right setting, a woman who was every bit the doctor type and the plain fact the now crew of three – are definitely a crowd it was actually a very relevant episode and gave David Tennant the chance to prove his worth and more.

His acting was breathtaking and his character was absolutely tortured by the end of this – I think it’s the first time right at the end where the enthusiasm and confidence that makes the doctor who he is was no longer there in any form and boy did it show.

Ok back to the point it broke even with last weeks ‘School Reunion’ and undeniably he loved both Sarah Jane and Reinette with the plain simple fact that the latter was able to get inside his mind literally - something that scared him as much as it drew him in even more.

Plus and added to that he was completely head over heels by the opening five minutes of this episode and blimey who would not have wanted to be Sophie it was one heck of a snog! By both parties and that she came onto him – the poor man had no chance and that he was already way to emotionally involved from the first moment he seen her as an adult.

Anyway leaving the romance aside for a moment the plot was complex and from my point reminded me a little of Quantum leap minus any leaping! However it was clever well thought out and every part of what makes Doctor Who tick came into play.

Stunning costumes, great wizardry enough myth and space like factors set against a historical backdrop with a romance included and that all were played out beautifully it did indeed in everyway raise the game by at least another two notches.

However it was what it addressed more than anything out with the fact that David Tennant literally stole the show and we’re not even half way through the season yet that made this episode so unique and different.

It took a whole load of new concepts and ran with them and that the 10th doctor has indeed got a very vulnerable soul, one we glimpsed at last week and one that we seen again in a different light this week and though he is the ‘TimeLord’ he like everyone else makes mistakes. One that he paid for dearly and though he quickly dropped Rose he was absolutely smitten but I did note and though it’s not as obvious as it was with Christopher Ecc. David Tennant’s - Doctor Who needs Rose just as much, if not more and that he keeps her at arms length possibly for her own protection…

Anyway I’m again of subject. We get to see our doctor in whole new way and every range and power of emotion is shown here and from the earlier episodes, I had the feeling they would sooner or later show this 10th doctor’s weak point.

One that he fell right into and made me wish again for both the earlier scenes of the kiss and where he was over the top drunk – plus the famous words from a musical stuck in there and though it was a doggy scene it could have been a thousand times worse had it not been in David Tennant’s hands.

However it was the last twenty minutes that powered this episode – a doctor discovering the error to late - that time is not always on his side, which was played of against that epic horse and mirror scene where he was in his element and absolutely all inspiring.

Then the silenced and alone doctor at the end and the further question to the whole Doctor/Rose fate it maybe lacked a little and the ending was disjointed but never the less a stranded doctor who was overjoyed to find a way back to Rose and Mickey did in a way answer something and that in one way or other we are on the tip of a very big iceberg!

One that is going to get even more interesting in the weeks to follow and the only further thing I can add is that the attention to detail, the powerhouse of a story and the raw emotion of the doctor left this in a league of its own. No other show could do it better or in such a way and we cannot but help feel for him in the end…

Real nice and leaves me asking what on earth is to come next putting the doctor through more pain?

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

As a big 'Doctor Who' fan from way back when, perhaps I should be one of those fans who will apparently be up in arms about this story, the one where the Doctor falls in love. At least a couple of vaguely patronising remarks made in '...Confidential' suggested as much!

Well, for these 45 minutes, I was entranced and delighted. This was a beautifully acted and directed story, with a number of stunning moments, and the programme continues to put most other television to shame. Steven Moffat, writer of my favourite story from last year, turned in another cracking script, even though there was one aspect I wasn't sure about (more later)...and no, it wasn't the snog.

So many images resonate...the Doctor becoming a young girls 'imaginary' friend via a fireplace;the monster under the bed; the snowy view of Paris at night; the clockwork android's grinning mask (brrrrr) ; a horse (aka Arthur, another nod to Mr Dent perhaps) on a spaceship;the enchanted Doctor hiding behind a wall in the palace gardens; his dramatic entry into the ballroom, a Knight in Crumpled Suit...

David Tennant was quite brilliant...again. Utterly convincing as a lovestruck Doctor, aided no end by Sophia Myles excellent performance as Reinette. And I'm sure there is no danger of the Doctor coming over all Kirk-like anytime soon!! (loved ST's 'City on the Edge of Forever', but after that things got a little crass! Kirk's in love again...she wont survive to the end credits then.)

Rose and Mickey were necessarily rather sidelined, but the actors made good use of their moments. Noel Clarke was great again; I especially liked his reaction to the infinity of space...."It's so realistic!" (well played, The Mill, then.Heh.)

There were some nice Rose/Reinette scenes and I'm a sucker for any scene where Billie sheds a tear...I'm such a softie. A few less Rose-centric episodes are necessary as it is still reasonably early days for the tenth Doctor and I'm sure someone as cool and intelligent as Billie realises this.

The dialogue was, unsurprisingly, very good. Examples I particularly liked; Young Reinette (another nice performance) asks "What do Monsters have nightmares about?" "Me!!" the Doctor replies; "Flesh plus heat....barbecue." ; the android pointing out to Reinette "We do not require your feet." (loved that line!) The Doctors fake drunk and very 'Blackadder-esque' "...thickety thick" tirade...

After all this praise (no, another bit; Euros Lyn, you are *brilliant*) I come to the part I wasn't sure about.

Late in the episode, we see a melancholy Doctor, lost in time, stuck in the 18th Century. But he can still smile. (Well, he *is* at least in a palace with an intelligent beauty he has fallen for...) He toasts Reinette and says, "Here's to the slow path."

And what about Rose and Mickey? At this point, they are stuck in the 51st century on a creepy spaceship. The Tardis is there, a machine that can take them anywhere in time and space...shame they can't fly it, then. Now, this might be a quite deliberate attempt to show how dangerous travelling with the Doctor can be, but without Reinette's depth and intelligence, the Doctor wasn't coming back. Ever. Jackie Tyler's worst nightmare realised; Rose stranded and never ever coming home. This scenario contrasts quite dramatically with the *beautiful* scene in 'Parting of the Ways' where the 9th Doctor sends Rose home, losing (he thinks) both her and the Tardis forever. It is only Roses incredible loyalty and bravery that turns things around in that episode. There doesn't appear to be such a contingency plan here.

When, thanks to Reinette, the Doctor does return, he asks how long they waited for him. *Why?* Unless I missed something here (not impossible, I happily admit!) Rose and Mickey weren't going *anywhere*!

So that part didn't really add up for me. 'School Reunion' presented us with the intriguing idea that the Doctor must always move on as he cannot bear to see those he cares about "wither and then die." I can only guess that due to a lack of options, or maybe true love, he is prepared to go through this pain for Reinette? Hmmm...unlucky, Rose and Mickey, then? Very Unlucky. (Pause. Considers their future on that ship if the Doctor could never return. Brrrrrr.) As 'Parting...' was only really a few episodes ago, I'm really not sure about all this.

Rhetorical question; Am I taking this too seriously?!

Nah, but this really stood out for me on second viewing. *However*, the bottom line here is that I thought this episode was a superb piece of television, beautifully done, and I can't give it less than another 9 out of 10. I also suspect that the main viewers that were cringing at the supposedly inflammatory 'snogging' scene were the (intelligent! Great taste!) young fans of the show. ("Yeuch. Gross. The Doctor's snogging!!") Have seen a couple of 'Totally...' episodes, and the cool kids who are so knowlegeable about and love the show make me feel quite proud. *Old*...but proud!)

Next time...some silvery monster things, apparently. Could be interesting...

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

The Girl In The Fireplace is the first really great episode of the second series, but unfortunately one of the only ones. It’s certainly one of the only ones to justify Charlie Brooker’s comment that Doctor Who is “a populist drama driven by ideas”, presenting a period setting and a science-fiction one, a generally tasteful romance, some interesting monsters and an innovative spin on time travel. Since this is a rare opportunity to sing the praises of the new series I’ll try not to dwell on the deficiencies of other episodes, but unfortunately I can’t go completely crazy as this episode isn’t quite classic material. The elements are there – but there’s so much to get through that The Girl In The Fireplace comes out feeling…embryonic.

I’m not sure about the pre-titles sequence myself, and I remember being a bit bewildered on first viewing. There’s little that’s explicitly wrong with it, and everything gets explained, but on first viewing it’s just dizzying and doesn’t really work on its own. As I said there’s nothing bad, exactly, but there has to be something wrong with a pre-titles sequence that only works once you’ve seen the rest of the episode.

From the get-go though, it’s clear that The Girl In The Fireplace is going to be much more interesting and imaginative than most other new series episodes and that Stephen Moffat is going to make good on the promise he showed with The Empty Child. The derelict ship is an atmospheric location and leads to some evocative questions, like what happened to the crew; the presence of the fireplace also showcases the eccentricity that makes Moffat’s episodes so interesting. What stands out the most though is the characterisation of the regulars – Mickey was always likeable, but Rose is a real pleasant surprise here.

Tooth And Claw and School Reunion saw the beginning of a decline from a likeable and energetic girl into a self-obsessed and spiteful brat, and while future episodes would take this further there is at least a respite here as she shows a degree of emotional maturity. If I was going to nitpick I could say that the characterisation is hardly consistent – she’s all smiles towards Madame de Pompadour but nasty towards an innocent waitress next episode? – but since the inconsistency is in this case better I’ll not be churlish about it. The dialogue is crisp and witty – the jokes are actually funny as Moffat structures them as naturalistic dialogue rather than the heavy-handed set-ups and punchlines that Russell T. Davies goes in for. It’s just a pity that they picked a little girl who’s the spitting image of Johnny Winter.

The scene in the young Reinette’s bedroom is possibly one of the three best the new series has ever done, demonstrating an expert knowledge of how to structure a scare (the sudden cut to the clockwork robot in the background is chilling), and even Euros Lyn’s normally empty-headed direction is above average. The crucial flaw is in the music. Murray Gold is certainly above average in this episode too (funny how quality in one area can bring out the best in others), but the problem is in having music at all. It seems that a requisite feature of the new series is to have ubiquitous strings in just about every scene, but here is a case where a key part of the atmosphere is in an ambient sound effect that the viewer doesn’t notice until the revelation that something is wrong. Yet instead of listening to the stark ticking, we have to listen to that plus a music score. This is an unnecessary distraction that all but cripples the scene – it’s still a great moment, but less than it should be.

The clockwork robots are introduced now, and embody everything that’s great about the episode as well as everything that holds it back. The concept of a robot powered by clockwork is wonderfully imaginative and evocative, and the on-screen realisation is absolutely brilliant. The trouble is that the idea, while good, is essentially left at surface level and never really explained. This means that the robots, while brilliant looking, make very little logical sense and hit the episode’s plausibility very hard. The trailers for the episode suggested they could have been a product of the 18th Century setting and this would have made much more sense than having repair droids from the 51st Century driven by clockwork. If you wanted to buy a drill, would you buy one powered by electricity or by rubber bands?

It’s slightly troubling to see the Doctor getting off with Madame de Pompadour since the sequence takes place more or less in real time from the Doctor’s point-of-view, which means that less than three minutes earlier he was talking to her as a little child. There are other problems too – while the romance angle is generally well handled lines like “I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour!”, delivered by David Tennant as if his mouth is full, show that even such a strong episode as this can’t quite escape the appalling smugness that blights the new series. In interviews Moffat seems actively aggressive to such areas of fandom that would rather not see romance in Doctor Who – it’s as if he’s so terrified of the conservative or reactionary label thrown at some corners of fandom that he’s gone to the opposite extreme to try to avoid it. While I think that romance should not be a central element of the programme I don’t have a problem with odd moments like this episode – were it not for certain elements like the unsubtle “dancing” metaphor that come across as just baiting people. If you set out to annoy someone, you will – not necessarily because of what you do, but the attitude with which you do it.

The sight of body parts wired into the ship are another blow to plausibility – not because of the idea that the confused robots would harvest organs, but because they actually work. So the ship is now almost fully operational…because livers and kidneys have been plugged into it? It’s not that there isn’t a conceivable explanation to this that could make it more credible, it’s that the audience doesn’t get one and that makes the episode feel at times like magic realism. Since this is the central plot thread of the story, the entire episode is hurt. This is such a shame, as the idea of the robots stalking a woman through history is at face value a terrific one.

The mind-melding scene is annoying, as is any scene that gives the Doctor blatant superpowers, but it does at least demonstrate that plot and characterisation don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive which is another common problem of new Who. It’s followed by some really terrible moments though, with the lame “Doctor Who?” line trotted out yet again and Tennant’s “drunk” acting, which is painful to watch – it seems that every episode of the second series, without exception, as had some sort of cringe-moment. It’s so hard to watch that the excuse that he’s just faking it really doesn’t cut much ice. All is redeemed though by a nice, quite moment for Rose and a dynamite scene where Reinette hears her own future onboard the ship.

There are some seriously ropey special effects as the Doctor smashes through the mirror and his wink is an annoying cheesy moment, but it leads to a delightfully poignant scene as the robots deactivate (funny how I feel more sympathy for them than the Doctor…)

Having Reinette’s final message to the Doctor delivered in a letter helps a potentially mawkish scene no end; since the conversation is by definition one-way it forces the scene to be introspective, whereas if it was done in person we’d have to sit through the Doctor and Reinette blubbing away declaring their love for each other. The final twist, where we finally get to see why the robots were stalking her in the first place, is a great moment and it’s unusual for the audience to end the episode knowing more than the Doctor does.

I really, really like this episode, but on the other hand it’s hard to think of one that’s more frustrating. All the pieces are there to make The Girl In The Fireplace one of the new series’s best episodes, but it only achieves this in the default sense of being better than most of the others. It’s crucially flawed, so I have to hold back from calling it the classic I want it to be. But don’t let that put you off.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Fireplace, fireplace, fireplace.

It’s the one word echoing in my head after watching – for the first time – the first four episodes of Series Two. So why is my head not also chanting “Cassandra, werewolf, Krillitanes”? Possibly because Steven Moffat’s new episode is the best I’ve seen since… well, since The Doctor Dances, his previous effort, last year. It might even surpass it. Let’s have a look at why.

1. A wonderful mood-setting opening sequence. Sophia Myles is already impressive. And why is she crying into a fireplace? I love a good mystery at the opening of a story.

2. The Doctor-Rose-Mickey TARDIS partnership works incredibly well. Better than I imagined, actually. Mickey Smith, meet the Universe. See anything you like? His excitement at the “realistic” galaxy is even more special to me than Rose’s “culture shock” in her first couple of episodes.

3. The Doctor’s visits to Reinette’s bedroom. Anyone else who’s read The Time Traveler’s Wife will know exactly what I’m talking about here. A man visiting a woman from her childhood to her adulthood? The perfect fusion of romance and science-fantasy.

4. The design of the service robots. With the masks and without them. Beautifully stitched costumes, and underneath, intricate clockwork minds. They deserve an award. Or several.

5. The human eye and heart wired into the ship. Disgusting, yes, but a unique concept. And still there’s that mystery – why are they there?

6. Arthur. For some reason, that horse looks gorgeous under that greenish lighting. And the Doctor somehow has chemistry with it. Weird.

7. The concept of the “time windows”. This is just so cool, and so in tune with the kind of science fiction that I love, I just can’t express it enough.

8. The Madame falling in love with the Doctor. And, yes, vice versa. It’s about time. And this is real, too. We know it’ll be brief, but to me, it just feels right.

9. “And so’s your dad.” Nuff said. Oh, and “No, you’re not keepin’ the horse!”

10. Reinette’s “weary traveller” speech. Sophia Myles is just amazing, isn’t she? This speech brought tears to my eyes.

11. Breaking the mirror. Yee-haa! Who didn’t let out a cheer when Arthur burst through?

12. The idea that the Doctor is stuck in France. I love the repeated references to “the slow path”.

13. “Pick a star, any star.” The Doctor loves her, through and through. But the tragedy is waiting for him, and although I could see it coming, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer emotion of the situation. Louis loved the Madame, too. But he wasn’t loved back. You can see it in his eyes. The poor man. The lonely king and the lonely god, and she only loved one of them.

14. The punchline. This story was so well thought-out, and the final shot combines a brilliant joke with an “Oh! So that’s what it all means!” moment. Neil Gaiman was right – Steven Moffat deserves another Hugo nomination for this marvellous piece of television.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Steven Moffat deserves a lot of credit for ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ – if the new Doctor Who has thus far erred on the side of simplicity (and it has), this story at least isn’t afraid to really challenge viewers, and like ‘The Mind Robber,’ ‘Kinda,’ ‘Ghost Light’ and other experimental stories from the classic series, it succeeds in bringing something fresh and strange to the rollicking sci-fi adventure format.

That said, I didn’t actually *like* this story a whole lot. It’s possible that, like many of these 45-min. stories, it might have been improved and clarified by an expanded telling. (I say this in practically every review of the new series, but it’s so true.) Still, I actually doubt it would have helped here, since it seems this story is *intended* to have a puzzling, dreamlike quality about it. Although seen through the eyes of the Doctor and his companions, the story retains in its approach some of the mystery and elliptical quality of Reinette’s impression of its events. In fact, it almost feels as if this story might have been conceived to be told from her point of view; the prologue certainly suggests this, but as the story unfolds we get more of an expected my-good-where-are-we-this-time Doctor Who approach.

And perhaps it’s that we never *do* really get inside Reinette’s head that makes the story so unsatisfying to me – rather than seeming fantastic and romantic, her falling instantly in love with a stranger from her childhood bedroom (!) simply seems absurd, because we are asked to accept it without being made (by the writer) to really *understand* it. Now, before people start shooting me hate e-mails, let me join the chorus of I-don’t-mind-if-the-Doctor-gets-laid-ers, but my point is it has to be done *believably*, and this Time-Casanova scenario (so to speak) never felt authentic in the least to me. For the all hysterical praise of Kate-Hudson lookalike Sophia Myles’s performance in the part, this Madame de Pompadour remains more or less a blank, someone whose actions only seem real if we don’t stop to think about them. (And while I’m mentioning the famous name, what is this ridiculous hard-on Russell T. Davies has for true historical figures? We’ve already had Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Madame de Pompadour, and now Shakespeare himself is apparently waiting in the wings for next season. It’s not nearly as fun as RTD seems to think it is, and the repetition is getting old fast.) Myles can’t quite pull off Moffat’s cod-Sheridan dialogue either, but at least she’s better than Ben Turner’s rather hopeless Louis in that regard. Both are undeniably soap-opera pretty – but since when does that impress Doctor Who fans? Since now, I guess.

Well, on to the other actors. David Tennant is not very good here – as I’ve noted before, his yammering goofus seems worlds away from Christopher Eccleston’s haunted survivor, and so all the stuff about his epic loneliness doesn’t quite ring true. I’m not at all sold on Tennant’s Doctor – perhaps this was inevitable as we moved into the double digits, but so many of the things he does seem like mere echoes of better Doctors past. He does flop-haired and boyish, but not so well as Davison; he does gabbling and irrepressible, but not so well as Tom Baker; he does clownish, but not so well as Troughton. I have yet to identify anything truly new he’s brought to the part. Rose and Mickey are largely sidelined here, of course, but Noel Clarke at least is given some funny lines (“Even French!”).

Worst of all, the strange plot, which, as I said, is notable for its originality, is at times surprisingly predictable – the Doctor’s apparent forgetfulness about the time-window delay (and/or about Reinette’s age at the time of her death) is a shameless contrivance to create an awww-factor, and it would take a lobotomy patient not to see it coming. (What other climax could there have been five minutes before the end of the episode?) And as for the big punchline, it doesn’t work nearly as well here as Moffat’s similar machine/organic gotcha at the end of ‘The Doctor Dances’; here it’s just a nonsensical gimmick, and doesn’t pay off in the least (as others have pointed out).

All in all, a step in the right direction in some ways, but not a real success.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Like many Doctor Who fans, I spent the years that the show was off the air
a) feeling confident that the show could return to the airwaves as early as next year
b) casting my fantasy Doctor.

My opinions and ideas about Doctor Who as a series were shaped by my ideas about the title character. I felt that the character of The Doctor should be haughty, intelligent, funny, a little aloof and above all carefree. Rattling around the universe with The Doctor should be fun, above all else. I saw a season of 45 minute individual storylines because, let’s face it, no one does half hour drama. I saw the sort of rattling yarns that Doctor Who was built upon. Simple and uncomplicated.

It’s odd that the one character trait that pleases me the most in current Doctor Who is one I never gave any thought to before.


Christopher Eccleston’s brilliant portrayal of The Doctor had considerably more facets than any of his predecessors. It’s not an attack against past Doctors, it’s just a fact of modern television characters. The sort of ‘same every week’ surface portrayal that fueled television in the 60s and 70s (and, for the most part, the 80s) simply cannot connect with today’s more sophisticated television viewer. Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor was just as moody and occasionally aloof as I expected, but the over-riding facet of his character was a profound loneliness.

It’s built into the show.

With The Doctor becoming the last of his kind, his survivor’s guilt influenced every decision he made, be it actively avoiding contact with humans (his ‘stupid apes’ comments seem more like his way of imposing a distance between himself and humans and not a genuine opinion.) or a choice of clothing that says ‘Don’t notice me! Don’t touch me!’.

I never realized how important this aspect of The Doctor had become until I saw the season two premiere ‘New Earth’. Despite occasionally roaring with righteous indignation, my overwhelming impression of the new Doctor revolved around his ‘I love traveling with you!’ and ‘We had chips’’ comments. Laughing happy and carefree, the weight of the world (literally) seemed to have been lifted and The Doctor was allowed to enjoy himself.

I really didn’t like it.

The Doctor and Rose had become so happy/ flirty with each other (‘Schmoopie’ for all you Seinfeld fans..) that all of the drama drained away. Something wasn’t right. Something fictional.

I wondered if, perhaps, the problem was Tennant. But it’s the same spirited performance I enjoyed in ‘The Christmas Invasion’. Could the problem be Rose’ It’s possible. She seemed far too comfortable with this New Doctor (New New Doctor) and didn’t display any of the awe and (frankly) fear that she had around his predecessor.

But when I saw ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’, an episode where absolutely everything worked for me, it fell into place. The Doctor must be lonely. Period.

No matter how much fun and excitement we the viewer or any companion seem to be having, the character of The Doctor must always feel like he is an outsider.

Science fiction fans tend to be lonely little boys at heart.

I’m certainly (and uncomfortably) familiar with feeling alone and isolated by my fandom. It’s what draws people to organized fandom or fanzines or conventions.

The idea that we’re all alone together.

I almost feel bad about how much I want Doctor Who to suffer for my entertainment, but (like it or not) it’s a part of the show now. And those moments of connection, those times ‘the lonely little boy learns to dance’ are all the sweeter because of it.

Everything about ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ was magical. I’m a big enough girl’s blouse to admit that there was a lot of romance in this episode.

The sight of The Doctor coming to the rescue astride a white horse or defeating monsters hiding under the bed are huge and iconic images.

I wanted to review this episode without mentioning the author’s contribution from last season, but I can’t. The grace and joy that marked the ending of ‘The Doctor Dances’ gives way to an intense and bittersweet sadness at the end of ‘Fireplace’.

Rose and Mikey take a back seat to guest artist Sophia Myles, who turns in a mannered and beautiful performance. In fact, everything was beautiful, from the sets to the costumes to the fabulous clockwork robots.

Once again, I eagerly await Steven Moffat’s contribution to next season. And once again, I’m wondering how he’ll top this one.

Just remember.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I approached ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ with some caution; billed in advance as an attempt to do romance in Doctor Who, I was rather concerned after the “companion as groupie” debacle that marred ‘School Reunion’, and writer Steven Moffat’s provocative comments about “asexual” fans in recent interviews didn’t inspire confidence. On the other hand, Moffat penned what remains by far my favourite story of series one, and I suspected that if anyone could pull off such a story, then he would be a likely candidate. And as things turned out, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ works remarkably well.

A note first, about the plot: the premise that drives ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ is ludicrous. I’m not sure whether Moffat himself decided to write a story that linked a fifty-first century spaceship with Renaissance France, or whether Russell T. Davies requested it, but if the latter is true then it’s akin to John Nathan-Turner securing the use of Concorde and then getting some poor bastard to try and write a script around it landing on prehistoric Earth. I don’t know who programmed the Repair Droids on the SS Madame de Pompadour, but I would imagine than when building such robots it might be an idea to, for example, ensure that if the ship is damaged they a) make sure that the crew is safe, and b) use the apparently phenomenal amount of power available to either evacuate the ship using the space/time corridors they know who to build or to pilot the ship somewhere safe. Rather than, say, dismembering the crew for parts, and deciding to travel back in time to steal the brain of the historical figure after whom the ship is named, which is beyond insane. Either the robot’s programmer was mad or he was on powerful mind-expanding drugs. Unless of course the Droids have malfunctioned, but if so that’s one hell of a malfunction. The Doctor asks them at one point, “Why come here, you could have gone to your repair yard?” and it remains a pertinent, but unanswered, question. On top of this there are other lapses in logic and the odd irritating contrivance; the Repair Droids’ assumption that they need to wait until Madame de Pompadour is the same age is the ship is just as bonkers as their belief that they need her at all, and the significance of the broken clock, besides being a general image of something wrong with time, is never explained. Then there is the Doctor’s explanation, when he needs to rescue Madame de Pompadour once she reaches the right age, that “We can’t use the TARDIS, we’re part of events now”. This doesn’t stand up to scrutiny since it shouldn’t matter whether he travels back to Renaissance France in the TARDIS or through the time windows, and is blatantly just a convenient way to have the Doctor abandon Rose and Mickey and sacrifice his freedom to heroically come to Pompadour’s rescue whilst sacrificing his freedom in the process. It’s also suspiciously easy all of a sudden for the Doctor to telepathically make contact with humans, which is also a contrivance to allow the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour to get closer within the limited time available.

And yet despite all of these seeming flaws, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ works. It works because this is Doctor Who as a modern fairytale, and has a magical quality not seen in the series for some time. The episode brims with ideas that fit perfectly into the series format but which wouldn’t work (or would work less well) in any other science fiction series. The juxtaposition of the fifty-first century spaceship and Renaissance France, with doorways from one the other disguised as mirrors and fireplaces and tapestries draws instant comparisons with The Chronicles of Narnia, and the romance between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour is handled like that between Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, the Doctor’s near-immortality forever distancing him from her. This latter point builds on the Doctor’s comments about the pain of watching the humans he cares about wither and die in ‘School Reunion’, but in a far subtler way than in that episode. And there are many other fine ideas and images on display here, which feel uniquely like Doctor Who, from the macabre use of human flesh in the workings of a spaceship, to the grotesquely beauty of the clockwork Droids, and the bizarre sight of a horse on board the craft, which leads in turn to the unforgettable spectacle of the Doctor riding it through the mirror to save the day. ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ gives us a monster under the bed in the vein of classic children’s storytelling, but when we get to see it is an elegant and striking automaton. The Doctor defeats the monsters by talking them into self-destruction, and although we’ve seen that before at the end of ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, here it feels like the only logical way to end the threat, whereas there it was a later replacement for him pulling out a gun.

Just as important as the imagery though is the characterisation. The romance between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour works because in doing so it still manages to stay true to the spirit of the series. When the Doctor accidentally proposed to Cameca in ‘The Aztecs’, he exploited their relationship to gain knowledge of the workings of the tomb in which the TARDIS was trapped, but he also came to appreciate her company and pocketed the brooch she gave him at the end of the story. This works in much the same way; he only spends about an hour with her in total, but the chemistry between them suggests his appreciation for her as a person. Tennant might look lecherously at her heaving bosoms when the Doctor finds that she’s all grown up, but the Doctor only gets really excited not when he’s snogged her, but when he realises that he’s snogged Madame de Pompadour and happily lists her achievements. Even the kiss in question, the sort of thing that might have made legions of long-time fans gnash their teeth, because Tennant makes it look as though the Doctor has just tried something new and enjoyable for the first time, which ultimately is perfectly in keeping with his approach to everything he does. On first viewing I felt that the plot ran out two-thirds of the way through, but after watching it again the last fifteen minutes, as the Doctor finds himself trapped with Madame de Pompadour only for her to restore his freedom at great personal cost and then fails to return to her before her death, is perfect. The ending is predictable, but with a sense of tragic inevitability.

The casting of Sophia Myles, whom David Tennant is apparently dating in real life, helps the episode enormously, as the two actors have palpable chemistry. And Madame de Pompadour is wonderfully written, making it easy to accept that she could fall in love with a man she has only known for fleetingly short periods of time throughout her life, because he takes on the role of a mythical, almost magical protector who appears to her in times of need. She is a strong character handled well, dealing level-headedly with the trials she faces. She quickly grasps the concepts of what Rose is telling her, even if she dresses them up in her own language (“There is a vessel in your world where the days of my life are pressed together like a book?”) and she puts the safety of others before her own, such as when she tells Louis, “You have your duties. I am your mistress, go to your Queen.”

Tennant also puts in a generally fine performance, although his “drunk” acting is an embarrassment. He looks wide-eyed when Pompadour tells the Doctor, “There comes a time, Time Lord, when every lonely little boy must learn how to dance” (a line which, as in ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ sees Moffat making the word “dance” almost a double entendre). The Doctor’s sudden concerns about obtaining money, and lack of idea how to do so, is quite amusing, but above all his heroic rescue of Pompadour on horseback is a reminder that days of the Ninth Doctor standing around uselessly whilst Rose saves the day is well and truly in the past.

As for the others, Rose’s jealously and bitching at Sarah Jane in ‘School Reunion’ are mercifully not repeated here, and the most she does is look a bit sad and lonely when the Doctor shows Madame de Pompadour any attention. She also, despite her sulky look at the end of the previous episode, seems to be enjoying Mickey’s presence, and they spend a lot of time apparently having fun together. With both Rose and Mickey rather sidelined here, Mickey himself gets little to do and seems to have been relegated to the role of comic relief once more, although the episode does show how far he’s come since he gibbered in terror at the Autons in ‘Rose’, as he takes on robots with a fire extinguisher. He also seems to be enjoying himself, Noel Clarke seemingly as enthusiastic as the character he’s playing when he cries out, “I got a spaceship on my first go!” The only other character of note here is Ben Turner’s King Louis, and he too works well, coming across as noble and accepting his rival the Doctor’s presence, which is an extremely unusual and adult way for Moffat to script the situation. And this after Madame de Pompadour says of him, “This is my lover, the King of France” and the Doctor petulantly replies, “Yeah? Well I’m the Lord of Time”, which in retrospect is exactly the way that the Doctor used to treat Mickey when he first met Rose.

Moffat’s comedy pedigree means that ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ has some great lines, including the Doctor’s earnestly delivered pun to the Repair Droids, “It’s over, accept that. I’m not winding you up”, and his response to Rose’s protestation, “You’re not keeping the horse!” with “Well, you keep Mickey.” Even the Droids gets some good lines, most notably responding to Madame de Pompadour’s “I shall not set foot there again” with “We do not require your feet.”

Finally, the production of ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ is quite splendid. Director Euros Lyn has proved his ability to direct period episodes, and this benefits from his talents enormously. The sets help, since both they, and the location filming, effortlessly convey the period in magnificent detail. The Repair Droids, as the Doctor notes, look beautiful, both with and without their masks, the designers making the clockwork whirring in their heads as intricate and delicate as the script requires. Even Murray Gold’s orchestral noodlings work for about five minutes before they start to become provocative, which makes a unusual change. Overall, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ does what Doctor Who used to do well, papering over the holes in the plot with so much style and wit that they don’t really matter. Hopefully, it won’t be Moffat’s last script for the series.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I have to admit that I enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would. On the surface, it’s a mix of absurd story ideas. A love story for the Doctor is going to struggle against long odds just to be acceptable or believable, especially with the limited development time available in the 45 minute format.

And “a spaceship from the 51st century stalking a woman from the 18th” is certainly an inventive idea, but any attempt to explain why that is happening is going to strain credulity, even in a Doctor Who context.

Let’s start with the Doctor/Madame du Pompadour romance. I’ll be the first to admit that Sophia Myles is stunningly beautiful, and would no doubt turn the head of just about any red-blooded man who noticed her. She’s also playing a character that was quite accomplished and intelligent in real life, and her performance brings that out fairly well in the limited time available. That being said, the Doctor isn’t normally given to noticing anyone, and indeed it’s possible to argue that the attraction in this story is one-sided. The advances and flirting certainly all come from Reinette, and the lengths that the Doctor is willing to go to in order to save her life and protect history (since history tells us that Madame du Pompadour did not die at the hands of clockwork robots) are perhaps no more than he would have done for anyone else.

The time needed for a genuine relationship to develop is the crucial missing element in the story, both for the Doctor and Reinette. At best she enjoys either flirting or toying with the Doctor, and he lets himself be pulled along perhaps by the sheer novelty of it all. Certainly he seems to treat her kiss as something to be proud of because of who it was that kissed him. “I’ve just snogged Madame du Pompadour!” he says exultantly, after first listing her accomplishments. As for her motives for kissing the Doctor when she’d only met him twice as a child, who can say? It certainly doesn’t make much sense in the context of the story. To be honest, it makes her look rather easy. That’s not a character trait to admire. At least when she becomes involved with the King she’s sleeping her way to the top, though that too is hardly admirable.

In essence what we have is not so much a love story as it is the story of Reinette perhaps trying to hold on to the mystery of this man who keeps appearing in her life. I’m just trying to explain what’s on screen. We’re told it’s a love story, but the events that are acted out for us don’t support that description. There’s no time for love to develop, and there’s no depth to the relationship. Perhaps Reinette hopes that a good kiss and some flirtation will entice the “Fireplace Man” to remain longer so that she can learn more about him. After all it’s worked on other men in her life. This theory holds at least until the point the Doctor suddenly gains the ability to read minds and has his read in return. There certainly appears to be a bit more genuine affection in the final scenes where Reinette tells the Doctor about the one remaining link back to the spacecraft. The two seem very relaxed and happy in each others company, and the Doctor’s sadness at Reinette’s death is certainly heartfelt. Once he opened the letter and knew that she had never seen him again, going back to visit her in the TARDIS became impossible.

So where did this ability to read minds come from? We’ve never seen it before, though I admit it’s plausible given the Doctor’s limited use of telepathy in the past. Susan displayed some talent for telepathy, the Master was able to hypnotize rather easily, and Time Lords are supposed to enjoy telepathy among themselves, so it’s not inconceivable that the Doctor suddenly has the ability to mind-meld with a human. It’s just highly convenient as a plot device.

It’s so highly convenient that I’m tempted to be really irritated at the sudden appearance of the Doctor’s new ability, but I’ll let it go. Convenient or not, it’s certainly a shortcut around the time limitations of the episode and suddenly the Doctor and Reinette are intimately acquainted. Just how intimately acquainted depends on whether the ‘dance’ metaphor from last season still refers to sex and whether the Doctor went along for the ride. You can read it either way. If you like the Doctor as a cosmic Casanova who beds attractive women he barely knows while he’s supposed to be in love with Rose, you can read events one way. If you prefer a more virtuous Time Lord, you can go that route, despite the obvious intent of the author.

During the final encounter with the robots, the dramatic entrance of the Doctor as a heroic ‘knight on a white stallion” is entirely in keeping with the self-sacrificial nature of the character, though his abandonment of Mickey and Rose is hard to explain. He saves Reinette’s life, but (as far as he knows) strands himself in 17th century France, and strands his traveling companions in a 51st century spaceship with no means of returning home. When he asks Rose, “how long did you wait?” it doesn’t really make sense. Neither she nor Mickey can fly the TARDIS, and the Doctor is surely aware of that. What else could they do but wait? Perhaps it’s just a case of the Doctor trying to save face and mend hurt feelings.

Moving right along, there’s a lot less to say about the clockwork robots, proving yet again that this series of Doctor Who frequently puts character above plot, which is detrimental to the story far too often. Plot holes are papered over with sentiment while the writer hopes the audience won’t notice or won’t care. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that the attempt is successful in “The Girl in the Fireplace”, though in all honestly I must confess that the story is crazy. As a means of tying the spacecraft and France together, we have repair robots who create time windows and travel back in time to find the person their ship is named after, so that they can use her brain to repair the main computer, but only when she’s the same age as the spaceship. It’s so off-the-wall and creative that I’m willing to enjoy the idea tremendously and buy right into the premise.

The robots themselves are inventive, from their mannequin-like period dress and masks, to the clockwork-filled clear heads underneath. Having the first one that we encounter hiding under a child’s bed is just a wonderful conceit.

I have to address the issue of ‘self-awareness’ in the new series of Doctor Who. I would define this as actions or dialog which pulls me out of the story and reminds me that yes, I am watching a TV program. This is frequently a failing of Russel Davies scripts, but it crops up here as well. “The Doctor and the monsters,” Reinette says at one point. “It seems you cannot have one without the other.” And with that meta-textual line my suspension of disbelief is shattered and I’m thinking about Doctor Who the program rather than remaining engaged in the story. Any time that someone says “Doctor Who?” it does the same thing. And it’s very annoying.

There are other things to like about this story apart from the Doctor/Reinette relationship and the robots. It’s Mickey’s first trip in the TARDIS, and his enthusiasm is wonderful to watch. The fact that he and Rose get along with no hint of Rose’s usual jealous streak is a breath of fresh air. I’m sick of Rose’s jealously and tired of the character for that matter. It just seems like her story was told last year, and there’s not really anything new to say about her. It’s a lot like Charley Pollard, whose story came to a good conclusion in “Neverland” and then the character seemed to stagnate. Rose has been irritating in “New Earth”, “Tooth and Claw”, and especially in “School Reunion” where the claws came out with Sarah Jane. She’s much better here, and I hope continues to do well in future. As of this writing I haven’t seen any stories beyond “The Girl in the Fireplace”, so I don’t know how the character develops over the remainder of the season.

Some of the dialog is almost poetic. References to “The slow path” to describe linear time, or Reinette’s phrase “In your world there are rooms where the days of my life are pressed together like the pages of a book” are wonderful to hear.

Overall, the story has an appeal that transcends the crazy premise, but it never lives up to the billing as ‘a love story for the Doctor’. But it is inventive, it’s different and it’s sincere, which sets it apart and elevates it above much of the new series. It’s well worth the time to watch it.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor