Doctor Who – The Girl in the Fireplace

OK, OK, I’m late with my Doctor Who reviews! This episode was shown on Saturday 6 May, and I’m only just getting round to writing about it. Shocking, innit?

The opening sequence is set in 18th Century France. Bad Things are happening at Versailles, and no, it’s not the Revolution. An aristocratic young woman calls into her fireplace for help from the Doctor!

The Tardis materialises on a run-down, seemingly deserted spaceship. The Doctor, Rose and Mickey set out to explore it, and soon find something very strange indeed. It’s an apparently genuine eighteenth century fireplace. Looking through it, the Doctor sees a room behind it, and a young girl looking back at him.

The Doctor finds the hidden mechanism that makes the fireplace rotate[1] and finds himself in the girl’s room. But months have passed for her in the seconds since he saw her. Finding something nasty[2] under the bed, he tells the girl that everyone has nightmares, even the monsters under the bed. She asks what monsters have nightmares about, to which the Doctor, perhaps predictably, replies:

ME!

The story that follows is another one that deals with the consequences of the Doctor getting involved. The young girl grows up to be the very real historical person Madame de Pompadour, and in the short time the Doctor and his friends are on the spaceship, her whole life passes. And it’s clear that the Doctor is as affected by her as she is by him.

The nasty thing under the bed turns out to be one of a number of clockwork robots built by the ship’s automated repair systems. Lacking parts, it used bits of the crew to replace damaged systems[3]. Now all it lacks is a main controlling computer, and for reasons that are not at all clear to the Doctor, it decides that Madame de Pompadour is “compatible”. Only it has to wait until she is “mature” – the same age as the ship itself[4]. All of which accounts for the links between the ship and the homes of Madame de Pompadour – initially her childhood home, and later at Versailles.

In typically stylish fashion, the Doctor saves the day[5], but thanks to the time differential between the ship and Versailles, fails in his plan to take his new friend on a trip in the Tardis. When he returns, it’s too late – the lady has died, and so the Doctor once again moves on.

Showing a more emotional side to the Doctor was another sign of just how mature this new series is becoming. It’s still more fun than several barrels of highly entertaining monkeys, but we’re getting to see more depth to the character of the Doctor. This is a Good Thing. And David Tennant is really shining in the role. He’s quite obviously enjoying himself, and is shaping up to be quite wonderful.

But the best point in the show was a line spoken by Madame de Pompadour. Talking about the nasty clockwork things, and how the Doctor has been her protector throughout her life, she says

One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel

Quite lovely.

[1] In the behind the scenes stuff on Doctor Who Confidential, reference was made to Scooby Doo :laugh:
[2] Look, I’m trying not to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it, OK?
[3] And yes, that’s just as icky as it sounds
[4] Nice concept – a remorselessly logical, and mind-numbingly stupid machine. You get a lot of those in Doctor Who…
[5] Details omitted to make you want to watch it, but it does involve a horse