This episode stands out for lots of reasons; most of all it’s clever and I like shows that don’t patronise us as an audience, but also because it made a family science fiction show romantic in every sense of the word. Doctor Who is great at blending other genres into the sci-fi world of the Timelord but here it was sweet, funny, warm and heart breaking all in a forty-something minute episode which is no mean feat.
This was Steven Moffat’s second shot at writing for the show after the “Empty Child” in the first series and it brought together his great wit with his ingenuity to produce a very grown up episode indeed. The basis for the episode is that The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive in the 51st Century on board a spaceship that is punching holes through time to 18th Century France and through the timeline of the amazing Reinette, later to be known as Madame du Pompadour – Mistress of Louis XV. The Doctor tries to work out why the Clockwork Men and Women from the Spaceship want her specifically.
This episode really brings out the romance of the Doctor as he falls for Reinette and she for him. It marks the real start of Roses romantic love for the Doctor – up to now she has shown she is fond of him, jealous even of other’s interest in him, but here we see she is really falling for him and doesn’t know how to cope with the situation. How can she compete with Reinette? The juxtaposition of the two worlds both being effectively on board a spaceship is cleverly played and the naivety of the Androids is almost sad. We realise that they have used the ship’s crew to fix the ship by taking their organs and body parts to mend and replace broken parts – Mickey and Rose find an eye in a security camera and a heart replacing a motor; clever but gruesome at the same time.
This leads to the other type of romance – the melancholy truth of the Clockwork Men’s obsession is revealed in the last shot when it’s revealed the 51st Century space ship is called “Madame du Pompadour” finally explaining why they needed her brain to fix the main computer. The robots weren’t evil, just mistaken which makes the whole episode clever and complete. The humour in the episode is great and allows us to see Tennant at his childlike best as he announces that you should always take a banana to a party and that he might have invented the daiquiri a couple of centuries early.
Humour, romance and sci-fi shouldn’t really work – especially in such a short time frame as the episode has but it shows what a multi-layers series Doctor Who can be – one week it’s an action comedy in New Earth, then it’s a monster driven one as the Cybermen take over earth; it’s a nostalgic trip back in time as we are reacquainted with Sarah Jane Smith in “School Reunion” as well as the great horror inspired “Tooth and Claw” with Queen Victoria and a Werewolf. For my money this is when the pieces all fall together for the show as a whole and the ability to change between genres and styles and tones really pays off.
Tennant as the Doctor and Russell T Davis at the helm as Executive producer and lead writer settle really well within the first few episodes of the second season. One that will end in tears.
Next Time: Doomsday