The Girl in the Fireplace

Tardisode: An unnamed generic spaceship enters an ion storm, and then the crew are attacked by unseen assassins who make a ticking noise. It’s a teaser for an entirely different type of episode, but then what could you do that wouldn’t give the game away? But then, rather than ending on a reveal of the villain, as is the custom, it cuts to a clock on a mantlepiece breaking, as if it’s something mysterious and threatening. Obviously I know the significance now, but god knows what I thought at the time, before I’d seen the episode.

* This is the best example so far, including the entire classic series, of Doctor Who using time travel as a plot device. I love this type of story-telling – Moffat has taken it to further extremes during his era, and this now feels like the first fledgling step into new territory, in the same way, say, The Web of Fear preempted the UNIT years.

* I mean, what happens with Reinette is basically a more gradual (and ultimately more tragic) version of what happens with Amy in The Eleventh Hour, with the Doctor being mistaken for an imaginary friend who then shows up, unchanged, when the little girl becomes an adult. Except this time, he ends up shagging her. “Dance with me”, indeed. Saucy.

* Other little moments that reminded me of later stories: The Doctor and Rose being separated by an impenetrable time barrier (this time it was only for a few hours, but it’ll be a lot worse come the end of the series); and The Doctor having to take the slow path with the woman he loves (this time it wasn’t through choice and it got resolved fairly quickly, rather than a voluntary 20-odd years with River).

* Reinette has got to be one of the all time great guest characters. Right from the very first time she turns up as an adult, her dialogue is great; she’s not just a confused or scared victim, defined by her relationship with the Doctor and the threat of the clockwork droids. She’s funny and confident, she’s got a life of her own, and she knows herself. Her lines about the Doctor being worth the monsters struck a chord. It is Valentine’s Day after all.

* Watching this back to back with School Reunion, it’s weird that none of Rose’s resentment regarding Mickey joining the crew has carried over – she’s happily guiding him through his first adventure, sharing the experience in quite a heartwarming way. It instantly makes Mickey better when he’s not a minor antagonist, and I much, much prefer this approach – again, something Moffat would later do with Amy and Rory.

* Although I have many favourite lines, foremost among them “have you met the French?”, these are the favourite lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Just a routine fire check… hope you enjoy the rest of the fire.” / “Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get some perspective.” / “And so’s your dad.” / “We do not require your feet.”

RATING: 10

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