As has happened all too often recently, this is an idea with absolutely bags of potential, but an execution that’s ultimately disappointing. The concept of journeying through the TARDIS and exploring its labyrinthine properties is one that’s been done before (relatively recently at that), but a whole episode dedicated to it is something else. Visually, it was certainly far more impressive than the likes of The Invasion of Time, yet somehow overall it failed to be as interesting.
There were plenty of nice moments, sure – Clara finding the big Time War book, the TARDIS deliberately changing the corridor layout to mess the people – but it lacks anything mind-blowing, surreal or even surprising. It’s the wasted opportunity that makes this one so poor – there are endless possibilities of what the TARDIS could contain, and what does it show us? A swimming pool, a library, a bunch of props from recent episodes, a big CGI Eye of Harmony, a big white room and some corridors. It’s all fine, but it’s all stuff we already knew about. The TARDIS should be beyond our imagination, but imagination is exactly what’s missing from the writing.
It’s almost as if there was a lack of confidence to really go for broke on the basic premise, which would explain the unnecessary addition of some slightly naff and utterly forgettable monsters. It didn’t need that, and it certainly didn’t need so much extraneous stuff around the salvage crew. I don’t feel I’m quite qualified to talk about the casting choice for these particular roles, but there’s something about it that makes me mildly uncomfortable. The biggest issue, however, was that they were all rubbish.
The acting is often poor, and the characters themselves are irredeemable shits. They are the cause of all the bad things that happen to the Doctor, and they’re among the least sympathetic guest characters we’ve ever met. The only one with any scrap of decency is the robot one, but the later revelation that he’s not even a robot makes the other two even worse. Their brother had a terrible accident, so they brainwashed him and enslaved him. Lovely. Why should I give a shit about any of this?
My abiding memory from first broadcast was one of intense frustration that we didn’t learn more about Clara. That scene at the cliff-edge (perhaps the most surprising TARDIS location in fairness, although they’d recently done a similar thing in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) really felt like it was going somewhere, and then it just didn’t. It felt at the time like we were being teased, and while it’s not as bad when you’re revisiting it, it’s still not actively good.
Besides, everything gets undone at the end anyway, including any small amounts of character or arc development that may have taken place in that scene. The episode might as well have not been made.