With a title like Journey to the Centre of the Tardis last night’s episode of Doctor Who promised to be epic.
We’ve had some really great episodes this season, The Bells of Saint John, The Rings of Akhaten and Hide, while Cold War left me feeling, well, cold.
Man, oh cyberman, was Journey to the Centre of the Tardis disappointing
I expected a grand sweeping story that delved into all sorts of lore from Doctor Who’s half century of back story, instead I got a simple story which explored hitherto unseen corridors and rooms aboard the ship that is bigger on the inside.
But I did love the glimpse of the swimming pool.
I know we’re getting to the middle of the second half of the seventh season, but even taking that mid season lull into account this was a pretty mediocre offering compared to what Doctor Who can achieve.
It all starts with the guest stars. Salvagers Gregor and Bram Van Baalen, played by Ashley Walters and Mark Oliver, were forgettable all but for the fact that their actions wrecked the Doctor’s precious time ship beyond repair.
How a couple of ignorant scrap seekers, whose characters were unrelatable one dimensional grunts, could be capable of something so catastrophic to a Time Lord, something that even the deadly Daleks had been unable to accomplish, beggars belief.
The fact that the Tardis is also a living entity, and only two episodes ago was fleeing danger before it could eventuate, makes this episode inconsistent with what has come before.
This was reinforced by the Doctor’s line: ”I feel a Tardis temper tantrum coming on.”
The explanation that the Doctor (Matt Smith) had turned something off so that his new companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) could have a go at flying just didn’t make any sense and was poor script writing.
The Van Baalen brothers’ android crewmate Tricky (Jahvel Hall) was much better realised than they were, both from the perspective of the script and from an acting standpoint, but it wasn’t enough to save the premise.
And if the events that kick the episode off are unconvincing, it leaves the rest of the story hanging on a very thin thread.
Once the Doctor, as always brilliantly played by Smith, realised Clara was lost in the bowels of the infinite ship it made no sense to enlist the help of the Van Baalen trio who proved to be no help at all.
I couldn’t believe they made no comment on the external police box markings as they tried to break in.
But the way the Doctor got them on board, locking the salvagers in and activating the Tardis’s self destruct, was not only a typical Doctorish thing to do but an action typical of Smith’s 11th Doctor.
That desperate action, along with Smiths and Coleman’s interaction throughout the episode, were also authentic Doctor Who.
But they contribute nothing to the story, so why have them along.
When we did get to the centre of the Tardis discovering there was a star at its heart powering it was magical, but the special effects only lasted a few seconds and so did the magic as the story swiftly moved on to the identity of the time monsters that held so much promise but just failed to materialise.
Doctor Who, as it approaches its 50th birthday, is in dire need of its classic adversaries which is just as well as there is a cyberman story around the corner.