Dave Gibbons: Much applause in the bar for Doctor Who!
Jamie McKelvie: So the next episode is written by Neil Gaiman too, right? Right?
Paul Cornell: Applause!
1. Dream Of A Thousand Time Lords
So yes, Neil Gaiman has written an episode of Doctor Who. And he's a man who grew up watching Doctor Who. We all did. When I wrote a Doctor Who comic I basically used the idea that I'd had in my head since I was fifteen. We've all got one, our own Doctor Who story. And this week, Neil got to use his.
I first said that Neil was going to be writing a Doctor Who episode a while ago. And it's been a while coming, bumped a year, rewritten, and finally landing.
And it's full of Neiliness, patchwork people, puppets for a higher evil, possible an Other Uncle, Other Aunt and Other Nephew, the smell of dust after rain, quirky line after quirky line – but then it's full of Whoiness too. Corridors, danger, Time Lord whimsy. Because we grew up with this kind of thing. And now we get to play.
2. It's Joanna Lumley All Over Again
Confirmation that Time Lords can switch gender. Like big amphibian Gallifreyan frogs or something. I thought the Big Finish solution in Unbound: Exile, that Time Lords switch gender if they commit suicide and regenerate was weirdly misogynist and misandrist simultaneously, but did show a sense out out of the ordinariness. And Arabella Weir made for a very decent Doctor too. But either way, the campaign for a female Doctor Twelve starts now I think.
Every time we get a new Doctor announcement, there is press speculation that the next Doctor will be female. The more people talk about it, the more likely it is to happen.
Also, nice touch on the tattoos, for all you Spearhead From Space shower scene fans.
Why is the Doctor surprised they've lost power outside the Universe? Didn't that happen in Rise Of The Cybermen? Shouldn't he have expected it – or indeed, have prepared for it? Maybe he did, hence…
And Lawrence Miles is probably grinding his teeth – even more than usual. The desire for a Time Lord's body in episode one, just like in Alien Bodies, and now a female humanoid TARDIS in episode four… just like Marie in Alien Bodies.
3. She Starts By Saying Goodbye
She's out of time, referencing her last line with her first. She speaks out of order. She may be in the here and now, but she's suffering from tenses. The TARDIS exists into the future and the past and she's pulling stuff from all over, the definition of words, the TARDIS control rooms archived for future or past use, I am reminded slightly of Alan Moore's Cobweb from Captain Britain but it's all good.
The TARDIS: "Then you stole me. And I stole you."
Well now isn't that the most perfect of lines. And she calls him "my thief".
There's a lot of action, adventure, corridor running and derring do in this episode of Doctor Who. But at it's core its about one thing and one thing only, the Doctor and the TARDIS getting to talk to each other after fifty years. And saying things that have been unsaid, that have been presumed, that haven't been worked through.
So there's that bit about the Doctor complaining that the TARDIS never takes him where he wants to go but the TARDIS saying she always takes him where he needs to go. And that's always the way I'd seen it – just I'd never seen it expressed so neatly before. But it's the line above that hit the hardest, the TARDIS is just as bad as the Doctor in terms of seeing the universe and experiencing its wonders. In her living form she's as delighted with her physical presence and the possibilities that brings as the Doctor is discovering a new life form or a new idea or just a new pot plant. They're perfect for each other. Remember School Reunion?
Sarah Jane Smith: Does he still stroke bits of the TARDIS?
Rose Tyler: Yeah, and I'm just, like, "do you two want to be alone?"
Well now they are.
Amy Pond: "Did you wish really hard."
But as to the whole Pull To Open discussion. Um… that refers to the telephone on the outside of the police box, not the main doors. That's what you… pull to open, mind you, police box doors should open outwards I suppose considering how smal they are, oh never mind. As you were.
Anyway, isn't Suranne Jones great? Trending on Twitter as I type this (as well as Neil Gaiman and TARDIS), channelling a mix of Miranda Richardson, Helena Bonham Carter and Elizabeth Hurley, she's perfectly as bonkers-English as the Doctor.
4. Was That The Eighth Doctor?
The signal: "If you are receiving this message, please help me. Send a signal to the High Council of the Time Lords on Gallifrey. I am still alive! I don't know where I am! I'm on some rock like planet!"
Rory Pond: Who was that? Was that him
The Doctor: No that was picking up… someone else.
Or was it? After all, we're told that Paul McGann doesn't count."
5. They're Still All Dead
That moment when the Doctor opens the cupboard door. And the Aunt and Uncle sneak up behind. The loss, the loss…
6. "I've Got Corridors"
Roundels too. One of my favourite old school Doctor Whos was Logopolis and partly for the trek through the TARDIS. When I was asked to write a Doctor Who comic (did I mention that before? Did I? Did I?), one of my pitches was for that, a hiking trip from one end of the TARDIS to another when the door stops working. That idea was knocked back straight away by the BBC and I can see why. But here we see the massive space of the TARDIS shown in through ways, firstly running through it, opening up all sorts of doors, using rooms as energy (like they did in Castrovalva as well). but also on the planet itself, TARDISes turned inside out to provide all the contents that scatter and build up the debris across a whole world.
Although a sentient speaking junkyard? Oh come on.
7. Can People Just Stop Killing Rory Now?
Seriously, he's like Kenny at the moment. He just keeps on dying. Shot by a Silurian and swallowed into time, revived only as a lump of plastic, turned into ash by a Eknodine, drowned in the sea and now aged to death. Leave the poor bastard alone, won't you?
8. Flying The Console
Oh forget about the summoning cube from War Games, they're flying a TARDIS console, just like well a bit like, well slightly like, in Mind Robber... and one designed by a schoolkid on Blue Peter. Who has certain Old School Doctor Who influences as well it seems.
9. Bunk Beds
And of course it all sorts itself out in the wash. The Doctor now turning The TARDIS itself into a weapon against his foes. That's really a repeating idea of late. Davros Knows The Score.
In a scene reminiscent of Big, we get the young boy's view of sexuality. All yucky and stuff. Why would a man and a woman want to sleep together, when one can literally live inside the other? No, actually, that's not like Big at all, And obviously bunk beds are better than a King's size bed, for the reasons stated.
A King's Size bunk bed that's what we need. They've got the room after all. And the answer to where the Doctor's rooom isn't said, it's shown. Here. Dancing with the woman he loves.
10. Telling Tales Yet To Come
"The only water in the forest is a river". Is it too blatant for this to refer to River Song here? And the Library was referred to as a forest before now. Andy I suppose Amy Pond is also water. Unless she's not there any more. Unless she's River now. You know, as rivals for the Doctor go, River and the TARDIS do seem to get along rather well don't they? There's no way, I don;t suppose, the TARDIS could be River? No, of course not, don't be silly. This is plot foreshadowing made text…
Barber's back! With a tiny head!
The Doctor and Neil make an even lovelier couple
And even Neil reading bits of his script on Doctor Who Confidential to follow on BBC3. And I quote;
Exterior: void space. Bubble universe. Floating in utter starless darkness, a small asteroid that's a junkyard. The Totter's Lane at the end of the Universe.
One of us! One of us!
On the surface, wrecked and abandoned high and low tech things ripped canvas temporary structures, held together by rope and junk. There are four people there, they are all dressed in patchwork clothes that look they were assembled using wardrobe cast offs, using whatever was to hand. Holding Uncle's righthand is Idris who is beautiful. She wears a wrecked Victorian party dress.
Exterior. Junkyard, Idris's cell. Idris in her cell. She's focussing, concentrating, like she's trying to move furniture round in her head. She opens her mouth but this time, nonsense sounds blurt out.
Idris nods. The door opens. And the Doctor's not quite certain how to treat her. She walks out with wonder as if this is the most amazing thing she's ever experienced using her head, her eyes, the initial panic is over and she's enjoying this. Sort of. Almost saint like.
And then it's on to the catering…