- ‘Journey to the Center of the TARDIS’ by Stephen Thompson
- ‘The Crimson Horror’ by Mark Gatiss
- ‘Nightmare in Silver’ by Neil Gaiman
Typical of Eleven’s run, these are all mediocre episodes with some great stuff and some really not great stuff. None of the stories is especially effective. We have a salvage crew causing implausible levels of damage to the TARDIS, three brothers with an uncomfortable relationship, and secrets. We have the unflinchingly evil Mrs. Gillyflower and her plot to wipe clean the Earth and begin her own Eden. We have a planet infested with rapid-upgrade Cybermen. None is particularly compelling.
In the plus column, first place goes to Matt Smith’s performance against himself as the Cyber-planner. Gaiman wrote the episode specifically to showcase his skill, and it works beautifully. The man is a terror and a wonder, and his face has been the absolute highlight of the season.
Also ranking at the top are guest stars Diana Rigg and Warwick Davis. Villainous Mrs. Gillyflower is a cartoon, but Rigg makes her beautifully real. “Do you know what these are, Doctor? The wrong hands.” She is shameless and hell-bent and a joy to watch. Davis’ reluctant emperor is likewise a delightful character, and I even almost hoped that Clara would accept his proposal in the end. (That would be an exit worthy of Clara and Jenna Coleman!)
The continuing ‘impossible girl’ arc remains a problem, and the Doctor’s obsession with secrets. “Secrets keep you safe,” he says, except that they don’t, and while Clara wisely observes this, she still goes along cheerfully with his plan to erase her memory. I would expect her at least to extract a promise to be honest with her – not that I would then expect him to keep it, but it would be nice if people faced consequences for treating each other poorly.
Smaller issues include Clara’s ongoing conflict with the TARDIS; Angie’s rather implausible announcement of her boredom to a roomful of armed strangers; and the Doctor’s comment about Clara’s tight skirt – though on rewatch, Smith makes it look like a vestige of Cyber-planner and not the Doctor himself. I don’t like the blackmail scene at the end of ‘Crimson,’ mostly because I wonder why anyone would fall for that; I’m reminded of Morgan Freeman’s line from one of the recent Batman movies:
Let me get this straight: You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands; and your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck.
I do really enjoy the interior TARDIS shots, the Cybermites, and the Paternoster Gang. I appreciate the parallel between Ada and her monster. I wish we could get more than a second or two of Action Jenny.
The end of S7 is in sight, with only the four-part ‘Noun of the Doctor’ remaining…