Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS


Was I the only one who just didn't really get this episode? It was so full of promise -- Clara lost in the TARDIS, stalked by creepy monsters, a race against time -- but in the end, I was left wondering exactly what had happened.

Here's what I've pieced together. The TARDIS was damaged by the salvage-yard people, and so started to explode/leak moments from time. The monsters in the TARDIS were Clara, who was burned up in other timelines by the exploding TARDIS. And somehow turned into a psychotic killer. The Doctor kept going back and resetting time to try to prevent her death, but he failed, again and again, making an army of the evil!creepy!Claras. The final time, he succeeded. Right? Was that what happened?

I'll be honest: I'm really not sure that's what happened. I pieced that together after the episode, trying to figure out what all the different threads meant. I can't figure out whether my brain wasn't working when I watched the episode, or whether it was all as unclear and confused as I thought. Rule one, basic story-telling, make sure your cool idea for a plot makes sense. And make sure the audience has a clue what's going on.

The standout scene, to me, was when the Doctor challenged Clara about her identity. It was intense and a little disturbing, and Clara telling him that HE frightened her far more than anything else that was happening rang true. No matter who or what she turns out to be, Clara is still Clara, a person, an individual. And the Doctor needs to treat her as such.

Unfortunately, the structure of the episode means that Clara has absolutely no memory of this conversation. In a way, this gives the Doctor a get out of jail free card that he doesn't really deserve. He can challenge her in a fairly frightening way and find out what he needed to know without any consequence for his behavior. He can half-apologize for his actions by checking and double checking that Clara feels safe around him at the end of the episode, but as Clara has absolutely no memory of what he told her, it's more than a bit of a cheat. She feels safe because she's clueless.

One major problem in Doctor Who is that it never works through the consequences of its plots. People are abducted, lose their babies, and have pretty much no emotional fallout whatsoever. It doesn't hang together and get resolved, but skips on to the next dramatic plot twist. I'm really excited that we're taking the time to explore how Clara will feel about the Doctor's strange obsession, and his expectation that she must be more than she appears. I only hope that next time, she'll get to remember the conversation.