Doctor Who: Tin Dog Podcast
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TDP 177: The Doctors Wife (Fixed)

"The Doctor's Wife" is the fourth episode of the sixth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was broadcast on 14 May 2011, written by Neil Gaiman.[2]



[edit] Plot

[edit] Synopsis

While in deep space, the Doctor, Amy and Rory receive a hypercube containing a distress call from a Time Lord. Tracing the source of the call to a rift leading outside the universe, the Doctor deletes part of his TARDIS to generate enough energy to cross through the rift. After landing in a junkyard on a solitary asteroid, the TARDIS shuts down and its matrix suddenly disappears. The three explore, and meet the strange inhabitants, Uncle, Auntie, a green eyed Ood called Nephew and an excited young woman named Idris who fawns all over, and then bites, the Doctor. While Uncle and Auntie lock up Idris, and Amy and Rory return to the TARDIS, the Doctor follows the distress signal and finds a cabinet containing a large number of hypercubes. Upon further investigation of Uncle and Auntie, he finds they are constructed of body parts from other beings, including Time Lords. They are controlled by the asteroid, called House, which is sentient and able to interface with other technology around it. House led the Doctor there and ripped out the TARDIS' matrix, initially in order to consume its Artron energy, but upon learning that the Doctor is the last Time Lord and that no more TARDISes will ever arrive, decides to transfer itself into the TARDIS and escape from the rift. Amy and Rory are trapped inside as the House-controlled TARDIS dematerialises.

The Doctor learns that Idris contains the personality of the TARDIS' matrix. Idris, as the TARDIS, and the Doctor come to realise they selected each other hundreds of years prior when the Doctor fled Gallifrey, and have a personal chat. Without House's support, Uncle and Auntie die. Idris reveals that House had stranded many TARDISes before on the planet, and that this universe only has hours left before it collapses, and that Idris' body only has a short time before it also will fail. The Doctor and Idris work together to construct a makeshift TARDIS from scraps, and then pursue House.

Aboard the Doctor's TARDIS, House threatens to kill Amy and Rory. He plays with their senses as they try to flee through the corridors, then sends Nephew after them. Idris makes a psychic connection with Rory to give him directions to a secondary control room, where he and Amy are able to lower the TARDIS shields without House's interference. This allows the Doctor to land the makeshift console in the secondary control room, which atomises Nephew. House deletes the secondary control room as he prepares to break through the rift, which the Doctor anticipates. The TARDIS safety protocols transfer them to the main control room, where the dying Idris releases the TARDIS matrix back to where it belongs, deleting House from the TARDIS machine. As the Doctor, Amy, and Rory recover, a remnant of the TARDIS matrix, still in Idris' body, sadly comments she will not be able to communicate with the Doctor after this but will be there for him. Idris' body disappears as the TARDIS matrix is fully restored.

The Doctor installs a security field around the matrix to prevent it from being compromised in the future. Rory asks the Doctor about some of Idris' final words—"The only water in the forest is the river"—but the Doctor doesn't understand. After Amy and Rory leave to find a new bedroom, their original purged by House, the Doctor talks to the TARDIS, and, in response, a nearby lever moves on its own, sending the TARDIS to its next destination.

[edit] Continuity

"The Doctor's Wife" revisits many mythology elements regarding the Doctor and the TARDIS established from the original run of the show and continued into the new series. Idris, as the TARDIS, affirms that the Doctor left with her, a type 40 TARDIS, to flee Gallifrey more than 700 years ago, and the TARDIS' history of unreliability is explained as her taking the Doctor not where he wants to go, but where he needs to go. The Doctor has mentioned that the TARDIS is alive in previous episodes, including in The Five Doctors, and has referred to 'her' as "old girl" many times, and as "sexy" occasionally in his Eleventh incarnation, both of which Idris indicates she likes.

The Doctor refers to altering the control room's appearance as changing the desktop, as the Fifth Doctor does in "Time Crash". Like the Third Doctor in Inferno, the Doctor and Idris operate a TARDIS control panel outside of an outer TARDIS shell. The Doctor also jettisons TARDIS rooms to create thrust, as in Logopolis and Castrovalva. The TARDIS is mentioned to have retained an archive of previous control rooms unbeknownst to the Doctor, including many he has yet to create; the one shown in this episode is the design featured between "Rose" and "The Eleventh Hour", used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors.

When speaking of his fellow Time Lord the Corsair, the Doctor implies that Time Lords can change gender on regeneration. The Doctor admits he killed all of the Time Lords, alluding to the events of the Time War and The End of Time. In The War Games, the Second Doctor contacted the Time Lords using a cube similar to those seen in this episode. The Doctor suggests visiting the Eye of Orion, which is seen in The Five Doctors. The Doctor again refers to himself as "a madman with a box", reprising Amy's and his own description of himself in "The Eleventh Hour".

The Ood "Nephew" displays green eyes (indicating, as with the green-lit TARDIS, that he is possessed by House);[3] Oodkind's eyes also changed colour in "The Impossible Planet" / "The Satan Pit" and "Planet of the Ood". Alluding to the Ood controlled by the Beast in the former episodes, the Doctor refers to Nephew as "another Ood I failed to save."

The Doctor states that the Corsair always put a tattoo of a snake eating its own tail on each of his new bodies; the tattoo is on the left arm of his final body, being worn by Auntie. The Third Doctor's body came complete with a snake tattoo on his left arm, as shown when he showers in Spearhead from Space.

[edit] Production

[edit] Writing

"The Doctor's Wife" is Neil Gaiman's (pictured) first contribution to Doctor Who.

The episode was written by Neil Gaiman. After Steven Moffat replaced Russell T Davies as the showrunner of Doctor Who, being a fan of Gaiman's blog, Moffat met with Gaiman and Gaiman asked to write an episode. In an interview Gaiman stated "I came up with something that was one of those things where you thought that nobody's done that before."[4] The episode was originally titled "The House of Nothing".[5] Gaiman suggested they make an episode which centres on the TARDIS itself, which was not done before for the entire series since it began in 1963. The central idea was a "what if" scenario to see what would happen if the Doctor and the TARDIS got to talk together. Head writer Steven Moffat liked the idea of featuring the TARDIS as a woman, believing this to be the "ultimate love story" for the Doctor.[6]

Gaiman began writing the episode before Matt Smith was even cast as the Eleventh Doctor; Gaiman envisaged David Tennant's performance in the first draft, knowing Smith would play the Doctor differently. Despite this he had no issue writing the dialogue. The episode was originally slated for the eleventh episode of the fifth series. However, it was delayed to the sixth because of budget issues; the eleventh episode would be replaced with "The Lodger".[4] Even so, Gaiman was forced to operate with less money than he would have liked; for instance, he had to scrap a scene set in the TARDIS' swimming pool.[7]

The move to the sixth series also meant Gaiman had to include Rory, who ceased to exist in the original slot in the fifth series. With Rory included, Gaiman had to "reshape" much of the second half of the episode, featuring Amy being on the run in the TARDIS. In the original draft where Amy was the only companion, Gaiman added a "heartbreaking monologue" by the character, further stating "you get to see what it's like to be the companion from the companion's point of view, and she got to talk about essentially in that version how sad it is, in some ways. One day something will happen to her, she'll get married, she'll get eaten by monsters, she'll die, she'll get sick of this, but he'll go on forever."[4] At a certain point, Gaiman had tired of re-writing drafts and asked Steven Moffat for help. Moffat wrote in what Gaiman called "several of [the episode's] best lines" and rapidly rewrote several scenes when budget problems harmed filming locations.[8]

[edit] Casting

In September 2010, Suranne Jones announced she was cast a guest spot on Doctor Who as Idris for an episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who. Jones previously played Mona Lisa in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Mona Lisa's Revenge.[9] Sometime after appearing on The Sarah Jane Adventures, Jones was contacted to appear on Doctor Who at Gaiman's request, because they were looking for an actress who "is odd; beautiful but strange looking, and quite funny."[10] Moffat meanwhile described Idris as "sexy plus motherly plus utterly mad plus serene."[6] During a read-through of the script, the producers asked her to "neutralise [her] a bit," because they did not want Jones to "be a Northerner" or have a standard accent, but to act "kinda like the Doctor."[10] Later, in March 2011, Gaiman confirmed Michael Sheen would also guest star in the episode to voice a character.[11] Adrian Schiller previously appeared in the Eighth Doctor audio drama Time Works where he played Zanith.[12]

[edit] Filming

It was planned as the third episode in the 2011 series but the order was changed during the production process.[13] Filming took place in August 2010,[5] although during a 10 October 2010 appearance on Daybreak, guest star Suranne Jones stated that she had been filming green screen special effects only the night before.[14] The scenes where Amy and Rory are on the run allowed the audience to explore the TARDIS outside the control room, something the producers had wanted to do for a while. A series of corridors was constructed and retained for future use. [15] The episode also featured the return of the older TARDIS control room from the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant era. Gaiman had originally wanted to reconstruct a console room from the original series, but the cost proved prohibitive. [16] The set was retained after filming for "The Eleventh Hour", but has since been removed.[17] Arthur Darvill noted the floor of the older set had a cheese grater-like quality to it, so when the scene called for the cast to fall on it, they found it uncomfortable to stay down for a long period of time.[6]

"The Doctor's Wife" features a make-shift TARDIS console, which was piloted by the Doctor and Idris. The console was designed by Susannah Leah, a schoolgirl from Todmorden, who won a competition on Blue Peter, a children's creative arts program, that challenged its viewers to imagine a TARDIS console based on household objects.[18][19] Leah's design was selected by Moffat, Edward Thomas, a production designer for Doctor Who, and Tim Levell, a Blue Peter editor, along with final input amoung the three age-group winners from Smith.[19] Michael Pickward, the production designer for the series, commented that Leah's design captured the nature of "bits and pieces" of what TARDIS consoles have been in the past, as well as the nature of the makeshift console needed for this episode.[19] The drawing was redesigned faithfully by the production team into the prop for the show, including the use of a coat hanger to start the makeshift TARDIS.[19] Leah was brought by Blue Peter to see both the set under construction and on location during filming of the makeshift TARDIS scenes, meeting Smith and the other actors and production crew.[19] Character Options will release a toy playset based on Leah's console later in 2011.[19] The House planetoid in the pocket universe was filmed on location at a quarry outside Cardiff.[6]

[edit] Broadcast and reception

After its original broadcast, "The Doctor's Wife" received overnight figures of 6.09 million viewers, with a 29.5 per cent audience share. It became the third highest broadcast of the night, behind Britain's Got Talent on ITV1, and the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, which was shown later on BBC One.[20] The episode recieved a final BARB rating of 7.97 million with an audience share of 34.7%.[21]

The episode was positively received. The Guardian's Dan Martin said: "With so many wild ideas at play, this would have been so easy to get wrong...yet in every sense it was pitched perfectly".[22] The AV Club gave the episode a score of "A", saying it was a "pretty terrific [episode]...a brisk, scary, inventive adventure filled with clever concepts and witty dialogue. And a lot of heart when in the way it deals with an important relationship rarely addressed on the series".[23]

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Matt Smith Video and New Series Overview". BBC. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  2. ^ "Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife". Radio Times. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  3. ^ "Monsters: The Ood". BBC. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  4. ^ a b c Brew, Simon (9 May 2011). "Neil Gaiman interview: all about writing Doctor Who". Den of Geek. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b Masters, Tim (24 May 2010). "Neil Gaiman reveals power of writing Doctor Who". BBC News. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d "Bigger on the Inside". Doctor Who Confidential. BBC. BBC Three. 14 May 2011. No. 4, series 6.
  7. ^ Martin, Dan (14 May 2010). "Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife – Series 32, episode 4" (in English). The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Adventures in the Screen Trade". Neil Gaiman. 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  9. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (23 September 2010). "Suranne Jones cast in 'Doctor Who'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  10. ^ a b Martin, Will (14 May 2011). "Suranne Jones ('Doctor Who') interview". Cult Box. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  11. ^ James, Richard (21 March 2011). "Michael Sheen to appear in new series of Doctor Who". Metro (Associated Newspapers). Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Doctor Who - Time Works". Big Finish. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Episodes shuffle for the 2011 series...". Doctor Who Magazine (430): 7. 9 Feb 2011 (cover date).
  14. ^ "Broadcast of 10 October 2010". Daybreak. ITV. ITV. 10 October 2010. ; YouTube video, accessed 20 May 2011.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Coming to America". Doctor Who Confidential. BBC. BBC Three. 23 April 2011. No. 1, series 6.
  18. ^ "Blue Peter awaits for our Susannah". Todmorden News. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  19. ^ a b c d e f "TARDIS Console Competition". Presenters: Helen Skelton,Barney Harwood, and Andy Akinwolere. Blue Peter. BBC. 10 May 2011.
  20. ^ Millar, Paul (15 May 2011). "Eurovision TV ratings reaches 11-year high". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Final BARB-Rating". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. BARB. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  22. ^ "Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife – Series 32, episode 4". The Guardian. 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  23. ^ "The Doctor's Wife". 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
Direct download: TDP_177_The_Doctors_Wife.mp3
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