Last week the Doctor and Clara trekked through a haunted house and a pocket universe. This week – a journey to the centre of the TARDIS.
The episode begins with the Van Baalen brothers, two of them and an android; salvage workers who manage to bring in the TARDIS while she’s in space. Inside, the Doctor was trying to teach Clara how to drive her and accidentally lowers the shields and as a result, the TARDIS turns into a trippy labyrinthine wasteland of metal and lava monsters.
The Doctor threatens the Van Baalen brothers with a TARDIS self-destruct if they don’t find Clara in time – she’s fallen into the infinite depths of the TARDIS, alone and confused. All of us Who fans have fantasized over what the depths of the TARDIS look like and let me tell you, this episode does not disappoint! While Gregor van Baalen sends his older brother Bram off to strip the TARDIS console (cue the screaming fans hurling tomatoes at the screen), he manages to find the TARDIS’ architectural reconfiguration system – basically the room of the TARDIS that recreates all of the rooms in the TARDIS and even when she redesigns herself. Gregor doesn’t listen to the advice of the Doctor or Tricky the android, and rips off one of the circuits; we all know the TARDIS doesn’t like that, and now the old girl is taking revenge.
It doesn’t matter where the trio go, the TARDIS always redirects them to the same room, but Gregor refuses to give up the circuit, and meanwhile the clock is ticking and Clara is still lost, wondering around, chased by a lava monster. Bram attempts to get into the TARDIS console and is eaten by one of the lava monsters, and Clara finds a multitude of rooms including the famous swimming pool and the Library – oh, and a book on the Time War. Clara manages to find her way back to the console room and so does the Doctor, although they are both echoes of the console room and with a little bit of jiggery pokery (yes, that is a technical term) the Doctor and Clara are finally reunited. She punches the Doctor.
Now the Doctor, Clara, Gregor and Tricky hurry to the engine room after the Doctor reveals that there really was no TARDIS self-destruct but, oh, the engine’s about to blow. We see the Eye of Harmony in it’s entirety for the first time: a star that’s about to turn into a black hole captured and placed into a constant state of decay. However, the quartet are suddenly trapped in the engine room as the lava monsters are coming in from either side, and Gregor’s scanner reveals that they are Clara – the damaged TARDIS isn’t leaking just the past, but the future as well, and the Doctor reveals the secret of the multiple Claras. Gregor reveals that Tricky is also his younger brother who was nearly killed in an accident, and they gave him bionic eyes and told him that he was an android, as he had no memory. Tricky nearly falls off the side of the bridge into the engine room and Gregor grabs him – however they end up turning into Siamese lava monsters themselves.
The Doctor and Clara hurry towards the heart of the TARDIS, and the Doctor confronts Clara about who she is (who is she? How does she keep coming back?) and Clara is properly terrified of him. The Doctor then understands that they are very close to the heart of the TARDIS and with one huge leap; they both land there… only to find that she’s already been destroyed. She’s always taken care of the Doctor and fixed him, and now he can’t do anything for her (and yes, I’ll admit that I did tear up here).
However, the words that have been branded on Clara’s hand since the TARDIS was first damaged become clear: big friendly button, a message from the future Doctor to the past Doctor. As the Doctor goes back to the control room and prepares to send the message through to the beginning of the day (through a crack that looks suspiciously like the Time Rift in Amy’s wall), Clara reveals that she saw the Doctor’s name in the book in the Library. Before it’s revealed though, the Doctor hushes her and sends through the message to the past Doctor. The day begins again without any casualties – all three of the Van Baalen brothers are alive, the TARDIS is fixed again and Clara has no memory of the Doctor’s name or her multiple selves.
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was an episode that I thoroughly enjoyed, enough references to appease the old fans and enough action to entertain the new fans; feels and emotions all ‘round! I commend the writing of Stephen Thompson, and tune in next week for The Crimson Horror.