by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Doctor's Wife"

Posted 21 May 2011 in by Catriona

Right, things got a bit fraught there for a minute, but now I’m all set to live-blog the Neil Gaiman episode of Doctor Who.

All set, but a bit nervous. Understandable, under the circumstances. I’m anxious to make a good thing out of this, but also anxious that I’ll get completely flustered and the whole thing will become one long fangirl squeal.

Ooops, spoilers.

We open on a creepy, green-tinged planet. A woman who looks like Helena Bonham-Carter says, “Will it be me, Uncle?” And Uncle says, yes: it’s Idris’s turn, and it’s going to be really painful, as Nephew (an Ood) drains her mind and soul from her body, leaving her body empty for a new soul.

“There’s a Time Lord coming,” says a woman.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor tells an unsavoury anecdote about a robot king who wasn’t a robot king, and then someone knocks at the door.

The scrumptious little beauty knocking at the door is a Time Lord emergency message system (a little box) from a Time Lord called the Corsair.

DOCTOR: Didn’t feel like himself unless he had that tattoo somewhere. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooh, she was a bad girl.

Well, that’s Time Lord gender change made canonical, then.

Time Lords are all but extinct in our galaxy, but this is coming from outside our universe, and the Doctor is burning up some spare rooms (including the swimming pool, the scullery, and squash court 7) to get through the Rift and out to a small, greenish planet.

But once they land there, the TARDIS starts to power down. Everything’s draining, says the Doctor, though this is impossible. The soul of the TARDIS has vanished. “Where would it go?” asks the Doctor.

And then Idris comes gasping back to life, but her gasp is the TARDIS dematerialisation sound.



The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, into a planet that looks like a junkyard.

RORY: What is this place? The scrapyard at the end of the universe?
DOCTOR: Outside the universe, not the end of it.

The Doctor explains it as being not anything like a soap bubble with a tiny bubble clinging to the end of it. Then he shifts to the universe being a plug hole.

Then Idris turns up and kisses him, calling him her thief.

UNCLE: Strangers. Welcome. Sorry about the mad woman.

He introduces himself, the motherly woman introduces herself as Auntie, Nephew keeps in the background, and Idris is casually restrained.

UNCLE: Keep back from this one. She bites.

And she bites the Doctor.

IDRIS: Biting is excellent. It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.

Idris is clearly not entirely comfortable with language, and keeps trying to snog the Doctor. She tells him that the little boxes will make him angry and that his chin is hilarious. She defines “petrichor” for Rory, telling him that he will need to know what it means at some point, and then faints.

The Doctor spots Nephew, and manages to fix his communication device, which then broadcasts dozens and dozens of messages from Time Lords.

The Doctor’s noticeably staggered by this, though Auntie says that there’s only the four of them, and House.

The Doctor wants to know what House is, and they say it’s the world. They offer to introduce the Doctor to House, and he accepts because he’s fascinated by the fact that somewhere nearby, there are lots and lots of Time Lords.

In a cage elsewhere, Idris is struggling to think of a word, a big word and a sad word.

But the Doctor is realising that the asteroid is sentient—sentient and creepy. I wish I could manage, in the time I had, to express how creepy it is when Auntie and Uncle shut down.

House says that there have been many TARDISes on his back in days gone by, and the Doctor points out that he’s the last one. No more TARDISes here. The Doctor asks whether he can look around, and they say, yes, he can look around all he likes.

Idris calls for her thief.

The Doctor wants to save his friends, though Amy objects.

AMY: You want to be forgiven.
DOCTOR: Well, don’t we all.

The Doctor sends Amy back to the TARDIS for his screwdriver, and then sends Rory off to look after Amy, much to Amy’s annoyance.

RORY: He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord.
AMY: It’s just what they’re called. Doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.

Of course, the Doctor has his screwdriver, so it’s not a good sign when the TARDIS door automatically locks behind them.

The Doctor traces the voices to a little cupboard. He says, “They can’t all be in here”—but they are, because they’re just the cubes. Auntie and Uncle appear behind him.

DOCTOR: Just admiring your Time Lord distress-call collection.

He challenges Auntie and Uncle, realising that they’re cobbled together from bits and pieces from other people. Auntie, for example, has the Corsair’s arm.

AUNTIE: He was a strapping big bloke, wasn’t he, Uncle? I got the arm, and Uncle, he got the spine and the kidneys.
DOCTOR: You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it’ll do to me.

He tells them to run, but Uncle says it’s too late: House is too clever.

Amy rings, and the Doctor reveals that he locked the doors behind them. But the Doctor has remembered that Idris knew that the boxes would make him angry. He goes to find Idris, while the TARDIS is surrounded by a mysterious green light.

The Doctor doesn’t know who Idris is, until she makes the dematerialisation noise.

DOCTOR: No, you’re not. You’re a bitey mad lady.

Idris says that the Doctor stole her, and she stole him.

DOCTOR: I borrowed you.
IDRIS: Borrowed implies an intention to give back. What makes you think that I’d ever give you back?

She talks the Doctor into letting her out of the cage.

IDRIS: Are all humans like this?
DOCTOR: Like what?
IDRIS: So much bigger on the inside.

Through a complicated conversation that I can’t repeat, they realise that House removes the TARDIS matrix so that he can feed off the remaining Rift energy without being destroyed. And as the Doctor runs to try and save Amy and Rory, the Cloister Bell starts ringing.

Not the Cloister Bell!

Amy and Rory hold hands, and the TARDIS dematerialises.

Rory says that they’re safe because they’re in the TARDIS, but House says they’re half right—they’re in the TARDIS—and asks why he shouldn’t kill them straight away.

The Doctor runs off to find Auntie and Uncle, but it’s time for them to die, which they do promptly after explaining that House is off to our Universe, to find more TARDISes.

Idris, whose body is failing under the stress, tells him to be calm.

DOCTOR: How? I’m a madman with a box, without the box!

But then he realises that it’s a junkyard of dead TARDISes, which gives him some hope.

DOCTOR: Do you have a name?
IDRIS: 700 years, finally he asks. I think you call me … Sexy.
DOCTOR: Only when we’re alone!

In the TARDIS, House is thrilled by his new corridors, but still wants to know why he shouldn’t just kill them. Rory’s best idea is that killing them quickly wouldn’t be much fun. Which is a fair point, but a bit silly.

House tells them to run.

The Doctor and Idris find the valley of half-eaten TARDISes.

DOCTOR: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
IDRIS: I’m thinking all my sisters are dead; they’ve been devoured, and we’re looking at their corpses.
DOCTOR: No, sorry. I wasn’t thinking that at all.

No, the Doctor is thinking that he can build a new TARDIS, even though it’s impossible. Idris accuses the Doctor of being like a nine-year-old rebuilding a motorcycle in his bedroom and never reading the instructions.

IDRIS: There’s a sign on my door. You’ve been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?
DOCTOR: That’s not instructions!
IDRIS: There’s an instruction at the bottom. What does it say?
DOCTOR: ‘Pull to open’.
IDRIS: And what do you do?
DOCTOR: I push.

He says that Idris wasn’t reliable, because she didn’t always take him where he wanted to go. No, she says: she always took him where he needed to go.

She did! says the Doctor. And he thinks it would be brilliant if they could always talk like this. But the TARDIS isn’t built that way. And at this point, they need to keep working, because Idris’s body is failing and the universe they’re in is also failing.

Elsewhere, Amy and Rory keep being separated by the doors in the TARDIS corridors, as House plays with them.

The Doctor has half a console room built, but it doesn’t work.

IDRIS: Did you ever wonder why I chose you, all those years ago?
DOCTOR: I chose you. You were unlocked.
IDRIS: Of course I was! I wanted to see the Universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one brave enough.

House continues to terrorise Amy and Rory, showing Amy an ancient, tortured, brutal Rory.

The Doctor can’t power his console room up, to his frustration. But he still has the TARDIS, in Idris, and she has the power to get them started.

They dematerialise.

On the TARDIS, Amy stumbles across Rory’s corpse and his anti-Amy graffiti. But as she’s weeping over him, the real Rory comes around the corner, and the corpse and the graffiti all vanish.

They run again.

The Doctor and Idris are locked onto the TARDIS. But the TARDIS needs to lower the shields, and the Doctor asks her to get a telepathic message to Amy.

IDRIS: Which one’s Amy? The pretty one?

Of course, she messages Rory, but she gets the message through, sending him to her collection of archived control rooms. She has about thirty, though the Doctor has only “changed the desktop” about a dozen times.

House keeps messing with them; Amy can’t see and Rory seems to have banged his head. But Amy moves towards his voice, past his unconscious body … towards Nephew. She realises who he is when she grasps the tentacles, and she and Rory run.

The Doctor and Idris tear through the Rift.

DOCTOR: You’re doing it, you sexy thing!
IDRIS: See, you do call me that! Is it my name?
DOCTOR: You bet it’s your name!

Rory and Amy reach the old control room, and Amy realises that the key is telepathic, hence the need to know the meaning of petrichor.

They arrive in an old control room: it’s the Ninth Doctor’s control room, though I’d have liked an older one. They lower the shields, but Nephew works his way into the control room, and, on House’s orders, moves to kill them.

Then the Doctor and Idris rematerialise.

DOCTOR: Amy, this is … well, she’s my TARDIS. Except she’s a woman. She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: She’s the TARDIS?
DOCTOR: And she’s a woman! She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: Did you wish really hard?

Nephew is dead, and Idris isn’t in good condition, either. But House can still kill them, if he wants.

Rory looks after Idris, while the Doctor tells House that if he deletes 30% of the TARDIS rooms, he can achieve enough thrust to make it through into their own universe.

House says he’ll start by deleting the room they’re in, thus ridding himself of vermin.

And he does.

But the TARDIS has a failsafe. And they rematerialise in the main control room.

HOUSE: Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.
DOCTOR: Fear me. I’ve killed them all.

And, as the Doctor points out, though Idris is dead, the TARDIS matrix, whom he ripped from her home and forced into Idris’s body, is back in the control room now. And she’s free.

The TARDIS matrix drives House out of the TARDIS, as the Doctor watches and encourages her.

And then Idris calls to the Doctor. She’s glowing with golden light. She tells the Doctor that she’s been searching for a word, a big complicated word, but so sad. And she’s found it.

DOCTOR: What word?
IDRIS: Alive.
DOCTOR: Alive isn’t sad.
IDRIS: It is when it’s over. I’ll always be here. But this is when we talked. And there’s something I wanted to say to you.
DOCTOR: Goodbye.
IDRIS: No. Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.
DOCTOR: Please. I don’t want you to.

But she has to. She’s back in the TARDIS now, but she’s gone, too. She can’t talk again.

Rory says that at the end, she kept repeating, “The only water in the forest is the river.” She said they’d need to know that at some point.

Rory’s bothered by Idris’s death, despite having seen death many times.

DOCTOR: Letting it get to you. You know what that’s called? Being alive.

He asks the TARDIS where they should go this time.

DOCTOR: What do you think, dear? Where should we take the kids this time?
AMY: Look at you. It’s always you two, long after the rest have gone.

The Doctor tells them that he’ll make them a new bedroom, and Amy and Rory ask if they can have something other than bunkbeds this time, despite the Doctor pointing out that they’re beds with a ladder.

They head off to bed, and the Doctor’s left, as always, with his TARDIS.

Next week: a Matthew Graham episode, but it looks much, much better than “Fear Her”.

Share your thoughts [7]


Drew wrote at May 21, 09:49 pm

Been waiting for an episode like this ever since the show was rebooted. Loved it, completely made up for the crappy pirate episode from last week.


Catriona wrote at May 21, 10:06 pm

I never even imagined an episode like this. Nick and I were torn between “Who but Neil Gaiman would ever have thought of a love story between the Doctor and his TARDIS?” and “Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of a love story between the Doctor and his TARDIS before?”. To my mind, it was the way it balanced between those two things that made it work.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. Plenty of good things, but nothing bad.


richard wrote at May 22, 04:31 am


IDRIS: No. Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.

The most beautiful, rewarding moment of television. Ever. Without exception. No correspondence will be entered into!

The only thing the episode needed – I’m with you here, Catriona – was an older archived control room. Remember when The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane stumbled on the “alternate” control room?

Of course you do…

Excuse me… I think I have something in my eye…


Catriona wrote at May 22, 04:37 am

The wooden control room was exactly the one I was thinking of! I would have loved to have seen that one. But Nick thinks they probably had to go with what they had available. This is almost certainly true, but still slightly unsatisfying.

Ever so slightly.

Really, the episode was just so wonderful that I feel a bit silly making even such a minimal complaint.


richard wrote at May 22, 04:42 am

…and, to be fair, the makeshift control room materialising in just about any pre-Ninth Doctor control room would have left precious little room for anything else!


Catriona wrote at May 22, 05:39 am

Nick and I were watching “Mawdryn Undead” the other day, when Nyssa and Tegan are stuck waiting in the TARDIS for permission to follow the transmat capsule back to Earth, and they have to drag in some little wicker stools from elsewhere in the TARDIS, just so they have somewhere to sit while they wait.

I was saying to Nick then that for a room they spend almost their entire lives in, it’s really small and spartan.


Catriona wrote at May 22, 05:40 am

Oh, and I’ve also heard (hem, hem) that the full-length Doctor Who Confidential for this episode is very good, and contains much footage of Neil Gaiman being charming.

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