Posted 24 February 2009 in Doctor Who by Catriona
I feel some sort of disclaimer is necessary. Perhaps I should have made such a disclaimer when I began live-blogging these repeat episodes. But better late than never . . .
Disclaimer: Had I live-blogged these episodes when they first aired, the results would be very different. My reaction to these season two episodes is tempered by my viewings of season three and four, and my frustrations (and, in some cases, my delight) with the way in which characters have developed over the past two seasons. I enjoyed this season very much (well, except for “Fear Her”), but I do see that my commentary might be crankier than it would have been two years ago.
I’m still not finding this Jack Dee comedy very funny. Perhaps if I watched an entire episode?
So this is the Steven Moffat episode for season two? I seriously love Steven Moffat, but I didn’t think this one was as brilliant as “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,” “Silence in the Library/Forests of the Dead,” or—most brilliant of all—“Blink.”
It’s still great, though.
It’s also running late.
No, hang on: Project Next is asking me if I have an “18—30-year-old outlook.” What the hell does that mean?
No, wait: the palace at Versailles is under attack by, according to the king, creatures that may not even be human.
But the terribly pretty blonde woman whom I may as well start calling Madame de Pompadour says it’s fine: the clock is broken and the only man she’s ever loved (save the king) will soon be coming to help them.
Then she leans into the fireplace and shouts, “Doctor? Doctor?”
Meanwhile, the TARDIS lands on a spaceship—and Mickey is thrilled to get a spaceship on his first go—while the Doctor swears that there’s nothing dangerous (though he’ll just do a scan to see if there’s anything dangerous).
Mickey eyes the starscape outside the window and sighs, “It’s so realistic!”
Then they find an eighteenth-century fireplace up against the side of the ship—but on the other side of the fireplace is another room, occupied by a little blonde girl called Renette, who says she’s in Paris in 1727, while the ship is in the 51st century.
The Doctor claims to be a fire inspector, which leads to my favourite line—“Right. Enjoy the rest of the fire.”
Then, by fiddling with the mantlepiece, he finds himself in Renette’s bedroom, but months later: there’s a loud ticking from the clock on the mantlepiece—but the Doctor notices—while chatting to a not-at-all-frightened Renette—that the clock is actually broken.
He says the ticking is too loud, too resonant: whatever’s making it is at least six feet—and it is, an amazing clockwork man who leaps up like a spring from beneath Renette’s bed.
The Doctor says the robot has been scanning Renette’s brain, but when Renette asks it whether it wants her, it says no: “Not yet. You are incomplete.”
The Doctor tells Renette it’s a nightmare, that even monsters have nightmares.
RENETTE: What do monsters have nightmares about?
THE DOCTOR: Me.
He tricks the monster into coming back with him through the fireplace, and freezes it.
MICKEY: Cool. Ice gun.
THE DOCTOR: Fire extinguisher.
When he sees the robot without its wig, the Doctor goes into full monkey-with-a-tambourine mode, exclaiming about how beautiful it is, what a crime it would be to
destroy it, but that he will anyway—but the robot teleports away.
The Doctor forbids Rose and Mickey to hunt it down (they do, anyway), and flips back through the fireplace, to find that young Renette is now Sophia Myles—they have an enthusiastic discussion that I can’t transcribe, and then she snogs him.
It’s at roughly this point that the Doctor realises this:
THE DOCTOR: I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour!
Mickey and Rose, meanwhile, are traipsing around the spaceship armed with fire extinguishers, and finding that the ship’s parts have been replaced with human organs, with eyes and hearts.
The Doctor is being followed around by a horse, which allows the Doctor to step out into eighteenth-century Versailles, to see Renette and her companion discussing the imminent death of the king’s current mistress and Renette’s ambitions to replace her.
MICKEY: What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?
THE DOCTOR: Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get some perspective.
I really don’t think, Rose, that Madame de Pompadour is comparable to Camilla, or that their positions are comparable. On the other hand, you are being truly adorable in this episode, so I won’t pick on you.
As Renette stares into the mirror through which Rose, Mickey, and the Doctor are watching her, she become aware of another clockwork robot standing in a corner: the three on the spaceship leap through the mirror to her defense.
Renette orders the robot to answer the Doctor’s questions, and the robot explains that they used the crew to repair the ship.
THE DOCTOR: What did the flight deck smell like?
ROSE: Someone cooking.
The robots are opening the time windows to check on Renette’s development: they want her brain, the final part, but she is not done yet. But when Renette tells it to go, it teleports away, and the Doctor tells Mickey and Rose to chase after it.
THE DOCTOR: Take Arthur.
THE DOCTOR: It’s a good name for a horse.
ROSE: No, you’re not keeping the horse.
THE DOCTOR: I let you keep Mickey.
Rose and Mickey are taken prisoner by the robots (and in a discussion, Rose mentions that the Doctor mentioned Cleopatra once, which contradicts her claim last episode that he never discusses his past adventures).
The Doctor, meanwhile, is mucking around inside Renette’s mind, but she reads his mind, too—she pities his lonely childhood, and insists that he dance with her.
Rose and Mickey are strapped to gurneys; they’re compatible, apparently, but before they can be cut up for parts, the Doctor bursts in—“Have you met the French? My god they know how to party!”—with a pair of sunglasses on and his tie tied around his head as a bandanna, singing a song from My Fair Lady and claiming to have invented the banana daquiri.
ROSE: Oh, great. Look what the cat dragged in. “The Oncoming Storm.”
He does, however, manage to release Rose and Mickey, to overcome the robots (temporarily), but he can’t close the time windows—one of the robots is still out in the field. That robot sends a message saying she is complete—that Renette is thirty-seven years old, and therefore the same age as the ship—and that it is time to harvest her brain.
Rose pops into a time window behind which Renette is thirty two, to warn her that the robots will return in five years, that Renette can keep the robots occupied (but not stop them) until the Doctor arrives to help her.
Meanwhile, Mickey and the Doctor have located the time window behind which Renette is thirty seven, and Renette takes advantage of Rose’s distraction to nip through into the spaceship—she goes back to France, though, telling Rose that they both know that “the Doctor is worth the monsters.”
We flip back to the shot from the teaser, of Renette shouting into the fireplace, but this time it goes further, showing the robots taking Renette and the king through to the ballroom, which is full of terrified people screaming.
Renette refuses to accompany the robots, but they point out that they only need her head, and push her down—at which point a whinny is heard, and the Doctor crashes through the time window on Arthur, despite having told Rose that once the time window is smashed, there’s no returning to the ship. And, in fact, we can now see that behind the smashed mirror is nothing but brick and plaster.
Rose knows what the Doctor has done and is, obviously, devastated, but Mickey’s still not entirely sure.
The Doctor convinces the robots that now they are unable to complete their mission, since they cannot return to the ship, they have no purpose, and they all stop working and slump down.
Rose is still speechless, though Mickey hopes the Doctor will return.
The Doctor says that breaking one time window breaks them all, so he can’t use another to return: he seems quite resigned to the idea of being on the “slow path” with Madame de Pompadour, but she takes him through to a room that contains her old fireplace from her childhood bedroom, the one through which they first spoke. The Doctor says that it was off-line when the link with the ship broke (because she broke the connection when she moved it), so it should still work.
It does, and the Doctor finds himself back on the ship—but he tells Renette she has two minutes to pack a bag (while he tells Rose he’s back) and then she’s coming with him.
But when he comes back through the fireplace, he finds the king, who says he’s just missed Renette—she’ll be in Paris by six. He hands the Doctor a letter that Renette wrote, and we hear horses—and see that they are pulling a hearse.
Renette has died aged forty three.
The king asks what Renette says in her letter, but the Doctor tucks it in his pocket and leaves without a word.
Back in the TARDIS, Rose wants to know why the robots thought they could repair the ship with the head of Madame de Pompadour, and the Doctor speculates, but he’s subdued, and Mickey tactfully takes Rose off, asking her to show him around the TARDIS.
The Doctor takes Renette’s letter out of his pocket and reads it.
From the TARDIS console room, he turns off the fire, severing the last link with eighteenth-century France, and as the TARDIS dematerialises, we see behind it a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, and—with the camera moving outside the ship—we see the name “S.S. Madame de Pompadour” as the ship begins to drift in space.
Next week, Cybermen!