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Cult Recap

'Doctor Who': New episode 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' review

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Season 7, episode 11 | Aired Saturday, Apr 27 2013 at 19:15 BST on BBC One

When the TARDIS is pulled aboard a junk ship as salvage, the Doctor and his companion are separated in the chaos that follows, with Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) becoming lost within the bowels of the ship. To save the girl and his craft, the Doctor (Matt Smith) will have to travel to the very heart of the TARDIS...

A spaceship salvage team in Doctor Who S07E05: 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'

© BBC

A spaceship salvage team


> Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS video review - Geek TV

In the run-up to this episode's broadcast, Steven Moffat has talked plenty about how the first time we took a jaunt deep into the TARDIS - way back in 1978's 'The Invasion of Time' - the disused hospital interior we were presented with didn't exactly cut the mustard as a representation of the ship's 'infinite interior'.

But let's be fair - a similar sojourn in Neil Gaiman's otherwise exemplary 'The Doctor's Wife' in 2011 also fell a little flat, as we saw what appeared to be the same corridor shot from multiple angles.

The Doctor (Matt Smith) in Doctor Who S07E05: 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'

© BBC

The Doctor in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS



Steve Thompson's 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' is a different beast, though - with almost the entirety of the episode dedicated to exploring the ship's innards, the production values have been stepped up and the TARDIS feels *real* - with a series of different dynamic sets representing the interior.

Aspects of the ship we've heard so much about - the swimming pool, the much-vaunted TARDIS library, even the Eye of Harmony - are all wonderfully realised. No anti-climax here, thank you very much.

Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in Doctor Who S07E05: 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'

© BBC

Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman)



In general, 'Journey' is an absolute treat for Doctor Who fans, with geeky touches ranging from nods to the show's recent past - Amy's homemade police box prop - to the show's very beginnings. The scene in which we stray into the console room and hear echoes from the past - from Susan to the Third Doctor to Ian Chesterton - is superbly atmospheric.

Perhaps the most exciting nod to the show's epic history is the impressive tome that Clara discovers in the library - a book that tells the true story of the Time War and reveals the Doctor's name, hinting at an epic conclusion to this current eight-episode run.

Clara's secrets are also exposed alongside the Doctor's, as the Time Lord finally confronts his friend with the messy truth about Oswin and Clara the Victorian governess. Alright, so she won't remember that conversation next week, but from a dramatic point of view these scenes remain valid, since they appear to confirm to the viewer that - whatever is really going on with Clara - she truly, honestly doesn't have a clue that she's anything more than an ordinary girl.

A still from Doctor Who S07E05: 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'

© BBC

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS



So that's the fan hardcore pacified, but what of the casual viewer? Well, for them, 'Journey' presents an effective and memorable threat - the ossified monsters not only look great but are shot in an interesting and vivid fashion by director Mat King - a Who newcomer who should definitely be asked back to helm a future instalment.

With so much done right, does 'Journey' do anything wrong? I'll admit that I initially had some concerns about the episode's guest cast, with our three salvage workers - Ashley Walters's Gregor, Mark Oliver's Bram and Jahvel Hall's Tricky - appearing to lack a little in the personality department, Tricky's robotic quirks aside.

But the second half of the episode addresses this and fittingly, as Tricky's true nature is revealed and a little family drama unspools, the three brothers start to feel a little more human.

The Doctor (Matt Smith) & Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in Doctor Who S07E05: 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'

© BBC

The Doctor & Clara



If I'm forced to nitpick, the episode's concept does mean that Clara gets little to do but scream and dash about until the episode's final act when she's rescued by the Doctor - hardly pushing Jenna-Louise Coleman as an actress.

But that's the only major flaw in a finely-crafted script. Even the difficult climax - which could've driven the episode completely off the rails - succeeds. The 'Big Friendly Button' is not just a running gag but a timey-wimey, reset twist that actually works on a logical and a dramatic level, and doesn't feel like a cheat.

Packed with fannish thrills and nods to the past and future, but also hugely enjoyable in its own right, 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' is so much more than its central gimmick, providing everything - plot twists, a memorable monster, snappy dialogue and character drama - that a great Doctor Who episode should.

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