Sexy Is As Sexy Does

Review of The Doctor's Wife
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Oh, me of little faith.

Even knowing Neil Gaiman's work both by reputation and by example (e.g., the rather dark novel American Gods), I still doubted the likely quality of the episode he had written once I learned some of the details.   Specifically, when the news of Episode 4's title came out, I groaned inwardly.  OK, sure, I was 99.9999% certain it was a red herring - nothing "new" and "notable" would be learned about the Doctor's personal history, and there was going to be some tricky way in which there was and yet wasn't an actual wife (spot on there) - but just the suggestion was enough to turn my stomach, especially since I knew there were going to be fans out there somewhere saying, "I knew it! Here's where we learn about River!"

And then there was the Ood.  Now don't get me wrong - the Ood are an interesting enough race, and they certainly have their place (I happen to believe that place is firmly in the RTD era...).  Regardless, the sight of an Ood at the end of last week's trailer was enough to reduce my appetite for this episode by about an order of magnitude.  Thank goodness all of that was totally irrelevant.

All it took was the pre-credit sequence to fish me in.  Once I realized the eponymous character was actually the TARDIS, I was sold.  Who else has the Doctor never had to leave behind?  Who else has had his back through all eleven incarnations?  At the root of Doctor Who is always the Doctor and his TARDIS - all else changes almost without notice.

And how brilliantly she translates to human form ("did you wish really hard?" asks Amy for all of us)!  She has trouble with tenses, accustomed as she is to existing across all time and space, rather than having to deal with sequential events on a human/Time Lord scale.  That's one of the things that make her both all the more endearing and utterly portentous (raise your hand if you also heard a capital "R" in her pronouncement that "the only water in the forest is the River").

We get to see a bit deeper into their relationship, with a reversal of our usual perspective ("I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away!").  When poor Idris/Sexy sees her dead sisters in the junkyard (talk about being the last of your kind...), we feel her pain.  But that also affords us the opportunity to see a bit of the variety and capabilities of TARDISes.  Even the junkyard bits are covered with hexes/roundels, which gives us a sense of connection with the rest of the Time Lord race that we haven't seen since another TARDIS last appeared (in Time and the Rani, if I'm not mistaken).  And who knew a TARDIS could either telepathically connect to someone that way, or archive control rooms (past or future)?

Is it fair to dub her his "wife"?  She calls him "my thief" and he calls her Sexy.  They bicker like only two entities who know each other better than anyone else can.  And in the end, they love each other all the more for having reached an understanding ("You have never been very reliable! ... You didn't always take me where I wanted to go." "No, but I always took you where you needed to go.").  If that's not the moral equivalent of a spouse, I don't know what is.

Gaiman also added few brilliant little gems to the canon, like the mention of how the Corsair never felt himself without that tattoo - "or herself, a couple of times."  No one ever need ask again whether or not the Doctor could regenerate into a woman.  And how many fans, like the TARDIS herself, have been irritated for just ages that the Doctor pushes a door that clearly says "pull to open"?  These little moments of attention to detail are what make this episode a lovesong to the fans nearly as much as to the TARDIS herself.

Time to move on from Idris/TARDIS.  (Except that I have to add one last note about her name:  doesn't Idris seem rather similar to TARDIS?  What if it's really IDRIS?  What would that be, then:  Inter Dimensional Rift In Space?  Hmmm...).  There were plenty of other aspects to love, too.  We're back to basics, literally running up and down corridors (hooray! we get to see more of the interior!), and we see a real deepening of the Companions as characters.  Rory is no longer just "the pretty one"; he takes the lead more than once.  Amy defers to him, putting all her faith in him, and her life in his hands when they need a reason for House to delay their demise.  He's the one who gets them through the horror of those corridors and to the entrance of the old Control Room.  She's still holding up her end of the bargain, too, though.  It takes Amy's quick thinking to realize it's a telepathic interface and actually get them into the room.

On the surface, the episode feels like a great stand-alone.  However, we already know that one portent about the water in the forest will come back to haunt the characters at some point ("She said we'd need to know that someday").  There are other hints, too.  I can't be the only one who thought that House's hijacking of the TARDIS looked a lot like the energy that sucked it onto the alternate plane with the alien ship in last week's episode.  Further, as my friend HLime likes to point out, alternate universes seem likely to play a big role in the series arc.  If nothing else, establishing a way that a TARDIS could break through into a place "outside the universe" opens up one possible mechanism for allowing the future return of Time Lords in one guise or another.  One can only hope it will happen.

So pardon my gushing.  I guess I can't help adoring a story about the Doctor getting some Quality Time with the one true love of his life.  They may never again talk, but she will always be there, always looking out for him and making sure he's where he needs to be.  There's no more beautiful relationship than that.

Next time:  A two-parter by the man who wrote Fear Her.  Combine that pedigree with a somewhat lackluster, under-appealing trailer, and I hope you'll excuse me if I'm unenthused.

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