**** Warning this post contains spoilers about The Doctor’s Wife and may refer to previous episodes of Doctor Who. If you haven’t watched the episode or don’t want to be surprised do not read further. ****
Everyone seems to have a story that they would like to see the Doctor live out on screen, well this is Neil Gaiman’s and it is brilliant. This episode made me realize if I wasn’t already a Neil Gaiman fan, I would be now. This episode is sure to be a classic for years to come.
The story opens with two older people leading a younger woman to a spot where they explain that her soul will be sucked from her body by an Ood and replaced. They are very clear that it is scary and will hurt. They say excitedly that a Time Lord is coming and then the process begins.
A knock on the TARDIS door in the middle of deep space comes as an unexpected surprise for the Doctor, Rory and Amy. When the Doctor investigates he finds that he has received something akin to mail. This is not just any mail but a Time Lord emergency message! The box is marked with a snake symbol that the Doctor recognizes as the mark of The Corsair, a Time Lord the the Doctor describes as “one of the good ones”. Apparently these little boxes are what Time Lords fill with psychic energy when they are in peril and send to seek out other Time Lords to come to the rescue. This one found the Doctor who sets out to save the Corsair, apparently outside the universe.
When the Doctor arrives at this tiny planet outside the universe the TARDIS shuts down, all of the power is drained, and the soul of the TARDIS vanishes. At the same time we see the young lady from the beginning of the episode writhing on the ground, mouth agape, making the sound of the TARDIS. She glances at her hands and they are glowing with energy. She looks happy and excited.
The Doctor, Amy and Rory leave the TARDIS to try to figure out where they are. The Doctor describes this place as being outside of the universe, “like when a smaller soap bubble attaches to a much larger one.” The planet seems to be covered in mounds of junk and rubble that the Doctor explains is just trash that has fallen through the rift.
The young woman comes running up to the Doctor speaking gibberish, making very little sense. The two people from the beginning of the episode introduce themselves as Auntie and Uncle, warning the Doctor that the woman, whom they call Idris, is dangerous. After some more rambling by Idris, and a few nonsensical prophecies, including (to the Doctor)”The little boxes will make you mad” and (to Rory)”it means the smell of dust after it rains”, she passes out. Auntie and Uncle have the Ood, named Nephew, take Idris somewhere that she wont be able to hurt anyone. The Doctor recognizes that the Ood’s communicator is broken and is easily fixed. Immediately, the air around them is filled with voices pleading for help, calling to anyone that might be out there, begging. The Ood shuts of his communicator and the voices vanish. Remember that the Ood communicate through psychic waves. This is something we have learned throughout all of the previous Ood episodes. The Doctor looks anxious because he recognizes the voices as other Time Lords. It sounds like there are many Time Lords nearby looking to be rescued. The Doctor asks Auntie and Uncle who is on the planet, they tell him there is only the two of them, Idris, and Nephew… Oh and House.
House is a sentient asteroid that communicates and manipulates Auntie, Uncle and Nephew. House introduces himself and tells the Doctor, Amy and Rory to make themselves at home. The Doctor sends Amy and Rory back to the TARDIS to retrieve his sonic screwdriver. A wild goose chase as he actually has the sonic in his pocket. While they are away the Doctor finds a cabinet full of small cubes from other Time Lords, all calling out for help. Auntie and Uncle arrive and explain that they were all there because of House. House takes care of them and repairs them when they break. The Doctor is furious because he was given hope that there were other Time Lords alive but in reality the hope was just a cabinet of echos from long dead Time Lords. House lures Time Lords and their TARDIS’s to the asteroid to feast on the TARDIS soul, leaving the Time Lord stranded. He the used the Time Lord as replacement body parts for his minions. The Doctor notices that Auntie’s forearm bears the same tattoo as the Corsair; she admits that House gave her the Corsair’s arm while Uncle got his spine and kidney’s. The Doctor tells them they need to run if they want to live.
On his way back to the TARDIS the Doctor runs into the cell containing Idris. Idris explains that she is the Doctor’s TARDIS trapped in that body. She proves that she is the TARDIS by remembering how the Doctor stole her, or how she stole the Doctor, from the museum on Gallifrey long ago. She explains that she left the door unlocked so that she could steal a Time Lord and go exploring. She talks all out of order since the TARDIS exists in all of time and space simultaneously. The Doctor and TARDIS flirt and fight. It is obvious that of all of the great romances and relationships during the Doctor’s life the one true love of his life is, and has always been, the TARDIS. Now he can talk directly to her. Auntie and Uncle stumble in and explain that they aren’t needed anymore and fall over dead. Idris is also dying but still has a little time before she is completely gone.
While Amy and Rory are in the TARDIS the doors mysteriously lock behind them and everything begins to glow green. As it turns out, since the Doctor mentioned that he is the last Time Lord in existence, House has decided to take over the empty TARDIS. House plans to use the TARDIS to head to the real universe with Rory and Amy in tow. To amuse himself House has Amy and Rory run through the corridors of the TARDIS and plays games with their minds. He easily manipulates corridors in realtime and separates Amy and Rory a number of times. House plays on Amy’s fears that Rory will hate him if she ever leaves him again and keeps showing her visions of an aging Rory who waits eternally for her, becoming more and more bitter with every passing moment. Amy becomes hysterical when she finds a Rory’s corpse in one of the corridors.
The Doctor seems to be stuck on the little planet without a TARDIS to chase after Rory and Amy. Except he is surrounded by the remains of TARDIS after TARDIS. A TARDIS graveyard. He works with Idris to build a new TARDIS console out of spare parts. It seems to work perfectly after Idris breathes a little life into the system. They leave in search of the Doctor’s physical TARDIS. Idris, using her psychic abilities, leads Rory to an archived control room within the TARDIS that House doesn’t know about. She tells him the passcode, “Crimson. Eleven. Delight. Petrachor.” Unsure what those words mean or how to use them to enter the control room, Amy figures out they must be entered psychically, but didn’t recognize the word petrachor. Suddenly she remembers that Idris had already told them what petrachor meant in her initial prophetic ramblings, “the smell of dust after it rains”, Amy thinks carefully about each of the passcode items, and the control room opens.
Amy and Rory make it into the archived 9th/10th Doctor era control room and moments later the Doctor and Idris appear in the same room right on top of Nephew, vaporizing him. House is tricked into deleting the old control room in order to get rid of the Doctor and his companions. All of them appear in the newer control room where the Doctor explains they are still alive because when a room in the TARDIS is deleted, any organic matter is deposited into the main control room. The dying Idris tells Rory that they will need to know “The only water in the forest is the river” and then releases all of her TARDIS energy into the control room, purging House from the TARDIS. Before she leaves (well returns to the heart of the TARDIS) she talks one last time to the Doctor. She just wants to say “Hello, for the first time” and you can tell that she is really telling him that she loves him.
We end with a scene of the Doctor trying to fix the TARDIS. Rory asks if the Doctor can make the TARDIS talk again and the short-answer is no. Since House destroyed all of the unneeded rooms in the TARDIS, the Doctor builds Amy and Rory their choice of a new room (this time, apparently, without a bunk-bed). Rory asks the Doctor if he has a room of his own and it turns, without being spoken, that the control room is his home.
This episode was originally written for the Tennant era Doctor, hence the focus on the Ood and the intense interest in finding other possible Time Lords. That aside, this episode is beautiful because it humanizes the TARDIS, and gives a face to the machine that we already know and love. We learn that the TARDIS loves the Doctor easily as much as the Doctor loves her. The raw and honest emotion in this episode easily makes it one of my favorite episodes of all time.
Thank you Neil Gaiman for telling us the story of your Doctor.