The TARDIS sure does clean up nicely...
"Hello. Hello, Doctor. It's so very, very nice to meet you."
— The TARDIS
Written by Neil Gaiman. This episode won the 2011 Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation—as well as a Hugo Award.
The TARDIS is in flight. There's a knock on the door, and when opened, a far-away cube of light is seen. When beckoned, it hits the Doctor in the chest, whizzes about and then actually comes to him. "I've got mail," the Doctor says with glee.The hypercube is a form of communication for Time Lords.
This one seems to come from one named the Corsair and the Doctor knows him / her quite well. They were friends, through many incarnations, and although even the Corsair's sex changed freely with new regenerations, one thing was always the same: the Corsair always got an Ouroboros
tattoo on each new body. The small mail cube has that exact same mark.
The Doctor counts the Corsair as "one of the good ones". The message originates from "outside the universe", somewhere where the trio has never gone before. They follow the signal. As happened before
when switching from the natural home-universe to a different one, the TARDIS loses power — but this time, it's actually due to a different cause than before. This time, the soul of the TARDIS has been transported into the body of a human woman called Idris. And the planetoid they've landed on seems to be a complete junk yard.
The travellers are greeted by two very raggedy old humanoids named Auntie and Uncle. They're closely followed by Nephew, a green-eyed lobotomised Ood. The TARDIS, in Idris' body, is delighted
to see the Doctor, greets him with a "goodbye!", realises that that's wrong — time is all too linear in a humanoid body — and kisses him instead. The Doctor's a bit confused, especially when Auntie and Uncle warn him about contact with Idris, saying she's mad. And that she'll bite him. Which she promptly does. And she tells Rory what "petrichor" means, which he'll ask about soon enough in the future. But she has no idea how to behave around her "Thief", and before she knows it, she's carried off again by the humanoids.
The planetoid turns out to be accreted matter around a sentient life-form, which glows green — like the eyes of the Ood Nephew. The planetoid's name is simply "House". The Doctor's single-minded purpose, though, is to find and help any possibly lost but still alive Time Lords that he senses nearby. Amy conjectures that he might just want to be forgiven for killing his race. The Doctor sends Amy and Rory back to the empty TARDIS husk for an errand, then locks the doors remotely as soon as they're inside.
He discovers a cupboard full of hypercubes in the junk yard, and they keep repeating emergency messages from a number of Time Lords. Auntie and Uncle approach, and the Doctor uncovers how House has been "repairing" them. They've been jigsawed together from bits and pieces that found their way into the "sink hole" where this "bubble universe" exists, on the outer-edge of the natural universe we commonly know the Doctor to travel in. Uncle literally has two left feet. Auntie has a big manly arm with the Corsair's tattoo on it. House, as it turns out, has been luring Time Lords to the planetoid since long before the Time War, and has trapped the souls of their TARDISes in humanoid bodies in order to safely consume the TARDIS husks. The accompanying Time Lords were, to him, simply spare parts for TARDIS soul receptacles.
In the meantime, Amy and Rory slowing realise that a green glow is suffusing the TARDIS. It starts to de-materialise and hurtle off in the direction of the bigger, energy-rich universe. House now has control of the TARDIS and is threatening to kill the inhabitants. He had initially planned to simply consume the TARDIS' Artron energy, but now that he has learned that the Doctor is the last Time Lord and that no more TARDISes will ever arrive, he has decided to transfer himself to the TARDIS and escape through the rift. Rory quickly assesses that this being is in need of entertainment so won't kill them quickly, and argues this point in his half-hearted way of making a stand. House tells them to run, if they're so keen on being entertainment. They run through the TARDIS corridors while House makes them re-enact the time skip scenes from Cube
With House gone, Auntie and Uncle promptly expire.
The Doctor sees Idris in a holding cell, and she tries to convey to him who she is. "We travel. I go... VWORP... VWORP." She explains that she's the one that stole him. He's her Doctor. While he tries to argue that he
, he releases her, and stands face-to-face with his ship. He awkwardly asks for her name. She assumes she's called "Sexy", since that's what he's always called her. She tries to get used to a physical body and linear time, with significant Time Travel Tense Trouble
and very little sense of what's yet to happen and what's already passed. They flirt and banter away until they, in non-linear flow of time fashion, figure out that the remains of all the Time Lords and TARDISes House has fed upon in its time has given them access to a means of escape. They hastily build a new TARDIS out of TARDIS parts, and Sexy Thing animates the remains.
Since House has raised them, the shields of the TARDIS husk need to be lowered so the Doctor and Sexy can materialise. Sexy sends a message meant for Amy, "the pretty one?", with the psychic password for the backup control-room: the one from the Russell T Davies
era. "The pretty one" turns out to be Rory, who uses her psychic message (including the thought of petrichor) to open the locks.
Amy and Rory nearly don't make it, though, since House has brought Nephew along for the ride and tries to use him to kill them. In the nick of time Nephew is killed, and the Doctor and Sexy are back inside the TARDIS husk.
Uh, 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? The Doctor:
And she's a woman. She's a woman, and she's the TARDIS. Amy:
) Did you wish really
hard? The Doctor:
Shut up! Not like that. The TARDIS:
Hello. I'm... Sexy. The Doctor:
Time is running out for the body of Idris, as it also was for Auntie and Uncle without constant repair by House. House is intent on killing again unless given a reason not to. The Doctor seems to be negotiating with House and giving helpful information on how to re-enter the larger universe without much cause for the trust he proclaims to have. As it turns out it was a ruse, since the Doctor knew deleting rooms (part of the required trickery for re-entry) transports any living entities inside them into the main control room. Idris' body dies while imparting some secret to Rory: "The only water in the forest is the river." The Doctor is happy, because that means that Sexy can recombine with the TARDIS hardware. He tells his "old girl" to finish House off — since he tried to consume something dimensionally transcendent, as her energy re-inhabits the physical TARDIS, it's now bigger than the thing which ate it, and House is destroyed.
Afterwards, the TARDIS reanimates Idris' body one last time in order to share a few tearful last words with her Doctor. Although she's going nowhere, she knows she'll never be able to speak to him again, so she says two things she'd been wanting to say to him: "Hello" and, as Idris' body vaporises, "I love you."
Amy and Rory get a new bedroom. They hope for one without bunk beds this time, although the Doctor just loves the idea of a bed with a ladder. As they leave to check it out, the Doctor installs a security field around the matrix to prevent it from being compromised again, and gently talks to the TARDIS, not expecting an answer — only for a nearby lever to move on its own, sending the TARDIS to its next destination.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Chaste Hero / Comically Missing the Point: The Doctor seems utterly clueless as to why Amy and Rory don't want a set of bunk beds.
- Sexy Thing, to an extent that can't simply be excused by Time Travel Tense Trouble or being in entirely the wrong shape of body. Unsurprising, though — we always knew the TARDIS was a bit off in the head.
- Uncle and Auntie are also Cloudcuckoolanders, to a lesser extent.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Anything possessed by House glows a sickly green colour. When it's in control of the TARDIS, not only do the inner lights go green, so does the lamp on the top.
- Continuity Nod
- As in "Castrovalva", the Doctor jettisons TARDIS rooms to give him a boost.
- The House-possessed TARDIS pulling a Mind Screw on the Doctor's companion and the TARDIS appearing in a human form are very similar to events of the Big Finish audio "Zagreus", as well as the comic series "The Forgotten".
- The Doctor has travelled to an alternate universe using only a TARDIS console before, in "Inferno".
- Ood? Malicious deep voice? Possession? This sounds familiar.
- The ending with Sexy Thing saying goodbye was reminiscent of Ten saying goodbye to Rose in Doomsday, with the roles reversed. Except that once again, the female character gets to say "I love you" and the Doctor doesn't get to say it.
- Fish Fingers.
- Time Lords sending distress signals in the form of psychic Companion Cubes.
- Wasn't it mentioned in the first episode of this series what people would do with the body of a Time Lord?
- A police box in an old junk yard — just like it all began.
- "I'm a madman with a box without a box!" and "Basically, run!"
- Also, we hear the Cloister Bell once again when House takes over the TARDIS. (The Cloister Bell was first heard in the Season 18 story "Logopolis".)
- We now have "spacey-wacey" to go with "timey-wimey".
- Do ominous talking green clouds of sentient gas that can possess living things and use familial names like "Auntie" and "Uncle"? remind you of anything?
- At the end of the episode, the Doctor suggests they go to the Eye of Orion.
- The Doctor clicks his fingers repeatedly when trying to get into the locked TARDIS.
- The Doctor finds that many Time Lords went to the junkyard at the end of the universe. Earlier, in "Utopia", Captain Jack Harkness said the end of the universe was the perfect place for a Time Lord to hide from the Time War.
- The spirit of the TARDIS possessing a human female. Even older than they think, actually.
- The makeshift TARDIS control room constructed by the Doctor out of ruined TARDIS junk is something of a hodgepodge homage to the various styles of control room seen throughout the 1963-1989 series, and was designed by the winner of a Blue Peter competition.
- Different universes are hardly a new thing. How about a disembodied, Eldritch Abomination-like consciousness hailing from one of these universes with an agenda of physically transporting itself to the human dimension through manipulation and mind control? Nope, we've done that one too.
- People being kept alive with bodies cobbled together from body parts belonging to several aliens, including Time Lords. Hmmm...
- "I always liked it when you called me Old Girl."
- The psychic container used to deliver the message to the Doctor at the start of the episode is an intentional callback to The War Games.
- Some have noted that the Doctor's remembrance of the robot king sounds familiar, though Amy claims to have been part of those events.
- The Doctor remarks to a patchwork person "I once had an umbrella◊ like you."
- Corpse Land: The supposed "junkyard".
- Creepy Monotone: The House.
- Dead All Along:
- The Corsair and the other Time Lords, thanks to House.
- Not to mention Idris. Technically, she's a reanimated corpse.
- Delayed Reaction: House takes his time to say anything about the Doctor and Sexy suddenly materialising inside the TARDIS via an improvised TARDIS. When he does, he fails to notice that Nephew is absent.
- Derelict Graveyard: The asteroid is covered in TARDIS wreckage.
- Disappears into Light: Idris' body.
- Dissimile: Explaining the idea of a bubble-universe leads into this. These seem to be developing into one of Eleven's Catchphrases.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You:
- Door Dumb: Sexy Thing has been waiting a long time to vent about the Doctor pushing the door open. He's supposed to pull.
- Eldritch Location: House
- Evil Sounds Deep: House
- Expospeak Gag:
- When the Ood was "redistributed". Translation: you're breathing him.
- Inverted in the final scene: Steven Moffat's hatred of Technobabble is in full effect when the TARDIS cuts off the Doctor's explanation of why he can't make her speak again. "YES, IT'S SPACEY-WACEY!"
- Fanservice: A mild one-when the TARDIS sits down, you can see her cleavage.◊
- Faux Affably Evil: House
- Final Speech: OK, technically the TARDIS isn't dying, but the fact she never expects to be able to speak to her thief directly again makes her final conversation with the Doctor take on much of the same overtones. Her body dies at the beginning of the episode, but since she's been reanimated throughout the episode, these are indeed her final words before she dies for good.
- Foreshadowing: Lampshaded in the extent that Sexy talks about things that the Doctor and the crew have not yet experienced. They all are revealed to be true, in time...
- For the Evulz: House. It's how Rory convinces him to keep them alive. Because it's more fun to keep them alive and torture them.
- Gender Bender: The Doctor offhandedly confirms that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate. The Corsair, one of his old buddies, was usually a man but sometimes a woman. ("She was a bad girl!")
- Genius Loci:
- The asteroid is sentient and able to communicate via its inhabitants. Then it takes over the TARDIS, turning it into one as well.
- Of course, the TARDIS has always been one, ever since the very beginning.
- Genre Savvy:
- Amy gets the honour this episode and is right on the mark.
Amy: Doctor, listen to me. Don't get emotional, because that's when you make mistakes.
Amy: It's what [Time Lords are] called. It doesn't mean [the Doctor] actually knows what he's doing.
Amy: No sonic screwdriver, also the doors seem to have locked behind us. Rory believes there's a perfectly innocent explanation, but I think you lied to us.
- Rory also displays some by knowing that the villain never wants to just kill someone when there's a chance to psychologically torture them instead.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Grand Theft Me:
- Unwilling variation — House removes the mind of the TARDIS so he can possess its "body", and since he can't safely destroy said mind he stores it in a human body.
- In a softer and lighter version, the TARDIS initially refers to the Doctor as "My thief", and the scene confirms 48 years of speculation over how the Doctor obtained her in the first place; he says he stole her, but she claims she stole him.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Nephew, distinguishing itself from other Ood.
- Hope Spot: The message the Doctor receives in the beginning of the episode, making him think there are still living Time Lords in existence.
- I Call It "Vera": The TARDIS's name is apparently "Sexy".
- Insistent Terminology:
- Interspecies Romance: Time Lord/TARDIS.
- Ironic Echo: The Doctor repeats his threat from "The Eleventh Hour", but this time, his Berserk Button has been pushed.
The Doctor: You gave me hope and then you took it away. That's enough to make anyone dangerous... God knows what it will do to me. Basically... RUN!
- Like an Old Married Couple: The Doctor and Sexy Thing. The episode is "The Doctor's Wife", after all.
Sexy: There are instructions on the door. What do they say?
The Doctor: Those aren't instructions!
Sexy: You've walked by them every day for seven hundred years. What do they say?
The Doctor: ..."Pull to open."
Sexy: And what do you do?
The Doctor: ...Push.
- MacGuffin Girl: Sexy Thing
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Sexy has strong overtones of this. Fitting, seeing as she's been the Doctor's Manic Pixie Dream Girl for centuries now... and he's been her Manic Pixie Dream Guy.
- Mathematician's Answer: After being asked how you can leave the universe, the Doctor replies "With immense difficulty".
- Mind Rape:
- Done by the House to mess with Rory and Amy as they run through the TARDIS interior.
- Could also be taken literally in the sense of how House removed the TARDIS matrix against her will.
- Mood Whiplash: This episode starts off with funny moments ("I've got mail!") Then it segues into Gaiman's extremely scary ending. Worst, the action switches several times between the Doctor and Sexy Thing's funny banter, and Amy and Rory getting terrorized by House in the TARDIS.
- Moral Dissonance: The Doctor apologises to Sexy when he realises that cannibalising various TARDIS components might bother her as a TARDIS herself.
- Mythology Gag: The washing machine that Amy pokes with a spoon at the beginning was originally supposed to be a dead Tardis. The Tardis from the Doctor Who parody Do You Have a License to Save This Planet? was a washing machine, trying to pass of as a dishwasher.
- Non-Linear Character: The Tardis makes it clear through the episode that she has perceptions beyond the linear flow of time, which makes communicating with everyone else a little difficult for them and her.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever story the Doctor was telling Rory at the beginning. Apparently, it wasn't the Robot King.
- Not So Different: House and the Doctor bizarrely get a few.
- One-Gender Race: Implied with TARDISes, given Sexy's reference to her "sisters" scattered across the planet.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Aunty and Uncle.
- The Ophelia: Idris has a lot of these traits, right down to the long hair and Victorian clothing. Considering that she was written by Neil Gaiman, this was probably intentional.
- Ouroboros: The Corsair's tattoo.
- People Puppets: Uncle and Aunt.
- Phrase Catcher:
- The Plan: The Doctor pulls one of these on House when he tricks him into deleting the old coral control room in an effort to kill him, Amy, Rory and Sexy Thing. Instead a failsafe deposits them into the main control room where Sexy can repossess her normal TARDIS body.
- Pocket Dimension: The bubble universe.
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Amy adopts this pose trying to think of the passcode to the control room. So does Rory, actually, when Sexy aims for the "pretty one" and gets him. Semi-justified because they probably don't know any better; in Rory's case the communication clearly gives him a headache.
- Revision: Gaiman does a masterful job of revising the Doctor's origin story. The Doctor wanted to see the universe, so he "borrowed" a TARDIS and ran away from Gallifrey. Turns out, the TARDIS wanted to see the universe, so she stole a Time Lord (by leaving her doors unlocked for the Doctor) and ran away from Gallifrey. Turns out they both got exactly what they wanted.
- Robo Ship:
- Room Full of Crazy: Amy encounters a section of hallway where all the walls are covered with "HATE AMY", "KILL AMY", and even "KILL ME AMY", written in what looks like blood. The kicker is that those words were written by a long-dead Rory, apparently furious at Amy for not finding him. However, Rory never actually did this or went through that, it was all a Mind Rape via the House.
- Running Gag: The rarely-seen swimming pool, later seen again after another apparent refit in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS".
- Scenery Gorn: The wrecked ships.
- Scheherezade Gambit: Rory convinces House to keep them alive because killing them at once wouldn't be any fun.
Rory: "I had a PE teacher like you once..."
- Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: Named Idris.
- Shave And A Haircut: This is what the message box uses to knock on the TARDIS door.
- One of the junked ships resembles, and is positioned the same way as, the wrecked ship in Alien.
- House's personality and treatment of Amy and Rory owes a lot to AM in Harlan Ellison's famous short story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream". Neil Gaiman posted on Tumblr that he hoped to make Harlan Ellison smile with the shout-out. Apparently, he did.
- Not to mention resembling a certain other monotoned, malevolent entity controlling a spaceship. Maybe House and HAL are related....
- Then there's that other malevolent, labyrinthine house from House of Leaves.
- The TARDIS corridors seen in this episode bear a strong resemblance to the corridors of the Liberator in Blake's 7.
- "Biting's excellent. It's like kissing, only there's a winner!"
- So Neil Gaiman writes something where there's an evil entity making fake people and posing as one of them to lure in victims to eat... Sound familiar?
- Sickly Green Glow: The House takes the form of a green cloud.
- Sleeping Single: An unwilling example. It appears the Doctor is unwilling to change the bed in Rory and Amy's room from a bunk bed to a double bed.
The Doctor: But bunk beds are cool! It's a bed with a ladder!
- Snipe Hunt: The Doctor sends Amy and Rory back to the TARDIS to fetch his sonic screwdriver. When they're inside, the Doctor turns out to actually have his screwdriver already and locks them inside.
Amy: We couldn't find your screwdriver. Plus the doors seem to have locked behind us. Rory thinks there's a perfectly innocent explanation, but I think you lied to us.
The Doctor: Time Lord stuff. I needed you out of the way.
Amy: What, we're not smart enough for your new friends?
- Space Pirate: The Corsair, at least in name if not spirit. Although what little we learn about him/her suggests that she/he might have been a benevolent version of this.
- Spaceship Girl: But in reverse of usual.
- Take Me Instead: Inverted and Played for Laughs. At the same time.
Uncle: I only wish I could go in your place, Idris... nah, I don't, 'cause it's really gonna hurt.
- Tele-Frag: Nephew is killed when the Doctor's makeshift TARDIS lands where he's standing.
- Tempting Fate: You'd think the Doctor would be more careful than to ask "What could possibly go wrong?"
- There Are No Coincidences: According to the TARDIS, the seemingly haphazard way the Doctor travels and the inexplicable way he seems to find trouble in need of his interventions was in fact her doing all along.
The Doctor: "You didn't always take me where I wanted to go."
Idris: "No, but I always took you where you needed to go."
- There Is Another: The whole plot is kicked off by the Doctor receiving a distress call from The Corsair, another Time Lord and one of the Doctor's old friends, who is marooned in another universe. After expending considerable effort to get to him, the Doctor learns that The Corsair has been dead for a very long time.
- This Is My Time Lord!
- This Is the Part Where...: You unlock the door. Justified as Sexy has seen the future and knows the Doctor will unlock her cage at that point.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: Sexy suffers from this, as it seems she's experiencing every moment of her past, present and future at the same time.
The Doctor: What did I steal?
The TARDIS: Me. You're going to steal me, you have stolen me, you are stealing me. Oh, tenses are difficult.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The TARDIS has 30 console rooms archived. Including at least 17 that haven't been created yet.
The Doctor: You can't archive something that hasn't happened yet!
The TARDIS: You can't.
- Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: House is never shown to try to Mind Rape Rory. It's later revealed in "The God Complex", when a similar entity tries to pull the same trick and fails, that you simply can't due to his 2000 year heroic run as the Centurion. Rory no longer fears anything.
- Unkempt Beauty: Explicitly stated in the script that Idris should be this. She is a beautiful woman who fell through a rift in time, which has a similar effect to being dragged through a hedge backwards.
- Unusual User Interface: You don't speak the passwords, you think them. And you technically don't think any words, but what they mean. So when Amy thinks "delight", she thinks of her wedding day.
- Visual Pun: In mathematical terms, a hypercube is (in simple terms) a cube within a cube. The hypercube in the episode looks like... a cube within a cube.
- Voices Are Mental: In her attempts to explain who she is to the Doctor, Sexy opens her mouth and makes the wheezing sound of the TARDIS.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Right before something falls off the stitched-together console.
- Worthy Opponent: The Doctor calls House one; it's part of his gambit, though.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Sorry, Doctor, but you are indeed the last Time Lord.