"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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 stole her, 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.
The Doctor: 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: (beat) Did you wish really hard? The Doctor: Shut up! Not like that. The TARDIS: Hello. I'm... Sexy. The Doctor: Oh, still shut up!
Time is running out for the body of Idris, as it also was for Auntie & 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.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.
Author Appeal: Gaiman's love of the power of stories is in full effect.
The episode proper opens with the Doctor finishing up a story about Robot King Arthur. Rory is sceptical, until Amy tells him she was there.
House uses old Time Lord distress messages to lure Time Lords to the planet so he can eat them.
Amy was separated from Rory for a long, long time and he now hates her for abandoning him. Then she gets away from him, and comes across his desiccated corpse lying on the floor with "KILL AMY" (and, perhaps even more disturbingly, "KILL ME AMY") scrawled on every wall. Then she finds out it's just a Mind Screw. The story is in the implication of what's been happening between the illusions.
Buffy Speak: Sexy Thing. She refers to the Doctor as "[her] Thief", Amy as "The Orangey Girl" and Rory as "Pretty". But even more accurately: "You're just a bitey mad lady. The TARDIS is uppy-downy stuff in a big blue box."
We also see the "coral" TARDIS control room formerly used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Gaiman would have liked to use an even earlier version, but none still existed and the budget didn't stretch to recreating one just for this episode. So after the final David Tennant episode was filmed, the producers ordered that the coral TARDIS set be preserved until this episode could be filmed.
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.
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 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 donethat 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."
Cannot Spit It Out: The TARDIS has difficulty with certain words including her real name. She's not used to having a body, or even being able to talk, for that matter. Anyone would be a bit off under the circumstances.
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.
Contest Winner Cameo: The winning entry of the Blue Peter TARDIS interior design contest held back in Series 5 appears in this episode. It's the makeshift TARDIS the Doctor builds to get back to his own.
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".
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.
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 house 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...
The first thing Sexy does upon seeing the Doctor is call him "Thief". As we find out later, she actually thinks of the Doctor as her thief.
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!")
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.
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.
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'sextremely 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.
Name's the Same: A character called House with a penchant for fixing people? Also, a character called House with a glowing, green visage, a tendency to manipulate people, long life-span compared to others, and makes a Genius Loci of whatever they inhabit? Or maybe a house that seems to like breaking people's minds?
Noodle Incident: Whatever story the Doctor was telling Rory at the beginning. Apparently, it wasn't the Robot King.
The Doctor's plan of building a new TARDIS from scratch, as pointed out by Sexy: "Let's take these half-digested corpses and sew them together into a single body and then make it go for a run." is basically what House was doing to Aunty and Uncle. (Although the Doctor at least wasn't using living ones.)
"Bigger on the inside," the Doctor Who classic. Extrapolated on, however, because the TARDIS herself uses it in reference to the Doctor, and the reason she can push out House is because he is just so small on the inside.
The TARDIS also asks the Doctor
TARDIS: Are all people like this? The Doctor: Like what? TARDIS: So much bigger on the inside.
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.
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.
Real Life Writes the Plot: There was going to be an actual scene in the swimming pool, but apparantly Karen Gillan can't swim.
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.
invoked Like never before! The soul of the TARDIS is ripped out and put into a woman, Idris, allowing the Doctor and his beloved ship to talk to each other for the first time. They spend most of the episode flirting and have an emotional goodbye when she has to return to "the box" — and her last words to him are even "I love you". And in the Confidential, they make this music video. Matt Smith even said the Doctor is definitely really turned on by this.
Amy: Did you wish really hard?
The Doctor asks Sexy to send a message to Amy. She asks if Amy's the pretty one. Seconds later, Rory gets a message. Given how flirty Rory's wife gets with the Doctor at times, it's fitting that the Doctor's wife should turn the tables. And in hindsight, by events in future episodes, Sexy's attraction to Rory is a giant Chekhov's Gun.
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. It was a Mind Rape via the House.
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.
Doctor: You can't archive something that hasn't happened yet! Sexy: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.