Recap: Doctor Who S33 E10 "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"
The story you've all been waiting for...
"What do you keep in here? Why have you got zombie creatures? Good guys do not have zombie creatures. Rule one, basic story telling!"
— Clara Oswald
Written by Stephen Thompson.
The Doctor decides to shut down the TARDIS' shields and put her in basic mode for a bit, so that Clara can drive and she and Clara might get to like each other a bit better. The TARDIS is almost immediately caught by an intergalactic salvage crew. An odd gadget leaves a burn mark on Clara's hand in the process, and amidst the chaos Clara is lost in the depths of the TARDIS. The salvagers — two brothers, Gregor and Bram Van Baalen, and an android named Tricky — intend to sell the TARDIS for scrap, but the Doctor threatens to destroy it by putting it in lockdown and activating the self destruct if the salvage crew doesn't help him find Clara. Meanwhile, something
lurks in the dark halls of the TARDIS: staggering, zombie-like creatures that chase Clara through the hallways.
After a lot of running through corridors, Clara ends up in the library, where she briefly spots a book about the history of the Time War and sees a few very interesting things in it.note
Bram gets himself killed by trying to get too close to the console core. Gregor Van Baalen, still carrying the Idiot Ball
, try to steal bits of TARDIS regardless (and despite Tricky's protests) and end up hurting her so much her defence systems run Tricky's arm through with a metal beam. It's revealed that, against all appearances, Tricky isn't a fabricated android; he's the youngest Van Baalen brother, whose siblings played a trick on him after an accident that gave him amnesia and required parts of his body to be replaced with cybernetic implants. The Doctor knew all along, but had more pressing matters on his mind. Not that the TARDIS self-destruct mechanism actually exists — that was just a fib — but the fact that the zombie creatures are future versions of Clara and the remaining two brothers. Burned to smouldering husks and mad with pain, they try to grab the gang. The brothers succeed in getting rid of their future selves with the tried and trusted method of throwing them into the Eye of Harmony
. Unfortunately for them, this results in their own transformation.
The Doctor takes Clara to the very core of the TARDIS, where — on the verge of tears — he finally comes clean to her about the mystery of her existence and her multiple deaths. She's extremely freaked out by it, and after a while, she counters with her own reveal. In that Time War book, she saw a thing or two about his name. However, Clara's burn mark reveals to the Doctor that he has one option left — resetting the entire timeline using the gadget that burned Clara in the first place. He pushes himself through a time crack in absolute agony, shares a brief conversation with his past self, and manages to reset everything. Clara never even knows it happened. In the aftermath, the Doctor asks Clara how safe she feels around him — just to make sure — and the brothers are back to life and not quite as mean this time around. A previously damaged photograph near Tricky's cot, which only depicted his brothers and father, has now been restored and includes Tricky standing to the side.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: Gregor and Tricky end up turning into one of the zombie monsters.
- Arc Words: For this episode: "big friendly button".
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Averted, none of that for Clara; she just hauled off and slugged him instead.
- Artificial Human: Subverted. Tricky's not an android, just a human with prosthetic replacements for his eyes and voice box.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: When activating the Magno-Grab in the opening.
- Bad Future: The creatures in the episode are severely burnt echoes of the salvage crew, the Doctor, and Clara had they not escaped from the Eye of Harmony room.
- Bigger on the Inside: Although this trope is prevalent enough to normally not be worth mentioning, this episode showcases just how big the inside of the TARDIS is. One of the rooms contains a collapsing star, as well as enough space so that people entering the room can survive the heat for a brief period. The Doctor claims that the space inside the TARDIS is infinite.
- In the M. C. Escher-esque promo image.
- The TARDIS turns its architecture into a labyrinth to prevent the salvagers from escaping with its circuits. Clara tries to leave the echo control room and ends up back inside.
- In general, the TARDIS has windows into space when the outside is both smaller and windowless, has a mountain range, and wildly varying construction material (including stone walls in one section). Justified by the fact that the TARDIS can literally manufacture anything.
- Body Horror: The "monsters" are severely burned future versions of Clara, the Doctor (whose hand has melted to his face◊), and two of the brothers (who have been fused together at the sides).
- Chekhov's Gun: Two:
- The Cult's "Fire Woman" (As an added bonus for Sonic fans, it's actually Crush 40's cover version!)
- Clara's burn.
- Closed Circle: The Doctor, Clara, and the three brothers are the only characters (plus the TARDIS herself). The TARDIS actively chooses to lock them all inside when Gregor gets sticky fingers.
- Continuity Nod:
- It's not the first time that the Doctor has threatened an enemy with the TARDIS's self-destruct mechanism. It's still not got one, either.
- And we briefly see the swimming pool, which appears to now be across from the library.
- The Doctor calls himself a madman with a box again.
- When one of the salvager brothers is inspecting the TARDIS console room alone, several quotes from past Who episodes can be heard in the background. Among the quotes is companion Ian Chesterton saying, "A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard; it can move anywhere in time and space?" Some of the voices that can be heard are Susan Foreman, Jo, Idris/the TARDIS, Martha Jones, Ian Chesterton, Amy Pond, and the Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Eleventh Doctors.
- Time cracks and the exploding TARDIS. It's been a while...
- The tried-and-true "knocking the enemy into the Eye of Harmony" solution is used again (but with bad results).
- The Cloister Bell sounds again.
- When Clara spills some of the liquefied knowledge while hiding in the library, the voices of Gallifreyans, including Rassilon himself, can be heard.
- The Doctor shushing Clara, touching her face, then walking away uses similar motions and camera angles as a scene with the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane in "Death to the Daleks". Clara was named after Elisabeth Clara Sladen, who played Sarah Jane.
- Clara happens upon Amy's TARDIS model, and the Doctor's crib.
- Clara also finds a bamboo-handled umbrella, which belonged to the Seventh Doctor.
- The Victorian library and steampunk History of the Time War book recall the Eighth Doctor's aesthetic.
- This is neither the first time the TARDIS's occupants have faced future versions of themselves nor the first time that the Doctor was able to exploit a Time Loop to tell himself how to solve the problem, both of which happened in Time And Space, although this episode's time loop isn't stable, unlike that episode's.
- Eldritch Location: If you thought the depths of the TARDIS would be less scary than they were when an evil entity ran the joint, you'd be sorely mistaken.
- Eureka Moment: Two, involving hands.
- The Doctor realizes that he's about to hold his face in his hand, à la one of the burnt future echoes, giving him the idea to try and alter the given course of the timeline.
- Just when the Doctor admits he has no idea how to save the TARDIS, he notices the burn mark on Clara's hand... and realizes what he can do to fix everything.
- Everybody Lives: But only after everyone dies first.
- Everything Sensor: The "intelligent sensor," to the point that it quite literally interprets a device which can make everything as "everything you ever wanted."
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The TARDIS has one, which is used as a threat to keep the salvage crew in line. Remember Rule 1: The Doctor lies.
- Ship Tease: Another relatively unsubtle one for Clara and the Doctor, as at one point he tells her "you're beautiful". Rather cheeky, for a married man. There's also a lot of hugging, Held Gaze, Holding Hands and Affectionate Gesture to the Head. And then there's the whole "You are not getting the ship if I don't get her out first."
- The Sociopath: Gregor, until it's revealed that he has a very small spark of human decency.
- Spot The Thread: The Doctor, as usual, is quick to realize that proper androids don't have emotions nor need armour or respirators but Tricky is in possession of all of them.
- Stable Time Loop:
- The cylinder at the start that burns Clara's hand gives the Doctor the idea to send it back in time to prevent the TARDIS's destruction in the first place.
- Also, the creation of the time zombies. The zombies chase the group into the Eye of Harmony room, and the radiation is what causes them to become the zombies.
- Stealth Pun: The song played on the TARDIS is The Cult's "Fire Woman." Clara gets chased by a future fiery version of herself.
- Temporal Paradox: Exploited. To avoid creating their radiation-burned future zombie selves, the Doctor has everyone avoid doing the precise actions frozen into the visage of their future selves. Clara and the Doctor succeed, but the brothers slip up and cause their future to pass.
- Time Bomb: In order to force the Van Baalens to help him rescue Clara, the Doctor activates the TARDIS' self-destruct sequence and sets it to 60 minutes. Subverted when it turns out the TARDIS doesn't have a self-destruct; the Doctor was bluffing. Then Double Subverted when it turns out that the engine really is overloading.
- Time Crash: Due to engine damage, the past and future is spilling out of the TARDIS, replaying moments of the Doctor and Clara that have already gone by and projecting radiation-borne zombies of their future selves that have yet to be created.
- They Killed Kenny Again: A future version of Clara got again turned into an insane monster. The girl has the worst luck.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Tricky starts off thinking he's an android. It turns out he's a human with a few artificial body parts who lost his memory in an accident.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Gregor seems to have rediscovered his sense of decency post-reset.
- Token Good Teammate: Tricky. He's the only one in the salvage group who actually feels the TARDIS's pain to boot. Becomes especially profound when he's revealed to be a human whose only cybernetic parts are the ones to restore his eyes and voice.
- The Unreveal:
- Clara glances at "The History of the Time War" and learns the Doctor's true name (though the audience doesn't). However, due to the Reset Button, she forgets it.
- The Doctor finally confronts Clara directly over her impossible nature, but Clara herself is ignorant and the Reset Button erases her memory of it.
- Post-reset, Tricky still doesn't know that he's not an android, though seeing as Gregor seems to have become kinder it's possible he'll eventually reveal the truth to him.
- Un-Robotic Reveal: Tricky is just a normal human with ocular implants and a funny sound effect on his voice; his brothers played a trick on him so he couldn't become captain of the ship.
- Unusual User Interface: The library contains Gallifreyan encyclopaedias which are apparently liquified knowledge.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Clara gets REALLY upset with the Doctor about the beings he keeps trapped in the TARDIS. Except he doesn't actually keep them; they're echoes of the future.
- The Van Baalen brothers barely seem to hold back similar reactions when they learn that the "TARDIS self-destruct countdown" was a fake.
- White Void Room: The TARDIS engine room is white in all directions, the only feature being the engine that has already exploded and is trapped in that moment.
- Write Back to the Future: The Doctor inscribes the words BIG FRIENDLY BUTTON on the Magno-Grab control device that he knows is going to end up in the TARDIS control room, where Clara will pick it up out of curiosity and burn the words onto her palm. This gives him the inspiration to deliver the message in person during the next loop.