Doctor Who – The Girl in the Fireplace

Sublime.

The best episode of the season to date, and one which rivals last year’s The Empty Child for me, albeit with a very different tone. This kind of elliptical romance-meets-period-drama-meets-skiffy is so mad and yet so perfect that it’s the reason that Doctor Who has anything to contribute to television at all. The storyline borrows liberally from many genres and ideas but the end product becomes strangely unique; an alchemy that seems quite particular to this series.

As always the worst part for me was the incidental music, but even that was generally fine: only the overt comedy plonkings which accompanied the middle of the episode irritated me. Those plonkings were perhaps symptomatic of the episode’s other slight fault: that of being just a little too self-satisfied about its own quirkiness. Nonetheless these are minor quibbles and the episode rose effortlessly above them.

I suppose that the Doctor having a romantic encounter is a bit revolutionary for Doctor Who; which only goes to show just how emotionally straitjacketed the old show was because here it seems natural and heartfelt. The revamped series has long-since opened the door to this kind of thing with the Doctor-Rose relationship, and last week’s episode firmly cemented in place the Doctor’s penchant for emotional and romantic attachments.

I must give a particular nod to the design of the clockwork robots (whose clockwork nature seems a bit bonkers) which justifes Tennant’s “beautiful” far more than the werewolf a couple of weeks ago. And the Doctor’s entry on horseback was an iconic moment which slightly recalled Angel’s Season 2 opener: I doubt that was the intent, but it’s fair to say that both episodes are trying to create a similar moment, one in which the lead character is mythologised as a chivalric champion. It works nicely in both cases.

More when I have more time, but I really, really enjoyed this.

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