This week on Fish and TARDIS Sauce The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) brings you yet another blog post peppered with slightly (read: highly) unorthodox quotes from another brilliant episode of Doctor Who.
Keep in mind that in order to watch this show — or read my blog — you don’t have to know jack-shit about either one. You don’t even have to know — like I didn’t — that the plural of deus ex machina is dei ex machina or that — like Bug Bunny knows — Carson City is the capital of Nevada. None of that is a required reading. But Doctor Who should be required viewing. And the episode in question, “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” (s07e10), gives us enough one-liners, head-scratchers, and zingers to make us hungry for more.
- Clara: “It’s an appliance. It does a job.”
- The Doctor: “It’s a pretty cool appliance. We’re not talking cheese grater here.”
- Clara: “You’re not getting me to talk to your ship. That’s properly bonkers.”
When Clara gets lost inside the TARDIS following an accident, she quickly discovers one of the best story lines in all of science fiction: Finding your way out of one big-ass maze that has decided that it (the intelligent big-ass maze) isn’t terribly fond of you.
- The Doctor: “Ever see a ship get ugly?”
So, like the sprawling metropolis of London or the freeway system of Atlanta at rush hour, Clara finds herself in the seemingly impossible situation of getting out of a seemingly endless situation inside a seemingly endless setting, all within the span of one hour of telly (seemingly to include commercials).
- Note to aspiring writers: Don’t use adverbs too much.
- Or, as The Doctor put it: “Don’t get into a ship with a madman. Didn’t anyone teach you that?”
The episode drips with teases, like Clara looking in the OED-sized History of the Time War, flipping to a random page, and murmuring, “So that’s who,” when she learns The Doctor’s real name. Or the tease about the relationship (past, present, and future) between The Doctor and Clara, and why she is who she is.
“It’s spinning a labyrinth?” the Doctor says to the under-developed junk-dealing characters. That’s what this episode does. It spins a labyrinth, and dares us to follow the string back out again, especially given the creepy, distorted hallways and ghoul-like monstrosities wandering the “lower decks” of our favorite time machine.
- Clara: “Why have you got zombie-creatures? Good guys do not have zombie-creatures. Rule one, basic storytelling!”
- The Doctor: “Not in front of the guests.”
And yet, the Doctor knows he has to keep secrets. Without secrets, he can’t keep his loved-ones safe.
- Clara: “What aren’t you telling me?”
- The Doctor: “Trust me. There are some things you don’t want to know.”
The TARDIS can be both magnificent and malevolent, sublime and ridiculous, jovial and jealous. With its Star Trek-like corridors and horror movie memes and under-developed side story, there’s plenty of room to criticize the episode, but a couple of lines of dialog really make us sit up and think about why we’re watching and why the BBC is writing and producing this masterpiece.
- The Doctor to Tricky, the man who was tricked into believing he was artificial: “They changed your identify to provide some inflight entertainment.”
The essence of this episode, the essence of Doctor Who — and if you’ll forgive the conceit — the essence of all speculative fiction is summed up in The Doctor’s fierce reprimand of the brother who tricked Tricky, as it were:
- Doctor [to Tricky]: “Listen to me. Ask yourself why he couldn’t cut you up. He had just one tiny scrap of decency left in him, and you helped him find that.”
- Doctor to Gregor: “Now, you. Don’t ever forget this.”
Yep. For me, that is why we have genre; it reminds us that we have tiny bits of decency within us. That’s why we have science fiction, fantasy, humor, horror, romance, mystery, and their red-headed stepchild known as time travel. Or maybe I’m just full of it. Could be. Like Clara said when looking at the vast cathedral the TARDIS whipped up out of midair: “Now that’s just showing off.”
Maybe I’m showing off. Or maybe I’m just lost in a maze, too. In a way I hope that’s true.
P.S. To all my new blog followers, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you’re enjoying this little sliver of cyberspace as much as I’m enjoying weaving it. Your support is appreciated more than you know!
Copyright © 2013 by Alan Keith Parker
Doctor Who and the quotes reproduced here are copyright © 2013 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); no infringement upon their intellectual property is intended.