Toy Story The Doctor’s Wife

I’ve often half-seriously wondered if Steven Moffat has just decided to make this entire series of Doctor Who as an elaborate means of winding Lawrence Miles up. The riffs on Alien Bodies in the opening two-parter were blatant enough, but this might as well have been labeled as an adaptation of Miles’ short story Toy Story. Except of course it’s written by Miles’ least-favourite writer in the world, Neil Gaiman.

Truth be told, I doubt Gaiman’s read Miles’ story, but both have such similar ideas as their basis (the TARDIS takes on the form of a human woman, and amongst other things reveals that she had as much choice in who her pilot was as he had in his ship, and it’s also made clear that the interior of the TARDIS is more software than hardware) that Moffat at least must have noticed. People on the Faction Paradox forums have been pointing out other, more tenuous, similarities too, but I suspect these are more down to Gaiman and Miles having common influences than anything else. (I strongly suspect one of the reasons Miles loathes Gaiman so much is that he sees him as a warped mirror reflection of himself).

The result is easily the best Doctor Who TV story since Dalek, and feels more like Doctor Who than anything on TV since the McCoy era, but is a strange collision of at least four separate styles.

First, we have the standard Gaimanisms – the TARDIS is written as, to all intents and purposes, Delirium of the Endless. Auntie and Uncle could easily have stepped out of Neverwhere. And the whole cosmic junkyard thing felt very, very Gaiman. Even the production design felt this way – it looked all steampunk-goth – though the whole series since Moffat took over has had that feel.

On top of that, we had the Big Idea stuff – the stuff that felt like Miles, the living planet that eats TARDIS energy and creates puppet people to play with out of the parts of dead Time Lords, the possessed woman with the mind of a TARDIS, the space-time twisting inside the TARDIS itself, and so on. This is a side of Gaiman we don’t often see, but which seems to owe a lot to Alan Moore in horror mode.

Then we have a few bits which seem to be Gaiman deliberately trying to write like Russel Davies – the tearful goodbye to the embodiment of the TARDIS felt exactly like the kind of tearful goodbye-forever speech Davies wrote about four times a series (usually before bringing the same character back two episodes later).

And there are a few bits which seem to be either Moffat’s direct input or Gaiman trying to sound like Moffat (the “be afraid of me, I killed *all* the Time Lords” bit seemed very like Moffat’s usual macho action-hero posturing). I suspect the Ood was also just dumped in in order to have a visible ‘monster’, as it had little part to play in the proceedings.

But all this hangs together, thanks to Gaiman being a good enough writer to make it work. He even manages to take a joke about running down corridors (and having the corridors looking all the same to save on expense) and turn it into something quite scary and effective. Though it would have been more scary had they not killed Rory and brought him back to life AGAIN – the South Park jokes are getting more appropriate all the time.

I have serious problems with the episode – mostly that the TARDIS in human form is just Gaiman-mad-woman-by-numbers rather than the truly strange and awesome (in the literal sense of the word) character she should be. People have been comparing this to things like Edge Of Destruction, and the comparison really does it no favours – in Edge Of Destruction, it’s all about the characters, whereas here there really *were* no characters – a majority of the characters are really just puppets played with by an omnipotent disembodied entity.

But this had a plot that made sense, a few good lines, a couple of scary bits, and the Doctor didn’t commit any genocides (though he did cause the death of at least two intelligent entities, one accidentally and the other in self-defence). By the low standards of 21st-century Doctor Who, that’s as good as it gets.

This entry was posted in Doctor Who and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Toy Story The Doctor’s Wife

  1. Liberal Neil says:

    ” I suspect the Ood was also just dumped in in order to have a visible ‘monster’”

    They were going to do an original monster but it was cheaper to re-use an Ood for the same effect.

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    Well! A Doctor Who episode that Andrew, Gavin and I all like? Who thought we’d ever see that day? (I bet Andrew Rilstone hates it, though.)

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Don’t worry, Lawrence Miles still loathed it utterly, so we’re still in the correct universe.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Lawrence Miles bid adieu to the last shred of his rationality long ago, where anything related to Steven Moffat is concerned. I don’t believe he is capable of liking anything associated with Moff.

        Mind you, his blog is absolutely fascinating. To watch someone gradually come apart like that is horrible, but impossible to look away from.

      • Frankly, Lawrence Miles is in the bubble universe and wants to get his hands on the Tardis…

  3. Prankster says:

    In an episode stuffed with winks, nods, and references, I’m pretty much 100% sure that Rory dying yet again was very much deliberate.

    I always feel a little at sea with these posts…as a casual watcher, I see an entertaining episode of Who, then I read the fan’s blogs and discover that it’s all been done before somewhere, or it violates some core principle of the show…it’s kind of depressing, really. I want to say “But no!” but it’s clear everyone else has a much better idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Who.

    • Jennie says:

      I, too, though Rory’s “death” was deliberate nose-tweaking, but then I have never rated the walking entitlement queen ego that is Lawrence Miles and I adore Neil Gaiman, so I suspect I am more charitably disposed than Andrew. It’s one of the few things we have a (minor) difference of opinion on

      “I want to say “But no!” but it’s clear everyone else has a much better idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Who.”

      No, no, no. The show does NOT belong to the overbearing, more fannish than thou segment of fandom. Please don’t feel like you’re not allowed an opinion! There is absolutely NOTHING in Who fandom that is immutable.

      For example: the “he’s only allowed 12 regenerations” thing? Been contradicted multiple times both before and after. A person who says something has been done before is probably right, but a person who says something violates a core principle of the show? Is talking out of their arse (and I know, because I’ve done it) because there’s no such thing. The Doctor is a lot like Batman. He has a very basic core characteristic (in this case, he can travel in time and space and is basically human-shaped) EVERYTHING else is contradicted in canon. Sometimes he loves humans, sometimes he treats them with disdain. Sometimes he is all fury, sometimes he is all kindness. In ONE DAMN ARC (Genesis of the daleks) he goes from “have I the right” to casual genocide.

      If you want to say “but no!” you say it.

      My favourite Doctor is Colin Baker, I’ve been saying “but no!” for 25 years…

      • Mike Taylor says:

        “My favourite Doctor is Colin Baker …”

        BUT NO!


      • Andrew Hickey says:

        Absolutely agreed here, about ‘core principles’. There are things *I don’t like* about various versions of the show, but I’d never dream of telling anyone else not to like them.

        (I also have a great respect for Gaiman, BTW – it’s just he’s one of those authors I like in spite of themselves. Much as I do Lawrence Miles in fact ;) )

      • Prankster says:

        Thanks, Jennie. :) It’s not the possessiveness so much as the fact that a lot of these hardcore Who bloggers are clearly a lot smarter than I am, and care passionately about stuff which makes me want to get on their side. Silence-gate being the most obvious recent example, if you don’t mind me going to that well. Part of me wants to jump right on board the idea that we should show sympathy to the Ugly Squicky Things and that it’s wrong to kill them. But I simply can’t swallow the idea that what we saw in that episode is “genocide”. Nevertheless, there are others who can draw on extensive arguments from the older series to prove that this goes against the Doctor’s character, or whatever, and I can only sit there blinking madly. I simply don’t have the commitment to the show to feel like this kind of thing is a betrayal, and my tendency is to cede the field to those who do. Doesn’t actually change how I feel though.

        • MatGB says:

          Anyone who says something like “The Doctor would never commit genocide”, ask them about the Vervoids.

          Or even, y’know, the Time Lords.

          But yeah, it wasn’t genocide, he made it very clear that they should get off the Earth and avoid all humans from then on, that’s not genocide.

          There are some people who feels their interpretation of the character, the show, the background is the only correct one. Problem is that Moffat has explicitly rewritten the entire universe and changed the history, explicitly, deliberately.

          Doesn’t change that the previous stuff happened, just that it happened to the Doctor, not anyone else.

          But, y’know, if people want to have great big screaming hissy fits over whether something is in character for someone who’s been on the run for 700 years, changed his personality and appearance ten times (that we know of, there’ve been hints he’s done it before), wiped out his entire race and orchestrated the destruction/ removal from history of others, that’s up to them.

          Kinda takes away the point and the enjoyment, to me.

          • A pedant might question that you kind of nix the question of things being “in character” for the Doctor yet feel the need to defend him on the question of genocide.

            At the same time, I’m reasonably sympathetic to what you say. The Doctor, after all, isn’t just played by different people, they’re explicitly written into the concept of the show as different people. That immediately lays it open to more widespread takes than most characters, before we even start talking about the longevity of the show. Or the undoubted fact that it portrays the universe as “timey wimey”, in a perpetual state of flux, a place for adventures to be had not immutable rules adhered to. I don’t want it to be rigid and consistent. That would be dull.

            However, it’s like all those characters are cousins or something. There’s still common features, and there has to be. Otherwise the show has no cohesion whatsoever apart from a blue box and a theme tune.

            As I put in my write-up, I thought the deletion and reappearance of old Tardis consoles to be a perfect metaphor for how the show should handle continuity. It should bring things back whenever it finds them useful, but delete them just as quickly whenever it feels like it and never ever be beholden to the past.

            Did you ever hear the Doctor was half-human? Never mind, forget it. Not important. Move on…

            • MatGB says:

              Meh. I don’t think this case was genocide. But he’s done it before, justifiably, and could do it again. Whether this was or wasn’t, which I accept is debatable, is irrelevent to whether he would do it, which, obviously, he would.

              And he did say he was half human, once. But he also lies constantly, especially when persuading a pretty girl to like him.

              (I think there’s some fiction that justifies his background as half human, but it’s also completely contradicted by other fiction–I’ve never read the books, but I’m told Lungbarrow is worth a read just for the background)

              But yeah–he changes time whenever he travels, fully established part of canon. Ergo, nothing whatsoever is set.

              • To be honest, I’m pretty much uninterested in the whole ‘genocide’ debate. I like the way the show can have a questioning approach to the use of violence, beyond the standard “war is hell, pass me another cluster bomb” stuff. But I don’t really go looking to a teatime TV show for answersto those sort of questions.

                And to me “half-human” was a classic example of something that needed deleting from memory as soon as uttered. Don’t waste time trying to explain it away or undo it. Just move on!

  4. MatGB says:

    . People have been comparing this to things like Edge Of Destruction, and the comparison really does it no favours – in Edge Of Destruction, it’s all about the characters, whereas here there really *were* no characters – a majority of the characters are really just puppets played with by an omnipotent disembodied entity.

    I disagree–Edge only has the lead characters and no one else. Assigning lead character status to the TARDIS, then this only had the lead characters, and it really was a character study for all of them, including how Amy and Rory react under pressure, how the Doctor relates to the TARDIS, etc.

    One great big character study.

    Everything else was a hook to hang it on, what that hook was wasn’t really relevent. It just happened to also be rather cool.

  5. Marc Burkhardt says:

    I liked the episode, but felt a bit uncomfortable about the TARDIS’ sentience spelled out so clearly. Mind you, I’ve only experienced the character through the TV series (original and new) and while it was always hinted, I never heard the questioned definitively answered til now. Kind of takes a bit of the “Who” out of The Doctor.

Comments are closed.