The title of this episode alone excited me, as I’ve fantasized for years that an episode be focused on the interior of the TARDIS. It was never really explored in the original series (save the poorly budgeted “Invasion of Time” with Tom Baker), and–given how massive the TARDIS is and that it is supposed to be sentient–it is ripe with possibilities. Overall however, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” (written by Stephen Thompson) is a bit “meh” for me. It almost works as a standard story (it is fun and engaging), but it falls short of really delivering what a story about the center of this massive, mysterious vessel should.
I really, really wanted to like this story, so I do have many praises for it. The brothers from the inergalactic salvage crew (played by Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver, and Jahvel Hall) were brilliant. They added both weight and comic relief to the episode, which was necessary given it wasn’t the type of story Smith and Coleman could have pulled off on their own. Again, the drama and comedy is well-balanced, and the story starts off as being fairly well-crafted. The problem was, as the story moved along, it became obvious that one of my least favorite attributes of the new series was about to rear its ugly head.
They resorted to the old “let’s paint ourselves into a corner but then create a paradox where the Doctor comes back from the future to save himself” trick. Remember how they did this in Series 5 and it really, really sucked? It still sucks now. So the writers should effing stop using it already. I appreciate the way they put a new spin on it by allowing the viewer to see the future Doctor instead, and actually sort-of showed how the paradox works out (something lacking in Series 5), but it’s still lazy writing. They can do so much better.
I thought some shots were really quite good (the actual center of the TARDIS while in mid-explosion was pretty spectacular, I’ll admit), but too much time was spent running around corridors that look like they came off a Star Trek set. Really Who? You predate Star Trek by three whole years and have so much more creativity and years on TV under your belt. The TARDIS is so much more mysterious and amazing than some metal starship. So try a little harder with those sets, okay? I don’t want to be made to feel like Counsellor Troi could pop out at any moment and terrify me with her camel toe when I am watching Who. That is a horror restricted to TNG, okay? And now you’ve made me geek out by talking about Star Trek in an article about Doctor Who. I feel a bit off. Like this episode.
What we have here was great–as a first draft. The basic premise of the brothers setting up the destruction of the TARDIS and then the drama of trying to save it is solid. The actors, direction, and many of the effects were good. But the ending needs a rewrite that does not include a mini-reminder of the disappointing Series 5 finale, and the TARDIS sets should actually look better than they did in a 1978 story. Okay?
Back to the drawing board.