HADS (HOSTILE ACTION DISPLACEMENT SYSTEM) WARNING: While great care has been taken to avoid huge plot points and major spoilers there are still story details that are discussed below. If you have not seen this event yet and wish to remain spoiler-free, then this article may not be your cup of tea. You have been warned, proceed at your own risk, tip your waitress, free TARDIS valet parking.
TARDIS SCANNER – What Happened?
A Time Lord hypercube arrives at the TARDIS with a distress call from an old friend of the Doctor’s, the Corsair. The call is traced back to a small planet in a pocket universe. Upon arrival, the TARDIS loses all power and the crew meets a strange group, Uncle, Auntie, Nephew (an Ood) and Idris, all patchwork people living in a huge junkyard. The planetoid turns out to be sentient and has a long habit of luring Time Lords to its little universe in order to eat their TARDISes and use their body parts to fix the few people living there. House traps the TARDIS’ matrix in Idris’ body, locks out the Doctor and takes off to what it thinks is a universe full of tasty TARDISes.
Rory and Amy, trapped in the possessed TARDIS manage to avoid instant death from House by convincing it that they should be killed slowly instead, as a form of amusement. This results in a lack of dead companions and also buys time for the Doctor and Idiris to mount a rescue. The Time Lord and his TARDIS manage to build another console from the remains of the slain TARDISes and enact a sort of revenge on House before Idris’ body fails and dies, removing the temporary ability to talk directly to the TARDIS. The old girl manages to speak a final line to Rory with a message of the future and does finally get to say hello to the Doctor and tell him she loves him before once again becoming the ghost in the machine.
PERCEPTION FILTER – Analysis
This is Neil Gaiman’s love letter to a nearly fifty year old show and may just possibly be the best written episode of Doctor Who ever. Imagine, if you will, taking the biggest fan of Doctor Who and combining him with the greatest fantasy novelist of our generation and you get Neil Gaiman’s episode. We finally, unequivocally, get to hear the TARDIS’ side of things, not only in the way she is treated, but what happened when she and the Doctor left Gallifrey for the first time. And there are all kinds of fantastic nods to the original series, from the TARDIS/Idris calling herself a Type 40 model to the hypercube.
Then there was the look at more of the TARDIS interior, finally! I dig the new style corridors and it was fun getting to once again see the previous console room, initially created for Christopher Eccleston and later used by David Tennant. I only wish they had recreated one of the console room designs from even further back. Given how spacious the console rooms of the new series have been, it would have been interesting to see Amy and Rory comment on how small, say, the fifth Doctor’s console room was. Still, that would probably be a little too fannish, even for Steven Moffat.
This was a magical episode all around and I think the only thing I could have wished for would have been for it to be two parts instead of one. And for Idris to have stayed around as a way to talk directly to the TARDIS, a companion to the TARDIS instead of the Doctor for once. But, yes, possibly the best written episode ever and certainly instantly one of my all-time favorites. Now I start wishing for Gaiman to become script editor to Moffat’s producer, which would make them a Doctor Who creative team on par with Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks or Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes. At the very least, we need another episode from Gaiman for the series fiftieth anniversary in a couple of years.
TARDIS INDEX FILE – Things of Significance
We see a graveyard of TARDISes.
The Doctor and his TARDIS get to directly express their feelings about each other.
We learn a little bit more about how the Doctor left Gallifrey all those years ago.
The Doctor has no problem with the TARDIS basically killing House. Granted, House was more or less pure evil, but the look on the Doctor’s face when he encourages the matrix to wipe him out was…scary.
CHAMELEON CIRCUIT – Unanswered Questions
Could any Time Lords still exist elsewhere in the pocket universe, or is House the only thing that exists there?
Are there any more hypercubes out there?
How old was the TARDIS when she stole the Doctor?
Will the Doctor’s relationship with his TARDIS change after the events of this episode?
What is the significance of “The only water in the forest is a river?”
TRANSLATION CIRCUIT – Answered Questions
Time Lords can change genders when regenerating.
Not all Time Lords were wiped out in the Time War, although they didn’t exactly live, either.
The TARDIS stole the Doctor.
The Doctor and his TARDIS left Gallifrey around 700 years ago, along his timeline.
The Doctor and the Master aren’t the only Time Lords to pick flamboyant names (the Rani and Romana are not flamboyant!).
A solar tsunami sends the TARDIS hurtling towards a futuristic factory on Earth, where human doppelgangers are used to mine dangerous acid. A second wave hits and the “Gangers” separate. They can remember every second of their “original’s” life and feel every emotion they’ve ever experienced. But are these memories stolen or have they been bequeathed? Are the Gangers merely faulty machinery that must be shut down or are they living, breathing, sentient beings? Can the Doctor convince the terrified humans to accept these “almost people” and prevent an all-out civil war before the factory explodes? “The Rebel Flesh” airs at 6:45 PM BST on BBC One and 9:00 PM EDT/PDT on BBC America.