Contributor: Gregg Wright
This is the second stand-alone episode of the season, and thankfully, it’s a good one. I’m not a Neil Gaiman fan, and I’m only vaguely aware of his previous work, so I probably wasn’t anticipating the episode as many of his fans might have been. But I’m relatively pleased with the job he did. In fact, I like the idea of Gaiman penning another episode in the future. He seems to be a good fit for the franchise.
The episodes provides a good initial hook for the audience, teasing at the possibility of the Doctor finding another Time Lord. Unfortunately, all he finds is three unusual humans, an Ood, and an evil, sentient asteroid that feeds on TARDIS energy. But the trip isn’t a complete waste of time. I was already aware that the TARDIS was alive, to a certain extent. But I never thought of it as being intelligent, or having a personality. It fits well enough, though. And the interaction between the Doctor and the TARDIS, now stuck in a human body, were quite entertaining, and they provided some intriguing insight into both the TARDIS itself and the Doctor’s relationship with it, or her, rather. The TARDIS has a mind of its own, which explains a lot of its unusual behavior and quirks over the years.
“The only water in the forest is the river”, said the TARDIS, over and over again. An allusion to River Song in “Forest of the Dead”? It almost certainly must be. I’m glad to see finally see some acknowledgement of the Doctor’s original meeting with River. The Doctor didn’t give any obvious indications that he understood the message. Perhaps the writers are just saving that realization for a later episode, or maybe the Doctor is just keeping the information to himself.
It’s a bit of a disappointment that this new aspect of the Doctor’s relationship with the TARDIS will probably be ignored in future episodes. I was hoping that the Doctor would figure out a way to give the TARDIS speech before the end of the episode. But instead, things are pretty much back to normal. The Doctor will probably vaguely anthropomorphize the TARDIS in the future. But had a viewer missed this episode, likely they would never notice that anything had changed. I’d love to be proven wrong about this, of course.
The allusions to the larger story arc were pretty sparse. Amy and Rory have a brief exchange over Amy’s desire to tell the Doctor the truth about his impending death, and there’s the reference to River Song. But that’s about it, unless I missed something. This doesn’t seem to detract from the episode much, though, as the primary story is interesting and personal enough already.
“House” is similar to many past “Who” villains (the inclusion of an Ood being manipulated by an evil entity is reminiscent of season 2′s “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit”), but he still manages to be an effective villain. His murder of several Time Lords provides a good reason for the Doctor to become a bit more emotional than usual. The scenes in which Amy and Rory are tormented by “House” in the TARDIS are another element that seemed to work in the episode’s favor.
If anything, the episode’s self-contained nature could be seen as something of a drawback. I’ll be disappointed to see no further development of this new angle to the TARDIS, which I’m fairly sure is going to be the case. That said, it might still be the strongest episode, certainly the strongest stand-alone episode, of the season so far.