Doctor Who – The Girl in the Fireplace

by Alan Rapp on November 4, 2013

in Television Reviews 

  • Title: Doctor Who – The Girl in the Fireplace
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“The Doctor is worth the monsters. One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.”

Doctor Who - The Girl in the Fireplace

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who we continue to look back at some old episodes of the series. If I had to choose my favorite episode of the Doctor Who relaunch it would be “Blink,” but a very close second would be “The Girl in the Fireplace.” From the show’s Second Season, the TARDIS lands in the year 5,000 on an abandoned space station populated by clockwork automatons whose soul purpose seems to be using the ship to punch a hole through time and opening windows into 18th Century France along the lifeline of a single woman.

And what a woman. First meeting her as a young girl through a fireplace that exists both on the ship and in her bedroom in France, The Doctor (David Tennant) saves young Reinette (Jessica Atkins) from her very real monsters. Reappearing minutes later for him, but years in Versailles, The Doctor reconnects with an older version of the character (Sophia Myles) whose brain the automatons need as the final piece to repair the ship. However, they are searching throughout the young woman’s history for the exact moment when her brain will be fully compatible.

The unusual juxtaposition of Rose (Billie Piper) and Mickey (Noel Clarke) walking around an abandoned spaceship which is using harvested human organs to repair itself versus The Doctor and Reinette’s moments together thousands of years before creates on of the show’s best set-ups. It’s also interesting to note that the episode was penned by Steven Moffat who a few years later would use a variation on The Doctor’s relationship with Reinette (meeting her first as a child and later as an adult) and themes of The Doctor’s trouble with time (miscalculating the time it would take to get back to Reinette) when he introduced Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) in “The Eleventh Hour.”

The clockwork automatons are indeed beautiful (as The Doctor remarks) as well. But it’s the spirited, smart, and classy character of Reinette that really makes the episode work. Reinette would have made for a terrific long-term companion for the series and Myles is terrific in the role. However, the episode’s heart-breaking epilogue (which is foreshadowed early on) shows us that some things are simply not meant to be as The Doctor’s final misjudgement with time costs him the chance to spend even a single moment more with Madame de Pompadour.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” ends with letting the audience in on a secret it chooses not to share with its characters as the final camera shot pulls back to explain why the ship’s robots were obsessed with the brain of an 18th Century French woman. The episode also continues to disabuse Rose of the notion of how unique she is as The Doctor’s current companion (begun in the previous episode when she meets another who once traveled with The Doctor) as Reinette turns his head rather easily and even makes him forget that by breaking the time window to save Reinette he is abandoning his companions to live out the rest of his days in deep space centuries and light years from home. Reinette’s brilliance allows The Doctor to return to the TARDIS but can’t prevent her from living out her life fruitlessly hoping to see her “lonely angel” one more time.

Tony November 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

This is of the best episodes of the new or original series.

heather November 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm

One of my favs but the last scene always breaks my heart.

Richard November 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I can’t watch this episode but somehow I do and it just destroys me every time.

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