Idris: “Yes, that’s me: A Type 40 TARDIS. I was already a museum piece when you were young. And the first time you touched my console, you said–”
The Doctor: “I said you were the most beautiful thing I had ever known.”
Idris: “Then you stole me. And I stole you.”
The Doctor: “…I borrowed you.”
Idris: “Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing that was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?”
This is the scene that made me fall in love with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. That dialogue, that single moment… all that is why I realized how great Steven Moffat and Neil Gaiman are, and rediscovered why I love this show.
The episode takes place outside the known universe, on an asteroid full of Rift energy and littered with the wreckage of countless TARDISes. The Doctor follows a distress signal from the Corsair’s hypercube, only to realize it’s a trap set by House, an alien entity that feeds on Time Lord technology. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory are locked inside the TARDIS when House invades, forcing out its living matrix and putting it into the stolen body of a woman named Idris.
And so, for the first time ever, the Doctor and the TARDIS have a face-to-face conversation.
For me, this episode is just wonderful. Matt Smith brings a lot of his usual high-energy antics, but for once, he’s competing with the performance by Suranne Jones as Idris, who has trouble with verb tenses and usually makes less sense with far more ecstasy. She really proves that the TARDIS is the “Doctor’s wife” because they understand each other so well, even when they’re bickering about reading the owner’s manual.
Their high-strung moments were nicely contrasted to Amy and Rory’s subplot, as they deal with the sheer horror of the TARDIS interior and how manipulative House can be. I was surprised to learn that Michael Sheen was the voice actor for House, but after rewatching the episode, he really fits the menacing character type. And during the final chase sequence, I love the brief tongue-in-cheek appearance of the TARDIS set from the David Tennant era.
This episode falls under a personal category of style that I like to call “The Hero Outside His Element” (for another good example, check out Superman’s portrayal in the Justice League animated series episode “Hereafter”). It’s the Doctor losing his TARDIS, his big blue box in which travel through time and space, and having to build another one. It’s the Doctor seeking–and failing–to get forgiveness for the Time Lords he’s had to destroy. And it’s the Doctor’s companions, Amy and Rory, locked inside the TARDIS under a malevolent being’s control, trapped inside something that’s usually the safest place in all of existence. This is one of those episodes that really examines what it means to spend your life traveling the cosmos and just how mad and eager you have to be to carry on with it.
Doctor Who is available on BBC One and BBC America.
Bibliography: “The Doctor’s Wife.” Doctor Who (Series 6). Directed by Richard Clark. Written by Neil Gaiman. Produced by Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis, and Sanne Wohlenberg. BBC TV. Original broadcast: May 14, 2011.