The Girl in the Fireplace

20 Nov 2007

Last Friday night we watched an episode of Doctor Who entitled “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

This was an absolutely fantastic episode. See the Wikipedia entry on this episode here. I edited down the plot summary since it was overly long. This episode won a Hugo award for best dramatic presentation, short form.

There are a lot of things wrong with this episode; it is maddeningly inconsistent. In this episode, the Doctor can supposedly read minds by performing a mind meld like Spock, a new ability. “Time windows” behave in bizarre and inconsistent ways; they’re open, or closed, or disabled but still usable once if something hits them hard enough (but then they break), or shut down but still re-openable from one end; basically, they provide whatever the plot calls for at a given time. Time moves at different rates on different sides of the time window, but without any consistency whatsoever; again, it does whatever the plot finds useful. There’s a weird sub-plot involving clockwork repair androids deciding that the best way to repair a disabled spaceship is to kill the crew and use their organs to repair a spaceship — there’s a weird scene in which Rose and Mickey discover a human heart beating inside one of the ship’s systems. This makes very little sense, especially because apparently the heat of the spaceship systems tends to cook the organs, and the ship smells like roasting meat.

Interestingly, none of this matters. The episode is great because it is beautifully shot and beautifully acted. The costumes and sets are drop-dead gorgeous. Sophia Myles is fantastic and so is David Tennant. The Doctor is smitten with this brilliant and beautiful historic figure; she looks into his lonely soul and loves what she sees there. It is a timeless story of the semi-immortal Doctor confronted again with his helpless love of fleeting human life.

It’s the human heart in the middle of the whole crazy Doctor Who apparatus, burning with loss. Suddenly that scene makes sense!

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