7.236 "Journey to the Centre of the T.A.R.D.I.S." - SPOILERS

Summary from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_Centre_of_the_TARDIS

Aboard a salvage ship, a space salvage crew, consisting of the Van Baalen brothers Gregor and Bram and the android Tricky, spot the TARDIS and deciding it would be worth a lot, salvage it.

Meanwhile, aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Clara are discussing why the TARDIS doesn’t seem to like her. The Doctor, believing that flying the TARDIS will help Clara to connect with it, turns it to “basic mode” to allow her to do so, and in the process lowers the shields. As he is teaching her how to operate it, the TARDIS suddenly shuts down and starts being shaken about, as the salvage ship is grabbing it with a magnetic beam. Clara picks up a small metal object, a magnetic beacon used by the Van Baalens, and is burned by it. They are thrown to the ground as the TARDIS jolts.

The salvage crew go to inspect their new salvage. They realise it’s leaking fuel, back off, and Gregor decides to eject it back into space, only to be interrupted by the Doctor who has escaped the ship, unscathed. Realising Clara is still inside, he convinces the brothers to help him back inside, offering “the salvage of a lifetime” if they would help. Inside, he sets the TARDIS’ self-destruct countdown timer and seals them inside as motivation to find Clara, the “salvage” he spoke of earlier.

Meanwhile, Clara wakes up in the battered TARDIS with a burnt hand and goes looking for the Doctor. As she explores the TARDIS and its contents she sees something following her, an ossified humanoid creature with glowing red eyes, and in panic she starts running.
While the Doctor and the crew are searching for Clara, using his hand held computer Gregor realises the salvage potential of the TARDIS and orders Bram to go back to the console room to strip it for anything valuable, eventually he climbs down into the consoles innards and is absorbed by one of the ossified creature. The Doctor, Gregor and Tricky hear his screams but continue to look for Clara. Gregor goes into the architectural reconfiguration system, “a machine that can make machines”, and steals from it, causing the TARDIS to become distressed and to start creating labyrinths to protect herself. Clara, meanwhile, finds herself in the huge library where she finds a book entitled ‘The History Of The Time War’. After reading a few pages Clara is forced to flee the library when she sees a creature she later refers to as a zombie hunting her. She soon finds herself back in the console room, relieved but alone.

The Doctor, Gregor and Tricky arrive in the console room and can hear Clara’s breathing, but cannot see her. The Doctor deduces that the TARDIS has created ‘echoes’ of the console room to protect itself. He is able to link the two iterations of the room for a moment and grab Clara from her ‘echo’ where she has been avoiding the zombie, who is now mimicking her actions. The Doctor then reveals to the crew that the self-destruct was a deception but soon realises that the engine is damaged due to a time leak somewhere aboard the ship. He takes Clara down to the engine room where he realises the leaking fuel is causing rods in the ship to break and fall. As they run, trying to avoid the falling rods, they run into the crew members, where Tricky’s arm is trapped by a fallen rod. Urging Gregor to cut his arm off as he could simply have a new one attached, however it is revealed that Tricky is not an android but is human – and Gregor and Bram’s brother. Gregor deceived Tricky after an accident wiped Tricky’s memory and led to his eyes being replaced with bionic ones as part of a joke. Gregor also had an ulterior motive: Replacing Tricky as Captain of the Van Baalen salvage ship after the death of their father.

Freeing Tricky Gregor, Clara, and the Doctor run to the TARDIS’s engine, passing through the mammoth chamber containing the Eye of Harmony (a sun perpetually on the verge of becoming a black hole, tapped for energy) while avoiding the creatures. They attempt to cross over but are trapped as the creatures are behind every door, soon breaking in. The Doctor reluctantly explains that the creatures are actually their future selves created by exposure to the Eye, displaced by the time leak, and tries to convince the others to alter their future to avoid them. Tricky successfully attacks the creatures but falls off the walkway; Gregor ignores the Doctor’s instructions not to touch Tricky, pulling his brother back onto the walkway, which leads to the two transforming into the conjoined twin-like creature they had just encountered.

The Doctor and Clara escape, seemingly finding a dead end. The conversation turns to an argument about the Doctor keeping secrets. Exasperated, he explains that he has met her twice before at different points in time and space, and that she died in both cases. Clara responds with incomprehension, and the Doctor accepts her innocence in the mystery. Clara mentions that she learned the Doctor’s name while exploring the TARDIS, but the Doctor sternly warns her against mentioning it, claiming that some secrets keep people safe.
The two finally make their way to the centre of the TARDIS only to discover that the engine has already blown up, its pieces frozen in time as a stopgap safety measure. The Doctor doesn’t know how to fix it until he sees Clara’s hand, where the backwards words ‘Big Friendly Button’ have been burnt onto her palm. Inspired, the Doctor returns to the console room, grabs the magnetic beacon, and climbs through the time rift in the TARDIS’ wall. He emerges into the past, the TARDIS rocking as the salvage operation begins. He throws his and Clara’s past selves the beacon, warning them of the future before vanishing. Clara again picks up the beacon and has her hand burned. The Doctor retrieves the device and sees the message “big friendly button” recently scorched onto its side. He presses it, the TARDIS is released from the salvage ship’s grasp, and the previous timeline is erased.

In the the new present, Gregor, Bram and Tricky are seen on their salvage ship. Gregor treats Tricky decently, echoing the Doctor’s earlier advice, suggesting that not everything was deleted. Tricky is now in the picture with his brothers and their father, while in the TARDIS the Doctor discusses with Clara how safe she feels with him.


Some of my favorite memories of original Doctor Who series were the episodes that take place entirely in the TARDIS herself. I’ll admit I missed that aspect in the rebooted Doctor Who. There are so many possibilities with infinite space, internal reconfiguration and what’s in the TARDIS that you wouldn’t even have to leave her if you didn’t have to. This episode didn’t disappoint in those regards.

Yes, there are the mechanics of the TARDIS to consider and I will get to them later, but as any good storytelling there was a story to tell. There was the story of the Van Balaan Bros and how they were so jealous of their kid brother that once he was injured in a horrible salvage accident that Bram and Gregor lied to Tricky so they could be Co-Captains and kick their little brother around.

More to the point there was the story of Clara, The Doctor and the TARDIS. Was Tricky’s situation a mirror for Clara? Not quite. Clara remembers her Mum and Dad. But Clara hasn’t given us any indication that she remembers anything beyond her parents so far. I wouldn’t put it past the production team to have done it. And also, The Doctor tells Gregor to never forget what happened and even though time is reset at the end of the episode Gregor treats Tricky better. So will Clara remember anything she learned? Since The Doctor didn’t tell her to probably not, but who knows for sure.

I might be mistaken but I think we are beyond the TARDIS-Clara relationship spat now. The TARDIS did go out of her way to save Clara multiple times. I think we’ll see them get along much better now - assuming the TARDIS remembers what happened during the time that was reset.

One thing to take away from this episode in case you didn’t get it before, the TARDIS is EXTREMELY clever. From self protection and preservation to helping out “Team TARDIS” as much as she can the TARDIS can take care of herself. As The Doctor says “Smart bunch, Time Lords. No dress sense, dreadful hats, but SMART.”

I’d be curious to know if the TARDIS really does have a self destruct capability. Does anyone know?

Gotta love Doctor Who getting down on the current Zombie fascination to the point where Clara even outright calls them zombie creatures. And as Clara states, “Good guys do not have zombie creatures. Rule 1 basic storytelling.”

Near the end we get another reaffirmation that Clara is just Clara. And at the very end The Doctor asks Clara if she feels safe. It is important to him that she doesn’t feel scared and probably that she can trust him - a nod to Emma telling The Doctor that Clara is a little bit more afraid than she lets on last week in Hide.

Now, unto the SciFi-ish stuff. I love the Van Baalan Bros ship. It reminded me of a Halo ship or the Sulaku from Aliens. I loved that we say The Doctor’s workshop, the pool, the Library, the Observatory and the heart of the TARDIS/Engine room. A reminder of the main features of the TARDIS:

I love the console room echos too. Again, the TARDIS showing that she will go at extreme lengths to protect those who she holds dear.

Did I like the episode? Yes. But my favorite this season is still The Rings Of Akhaten. But that’s just me.

~Shooter Out

Want to get my thots down, then will respond to Shooter’s and other points people make. Rewatched this morning and I am willing to go out on a limb and say this is my favorite episode of this season 7b. I still hold very close to Akhaten but as Keir properly (and kindly) noted, my strong connection to that was purely emotional.

As most of you know I am a new Whovian. Never watched an ep prior to 2011 so I don’t carry any childhood preconceptions regarding the Whoverse. I am thankful to have an appreciation for the history of the Doctor through the Doctor revisited specials and http://www.gallifreypublicradio.com so I understood the relative significance of this episode and why it was important. I also do acknowledge that we have been beyond the control room before, but never like this.

Three major plot areas

Van Baalen Brothers

In my opinion the weakest written part of this episode were the Van Baalens Brothers. However, the actors pulled this back with the nuance of their performance. I can imagine the writer’s dilemma: How much time and energy do we dedicate to the story of characters that are one time use only? I believed Tricky in his struggle to understand why his brother’s would do this. I believe Gregor saying, “it was just a joke” even tho I have a real hard time believing that as a plot point. I understand Tricky was the smartest, and I understand their Father made him Captain, but doing this to anyone is beyond horrifying. There is something huge here left unexplored…

The Innards of the T.A.R.D.I.S.
Let’s just all put the elephant in the ballroom out there…we wanted more. Glimpse of the pool? Thank you. Observatory looking thing? Cool. Hallways? Thoroughly covered. Library? Epic. The library sold the entire concept only to be trumped by the absolutely stunning visual of walking through shards of the engine mid-explosion. Gorgeous. Worth the price of admission.

Clara and the Doctor
We and the Doctor now trust Clara that she is not in on the gig. Our empath from Hide is correct, she is just an ordinary girl. Of course we don’t buy the fact that she is ordinary, but I think we do buy Clara isn’t actively plotting and planning. If she is part of a larger plan she is not involved.

General notes
I am getting the sense from the intertubes some people were dissapointed by the etch-a-sketch nature of the end of this. They argue that all stakes were erased, the episode is ultimately meaningless. I would disagree completely. Our Lord and Master has taught us that without loss life is meaningless. This episode kills the T.A.R.D.I.S… Kills it dead. Although yes, they ultimately reverse that death we leave with a deeper understanding of what could have been and perhaps more importantly how bloody important the T.A.R.D.I.S. is to the Doctor and ultimately the show itself. Ever have a relationship in your life that you took for granted and only realized its value when it was gone? We got a glimpse of that here and frankly I found it terrifying. I have been taking the T.A.R.D.I.S. for granted, I won’t be doing that again. Mission accomplished.

Only other thought was on the Clara zombies. Um. What? I understand from a plot standpoint we needed a motivator to literally get Clara to move room to room otherwise she would have just stayed in the library reading books. What I don’t get is literally what the zombies were. Yes, I get the fact in an alternate future Clara dies while being exposed to the sun caught in mid-collapse. Got it. How does frying your skin make you into a zombie or give you the ability to replicate by touching others? Wha? And if Clara dies in the future why are the Clara zombies in the present? When we see echoes of the past they are literally echoes. You can’t interact with them and they aren’t trying to kill you. This is over the “timey wimey” line unless I totally missed something major.

Even with my future Clara zombie hang up I still feel like this episode is solid like a well built house. Thoroughly enjoyed and will probably rewatch again on the train home to catch any remains bits (what was the Gallifrey encyclopedia evaporating juice?)

The more I think about this storyline the more horrifying I find it. Truly disturbing.

I had not considered a Tricky / Clara parallel. Interesting. Nicely aligns with your thots regarding how Clara for the most part is a clean slate, devoid of most details.

Yeah, the T.A.R.D.I.S. and Clara are besties now. It was not insignficant that when Clara refinds the Control Room the first thing she does is kiss the console.

I’m still firmly on Team Akhaten, but this episode is my new #1 of 7b. Here is hoping they can top both of them!

On the surface I agree with you. However, The Doctor ensured that this was corrected by telling Gregor never to forget about treating Tricky like that and with the time reset it was at least one of the only things that was remembered. The Doctor salvaged The Van Baalan Bros. I find it an interesting twist.

I cannot believe Steven Moffat would let even one precious episode go by not to have parallels and story lines to Clara. That is what is going to make this rewatchable after years and years and years. Besides, Moffat has a habit of bringing back important parts from across the series. In my opinion, we will be seeing some of these so called “one-off” episode characters again.

Okay, what is the correct designation? Control room or Console room? I’ve heard both but think that there is a Doctor Who franchise preference. I just don’t know which one it is since I use both interchangable. Clara might be a little dense when it comes to the TARDIS and vice versa, but between Clara convincing the TARDIS to fly into the pocket universe to save The Doctor in Hide and the TARDIS going out of her way to protect Clara this week in Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS I think we’ve seen a hard fought and won friendship develop, I do not think that this is insignificant. This is a theme that will continue to be developed.

Hear hear! I’m betting on Moffat to not disappoint us. We’ve been set up so beautifully I’d hate for him to drop the ball across the finish line.

I’m not going to let this one go: Treating Tricky a little better doesn’t even begin to make up for what they’ve done, they can’t even see decency with a telescope. Your younger brother, your flesh and blood, your Captain gets in a horrible accident that blows out his eyes, voice and a bit of brain that contains his memory and your approach is to tell him he isn’t human? You opt not to mention you are siblings? You don’t dedicate your life to trying and help him or simply let him know who he is and where he is from?

I find it sinister. Calling it a joke is an insult to jokes. It is repugnant. Chalking it up to Gregor being jealous that Tricky got to be Captain? This is cruel and unusual punishment. Now that I think about it Gregor doesn’t even flinch when Bram dies, he is still more interested in the salvage. In my mind that makes Gregor a sociopath. Why Bran agreed to the Tricky plan is beyond me.

I have to agree with you on all of this. In fact Gregor’s refusal to give back the circuit is what eventually did the brothers in. Gregor had the circuit right up to the time he was toasted even though Tricky attempted to try to take it from Gregor and give it back.

I guess the only small redeeming value was that The Doctor did what he could to try to make it better. Not that it makes up for the treatment Bram and Gregor gave Tricky at all. But The Doctor did what he could. Sometimes a little shift to make a horrible situation a little better is all that you can hope for.