Who Review: The Girl in the Fireplace

Steven Moffat’s critically-acclaimed Doctor Who writing debut 'The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances' last season was always going to be a hard act to follow, but I'm glad to report that he has produced another fantastic and totally satisfying Who adventure. The story involves a group of sinister clockwork robots from the 51st century who are pursuing a young French aristocrat called Reinette Poisson from the 18th century. Why? Well, why indeed. The Doctor forms a very quick relationship with the young French girl who he first meets through a time portal on the spaceship which opens up on the girl's fireplace. The ship is full of such portals which enable the Doctor (and the evil robots) to flit in and out of the girl's life. In the space of five minutes, the Doctor has visited her three times and sees her growing up at an alarming rate, until she is a beautiful young woman who he realises is the renowned Madame de Pompadour. "How could you be a stranger to me?" she says. "I've known you since I was seven years old!" Before he knows it, the Doctor is in love.

The episode is packed with great moments: the juxtaposition of the ship and pre-revolutionary France is delightful; the clockwork robots with grinning masquerade ball faces and that sinister ticking noise are a wonderful creation; the Doctor's first 'proper' kiss (we'll ignore that silliness in the first episode because Rose wasn't herself!) is beautifully played; and the unusual sight of the Doctor crashing through a giant mirror on a horse into a crowded ballroom - well, you just don't see that every day! But as with all the successful Who episodes, the best moments are the quiet moments. When we reach the inevitable tragic denoument, there are two moments to savour: firstly, the look on Rose's face when she senses the Doctor's sadness. It is a look which only lasts a few seconds, but in that short time she conveys such feeling that it makes up entirely for the fact that, once again, her character has been sidelined in this episode. And then the Doctor's quiet moment as he leans against the Tardis console and reads the letter left to him by Madame de Pompadour. And then, to top it off, just as the episode is about to end and we realise that the central question (why Madame de Pompadour?) has not been answered, we get a shot of the spaceship's exterior and we see that the ship was named after her! Brilliant!

Next week we have the Rise of the Cybermen, the first part of a two-parter. This series just gets better and better.


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