Doctor Who: The Girl In The Fireplace

How is a menacing masked figure in 18th-century France connected to a damaged spaceship in the 51st century?

With apologies for lateness, a review of the latest Doctor Who episode shown in the UK.

Cast and Crew

David Tennant as the Doctor
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith
Sophia Myles as Reinette
Ben Turner as King Louis
Jessica Atkins as Young Reinette
Angel Coulby as Katherine
Gareth Wyn Griffiths as Manservant
Paul Kasey as Clockwork Man
Ellen Thomas as Clockwork Woman
Jonathan Hart and Emily Joyce were the alien voices

Written by Stephen Moffat

Directed by Euros Lyn

Originally aired on the 6th of May 2006 on BBC One in the United Kingdom.

Synopsis

In eighteenth-century France, a party is interrupted by the attack of a strange masked figure. The hostess runs to the fireplace and calls for the Doctor — who has just arrived on an abandoned spaceship in the fifty-first century.

High Points

  • ‘It’s so realistic!’
  • ‘We did not have the parts.’
  • The mindreading scene.

Low Point

Why didn’t the Doctor remember the different rates at which time moves on each side of the fireplace?

The Scores

Robots get out of control, take a simple misunderstanding and turn it into a very large disaster. Sure, it’s been done before, but this had a nice polish to it. Four out of six for originality.

Rather nice effects this week. The spaceship looks very computer-rendered on the outside, but the space backdrops are superb, as is the clockwork. Five out of six.

Cracking story as well. A nice bit of tension, mystery and a good ending which doesn’t quite tie up everything, thus avoiding the problem of being too neat and self-contained. The pacing didn’t suffer from the episode length either; this story fit perfectly into its assigned time. Five out of six.

Once more the regular cast fail to disappoint on acting. David Tennant is really into the role of the Doctor in this episode, and seems to put in an even better performance than usual. Sophia Myles is a big name and comes with high expectations which the script allowed her to fulfil. Five out of six.

There’s some nice emotional response here, particularly relating to our glimpse into the Doctor’s mental state. Five out of six.

Lavish sets and extravagant costumes all round to recreate the royal court in pre-revolutionary France, while at the same time some dark, dingy and battered sets for a damaged spaceship in the future. Did they have two production teams for this? Five out of six.

Overall this episode is probably best of the second series so far. Six out of six, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get better…

And the grand total for The Girl in the Fireplace is out of thirty-five out of forty-two.

24 replies on “Doctor Who: The Girl In The Fireplace”

  1. obiwan says:

    My high point

    Doctor : It’s just a nightmare. Even monsters get nightmares

    Little girl terrified of the monsters : What monsters get nightmares about?

    Doctor : ME!

  2. J_W_W says:

    Re: High and low points
    Another high point was the reveal of the ships name at the end.

    As for the low points. I thought one thing they should have changed would be to have the mindreading look a little less like a mind-meld. I don’t know maybe they could have done it one handed, or just used a couple of fingers or something. It was kind of jarring at the time as it immedietly reminded me of Star Trek. I agree though that the content of the scene and the dialog was excellent.

    And as to the stated low point. I didn’t even think the Doctor was going to go back through the fireplace, I thought he was heading to the TARDIS and was going to use it to go back and get her.

    Also, this low point brings up an issue with Doctor Who, which is: He has a time machine, so he could have gone back through the fireplace and then still taken the TARDIS back to meet her. But I know if they do too much of that, eventually we’ll end up with how Bill and Ted find Ted’s keys and that would be, of course, bogus. So I guess I’ll live with the rules they adopt for the show, in exchange for consistency.

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: High and low points

      Another high point was the reveal of the ships name at the end.

      As for the low points. I thought one thing they should have changed would be to have the mindreading look a little less like a mind-meld. I don’t know maybe they could have done it one handed, or just used a couple of fingers or something. It was kind of jarring at the time as it immedietly reminded me of Star Trek. I agree though that the content of the scene and the dialog was excellent.

      And as to the stated low point. I didn’t even think the Doctor was going to go back through the fireplace, I thought he was heading to the TARDIS and was going to use it to go back and get her.

      Also, this low point brings up an issue with Doctor Who, which is: He has a time machine, so he could have gone back through the fireplace and then still taken the TARDIS back to meet her. But I know if they do too much of that, eventually we’ll end up with how Bill and Ted find Ted’s keys and that would be, of course, bogus. So I guess I’ll live with the rules they adopt for the show, in exchange for consistency.

      Well he did say at one point in the episode ‘We can’t use the TARDIS, we’re involved in events now’ when asked why they couldn’t use the TARDIS to avoid the risk of not finding the right window in time. I think that’s some way to avoid a temporal paradox, presumably. There are rules – they’re just never clear on what they are.

      • J_W_W says:

        Re: High and low points

        Another high point was the reveal of the ships name at the end.

        As for the low points. I thought one thing they should have changed would be to have the mindreading look a little less like a mind-meld. I don’t know maybe they could have done it one handed, or just used a couple of fingers or something. It was kind of jarring at the time as it immedietly reminded me of Star Trek. I agree though that the content of the scene and the dialog was excellent.

        And as to the stated low point. I didn’t even think the Doctor was going to go back through the fireplace, I thought he was heading to the TARDIS and was going to use it to go back and get her.

        Also, this low point brings up an issue with Doctor Who, which is: He has a time machine, so he could have gone back through the fireplace and then still taken the TARDIS back to meet her. But I know if they do too much of that, eventually we’ll end up with how Bill and Ted find Ted’s keys and that would be, of course, bogus. So I guess I’ll live with the rules they adopt for the show, in exchange for consistency.

        Well he did say at one point in the episode ‘We can’t use the TARDIS, we’re involved in events now’ when asked why they couldn’t use the TARDIS to avoid the risk of not finding the right window in time. I think that’s some way to avoid a temporal paradox, presumably. There are rules – they’re just never clear on what they are.

        Yeah, but my thinking was that he was going to go to the TARDIS, after all, events were really done by that time. I’ll just chalk it up to creative license to make a more poingant point.

    • Kaki says:

      Re: High and low points
      Well, one of the things he has said again and again is that everything has its time and its end. I thought his mood at the end showed him to be sadly considering his own power to go back, to hold on to something pleasant. While at the same time facing the end of it.

      Perhaps he was trying to decide how much of his own power it would right to use. Besides, he could wait a few days or months or years; see if he still wants to go back then.

  3. babasyzygy says:

    Emotional Response: Scary
    One thing that struck me in this episode was that, in the sense of scaring British children behind the sofa, the scene where the Doctor first hunts down the ticking sound has got to be the scariest scense in Doctor Who, ever.

    I’ve never looked at a scene in Doctor Who before and said, "that’ll really give the kids nightmares!"

  4. majick says:

    Doctor Who: Confidential…
    For a really good insight into the production of this (or any) episode, check out Doctor Who: Confidential on BBC3. It airs right afterwards and goes in depth with the cast and crew regarding production specifics.

    This last one specifically mentioned the decisions made in constructing the set and how they are tied together.

    If you don’t get BBC or DW:C, bittorrent is your friend. I also recall last year, the BBC had them on there site to watch from there. They may still…

    They also go into some depth about the Doctor riding the horse through the mirror, which you didn’t mention in the review… I thought it looked very CG, but considering budget, complexity, the great story, and performances all around, I think I can find it within myself to forgive them.

    So how yummy was Sofia Myles as Madame de Pompadour? Personally, I think she was the high point.

    • syagrius says:

      Re: Doctor Who: Confidential…

      They also go into some depth about the Doctor riding the horse through the mirror, which you didn’t mention in the review…

      The horse through the mirror and the sword fight in the Christmas episode seem to mark this Doctor out as someone very swashbuckling, dashing and action oriented compared to the Doctors I am familiar with. Most of the Doctors I remember either talked or ran away from things a lot. This one charges in and fights a lot. He also partied. Does any one else think he might have been "getting lucky" while Rose and Micky were being prepared for disection?

      I really liked the episode but this Doctor is a definite departure from Baker and Pertwee and that Yuppie post-Baker which are the Doctors I am familiar with.

      • joe__gee says:

        Doctor Kirk / Captain Who

        Does any one else think he might have been "getting lucky" while Rose and Micky were being prepared for disection?

        You might be right, but I really hope you’re not. (The following paragraphs are not attacking you or your comment, this just a good place to insert my comments. :) )

        My greatest fear is Doctor Who turning into a time-travelling Lothario, a love-em-and-leave-em womanizer with a babe in every century. With the new dynamic between the Doctor and Rose, the Doctor and Sarah, and the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour I feel like we’re balancing on the edge right now. :(

        Plus, he *is* an alien. One of the few series that ever dealt with alien species’ reproductive organs, Babylon 5,
        brought to the forefront the differences that most likely exist between species’ genitalia (Londo’s method of cheating in poker.)

        The Doctor *did* mention that humans have a tendency to "dance" with may different species, but we’ve never seen or heard of a Time Lord doing anything like that. I fear that having the Doctor participate in romantic liaisons with alien species would cheapen the Time Lords, and him.

        On the other hand, if it were divulged that this Doctor is so intensely lonely, being the last survivor of his race (which this episode did,) then perhaps a dalliance or two might be understandable, as long as they did not evolve into anything long-term. We do not need a Mrs. Doctor, even if she *is* Billie Piper.

        Who knows, maybe my fears are groundless, or perhaps the writers of this new series are good enough that they can accomplish what virtually every series preceding them has failed to do: successfully turn ongoing romantic tension between two primary characters into a worthwhile relationship that doesn’t somehow ruin the entire program.

        I’m afraid the show’s writers will attempt the impossible some time this season.

        Regarding emotional impact, I loved this ep, but I cried more last week, between K-9 and Sarah. I just really like those two characters, and seeing them was very nostalgic.

        -Joe

        • lost says:

          Re: Doctor Kirk / Captain Who

          The Doctor *did* mention that humans have a tendency to "dance" with may different species, but we’ve never seen or heard of a Time Lord doing anything like that. I fear that having the Doctor participate in romantic liaisons with alien species would cheapen the Time Lords, and him.

          Actually, it may not be totally unprecedented. I seem to recall that Leela stayed behind on Gallifrey (with the original K9 I think) with a Gallifreyan. Of course, I might be misremembering.

          • rayden54 says:

            Re: Doctor Kirk / Captain Who

            The Doctor *did* mention that humans have a tendency to "dance" with may different species, but we’ve never seen or heard of a Time Lord doing anything like that. I fear that having the Doctor participate in romantic liaisons with alien species would cheapen the Time Lords, and him.

            Actually, it may not be totally unprecedented. I seem to recall that Leela stayed behind on Gallifrey (with the original K9 I think) with a Gallifreyan. Of course, I might be misremembering.

            Wasn’t it said somewhere that The Doctor himself was half-human? But even still, I agree that too much Kirk behavior is not a good thing. Alas, it’s a lesson Star Trek never learned.
            BTW, I’m really gonna hate this episode when I see it (being that I’m a Doctor/Rose fan)

      • TomSwiss says:

        Re: Doctor Who: Confidential…

        seem to mark this Doctor out as someone very swashbuckling, dashing and action oriented compared to the Doctors I am familiar with. Most of the Doctors I remember either talked or ran away from things a lot…a definite departure from Baker and Pertwee

        Pertwee’s Doctor was a master of "Venusian aikido", and buckled a swash from time to time.

        • Raonaild says:

          Re: Doctor Who: Confidential…

          Pertwee’s Doctor was a master of "Venusian aikido", and buckled a swash from time to time.

          Pertwee’s Doctor was also a bit James Bond-ish … his final ep had a long chase scene (the Doctor was doing the chasing) involving, amongst other things, a helicopter, a speedboat and a hovercraft.

          Baker’s Doctor got into a few fistfights and swordfights and rode a few horses in his time too. It wasn’t all joking and jellybabies.

          Of course, money was scarce, production was rushed and effects were primitive in the old series. They couldn’t have staged the kind of elaborate action scenes the new series can do now, even if they wanted to.

          As for running away … Elisabeth Sladen commented on her first scene filmed for the new series ep School Reunion that she had a bit of dialog, then a whole lot of running, "So no difference there then". The new series Doctors have done as much running away through corridors as previous Doctors (so far this year, he’s run from zombies, a werewolf, and bat-like aliens), it’s just that now the corridors and the aliens look a lot less silly.

  5. fsphil says:

    Great Episode
    I loved this episode, the best so far in this series.

    When I was reading about Madame de Pompadour earlier today (yep, Doctor Who is making me interested in history!) I found this little bit on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_de_Pompadour

    "Pompadour is played by Sophia Myles. In the episode, she has a romantic link with the Doctor, but is ultimately unable to follow the Doctor in his adventures. Her age at death is given as 43 in the episode, but was actually 42."

    It’s odd that they’d get something like that wrong.

    • J_W_W says:

      Re: Great Episode

      I loved this episode, the best so far in this series.

      When I was reading about Madame de Pompadour earlier today (yep, Doctor Who is making me interested in history!) I found this little bit on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_de_Pompadour

      "Pompadour is played by Sophia Myles. In the episode, she has a romantic link with the Doctor, but is ultimately unable to follow the Doctor in his adventures. Her age at death is given as 43 in the episode, but was actually 42."

      It’s odd that they’d get something like that wrong.

      Maybe they didn’t. I would be really interesting, with Rose reportedly leaving the show after this year, to have Madame Pomadour be a companion of the doctor. Then the king, knowning of the Doctor, could correctly say she was 43, IF … he knew that she traveled with the Doctor for an extra year of her life…..

      Just a thought. She was a fantastic character and would make a great companion.

      • fsphil says:

        Re: Great Episode

        Just a thought.

        But a good thought. I’d like to see that.

  6. Kaki says:

    A friend and I …
    … have been incorporating Doctor Who into a weekly get together with a bunch of other friends. We started it this season, and this one scored the highest so far with the friends that aren’t "fans".

    I thought it was good too. Only, has the Doctor done telepathy before? I had no idea he could do that. Makes me wonder about that bit at the end of Shada.

    • stevo says:

      Re: A friend and I …

      I thought it was good too. Only, has the Doctor done telepathy before? I had no idea he could do that. Makes me wonder about that bit at the end of Shada.

      Just off the top of my head I can remember these times:
      The 4th Doctor hypnotising Sarah Jane Smith to survive a vacuum in a room.

      I have a vague recollection of the 7th Doctor doing something pseudo-telepathic in Battlefield.

      The Doctor has also, on a number of occassions, turned mind reading machines back on thier users.

      They have also made numerous references to the TARDIS being telepathic, as well as the telepathic notepaper the doctor has been using in the current 2 seasons.

      I’m sure there are other occassions people can remember.

    • babasyzygy says:

      Re: A friend and I …

      I thought it was good too. Only, has the Doctor done telepathy before? I had no idea he could do that. Makes me wonder about that bit at the end of Shada.

      Yes, definitely. He’s linked with other Time Lords before, I think even with other versions of himself. I have a vague memory of the Doctors saying, "Contact!" as they linked.

      That was probably the Five Doctors and not the Three Doctors (or the Two)… I should really go back and watch all of those some time soon…

      • Alexius says:

        Re: A friend and I …

        That was probably the Five Doctors and not the Three Doctors (or the Two)… I should really go back and watch all of those some time soon…

        Actually, It Was The Three Doctors, I Just happened To Watch It About A Week Ago.

  7. y42 says:

    Emotional response
    Damn thing brought a tear to my eye. 6/6

  8. Kaki says:

    Oh yeah…
    … and what about that "lonely childhood"? Does that mesh with Time Lords reproducing via the Looms?

    • Alexius says:

      Re: Oh yeah…

      … and what about that "lonely childhood"? Does that mesh with Time Lords reproducing via the Looms?

      Assuming The Doctor Came From The Looms.

      There’s That Whole Bit About him Not Being Just Another Time Lord.

  9. jabberwocky says:

    The Girl In The Fireplace :-)
    I would have to say that this episode is the best of the new season.

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