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“The Doctor’s Wife” Review (SPOILERS)

And the early frontrunner for favorite Doctor Who Series 6 episode goes to…

When I watched “The Doctor’s Wife” the first time, I wondered if I was actually enjoying it as much as I thought I was. I’ve been wanting to see this episode ever since I first heard about the possibility of it 18 months ago or so, and then the anticipation ratcheted up to a new level when it was announced that it would actually be episode four of this season. Had I built up the excitement so much for an episode of my favorite television show written by Neil Gaiman, who is one of my favorite writers, that no matter what was put forth on screen, I’d just be grinning like a happy idiot when it ended? As I grinned like a happy idiot when it ended, it occurred to me that perhaps I had let my geeky fervor overrun my analytical critic’s mind. Like all episodes of this season, I knew I was going to have to watch it again.

And so I did. After a sleep and a cup of Chamomile (in my “Mind the Gap” mug), I was prepared for another viewing, somewhat wary that I may feel differently than I had. Luckily, I didn’t feel any differently. If anything, I enjoyed it MORE because I felt confident that it was, indeed, as good an episode as I thought it was. From top to tail, this is an episode that exemplifies what I love most about Doctor Who. It’s scary, it’s touching, it’s inventive, and most importantly, it’s about characters we love. It might be, in fact, the perfect Doctor Who episode.

One thing that I think helped me was that I avoided as many spoilers (or “teasers” depending on semantics) as possible. With the exception of the Next Time trailer last week and the two little clips that were released, I stayed away from anything that might give away anything about the episode. As such, I was surprised by the realization that the Doctor’s wife is the TARDIS herself. It made the most sense of anything ever, though. The Doctor and the TARDIS have been together for over 700 years, if anyone was to be his wife, it’d be her. It’s long been bandied about that the TARDIS was alive, and the Doctor certainly treats her as if she is. Getting to see the Doctor actually get to converse with her was a stroke of genius.

Suranne Jones, who played Idris, the recipient of the TARDIS’ consciousness, did a masterful job trying to physically and emotionally embody an intangible entity. She added a great deal of believability to something that, by rights, should be too ridiculous a concept to play. Through her, we get to learn so much about the series we’ve been watching all these years, and it all makes sense. The TARDIS wasn’t stolen, she allowed the Doctor to take her. She doesn’t always take him where he wants to go, but always takes him where he NEEDS to go. Why does the Doctor always seem to show up when something’s going wrong? Because the TARDIS is just as heroic as he is and she knows where he’ll do the most good. I love that.

If the entire episode had just been the Doctor speaking to the TARDIS, I’d have been one happy nerd, but there needed to be a plot and a good one too. Gaiman delivers a supremely original story, just dripping with series history. The idea of a planet-wide entity outside of the universe that kills Time Lords and eats TARDISes is immensely dark, especially when it’s revealed that it lures them there by sending distress signals from other Time Lords. How could the Doctor not follow that? Once there, he finds that House mends his playthings by using Time Lord body parts, something that’d be horrible even if they weren’t his friends. The House asteroid/planet itself is one of the best pieces of production design the show’s ever had. It’s a junkyard in space, but all the junk is so interesting looking and full of character that it’s no surprise this episode was one of the more expensive of the year.

I loved how tiny the cast was. We didn’t need dozens of extras or a number of supporting players when it was just, really, the story of two best friends finally getting to meet. The themes and implications of the episode were much greater than the need for lots and lots of characters. We hear stories about another Time Lord called the Corsair, who regenerated into both male and female, possibly opening the door for a female Doctor in the future. (Calm down, just a thought) We also get a glimpse of the Doctor still being remorseful about what had to be done to his people. He still wants to be forgiven.

Amy and Rory get trapped aboard the ship-portion of the TARDIS with House controlling it. He forces them to run through the never-ending corridors of the ship, toying with their minds. But it’s only ever Amy’s mind, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you know it, her greatest fear is leaving Rory to die, which she sees. That must be why he dies or seemingly dies in every episode; it’s Amy’s greatest fear realized. Rory doesn’t get his mind messed with. Something to think about. This sequence plays like a proper haunted house story with really nothing to scare us except the “House” itself.

This is where the real genius of the episode comes in: Gaiman breaks down the TARDIS to its component parts. On the one hand, you have the living, breathing, wonderful bit that nurtures and protects, and on the other you have the unfathomably large, powerfully foreboding THING that in the wrong hands can be the most dangerous and frightening tool in (or outside of) the Universe. While we see the Doctor getting to connect and interact with the “person,” we see Rory and Amy being tormented and threatened by the “monster.” It’s all the TARDIS, though. The TARDIS is itself a House and a Home. Houses are scary, but Homes are wonderful. You know when you move out of a place you’ve lived in for a long time, and all your stuff is gone and you’re just doing the cleaning up or whatever, and you recognize it, but it doesn’t really feel like yours anymore? There are memories, but that’s all. That’s what happens when House takes over the TARDIS. It’s recognizable, but it’s not ours. “The Doctor’s Wife” is about fighting for your Home and the family you’ve made within it. The Doctor’s best friend is the TARDIS  and her best friend is him. They are each other’s Homes.

Here I am, still grinning  like a happy idiot.

Next week we get part one of the Matthew Graham double-header, “The Rebel Flesh.” Looks right creepy.

-Kanderson requests hundreds of TWITTER followers

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  1. Jaime says:

    I loved this episode. It was completely Doctor Who and completely Neil Gaiman at the same time.

    Gaiman always seems to be able to reach heart.

    I think my favorite line was about humans being bigger on the inside.

    I think I shall watch this episode again before the next one.

  2. AmandaM says:

    Lord Nexis, it seems that the “I Love You” at the end was only in the UK version, because it wasn’t in the Canadian version or the BBCA version. I hate it when they do that.

  3. Chuck says:

    I agree whole heartedly. Suranne Jones was brilliant as the TARDIS. Want her back. She should not have n=been a 1 trick pony dammit.

  4. loonycookie says:

    this is possibly the best review of The Doctor’s Wife I’ve ever read. also, I agree with your sentiments 😀

  5. Lord Nexis says:

    heres my 2 cents on “The only water in the forest is the river.” quote.

    The river is River Song.
    The forrest is the library in Forest of the Dead.

    what this implies, well we have to keep looking for clues dont we..

  6. Lord Nexis says:

    I have been on like 2 dozen blogs and sites and no one seems to have caught Idris {the Tardis} saying as she returns to the console in a whispered tone, “I LOVE YOU”. I have watched the scene adozen times ans boosted the volume through my audio software andshe dose say I LOVE YOU…. give it a listen

  7. Kyle Anderson says:


    I think you’ll find he’s referring to Idris dying and not Amy.

  8. cormag says:

    did literally no one catch rory tell the doctor that he watched amy die at the end. Or his whole thing about being a nurse and not being able to save her? Just because we never see rory get tortured don’t mean it dosn’t happen. t

  9. CaptainxBumout says:

    I thought the episode was good but not as great as everyone here is making it out to be. I just started watching Doctor Who about a year ago starting with the 2005 revival and i’m still getting used to the british accents but there was so much I couldn’t understand when the Doctor was first talking to the Idris.

    Anyways it was still a good episode and I hope the rest of the season shapes up nicely.

  10. Loved the shaving mirror on the console.

    On an exploratory tour of the TARDIS, Sarah Jane encounters an antique control room.

    Sarah – Woah- this looks good!

    Doctor – Oh yes, yes it is good, you know this is the second control room.
    I can run the TARDIS just as easily from here as from the old one.
    (Lifts John Pertwee’s dusty jacket off of a chair)
    Come to think of it, this was the old one.

    Sarah (picking Patrick Troughton’s recorder off of the console, upon which sits a shaving mirror) – That looks like a shaving mirror.

    Doctor- Yes, it is.

    – Masque of Mandragora, 1976

  11. Rekabmot says:

    Wow. I am in the minority here. I was really disappointed in this episode. It seemed that we saw very little of the Tardis. The same two or three corridors over and over again. When we could have seen an unchanging number of rooms without any repeats. They could have just canablized a bunch of sets from other BBC shows. They killed Rory again. I’ve watched this episode three times. And there were a few parts that made me smile. I may be being to hard on it because it was written by the Great Neil Gaimen. One of my favorite writers. I was expecting something that would take my breath away. Something to talk about. What I got was a servicable and enjoyable episode. It could have been written by so many writters.

  12. GuanoLad says:

    Hmm. I liked it okay, but I didn’t think it was as great as everyone is saying. I thought the corridor chasing was a failure, especially with Rory dying AGAIN! And thought the weeping scene when Idris faded away was unearned.

    Maybe I should trade in my fanboy card.

  13. Robin Burks says:

    I agree with Nicola Bryant’s tweet about this being one of the top five Doctor Who episodes of all time. That’s a pretty weighty statement, but if Peri says it, it must be true!

  14. Lincoln says:

    I’m caught up, Kyle! Aren’t you proud of me? Say you are. NOW.
    I really dug this episode too. Uncle and Auntie were creeptastic and it was good to see the ol’ Ood again.

  15. Scott S says:

    I was hoping they’d end up in the Peter Davison control room. The simple white portholes (I know there’s a name for those things, I can’t remember what) make for a more confusing place to be caught, I think. This episode made me think of Castrovalva, with the interior of the Tardis, and being able to use wall panels.

    It also made me think of Portal, Idris and House both sound a lot like Glados and Wheatley.

    There was a lot of what I thought was fan-service in this episode, lines that went back over several decades, that made me laugh. I think this may be the most fan-servicey episode I can think of, I don’t know if you’d consider the various multiple Doctors shows fan service or not.

  16. Len says:

    Amazingly great episode – all of the little touches before the reveal – Idris calling the Doctor “my thief”, a little bit of Brain of Morbius with the patchwork people, but my favorite has got to be Amy’s line in the Tardis after being introduced to Idris “Did you wish really, really hard?”
    More please

  17. Old Doctor says:

    Nice review Kyle. I can’t say that this episode had an effect on my expectations because I refuse to allow myself to look beyond the “Next Time” trailer at the end of each episode. I will not dive into the net looking for spoiler, I prefer to take each episode as it comes. This one I was delighted with the old series references – and I don’t mean 2005, that’s not old. The reference, even if it was a bit sideways, to the Tom Baker episode “The Androids of Tara” where the Doctor decapitates the king by mistake, rather the king’s android double, and he has to repair him. Matt’s Doctor turned that one around. And the other reference goes way back to the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, with the distress cubes. That Doctor created one to call the Time Lords for help at the end of “War Games”.
    I agree with the nu-Whos that this regeneration of the show is the best because it is created by fans of the old and I will enjoy anything that might link back to the Doctor of Old as well as the concepts and stories of the New.

  18. Gallifray says:

    “The only water in the forest is the river.” could possibly be a reminder from the Tardis. At some point the doctor has to go meet river so they can have their last day together and he can give her, her sonic screwdriver. Also if the doctor does die in 200 years( I still think this is a trick. He cant die and I won’t believe anything else.) he has to go meet her sometime before then.

  19. Nicole says:

    I was worried this episode wouldn’t live up to my expectations too, since I was excited beyond belief to learn that Neil Gaiman had written an episode of Doctor Who. I guess I didn’t have to worry because I thought it was amazing. I also thought it was perfect placement of the episode because it was just last week that the doctor found his “loved one” (which was of course the TARDIS) in the sick bay, and this episode really made their relationship clear. I loved the idea of giving the TARDIS a voice and hearing her side of things. And, I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one thinking of Helena Bonham Carter during the episode!

  20. SDGlyph says:

    Indeed… but as @neilhimself mentioned, the 9-10 set had the advantage of still existing. (After he convinced the BBC to keep the set up for an extra 18 months so that he could use it in his episode! O.O )

    Nerdgasms aside, I’d have to admit that the classic console room would look jarringly out of place in nu-Who, but it was very cool that the Doctor’s jury-rigged console (designed by a Blue Peter viewer) managed to hew pretty close to the classic style.

  21. This episode would be in my list of top ten Doctor Who stories. It was just so delightful to watch.

  22. Kyle Voltti says:

    loved the whole vibe of the episode. But I’ll admit I kind of wanted them to run into a classic Tom Baker Tardis control room not just the Echelston/Tennant era controll room…. how awesome would that have been 😀

  23. Livius says:

    “The only water in the forest is the river.”

    Does that mean we’ll see the library(Forest of the Dead) again and save River Song?

  24. Emily says:

    My God this episode was good…ridiculous smile on my face even the third time through. Just would like to say though it would be so fantastic if the Doctor regenerated into a woman. When he brought that up I couldn’t believe that they gave license for it in new who.

  25. Arieh says:


  26. Livius says:

    To bad he had to destroy the pool room.

    I squealed when I saw the second console room.
    A TARDIS in a TARDIS in a TARDIS :]

  27. SDGlyph says:

    Román: “Hey, whovians. Call for theories: Why does the doctor’s bowtie keep changing colour between scenes? It’s blue when he talks to Idris while she is jailed, and it’s back to red in the end…”

    It’s just the lighting, no? See as he lets Idris out of the cage: the bow tie looks blue in the teal fill light as he’s facing to screen left, but is clearly still red as he turns into the brighter key light and raises the screwdriver.

  28. Liz says:

    You always seem to write the perfect reviews.

    I think what’s great about Doctor Who is that the people working on the show are fans- they’ve grown up watching the show and want to share it with everyone else, keep it going, and make something good. Which usually works very well, and is totally unique to this show.

  29. Román says:

    Hey, whovians. Call for theories: Why does the doctor’s bowtie keep changing colour between scenes? It’s blue when he talks to Idris while she is jailed, and it’s back to red in the end…

  30. hupkm says:

    Anyone else been keeping up with the hidden messages in the ‘Fourth Dimension’ part of the BBC website?
    This video is the newest thing to come from it so far:

  31. ChrisM says:

    Total agreement with your glowing review! All the actors were wonderful and Matt Smith really knocked it out of the park. The scene where he realizes that Idris actually is the TARDIS is golden.

  32. LesserBeing says:

    wow perfect timing! I just finished watching this episode. I loved the interaction between the doctor and the tardis (def some channeling of helena bohnam carter) and my favourite line was about the warning lights/horn never turning off( i dont remember the line exactly and dont feel like being corrected so i described it).

  33. yogahz says:

    Kyle, your first paragraph exactly describes how I felt going into and out of The Doctor’s Wife – thanks for articulating it better than I could.

    Loved the TARDIS first learning how to talk, kiss…bite (like kissing but there’s a winner).

  34. Ethan says:

    We saw a lot more of the TARDIS than we’ve ever seen. Too bad we didn’t find the infamous pool…

  35. Three Toes of Fury says:

    outstanding write up! Gaiman+Dr Who = Wonderful.

    Random Quemment Poll: ok Whovians…who is your favorite who of the last 3 doctors??

    Ive just started getting into the Whoverse and started with S5 then jumped back to the beginning (well, “new” beginning, 2005).
    I just finished all of Eccleson episodes….WOW…they’re awesome! LOVED the finale. Now i move onto Tennant and cant wait to see how he fares. I was wondering if there is a standout fav amongst the fans???

  36. Patrick Rose says:

    Still going with the coma thoughts.

  37. Matt says:

    It was a great episode but it did rely on the old running through hallways mainstay but in a fucking cool way.In this episode as well as every episode lately the doctor becomes separated from the TARDIS. Is this a lazy plot device or does this Doctor have a hard time keeping track of his possessions?

  38. SDGlyph says:

    To get the obvious out of the way… Freaking YES, that was amazing. I’d been slightly worried about whether the episode could live up to the expectations placed on it; there was a chance that it could get mired in its own cleverness, or suffer between the script and the execution. Happily Gaiman didn’t disappoint, and the whole cast and crew delivered something that I think will long be seen as one of the jewels in Who’s crown (not just nu-Who, mind – the whole 47 years). The bar for the rest of Season 6 has been set high indeed…

    Good spot on only seeing Amy’s nightmares – I’d caught Rory’s line, but hadn’t followed through to notice that we didn’t actually see his ordeals. Likewise, your link between Amy’s fears and the “You killed Rory!” theme that’s been running through the series so far…

    Last week, I said I could hope that the disappearing pirate would turn out to be a deliberate continuity error thrown in there as a hint for eagle-eyed (obsessive) fans, like the Doctor’s jacket returning in Flesh and Stone, but thought it felt too sloppy for that. But this… now this feels like a Moffat breadcrumb trail. Silver Eye, Amy’s fears, repeatedly losing Rory, playing with the structure of the episodes themselves as hints… How far we’ve come since the days of “Bad Wolf”!

  39. Kyle Anderson says:

    That’s okay, I deleted it for you.

  40. Kedj says:

    Yes the TARDIS has a crush on Rory! He’s earned it after all, 2000 years as a guardian, he’s technically older then the Doctor now. Would LOVE to see that played out more.

  41. Jackfan12 says:

    This was the first time since Matt Smith became the doctor that I been super excited when he gave his ” I am going to do the impossible” look. I loved this episode.

  42. Freelance Spy says:

    Is it just me or did the interior corridors of the TARDIS give you the impression that around one of those corners we would find Mike Nelson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot on the way into the theater on the Satellite of Love to watch something that was clearly not as well written as this.

  43. Richard T says:

    I agree completely with the review, the part that really got to me was the small flash of what “joy” was symbolized by for Amy (her wedding to Rory).

  44. I kept thinking that was Helena Bonham Carter as the Doctor’s Wife – must’ve been the hair…

    (By the way, does this mean that the TARDIS has a crush on Rory?)

  45. Brian E. says:

    So freaking good!!

    The bunk beds line, every interaction between the TARDIS and the Doctor, the Harntell-era esque TARDIS consle the Doctor fashions, Amy & Rory’s Teegan/Turlough-esque romb through the TARDIS corridors. All of it was fantastic.

  46. Heather says:

    I loved this episode. I completely cried at the “Goodbye-Hello” section.

    I do have one minor quibble with your review. You said that Rory doesn’t get his mind messed with. But in the episode he does say “He’s messing with our minds again”, so it does sound like on the other side of those doors, Rory was going through his own nightmares – we just don’t get to see them.

    It is interesting to think what those nightmares could be…

  47. Amrehlu says:

    Fucking 100% agreed.