Saturday, 6 May 2006

Saturday, 6 May 2006
DOCTOR WHO - "The Girl In The Fireplace" - TV REVIEW
SEASON 2. 06 May 06. BBC 1, 7:00 p.m.
WRITER: Steven Moffat DIRECTOR: Euros Lyn
CAST: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette, Madame de Pompadour), Ben Turner (Louis), Jessica Atkins (Young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Gtiffiths (Manservant), Paul Casey (Clockwork Man) & Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman)

The Doctor finds himself in 18th-Century France, where Madame de Pompadour is being stalked by clockwork automatons from the 51st-Century...

The Girl In The Fireplace is a quite wonderful love story, courtesy of writer Steven Moffatt, who knows exactly how to mix science-fiction with powerful emotions. The story finds The Doctor, Rose and Mickey aboard a spaceship in the 51st-Century that has various "time windows" -- all pointed at the life of Reinette, the Madame de Pompadour in 18th-Century France. But for what purpose were these windows constructed, and why are a gang of clockwork robots travelling back in time this way?

I've often complained about the lack of imagination in recent Doctor Who. Too often the episodes are quite hokey adventures that just so happen to be set in the future, or the recent past, with little credible sci-fi to back it all up. Moffatt is a writer with the type of imagination best suited to Who, with some very original ideas used to layer an imaginative plot packed with big emotions. It's rare that an episode can genuinely chill (an early sequence with a robot "monster" under the bed is a highlight), make you laugh ("I didn't want to say magic door..."), and also produce deep emotion (the final moments are knockout stuff.)

David Tennant is finally given a half-decent plot to chew on, and rises to the occassion magnificently. Finally his wild streak boyish charm is tempered by a romantic foil, played to perfection by Sophia Myles as the glamorous Reinette. Billie Piper takes a backseat for once, but has a few interesting things to play -- particularly because this episode marks the second time she's been usurped by another woman interested in The Doctor. Noel Clarke has little to do throughout the story, but his glee at being involved in an adventure hits the right mark, and it's a pleasure to see his character taking another step away from annoying sidekick.

The production design is excellent throughout, particularly the 18th-Century setting, but even the futuristic designs of the spaceship are more believable than recent examples on the show. The CGI is generally good (I particularly liked an "eye-ball camera"), although a sequence with The Doctor bursting through a mirror on horseback is a little ropey.

But The Girl In The Fireplace isn't really about visuals, it's about an engaging story sold magnificently by the cast. In many ways this is the perfect Doctor Who episode, managing to bring multiple facets of the show together into a delicious whole. A heatbreaking story that brings laughter, adventure, epic themes, a few chills, and great character interplay.

NEW WEEK: An alternative Earth, with the Cybermen...